Month: May 2013

Yogurt Naan/Non

Any woman worth her salt is an incredible, complex specimen which takes time and love to fully understand. But even when you think you know a woman, she remains – at her core – mysterious. And so it is with today’s Tajik naan recipe. She’s made with a blend of wheat and all purpose flour, a healthy glop of yogurt, and not much else. She gets her shine for a quick milk and egg wash. The flavor is rustic, thanks to the wheat flour, and there’s a slight, yet definite tang, thanks to the yogurt. The fact that she’s cooked in a super hot vertical oven makes this bread nearly an Olympic event. Just watch these women make one of the more complex forms of this bread… for a wedding. Note the full arm “potholder” they use while slapping the bread into the oven. Did you see that? How gorgeous is that bread!?  Wow. Even after several focused, heart-felt queries into her nature, I must admit I am unable to replicate the intricate, ornate designs found on the …

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Lamb Plov with Dried Apricots & Raisins

I’m an awkward girl; I’m not up on fashion trends, my slang is two decades passe, and I’d rather drink wine at home than be surrounded by 100 people I don’t know. Dinner parties can really put me to the test, especially when I’m the hostess. I want everyone to have a good time, but I’m never entirely sure how to bring everyone together. That’s where Tajikistan can help. You know that moment, right as everyone sits down to eat? I refer to it as the calm before the storm. It’s a little bit awkward; there’s a pause while everyone gauges the mood of the room. What follows this quiet determines the success of every dinner party. In Tajikistan, where there’s a crowd, there’s Plov. Pulling up to a giant communal platter of rice brings a natural closeness.  By forcing yourself to dip hands into a communal platter breaks down any barriers and is a natural conversation starter. If your guests are unfamiliar with communal eating, the best thing to do is to give them …

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Menu: Tajikistan

This week’s theme is community and reunion. We spent the last ten days visiting my family, some of whom I haven’t seen in nearly three years. Tajik food is often enjoyed from one giant platter, so the timing was perfect. I made three giant platters of plov, and all 18 of us came together around them (The bonus? Only three dishes to wash!) Lamb Plov [Recipe] Plov is popular throughout Western Asia, and for good reason. This is rice cooked with carrots, turnips, a half ton of onion, and bits of lamb.  Bits of raisin and dried apricot add delightful sweetness. While it sounds ultra simple, plov is surprisingly flavorful and perfect for a large gathering. Yogurt Non [Recipe] Tajik folk love this highly ornate flat bread made with yogurt and some wheat flour… it makes a great dinnertime staple and would go with nearly any dish.

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Women in Tajikistan. Photo by Steve Evans.

About the food of Tajikistan

In Tajikistan, if you don’t have bread, you don’t have food. It doesn’t matter if the table is piled to the ceiling with meat, vegetables, and sweets. Bread is the purest sustenance to the Tajik people, especially nan (a thick flatbread Tajiks love to decorate with ornate markings). And why not. Bread makes all kinds of sense in this rugged, mountainous land bordered by China, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan (the country actually sits in Asia). Nan stores well because, if it dries out, the hardened discs can be hydrated with stews or the like. The bread also goes with everything, and is extremely economical, such as yogurt Naan [Recipe]. Along with the nan, a Tajik table often includes communal meals enjoyed out of a single platter. Examples include plov (or rice with root vegetables and meat  [Recipe]) or  Qurotob (a mish-mash pile of flatbread topped with cheese, fried vegetables, and onion). If the weather feels a bit nippy, locals might pull up to a steaming bowl of lagman soup (lagman are thick, homemade noodles, which we made back …

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Monday Meal Review: Taiwan

I got a really neat question in my email this week. I thought I’d take a brief departure from my normal meal review to answer it, in case you’re looking for similar ideas: Hi Sasha, I came across your website. I absolutely love it. I’ve worked in international transportation for 30 years, teach yoga, and love food too. Your website really speaks to me. I had a question: My daughter graduated high school and I’d like to give her a simple yet unique grad party with foods that her and her friends would find exciting. Do you have any ideas for a menu? Theme? Thanks for your help! Angela The irony? This week we’re in New Jersey celebrating the graduations of two nieces and one nephew… both from high school and college.  My amazing sister, Elisa, made several Global Table recipes for the party, so I’ll skip to the list of what worked. BIGGEST HIT: Cake on a rope, from the Netherlands. Food-wise, it’s fun to have interactive recipes… something to bring everyone together. Fondue …

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Taiwanese Shaved Ice Treat | Bào Bīng

I don’t use curtains in my bedroom; I don’t need them – someone would have to climb over our 8 foot fences and face our “attack cat,” Malky  in order to see inside my bedroom… and we all know that would pretty much ruin any possibility for us to be friends.  Instead, I use half shutters, which allow me to see the moon at night and the birds during the day. It’s my favorite space in my house. So peaceful. Anyway, the other morning I cracked open my eyes to discover the entire room was glowing orange; it felt like a giant hug. An absurdly bright hug. Rather like this mango. “It’s 8 am,” I thought, noticing the height of the sun in the sky, pleased that I had slept that long. I glanced over to the clock out of habit. That’s when I read the shocking truth: it was only 6:30 a.m. Friends, the dazzling array of sunlight is eager these days. I’ll be honest. I temporarily reconsidered my position on curtains. But then a …

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Menu: Taiwan

This week, while we’re visiting family in Boston and New Jersey, I’m sharing one simple celebration recipe with you… afterall, what is visiting family, if not a celebration! It’s been more than a year since I’ve seen any family on my side (where does the time go?!)… the last time was when we cooked Maldives. Since one treat doesn’t feel like nearly enough to represent an entire country, I thought I’d flash back to an old favorite from an earlier Global Table. As I mentioned on Tuesday, the Taiwanese love Sushi, which we made when we cooked Japan. I thought we’d all benefit from a reminder on how to make the rice and the rolls. Especially with temperatures already hitting the nineties, there’s nothing better than cool meals. All recipes and the meal review will be available throughout the week. Veggie Sushi with Sushi Rice [Recipe] Learn how to make a beautiful roll at home (perfect for a small, interactive dinner party) AND see pictures of Ava from a couple of years ago (awww) when …

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WuShihBi Cape seen behind the DongAo Bay, from the SuHua Highway, a scenic drive on the east coast of Taiwan. Photo by Fred Hsu,

About the food of Taiwan

Feeling overcast? You just might love Taiwan. This tropical island east of China is  a mountainous land, where you’ll find clouds and the whipping rains common with monsoons.  This week we explore the food that dots along the 13,902 square miles of this small nation. But don’t get the wrong idea; just because she’s small (about the size of Massachusetts), doesn’t mean the people are few and far between. The opposite is true, in fact. There are 1,600 people per square mile which makes Taiwan one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Personally, I’d love to climb to the top of Jade Mountain (the highest mountain in Asia), and look over the stunning (steaming?) beauty of Taiwan. Taiwanese food is a melting pot of various Chinese ethnicities, which is reflected in the food. There’s everything from hot pots (where meats and veggies are cooked at the table, then enjoyed with an array of sauces), to fried noodles and rice, and duck smoked over tea leaves. If you’re feeling a bit more Japanese, you’ll be …

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Monday Meal Review: Syria

“Want to help me make the kebabs?” I asked Ava, gesturing toward the pile of long, metal skewers, the bowl of sour cherries swimming in water, and the ground lamb meat, spiced with baharat. I tried to imagine what this spread looked like in a three year-old’s mind. Dangerous, slimy, raw. I cringed a little internally, knowing she wouldn’t want to help. Knowing this would push every squeamish part of her mind. But then she spoke. “Sure!” she smiled and slipped her hand into the cold, wet bowl of cherries. A moment later she plucked one out. “Can I eat it?” I thought about the sour flavor. How outrageous the slippery flesh would taste to her young taste buds (I once read that children have more taste buds than adults). “No… let’s wait until we can eat the cherries with the meat.” I replied, thinking it would be her best shot at loving it. “Okay!” she chirped, agreeably. We took turns, me threading the small meatballs onto the skewer, she sliding on the cherries. Soon, this wasn’t …

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I’m craving a little excitement. A little spice. In my younger years, I might have stayed out all night clubbing, I might have found a new crush,  or I might have packed my bags and drove off into the sunset without checking a map. Even worse, I might have done all three. Today, I think, I’ll settle for something simpler. Something more manageable. Baharat is a popular Middle Eastern spice blend which often makes its way into kebabs and other meat preparations. There are countless recipes from Turkey, all the way down to Iran, but one thing is for certain: in Syria, you can count on a hefty amount of black pepper to give your meat delicate heat. All you need for this recipe is a coffee grinder or spice mill and a handful of spices. I say double the recipe and give some to a friend. It’s the perfect “thinking of you” gift. Who knows, they might be looking for the Spiced Life, too… or, at the very least, a little sparkle… Ingredients: 1/4 …

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Syrian Lentils

There’s a whole head of garlic up in these cyber pages. By now you should be able to smell it through the screen. I know. You have boys to kiss. Important business meetings and no Altoids. You don’t have time to smell like garlic. But indulge me for a moment, please. We’ve eaten a whole head of garlic on this Adventure before, as with our Lebanese garlic sauce Toum, but this time our garlic is making friends with lentils and Swiss chard. They bubble and steam up together, considerably mellowing out the flavor. To round out the flavor, there’s a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, a splash of pomegranate syrup, and a pile of cilantro. (To my cilantro haters: don’t worry, the offending leaves get waaay cooked down. If you can eat Salsa, you can eat these lentils). The result is a lovely warm lentil side dish or dip (best enjoyed with homemade pita bread). I even like it cold, with salad. And it’s definitely better the next day, although you might want to “refresh …

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Syrian Lamb kebabs with Sour Cherries | Kebab Karaz

I can almost hear it; the hiss and sizzle of grills waking up from their long winter naps. It’s warm in Oklahoma and we’re ready to move our kitchen outside, into the sparkling sun. Today’s inspiration comes from Syria and the pucker of sour cherries, which will be in season sometime in the next few weeks, depending where in the world you live. Syrian Lamb Kebabs with Cherries can be made two different ways. The first is easy – you string up the meat along with the sour cherries. The second involves creating a gravy of sorts with the sour cherries and serving the whole shebang on a platter over pita bread. The latter is more of a winter dish, so we’re going all summer, all the way. The distinctive seasoning in these kebabs is baharat (we’ll have that recipe posted very soon), but if you don’t have time to make any, add some pepper, allspice, and cinnamon, plus a pinch of clove and nutmeg  to this recipe and you’ll be good to go. Makes …

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