Year: 2013

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Almond Stuffed Date Balls

When I made the amazing Pistachio Date Balls for Iraq, I thought I’d seen the easiest recipe in the world.  It only uses two ingredients (third if you feel like getting extra fancy), and there’s no cooking. Well, today’s date balls are even easier: they don’t require a food processor. Boom! Even as simple as they are, the flavor is amazing – as though from a much more complex recipe. There’s a sweetness from the dates that transports me straight to Yemen… I mean, forget it. Let’s just lay under some Yemeni trees for a while, before we get around to making this recipe. Okay? Now, maybe this sunny afternoon in Yemen has you wondering: why include almonds and sesame seeds? Why not just eat straight dates? Well, you know how good peanut butter is with jelly? The balance of the nuttiness with the fruity date in this dessert is similarly satisfying. And addicting. Before I knew, I ate three of these. And to think. When I started this adventure, I (thought) I hated dates. …

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Spiced Skillet Eggs | Yemeni Shakshouka

Eggs. In the shell, they seems so… ordinary. But glowing, too, like they’re full of potential. Like they’re ready to become something more. When it comes to breakfast, Yemen knows how to dress them up – as Shakshouka. Shakshouka is a beloved skillet egg dish popular all over North Africa and the Middle East. We’ve made shakshouka before – the kind that is rather like a tomato sauce with poached eggs inside (and, by the way, yum!) – but Yemen makes shakshouka differently. For starters, they include spices like cumin, turmeric, cardamom, and clove. They also add hot green chili peppers for kick. Anything from an anaheim to a jalepeno would work well for this recipe. I’m a half hot pepper kind of gal. Keith’s more of a whole hot pepper. If you’re a no pepper person, that works too – though a touch of heat does add a layer of authenticity to the dish. But the biggest difference of all  with Yemeni shakshouka is that, in Yemen, the eggs are scrambled, not poached. The result is …

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Menu: Yemen

Yemen happens to coincide with Halloween. Halloween means trick or treating. Tons of candy and dressing up as a dream – as someone else. Or something else. This year, Ava is going as “the night sky and harvest moon.” Because, well, why not!? We made her dress with tulle, and she sewed her moon together from felt. I helped affixed it to the front of her dress. In the spirit of Halloween, we dressed up eggs and dates for our Yemeni menu.  I’m not sure either recipe would work for the average trick or treater. What about at your house? Both recipes and the meal review will be posted throughout the week. Yemeni Shakshouka [Recipe] Ava loves eggs. So, when I learned Yemen had their own version of Shakshouka, I knew we had to try it. While most North African and middle eastern shakshouka uses poached eggs, the Yemeni version is a scrambled egg treat prepared with tomatoes, onions, and peppers. The key is in the spices, a blend of cumin, turmeric, cardamon, and clove. Stuffed …

Footbridge in Shaharah, Yemen. Photo by Bernard Gagnon.

About the food of Yemen

“Work like an ant and you’ll eat sugar.” Yemeni Proverb I can’t decide if the country of Yemen looks like a check mark or a bow tie.  It depends on the map.  Still, every time I thought about how to begin this post, I kept coming back to that check mark – the kind you get when you do a good job on your homework. Probably because Yemen is the third to last country on our list of countries. Check, check, check. I can’t. believe. it! But there is, indeed, more to Yemen than her shape. This mountainous country is situated on the Persian Gulf,  across  from Africa.  The Yemeni people enjoy ful medames, the breakfast bean dip we sampled for Egypt [recipe], kebab, lentil soups, and lahooh, the leavened “pancake” like bread we enjoyed for Djibouti [recipe]. Shakshouka  [Recipe] is another beloved breakfast item in Yemen, which is popular throughout the gulf and north Africa. I noticed a lot of yogurt when researching recipes, too, which can be used in drinks or dips. One interesting recipe …

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Monday Meal Review: Vietnam

  “The husband eats hamburger; the wife eats spring roll” “Ong an cha ba an nem” Vietnamese Proverb Even though Keith loves hamburger as much as he always has, and I love salad just as much, if not more…  I’m of the mind that there is no reason to eat different food at mealtimes, as long as everyone can assemble their own plate. This week, I put that theory to the test. The spring roll recipe we tried contains both meat and a garden’s worth of vegetables. Perfect for all appetites. There was just one problem: any time we’ve dined at a Vietnamese restaurant, Ava has turned up her nose at the Spring Rolls. I never thought I’d be able to get her to try them. Which is exactly why I wanted to make them for this week’s Global Table. Given our past experience with sushi, wherein Ava only had to fill and wrap one roll to become a forever fan of the Japanese food, I thought it was worth a shot at having her make …

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Hot & Sour Dipping Sauce | Nước mắm pha

Nước mắm pha is the quintessential Vietnamese dipping sauce, used on spring rolls, rice noodles, salads, and more. It’s sweet, salty, and heavily spiced. A basic recipe includes freshly squeeze lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, and water. The real flavor comes from garlic and fresh red chilies. I learned on Food Safari (a great food/travel show – catch it if you can!) that if the cook can get the garlic and chili pieces to float in the nước mắm pha, they will get married. Now, for those of you naysayers: there’s no reason to tell anyone about the fish sauce. I promise. Many unwitting folk enjoy this dipping sauce without being aware there is fish sauce inside. That’s because it lends a salty flavor to the dip, not an inordinately pungent one. There is one exception: if you make it with “first press,” “extra virgin” fish sauce, as I did this week. The flavor, much like olive oil of the same name, is quite a bit bolder in flavor. Even my own Mr Picky, who has tastebuds of …

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DIY Spring Rolls | Bò nhúng dấm

  Today, let me show you how Vietnamese food is like a dream. Delicate. Lingering. But, also, let me show you how their food is like a celebration. Bold. Unapologetic. Before I do, call your friends and family because today’s recipe is a Vietnamese food party. The star? The DIY Spring Roll. Here’s how it works: Every guest gets to pick and choose their fillings, from cucumber and sprouts, to vibrant mint, thai basil, and cilantro. The best part? Everyone gets to cook their meat at the table in a vinegar and lemongrass broth. You can do this in a crock pot, a fondue pot, or, if you don’t have any of these, simply cook the beef in the kitchen right before dinner. Think of Bò nhúng dấm as Vietnamese fondu. Some like to cook shrimp, others beef or pork. I’ve even heard of people cooking squid in the broth. The bets part about this recipe is that the ingredients can be prepped and gathered way ahead of your guests ringing the doorbell. And, since …

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Menu: Vietnam

I don’t know why this week’s menu is so hard. I purchased ingredients for three different recipes before I finally settled on the recipes below. For those of you who thought I might make pho, I considered it. But, the fact is, I made “foe” for Laos, and, while some of the spices vary, I wanted to branch out a little – try something new. When one of you said something about being able to get pho anywhere, and why not show you a dish a little less known, I loved the challenge. Of course, the biggest challenge yet may be Ava. She’s  never been willing to try a spring roll. I’m hoping this week will be different. These recipes and the meal review will be posted throughout the week.  DIY Spring Rolls | bò nhúng dấm [Recipe] Gather the family around the table, it’s time to make your own spring rolls. The star of the show? Meat, flash cooked at the table in a hot vinegar and lemongrass broth. Herbs and vegetables are the (delicious) supporting …

Khu cầu Đá Bạc Thủy Nguyên. Photo by Hoàng Việt.

About the food of Vietnam

The first time I had Vietnamese food I was fourteen, living in Paris. Turns out, great Vietnamese restaurants can be found all over the city. I remember one thing only about those early forays into Vietnamese culture: crispy, deep-fried rolls and a platter of mint and lettuce. You wrap the rolls in a handful of mint and lettuce, then dip it into nuoc mam (a sweet and spicy fish sauce mixture). I still dream about that flavor. Fresh, fried, crunchy, and sour. Unfortunately, everywhere I look for this dish, people shrug.  Vietnamese restaurants shake their heads “sorry, we don’t do that. people don’t want that here.” But, I do! If I could figure out what this roll preparation is called, I would find a recipe and make it every time I get the hankering for it. But, alas, I have no idea; my time in Paris was nearly twenty years ago. This mystery reveals something I’d later learn is typical of all Vietnamese food: the prevalence of fresh herbs. Take pho, for example, a breakfast …

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Monday Meal Review: Venezuela

Lately, I have this crazy energy. I thought it was because I’m almost done with this four-year challenge. Or because we just ate the world in one day, between our event in Tulsa and all of you who cooked along on October 12th! Or because I just saw my family. They always energize me! Then, I thought, perhaps it is because I am exactly two weeks away from my major book deadline. After this date, some changes can be made, but the book baby is largely out of my hands. Or maybe it’s simpler than all this. Maybe I’ve been drinking too many shots of espresso. Am I the only one who does that in busy times? Surely not. The thing about crazy energy, it wakes me up too early. All the things I have to do rush through my brain space, an unwelcome stampede. But even as I squeeze my eyes shut, I can’t make it stop. Generally, it’s about the book. My mind races with all the things I need to fix, edit, add. …

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Venezuelan Fruit Punch | Tizana

Crack open just about any Venezuelan fridge and you just might find a pitcher of tizana. Tizana is as much a drink as it is a fruit salad. The fruity concoction keeps for nearly a week, which makes it perfect for impromptu scooping. Though perhaps not traditional, I’m guilty of digging into the pitcher at breakfast time, dessert time, and, of course, at midnight. I can see how having tizana in the fridge would be a great way to get my daily allotment of fruit, especially when in a hurry.   So how is it made? For starters, you’ll need about… an entire orchard. Chopped. The kinds of fruit varies, but most recipes seemed to include one or more kinds of melon, pineapple, grapes, bananas, and apples. More exotic fruit like papaya, passion fruit, persimmons, guava, and mango appear once in a while, too. The whole mixture is thinned with good ol’ fashioned OJ and a splash of grenadine. Some people like to add club soda or regular soda to the mix, too.   Seriously. If this doesn’t …

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Fresh Corncakes with Cheese | Cachapas

“There’s nothing hidden between heaven and earth.” Venezuelan Proverb Nothing hidden indeed… except, perhaps the cheese inside a steaming, hot Cachapas. Brittle autumn days require an extra slathering of comfort. Ooey gooey cheese-filled corncakes, a.k.a. cachapas fit the bill nicely. Think of them as the South American version of pancakes. The cakes are made with just two ingredients: corn and masa harina, plus the requisite sprinkling of salt and pepper. There’s a simplicity to the recipe that means a batch can be made as easily at midnight as in the afternoon. Which means you can stovetop travel to the beaches of Venezuela any time you like. While you can make cachapas with fresh corn in the fall, you can also use frozen corn any time of year. Corn gives the cachapas sweet overtones. Masa harina – a flour made from hominy, the big-kerneled cousin to corn – binds the mixture together so the corncake holds its shape (all the better for topping with ooey gooey cheese!). Speaking of cheese, the key to the cachapas is to sprinkle them …