Author: Sasha Martin

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Honeymoon Smoothie | عصير المتزوجين

How do you know it’s springtime in Yemen? So much of Yemen is dusty: sand overwhelms the northern stretches in an area called “Rub’ al Khali” or the “Empty Quarter”; even ancient skyscrapers are made of sun-baked mud, as can be found in the town of Shibam. But… like a mirage, there’s another, glimmering view of Yemen. Between the dusty cliffs of the Hadramout desert lies a valley of prickly trees and honey bees, where one of the world’s great aphrodisiacs accumulates in golden pools. This is Sidr Honey, a.k.a. jujube honey. Every year, semi-nomadic beekeepers flock to the Do’an Valley, where the sweet fragrance of the jujube tree sets the bees into motion. The resulting honey is said to be a tremendous aphrodisiac. And what do you do with an aphrodisiac? You drink it, of course. Honeymoon Smoothie عصير المتزوجين is a love potion of sorts – a honey-laced smoothie meant to sweeten marriage and to help single folks find true love. I call it a “honeymoon smoothie,” though I read that the literal translation is “married couples juice.” Inside you’ll find everything …

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Eat a country, build a country

Cooking a meal from Nauru, way out in Oceania? What about creating the island nation of Nauru as a supplemental learning project? This interactive sand box is a phenomenal learning tool that utilizes Xbox technology and sand to build topographic models on the fly. As kids push sand around, mountains and rivers are formed. You can even make it “rain” by holding your hand over the land – the rainwater flows realistically down hillsides. Here are some kids playing with it and… … Here’s more of an explanation of how it works. I did some digging and found the directions for how to make the interactive sand box are available to anyone with a bit of coding know-how thanks to the developer, Oliver Kreylos (@okreylos) – a faculty member and self-proclaimed holodeck builder at the University of California Davis. Cool. For those who are serious about bringing this project to their home, school, or local children’s museum: a few resources are available here and here. At the time of writing this article, Oliver Kreylosr’s opensource code page was down (a side …

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Russian Cabbage Pie

This much Russia knows: the chilly, early days of spring go hand-in-hand with cabbage. Throughout the countryside, rows of cabbages can be found poking through the ground even as the last freeze thaws. The tough, squeaky heads are impenetrable to all but the peskiest of creatures, but give them some attention with a sharp knife and persistent flame and you’ll see why cabbage is the pride of Russian home cooking. From cabbage rolls to borscht, Russian cookbooks are fat with ideas to use up the spring harvest – and at a mere $2-$3 per head at the market, it’s tempting to attempt them all. But if I had to pick just one, cabbage pie seems to shows off the humble vegetable’s truest potential. Cook it up with little more than butter, a smattering of onion and lay it between sticky spoonfuls of sour cream batter… bake, then slice into neat squares and you’ll have a feast fit for any potluck. (We took it over to our neighbor’s potluck party; the casserole was cleaned out in mere minutes!) The ingredients …

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What’s the difference? Tasting Ceylon Teas

English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast, English Afternoon… Why so many names when they’re all “100% Ceylon Tea”? My husband gave me a box set of black teas for Christmas. I poured intently over the dozen-or-so varieties only to discover that, while the tea names varied, the labels all listed the same ingredient: 100% Ceylon Tea. The issue came up again this month: I am fueling my book tour with gallons of tea … and yet every cuppa is little more than a brew of 100% Ceylon Tea. Isn’t the definition of insanity Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results? I had to find out what was going on. My next move? A literal “pouring over” with hot water. Every morning I sipped a different tea only to remain perplexed: I couldn’t detect a noticeable difference in the teas. Feeling more and more duped, I decided to host an official tea tasting.  And, since I wanted to be sure of the results, I did it with my husband and friend. How to set up an accurate tea tasting: Whether you’re …

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Living with my memoir out in the world

Between recipes and global tips I want to take a moment to pause, breath in, and thank you, my beautiful readers. You continue to welcome me as I tour the country and promote my debut memoir, Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness. Your warmth humbles me. You tell me it’s safe to cry with you – and good thing, because I can’t seem to stop. I did it in book signings, on live radio, and in front of live studio audiences. I did it when that one host asked me “What would you tell your ten year old self?” Tears streamed down as I choked out the words “Nothing, I’d just hug her.” If you read the book you know my ten year old self sorely needed hugs. Sharing my life story makes me feel naked on stage but I learned something amazing: when you’re willing to be vulnerable, so are your friends. We’ve cried together, you and I, sometimes without words being exchanged. Just a knowing look can be enough. Others have opened …

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O’Hara’s Irish Red Velvet Cake with Bailey’s Buttercream

Think you need to eat green this Saint Patrick’s Day? Think again. Come Saint Patrick’s Day, few desserts can stand up to the mighty Guinness Chocolate Cake – until now.  Irish Red Velvet Cake is as cheery as a wee leprechaun’s cheeks and as fiery as his beard. The crimson batter contains a dusting of cocoa and is bound with buttermilk – both characteristics of a traditional Red Velvet Cake, popular in the American South. But a few glugs of O’Hara’s Irish Red Ale gives this otherwise ordinary cake Celtic edge. This delightful Irish-American fusion makes an ideal dessert for the 40 million Irish Americans who celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day every year. (And, since Saint Patrick’s Day is more widely celebrated by Irish Americans than the Irish, this fusion turns out to be quite apropos.) What is an Irish Red Ale? Irish Red ales are reddish-brown in color and full-bodied. In the case of O’Hara’s, toasted malt sweetens the drink, while a bit of hops deepens the finish. Too much of the bubbly brew can give the Irish Red Velvet Cake a yeasty, bread-like flavor – a modest 1/2 cup does the trick. Cutting back on the …

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Samoan Tropical Salad

Summer can’t come soon enough – the heat of sun on my shoulders, the way my skin smells with sunscreen on, hot evenings under the stars. So today we’re going to Samoa. There’ll be drippy sweetness: papaya and cantaloupe. There’ll be richness, too – buttery avocado and moody – almost bitter – spinach. And to finish it all off? A puckering of lime juice – as bright as a Samoan seascape.   Typically known for rich, coconut milk-laden recipes, this Samoan salad is a healthier twist on island fare. The version I based mine on even won a Samoan recipe challenge! I chose this salad for sentimental reasons – something to set the scene a bit for the release of my new book Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness. I went to Samoa 2 months before I was born (as a real life stowaway, I suppose). Scientists believe our taste preferences can be affected by what our mother’s ate while we were gestating. I like to think I carry a bit of Samoa with me today. It was an …

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On sending my book out into the world

They say writing a book is like having a baby. I’m not so sure.

My memoir,  Life from Scratch is due into the world on March 3rd, 2015. I started writing in 2013 and can assure you that the 2-year gestation period was one of the most challenging periods of my career. I am just now starting to feel the butterflies as early press pours in from Women’s Day, O Magazine, and Food and Wine.

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Peking Walnuts

In the spirit of DIY deliciousness, why not start off the Chinese New Year with something sweet and savory? Peking Walnuts are an impressive affair – the glossy walnuts appear lacquered, but it’s really just a simple sugar coating that’s been dunked in a vat of hot vegetable oil. While the walnuts cook, the sugar caramelizes onto the crust and takes on a reddish hue – just like Peking Duck. The red color makes Peking Walnuts lucky. What’s the story with the color red and Chinese New Year? Legend has it that a Chinese beast called Nian lives under the sea and mountains. He is afraid of the color red. Chinese families use lots of red during the New Year to scare him away.Today, red signifies both luck and joy in Chinese culture. How to make Peking Walnuts (and impress all your friends): Grab a bunch of walnuts. Boil them until their skins fall off. Dry well. Toss with sugar and let dry for a couple of hours in a sunny spot (or overnight).   Meanwhile, go watch some fireworks! When you return, deep …

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Salad Niçoise

There’s nothing like a mid-winter picnic, especially if Salad Niçoise is part of the equation. The other day my daughter asked if we could eat dinner outside. It was sunny, the temperature in the mid-sixties. My answer? Most definitely. We bundled up – each in a cozy sweater – and set up our colorful spread on the scraggly winter landscape. For the Salad Niçoise, I took my inspiration from Julia Child and piled on delicately steamed French beans, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, and everything deliciously funky: Tuna, olives, capers and a few anchovies (for salty chew). A handful of crackers with cheese completed dinner (though a hunk of crusty bread would be nice, too). My husband flashed us all back to his “Mr Picky” days as he struggled to down one solitary anchovy. He did the work but remains unconvinced of their merits. My daughter escaped the challenge since she’s a self-proclaimed vegetarian, focusing her efforts instead on the vegetables and cheese (for protein). As for myself, I ate everything. While we enjoyed our meal, the sun sunk behind our neighbors’ rooftop (taking the warmth with …

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Kir Impérial

In honor of Valentine’s Day – and being one month away from the release of my new memoir (Eeee!!) – I went to the “way back” machine and dug up what I consider to be the most romantic of all French drinks: a Kir Impérial. There are only two things you need to know about Kir Impérial. #1 It bubbles. #2. It tastes like love. But… since I’m a front row kind of gal… The Story Behind Kir Once upon a time the Kir was actually called “vin blanc cassis” – which just means “white wine currants.” According to Larousse Gastronomique, this was a specialty drink from Burgundy, France. It mixed two of the region’s best drinks: an Aligoté wine (dry white wine) and cassis (black currant liqueur). After World War II everything changed. A priest, who helped 5,000 people escape a prisoners of war camp, was knighted and elected as the mayor of Dijon. He always served vin blanc de cassis during official meetings and celebrations, in part because there was a red wine shortage. His name was – you guessed it – Felix …

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Going “Down Under” with an Easy Kid’s Lunch

Throwing together a Down Under lunch requires just a few fun ingredients. My kindergartner loves a good cheese sandwich (don’t we all!?) so this week I smeared her sandwich bread with sticky, salty yeast extract like they do in Australia and New Zealand (I couldn’t find Aussie’s preferred version, Vegemite, so I used Marmite, the version preferred in Britain and New Zealand). Let the record state: ooey gooey cheese paninis with yeast extract are also grand! The salty smack goes a long, long way; don’t overdo it! Next, leftovers came to the rescue. On the side are leftover sweet potatoes drizzled with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. In New Zealand and parts of Australia they call sweet potatoes “kumara.” The shining star of the meal came from the fruit basket: one shiny Granny Smith apple. These green beauties were first cultivated in Australia in 1868. What an easy, authentic addition to the lunch box. The container came back empty, so I’d say her lunch “down under” was a success! Tips & Tricks: Ava’s lunch is vegetarian but others might enjoy tossing the sweet potatoes …

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