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Labneh

Labneh Recipe

Labneh Recipe

Labneh Recipe

For much of December I found myself being entertained rather than entertaining. It was a nice, relaxing way to spend two weeks but I find myself – even now that we’re well into the New Year – looking for a way to make someone else feel special and cared for.  After some recipe rummaging, I had my answer: Labneh.

Soup might comfort, jelly might wibble-wobble, but Labneh delights. This Middle Eastern thickened yogurt appetizer seems oh so fancy but is really a set-it-and-forget-it kind of affair – exactly what I need to pay it forward during a busy time of year. It’s mild and tangy – but if you use full fat yogurt, very creamy and indulgent in a… healthy way (it’s made with yogurt, after all).

Does your mind ever wander when you cook? Mine does.

  • As the yogurt strained in the cool, dark refrigerator I considered the people who came in my life for no more than a season – perhaps a brilliant season, perhaps a painful one. I reminded myself that letting them go is a gift. Ahhhh, what a gift for my heart.
  • As I spooned the thick yogurt into a shallow bowl, forming ridges and valleys with my spatula, I thought of my oldest brother who gave my family a tour of the small beach town during our visit to Cape Charles, VA – the landscape undulating in its own way. I sent him a smile – thanking him for opening his world to us during Christmas.
  • As I drizzled on the olive oil, I thought of my sister who took time to sketch with me over the holidays. We’d giggled at the kitchen table, pencils in hand as we sketched fluidly. What a memory. I sent her a hug.
  • As I released a fluttering of parsley and spice over the bowl, I thought of our cousin’s New Year’s Eve wedding and the sparklers that guarded her procession through the darkness to her love. I sent her warm well-wishes.

Ava-with-more-cousins

Ava-with-her-cousins

Now… if I could just travel back to where they are and share this labneh with our whole family!

Vacation went by way too fast (doesn’t it always?).

Three ways to share labneh:

1. Set a shallow bowl of labneh out and serve with flatbread and vegetable sticks.

2. Cover your palms with olive oil and roll the labneh into balls. The oil will help prevent sticking. Store in olive oil. And/or finish them off by rolling in chopped herbs, za’atar or ground sumac. Spread on toast or flatbread.

3. If you can’t use it all up here’s another idea – cook it!

Yogurt strained through muslin is a traditional food in the Levant, Eastern Mediterranean, Near East, Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent, where it is often used in cooking (as it is high enough in fat content to avoid curdling at higher temperatures). (Wikipedia)

Who knew!?

As far as easy entertaining and impressive edible gifts go, labneh ranks up there among the a) most impressive b) simplest c) best edible gifts.

Just be sure to set some yogurt to strain a day or two before you need it (things will go quicker if you start with Greek yogurt, as I have done).

Makes about 3 cups labneh

Ingredients:

1 quart Greek yogurt, preferably whole
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

Toppings (use as desired):

up to 3 Tbsp ground sumac or za’atar
handful fresh parsley and/or tarragon, torn
olive oil for drizzling

For Rolling:

Handful minced chives
up to 1/4 cup ground sumac
1 -2 cups olive oil, for storing
small glass jars (for gifts)

Method:

We’re going to the Middle East.

There may be camels.

Camel Crossing. Photo by josefstuefer.

Camel Crossing. Photo by josefstuefer.

Set a strainer over a bowl and line with cheesecloth. Spoon in the yogurt and let drain 1-2 days, depending on desired thickness.

How to strain labneh

Meanwhile, take a stroll through the countryside.

Looking down into a wadi on the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt. A tree of an unidentified species of Acacia (possibly Acacia tortilis) grows even in this arid environment. Photo by Florian Prischl.

Looking down into a wadi on the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt. Photo by Florian Prischl.

Stir thickened yogurt together with salt and lemon juice to taste.

Labneh Recipe

To serve:

a) Spoon into shallow bowl and top with fresh herbs.

b) Roll into balls with oiled hands. Store in olive oil or roll balls in fresh herbs, sumac, or za’atar. Keep refrigerated.

TIP: If you place the herbs in a small cup or bowl, you can just shake them around. They’ll get coated and become rounder in the process.

Labneh Recipe

Labneh Recipe

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It's mild and tangy - but if you use full fat yogurt, very creamy and indulgent.Labneh
Servings
3cups
Servings
3cups
Ingredients
Yogurt ingredients
Toppings (as desired)
For rolling
Instructions
  1. Set a strainer over a bowl and line with cheesecloth. Spoon in the yogurt and let drain 1-2 days, depending on desired thickness.
To serve
  1. Spoon into shallow bowl and top with fresh herbs.
  2. Roll into balls with oiled hands.
  3. Store in olive oil or roll balls in fresh herbs, sumac, or za'atar.
Recipe Notes

If you place the herbs in a small cup or bowl, you can just shake them around. They'll get coated and become rounder in the process.

Source:

Recipe Copyright Sasha Martin, Global Table Adventure. For personal or educational use only.

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A Polish lunch that’ll clean out your fridge

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Whether your child is in a growth spurt or you just need a meal to satisfy you longer than the 20 minutes it takes to eat it, Polish comfort food is the answer. We ate ours back on December 23rd, three hours before locking up the house and flying to spend 11 days with more than a dozen family members (First stop: Cape Charles Virginia, to see one of my brothers and sisters, and their kids. Second stop: Martinsburg, West Viriginia for our cousin’s wedding and most of Keith’s family).

In large part, this hurried meal was the kind of “cleaning out the fridge” and “pantry upkeep” situation I engage in every time I travel. It started because the potatoes threatened to grow legs and walk off while we were away.  In the fridge, I had a link of kielbasa sausage and package of fresh sauerkraut with imminent expiration dates, plus some carrots and Brussels sprouts that I just knew would be despondent upon our return.

I pan-fried the vegetables and sausage while the potatoes boiled. As the components came together on our trays I realized this is very Polish. So, for good measure, I added some pickles, apple sauce, and apple cider. And there you have it. Polish comfort food. (Later, when turbulence and a thunderclap less than a mile from the plane kept our flight attendants from passing out snacks and drinks, I was able to focus on fear instead of fear and hunger.)

Notes and Tips:

  • Try serving your Brussels sprouts with dill and sour cream – this is very traditional in Poland.
  • The Brussels sprouts are also very good fried with the kielbasa (I kept them separate s0 my little vegetarian could enjoy them – she got tofu instead of kielbasa). If you have other veggies, feel free to add them (onion would be really good).
  • Instead of potatoes, try pierogi.
  • Leftovers can go straight into the freezer for another time. The night we got back I chopped them up and added them to lentils to make soup – even the sauerkraut. It was great!
  • For more Polish recipe ideas and cultural info, check out some of our other Polish posts.
  • Watch out for cider thieves!

Ava's Around the World LunchesAbout around the World Lunches

Around the World Lunches began when I shared a few of Ava’s globally-inspired lunches on Instagram and Facebook. Turns out a lot of people are looking for lunch ideas – whether for school or work.

In this regular column, I share one of our Around the World lunches with you. I give you tips, like where to find ingredients or possible substitutions. If you have ideas for lunches you’d like to see or challenges you need help dealing with, let me know in the comments!

sasha-martin-600x580

Why I’m terrified of telling you about my memoir

sasha-martin

My dear friend Becky and I had been chatting over drinks for more than an hour when I suddenly mumbled “I’m terrified of telling my readers about my memoir.” The admission took me by surprise, as did the tears that spilled down my cheeks. I added, almost self consciously, “I don’t know how to tell them … isn’t that crazy?” I darted my eyes around R Bar expecting to lock eyes with frowning onlookers, but the only other patrons were engrossed with each other, the flush of new romance in their eyes.

Truth is, I’ve been scared to tell you about my memoir for a long time. Sure: I’ve told you about the book casually – in a billboard announcement sort of way (clipped, chirpy, and relatively benign). But I haven’t told you in a pour my soul out through the keyboard sort of way. And – for better or worse – that’s the kind of announcement this book seems to require.

My friend took in my tears, then said:  “Tell them the truth: that you’re scared; that you cried at a bar just thinking about telling them.” She gave me a gentle smile and added, “Start there. You’ll know what to write after that.”

And so the words flow on…

Contradiction or Confluence?

One major reason I’m afraid to tell you about my memoir is because it will mark a significant change both in how you see me and how you see this blog. Until now, I’ve been a fun-loving food explorer to you. You cheered as my daughter grew from a 7-month old to a 5-year old, all while eating food from 195+ countries and territories. You laughed when my picky husband sniffed his way through (most of) the foods I prepared.  And you sent email after email in support of my mission of peace through food. This blog has always been about the good and the silly - purposefully bypassing any discussions of war, poverty, or suffering in an effort to celebrate the cuisine of every country.

I was the world’s biggest cheerleader.

And yet.

Naked before you.

Obsessively cooking the world distracted me from my troubled past – a past I had yet to examine and whose truths I kept from these pages by maintaining a careful grip on my keyboard.

But soon – in less two months – you’ll know so, so much more about me.

Adrenaline flows through my fingertips even as I write these words.

So many of you think my memoir will be about cooking the world – and it is, in a way. But that’s only the last third of the book. So much more of my memoir is about what drove me to obsessively cook the world – the trials and tribulations of my childhood that made me hungry for peace. In fact, most of the book dives deeply into the very things I avoided through this blog:

Grief. Loss. Separation. Heartbreak.

I crave peace because I lived so long without it.

Of course, it couldn’t be my book without food. Rest assured: this is a real food memoir with 29 recipes and countless delicious descriptions. Within the pages food and cooking repeatedly reveal themselves to be sources of comfort and healing. Perhaps that is why this book is also unlike any food memoir I’ve read – it gets raw with life – my life.

Eeek.

Dream stone

A significant change in the life of this blog for 2015

I have to face the facts: with the release of my deeply personal memoir, Global Table Adventure must become something more. What exactly that will look like, I don’t know. To be honest, change scares me. I’m a bit slow on the uptake. That being said, we’re pushing forward because a redesign process is way overdue (we’ve had this current design for four years now). The new look will be revealed in February. If all goes according to plan, the new framework will provide some wiggle-room for Global Table Adventure to grow and flourish in new ways.

What I know so far:

  • I want to keep sharing and learning through world cuisine.
  • Thus far, the word “table” in Global Table Adventure has indicated the 650+ recipes I tried and shared with you, as well as this last Year of Global Celebrations, and several Around the World Lunches.  But the “table” can represent much more: community, family, togetherness. We do more than eat around the table. I want to explore this.
  • I’m not exactly planning a barrage of personal essays but I DO want to blend a little more of me into these pages. I’m not just a cook. I’m a mother, an artist, a writer, and a dreamer. And many more things besides. (Why is this so scary to admit!?!)
  • I want to connect more with each of you! I am so grateful for your support over the years and consider you friends, whether you joined today or back in February 2010. I hope you will be open to these changes as the site evolves. (Several of you who follow me on Instagram – especially while I wrote the book – have already seen more of my life. This openness has fed my soul).
  • It is my great desire that, by opening up in this way, I find my spark again – that curiosity will once again drive this site and that, together, we can make great discoveries.

I hope you don’t mind. In fact, I hope you come along for the ride.

With love, from our home to yours.

xxoo
Sasha, Keith & Ava

P.S. If you want to enter to win a copy of my memoir Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness, please enter now at Goodreads. 50 copies are available: I’d be thrilled if some of you won them! Also: if you’d like more info on the book, including how to preorder, go to my book page.

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

 

Life From Scratch by Sasha Martin

Life From Scratch

by Sasha Martin

Giveaway ends January 15, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

New-Years

10 New Year’s Food Traditions from around the World

New-Years

Before the confetti and the fireworks glitter through our skies, our global neighbors teach that we must first take a little time to dream. You see, if we imagine our futures as bright and as shiny and as real as the stars above us, we come that much closer to realizing our dreams. It’s called positive thinking. And all around the world, people accomplish this through a brilliant collection of New Year’s food traditions.

These food traditions aren’t just another nice meal with a game attached; they’re a way to represent everything we want for ourselves and our loved ones. When we eat symbolic meals, it’s the best kind of positive thinking (hello, happy tummies and hearts).

Here are my favorite New Year’s food traditions from around the world, with recipes pulled from our archives. Try one this year to make your very own Global New Year.

LOL

1. “RING” in the New Year

Rings are a symbol both of continuous love and of “coming full circle.” Any food made in a ring shape is a great choice to celebrate the New Year because it is said to bestow upon the people a promise of love and completeness in the year to come.  While donuts and bagels fit the bill, many cultures, especially in Europe, are particularly fond of ring cakes.

I adore the Scandinavian Ring Cake we made for our Norwegian Global Table. This cake is make from chewy almond paste cookies “glued” together with icing. The end result is an epic tower worthy of weddings, birthdays, and – yup – New Year’s. While many recipes use special pans to accomplish this geometric beauty, I did the math so that all you need is a couple of baking pans and a ruler.

Another great option is the King’s Cake from our Global Table for Liechtenstein. These soft, sweet rolls are made with fresh citrus zest, a twinkling of sugar, and raisins. Traditionally served for Epiphany on January 6, an almond is tucked inside; whoever receives it is crowned King or Queen for the day. Due to the ring shape of the cake, I think it would be a fun addition to a Global New Year’s buffet.

2. “Hidden Future”

Speaking of hiding almonds… there’s an entire quadrant of New Year’s food traditions that revolves around hidden treats, especially in rice pudding. The hidden prize (usually an almond or raisin) is a symbol of how we don’t know what the future holds, but it also promises that whoever gets the lucky token will receive a year of good fortune. We’ve made several rice puddings over the years, including a Mango Coconut Rice Pudding from Laos, a Macedonian Rice Pudding with cinnamon, and an epic Chocolate and Coconut Rice Pudding from Samoa.

3. Soak up the “bad”

If you’re planning a rough night out on the town, the answer might be Russian Potato Salad, a.k.a. Olivier Salad. This bad boy is a three course meal in one bite. Russians love bringing the ham, pea, carrot, and egg laden salad to any celebration, but especially to New Year’s because of it’s ability to soak up a boozy belly. Speaking of which, some people like to press the salad into a bowl and then flip it over. The resulting dome shape is said to be the pillow upon which a drunken fool can sleep. Really.

4. “Pass the Plate”

Need a bit of jingle in your pocket? If you seek prosperity in the New Year, legumes are the answer. In Italy this means Lentils, while in the Southern parts of the United States this means eating a hearty serving of Black-eyed Peas. Why not set a Global Table this year… and try an African recipe featuring this beautiful bean? Just be sure to eat at least one bean for every day of the year. That’s right…365 beans, my friends. We’ve made two neat dishes with black-eyed peas…

There’s Red Red, which we cooked for Ghana. This recipe featured Black Eyed Peas in red palm oil (hence the name). The flavor of red palm oil is rich and unique to West African cooking… and a really fun with the added peppers, onions, and tomatoes.

Then there’s Pureed Black Eyed Peas mashed with butter (lots of it) from Benin. This creamy, addictive recipe comes from the early days of the blog (pardon the photography and lack of stovetop travel photos), but if you can handle the task of peeling a pile of beans, you’ll be rewarded with the most comforting puree around.

5. “A bite of Gold never hurt”

While we’re talking about good luck and prosperity from “coin” beans, what about good-ol’ fashioned “gold”? Have no fear… if you’re looking to bring more gold into your life, you simply need to eat some cornbread (traditionally served with the black-eyed peas). We’ve made two great cornbread recipes during this Adventure… both of which would make a delightful addition to any New Year’s spread.

The Paraguayan Cornbread, loaded with peppers, onions, real corn, and tons of cheese, is Mr. Picky’s favorite. The Albanian Cornbread, made with feta, green onion and paprika, is one of mine.

6. “Pork for Progress”

Have you ever watched a pig walk? They root their snout into the soft earth, and inch their way forward. This habit has created yet another New Year’s food tradition around the world: “roast pork” for progress in the year to come. Why not try a Roast Pork with boozy Prunes from Lithuania, or a Milk and Herb Braised Pork Roast from San Marino (that tiny country inside of Italy) to help you make progress on that DIY project or workout goal?

7. “Noodle Ahead”

In Asia, long noodles represent a long life… as long as they aren’t cut. Why not invite some friends over for a noodle slurping night? We’ve made some really awesome noodle dishes, but my favorites are Laos Rice Noodle Soup (a DIY soup made with fresh herbs, raw beef flash cooked in the hot broth, limes, and more) and  Lagman Shurpa (an amazingly simple but flavorful lamb, carrot and turnip soup with homemade noodles and seasoned with basil, from Central Asia).

8. Get your Grape on

Spanish and Portuguese folk have been eating 12 grapes for good luck on New Year’s for more than a hundred years. The game is to eat them all before the stroke of midnight. Apparently it all started as a way to use up surplus grapes. You don’t need a Global Recipe for this idea, just some sweet produce and an appetite for the good life. Pay attention to which grapes taste sweet and sour though: if the 8th grape is sour, August will be a sour month.

If, however, you do want to cook something a little tricky, try this Grape and Walnut Candy from our Georgian Global Table… Maybe make strings of 12 walnuts per person? A little creativity is the name of the game when it comes to a Global New Year!

9. “Think Green”

Turns out it pays to eat your greens at least one day per year… Foods like kale, collards, and cabbage are eaten the world around to symbolize wealth… the green representing dollar bills. Try Rwandan “Agatogo” with Collard Greens (made with a simple combination of plantains, peanuts, and collard greens) and Kale to “Push the Week” from Kenya, a fresh and flavorful side.

10. Put some Booze in It

I’m not sure it’s an official New Year’s food tradition, but pretty much any food with booze in it seems to fit the bill for a great New Years. My vote? Guinness Chocolate Cake with Bailey’s Buttercream from Ireland. Either that or Midnight Mocha Rum Cake from Panama (bonus: it’s ring-shaped!). Both cakes are so amazing, you won’t even miss the champagne.

Unless you wanted to eat them with champagne.

Speaking of which… before this Adventure, the only thing that crossed my mind when I heard the words “New Year’s” was champagne. Bubbly. Golden. Ethereal.  But once I looked to the world to mix and match my Global New Year’s Table, I realized there are many more beautiful ways to celebrate than just sipping on flutes.

What are some of your traditions?

Wishing you and your loved ones a most Joyous 2013. 

See you on Tuesday, when we resume our Global Table Adventure with Saudi Arabia!

avas.lunch_.img_7062

A Central American Lunch

Lunch from El Salvador

Central America can provide fresh, fun inspiration for the lunchbox (with a generous dash of indulgence). Since our family chose not to opt in for my daughter’s school’s weekly Pizza Day, I’m always looking for something special for Ava’s Friday lunches. When I asked Ava how she enjoyed this particular Around the World lunch, Ava returned my question with wide eyes and an even wider grin. I have a feeling the cheesy pupusas from El Salvador did the trick.

Pupusas are made with masa harina and melted cheese or bean filling, then fried. We made them for dinner the night before (when Ava taught papa how to make them with a hilarious, if not entirely authentic “double stuffed” method). Not bad for five years old!

The leftovers were a quick reheat in the school microwave, though they’re decent cold, too. To balance things out, I included a cabbage slaw called “curtido” seasoned with dried oregano, vinegar, and a touch of red pepper flakes. The fried plantain chips and sliced avocado were just for fun!

Tips

  • Try substituting the curtido for a chunky guacamole. The plantain chips would make great dippers!
  • Pupusas  are great served with tomato salsa.
  • For more heat, add extra red pepper flakes to the curtido.

 

Ava's Around the World LunchesWhy show you Ava’s lunch?

Ava’s Around the World Lunches began when I shared a few of Ava’s globally-inspired lunches on Instagram and Facebook. Turns out a lot of people are looking for lunch ideas – whether for school or work.

In this regular column, I share one of our Around the World lunches with you. I give you tips, like where to find ingredients or possible substitutions. If you have ideas for lunches you’d like to see or challenges you need help dealing with, let me know in the comments!

recipe.salt_.cod_.fettucine.img_7160

Feast of the 7 Fishes | Linguine with Baccalà Sauce

Feast of the 7 Fishes | Linguine with Baccalà Sauce

A lump of salt cod (baccalà) just might be everything. To use the tough, leathery fillet – more hide than flesh – the cod must first be soaked in fresh clean water. Gradually the salt leaks into the water and clouds it. A change of water, then more salt comes out. Several more water changes. A couple of days go by. The cod becomes soft. Mild. Tender. Italians know: these steps cannot be skipped or the meal will be ruined.

Feast of the 7 Fishes | Linguine with Baccalà Sauce

I find myself sifting around for meaning this year. Did you notice that Christmas came with Halloween and Thanksgiving was just a speed bump on the road to black Friday (which actually began before the dishes were done or the meal had settled)?  With all the fuss happening earlier and earlier in the year, the excitement of Christmas feels dilute.

But as I sit with this idea, restless in my desire to make the holidays special, I realize dilution – as with salt cod – can be a benefit. As the holiday season leeches into the stores earlier, becoming increasingly consumer-based, it is easier for me to identify that tender lump – what really matters. To me, anyway.

And that is family.

Feast of the 7 Fishes | Linguine with Baccalà Sauce

Feast of the 7 Fishes is a great way to recenter and reorient towards family and togetherness on Christmas Eve. This southern Italian and Italian-American feast has no hard and fast rules, except one: seafood must be served. Beyond that, one dish might contain 7 fish or there might be 7 distinct fish courses – though some buffets exceed one dozen. Creating all these dishes requires an enormous family effort to pull off –  several generations packed into the kitchen, bumping elbows. This is where memories are made.

Feast of the 7 Fishes | Linguine with Baccalà Sauce

No matter our backgrounds, we have the power to create such connection – to feed our hearts by cooking together.  It is with this spirit that I share this pasta dish –  unassuming swirls of linguine topped with fresh tomato sauce, capers, and lumps of salt cod. It’s perhaps not the most challenging dish to prepare, but it gets an the essence of things.

And isn’t that the point?

P.S. To keep the spirit of the Feast – with multiple courses and cooks – I enlisted the help of  a few bloggers I know and admire. Here are their delicious contributions:

Sicilian Citrus Shark Filets by Amanda Mouttaki, MarocMama.
Sweet and Savory Eel. Laura Kelley, Silk Road Gourmet.
Whipped Salt cod | Baccalà Mantecato by Deana Sidney, Lost Past Remembered.

A Feast of the 7 Fishes | Fettuccine with Baccalà Sauce
Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 lb pasta, preferably linguine

For the sauce:

1 lb salt cod, a.k.a. baccalà
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil, extra virgin
28 ounces canned tomatoes (crushed)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/4 cup capers
small handful parsley (for garnish)

salt, as desired

Method:

Soak baccalà per package instructions (typically for 1 to 3 days with occasional water changes depending on thickness of the fillet).

On meal day:
In a medium pot over medium high heat, fry the onion in olive oil until softened – a good 10 minutes.
Add the crushed tomatoes and red pepper flakes. Continue heating. When the first bubbles pop through add pieces of the baccalà (cut into bite-size portions. Cover loosely and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes.
Check seasonings, adding salt and more crushed pepper as desired. Finish with capers and parsley.
Serve hot over linguine with a smile…
… and a view of Southern Italy, where Feast of the 7 Fishes also goes by La Vigilia, or “The Vigil.”
Cliff at Tropea, Italy. Photo by Przemyslaw "Blueshade" dzkiewicz. (2005).

Cliff at Tropea, Italy. Photo by Przemyslaw “Blueshade” dzkiewicz. (2005).

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Linguine with Baccalà Sauce
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Instructions
Preperation
  1. Soak baccalà per package instructions (typically for 1 to 3 days with occasional water changes depending on thickness of the fillet).
On meal day
  1. Cook pasta per instructions.
  2. Meanwhile in a medium pot over medium high heat, fry the onion in olive oil until softened - a good 10 minutes.
  3. Add the crushed tomatoes and red pepper flakes. Continue heating.
  4. When the first bubbles pop through add pieces of the baccalà (cut into bite-size portions. Cover loosely and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes
  5. Check seasonings, adding salt and more crushed pepper as desired.
  6. Finish with capers and parsley.
  7. Serve over hot pasta.
Source:

Recipe Copyright Sasha Martin, Global Table Adventure. For personal or educational use only.

South African Lunch

An African lunch for a cold day

South African Lunch

Below freezing weather means one thing: the thermos goes on double duty. This week I filled Ava’s hot pink Hello Kitty thermos with a hearty bean stew bolstered with a swirl of red palm oil – a typical element in West African cooking. On the side – a fat hunk of mealie bread. This is southern Africa’s answer to corn bread (especially popular in South Africa). The fresh corn kernels add sweetness and interest beyond anything Jiffy Mix can offer.

Tips and Tricks

  • If you’d like a little spice in your mealie bread try adding some blackened chilie peppers (I like poblanos – here’s a recipe from Zambia).
  • Try adding some sliced plantain to your kidney beans stew or swapping the kidney beans for black eyed peas.

Ava's Around the World LunchesWhy show you Ava’s lunch?

Ava’s Around the World Lunches began when I shared a few of Ava’s globally-inspired lunches on Instagram and Facebook. Turns out a lot of people are looking for lunch ideas – whether for school or work.

In this weekly column, I share one of our Around the World lunches with you. I give you tips, like where to find ingredients or possible substitutions. If you have ideas for lunches you’d like to see or challenges you need help dealing with, let me know in the comments!

In Her Kitchen: Stories and Recipes from Grandmas Around the World

5 Jaw-dropping books for international food lovers

Pair of Reading glasses

Every once in a while I browse through my scattered but immense cookbook collection, thumbing for ideas like a hungry hitchhiker: Take me somewhere differentTake me somewhere new. These five books represent a selection of my favorite go-to cookbooks as well as several incredible coffee table books that make excellent gifts for loved ones with an international food obsession.

1.

Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard
Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch
by Nigel Slater

Ripe and Tender by Nigel Slater

The best cookbooks are like old friends, chatty and not afraid to share their dreams. Nigel Slater’s food descriptions are particularly delectable, especially when paired with honest photography and none of the fussy measurements that make cooking feel like a chore. A glug of this, a dash of that is often all we need, and Nigel knows this. Each volume is organized by ingredient (Tender is all about vegetables and has mostly savory recipes, while Ripe is all about fruit and has mostly sweet ones). These books transport me to Nigel’s British garden, every inch of which contains some food producing plant – a veritable Eden where nothing is off limits. While his table definitely favors British cooking, delightful international dishes are scattered throughout, from roast lamb with couscous to an Indian dish of spinach and potatoes.

Be warned: there is no fear of butter or cream in these pages, so tread lightly!

2.

In Her Kitchen:
Stories & Recipes from Grandmas Around the World

by Gabriele Galimberti

In Her Kitchen: Stories and Recipes from Grandmas Around the World

I fell in love with this project from the moment I first heard about it: A man about to leave for a trip around the world must first convince his grandmother that he’ll be okay. How does he do this? By assuring her he’ll find grandmas everywhere to feed him. This book is the happy result, capturing the signature dishes of grandmas all over the world. A gorgeous gift for families everywhere.

Here is the book trailer, see for yourself:

 

3.

The World Atlas of Coffee:
From Beans to Brewing — Coffees Explored, Explained & Enjoyed
 

by James Hoffman

World Atlas of Coffee

This book is for the coffee lover on your list. Laid out with gorgeous photos from around the world, this book tells the story of coffee with maps, charts, and compelling history.

4.

Food Journeys of a Lifetime:
500 Extraordinary Places to Eat Around the Globe
 

National Geographic

Food Journeys of a Lifetime, National Geographic

National Geographic wrote this book for the food enthusiast that has everything but is still hungry. Stunning photography shows off 500 distinct regions and ingredients – from maple syrup in Vermont to fig harvests in Turkey, and from fish markets to candy stores. This one will take a long, long time to savor so reserve a spot on your coffee table!

5.

Forks:
A Quest for Culture, Cuisine, and Connection.
Three Years. Five Continents. One Motorcycle.

by Allan Karl

Forks-the-book

I don’t often support Kickstarter projects but Allan impressed me with his story – a man who traveled the world, met great people, and shared delicious meals along the way. He wanted to create a book that was full of photos, recipes, and stories – part memoir, part cookbook – there’s something for everyone in this beautiful book, not the least of which is inspiration from witnessing a dream realized.

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Postscript: Do we need more cookbooks? 

Let me be clear: my bookshelves are fat with cookbooks – from Alice Waters to Clifford A. Wright. I have no business getting more: I could live a thousand years on the words within those shelves – each stuffed to capacity like the turkey I didn’t cook for Thanksgiving.  (Goat cheese and butternut squash lasagna with sage took the place of honor this year, ham and stuffing on the side, along with Argentinian squash salad.).

But I find food enthusiasts are like cat ladies: one more is always better. 

Post Postscript:

My memoir will be out March 3rd – not much longer now! Special promotions and early bird information will be shared with subscribers first. Stay tuned!

Post Post Postscript:

Jaw-dropping… get it!?!?

How cold is too cold for recess? 24 parents around the world weigh in.

How cold is too cold for recess? 24 parents across the globe weigh in.

How cold is too cold for recess? 24 parents around the world weigh in.

As a family we’ve always been big on eating and playing outside – even when the weather dips below freezing. Ava’s school is remarkably progressive in this regard – they’ll go out in snow, even if its just for a few minutes. But most schools in Oklahoma keep the kids indoors during recess for one simple reason – we’re more used to heat waves than snow storms. Our closets prove it: I don’t buy Ava a snow suit or snow boots unless a big storm threatens(otherwise it may never get used before her next growth spurt).

I remember being all bundled up as a kid during bitter-cold weather in Boston and wanted to know if there was a geographic difference in how kids spend their lunch breaks during “inclement weather.”  Apparently some babies nap outside in freezing weather.

So, yup. Turns out there is.

 

24 Parents answer my question:
How cold is too cold for lunchtime recess?

 

“I live in NE Ohio & if the wind chill is 20°F / -6°C or lower the kids can’t go out for recess” Laura P.

“I was brought up in the north of Sweden where we always had lots of snow and spouts of extreme cold (-30°C or so, which would make -22°F). I can’t remember a cutoff for not being allowed to play outside, it was more a question of when we were allowed to stay inside. And that may have been around -4°F / -20°C.” Jorun B.

“I live in Germany and kids play outside whatever the weather. But it doesn’t often get up to 6 feet of snow. Germans say there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. When we lived in England, people would also freak out about snow. Nurseries and schools shut there at the slightest sight of snow. Employees get often sent home early. And kids rarely play outside when it is cold or raining.” Anabelle H.

“In the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, both the temp and the windchill have to be at least 10°F / -17°C for outdoor recess.  My 6 y/o and her 2 classmates that I drive home give me an update every day if they could go outside for recess or not, and if it was so cold that they “huddled” instead of played. Apparently when it’s close to our 10°F / -17°C cut-off, they huddle like little penguins, taking turns in the center of the huddle. They love telling me all about who was in the center, who almost blew away from the outer ring (very windy in greater Chicago!!!), etc. They talk like it is the funnest thing!” Julie A

“I am in central Japan. The kids are not playing outside anymore at school, but the parents dress their kids in shorts year round with long socks.” Tara C.

“The teachers [in Chicago] just make sure the kids have coats, hats, gloves, snow pants and boots – the cold weather works! The kids went outside today when the temperatures were in the upper 20s F / -2°C. But, they stayed indoors yesterday when it was a high of around 20°F / -6°C with a windchill in the teens! My younger son brought up an interesting point to me when we were discussing if I thought they’d go outside for recess today. (Today’s forecasted high is 25°F / -4°C.) He thought it was interesting that they go out in the snow and cold – but never in the rain. It could be 80°F / 26°C, but if it’s raining, they stay inside.” Aimee T.

“My kids had a day off from school in Northern California recently. It was a chillier day than normal, in the mid-lower 50s F / 10°C. Usually it averages in the 60s F / 15°C. Our Moroccan babysitter stayed with them that day and when I got home from work the kids complained they weren’t allowed outside to play all day. Why not!? Atika said it was too cold to go out. I smiled as it was so not cold but I also know when raised in the tropics your are much more sensitive to the cold. – Stephanie M.

“It was 30°F / -1°C when we lived in Massachusetts.” MaryAnne

“The children play outside [in Germany] except for when it is really raining.” Olga M.

“This isn’t about temperature but about snow – Growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina, where it rarely snows, school would get canceled with even light snow. I do remember school being canceled once because of cold, but I can’t remember the temperature. But it was practical, because so many kids did not have heavy winter gear. In Minnesota they are very tough – once when I lived there school was canceled for cold. I can’t remember the temp but I believe the wind chill was -50°F / – 45°C (basically if your skin was exposed for more than a few minutes you’d get frostbite).” Leanna G.

“In Latvia school is off for primary school kids when it’s – 4°F /- 20°C outside and for older kids if it drops to – 13°F / – 25°C. Of course you wouldn’t exactly play outside much in such temperatures but you’d still go outside without anyone making much fuss about it.” Ilze I.

“I live in the south of France and it’s not about cold but snow. It used to snow about once a generation here but with climate change it now snows very lightly about once a year and it’s chaos! School is usually closed or kids sent home the moment it snows. It rarely gets below about 41°F / 5°C in the day here and by midday is usually 59°F / 15°C or more.” Phoebe T.

“I was raised in Canada. We went outside during recess & lunch break. I don’t even recall getting a single snow day while I was in grade school.” Jodi S.

“In Alaska, the cutoff was -15°F / -26°C. Anything above that and they went outside!” Sandy G.

“In Finland there are no official cutoffs, every school can set their own and they vary between 4°F / -15°C and -13°F / -25°C for when kids do not go out to play. The warmer cutoff would be for some schools in southern Finland – further north they are indeed more used to lower temperatures. I have never heard of a school that would have closed due to cold temperature. Snow is also never an excuse to stay at home from school in Finland. Here in England schools are very quick to close due to snow.” Rita R.

“No question that those from northern/colder climates are generally heartier and subsequently healthier. Scandinavian outdoor nursery schools (barnehage/barnepark) have much to do with that. We learned quickly that even sub-zero temperatures weren’t always reason to stay inside. “Ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlig klær”=No bad weather, only bad clothing.” Melissa D.

“In France, they leave them out whatever the weather – in a sensible way of course. Rain, snow, cold… do not prevent going outside. However, here in Ireland, as soon as there might be a very small “danger” they cannot go out – so they do not go out when it rains, when there is half a centimeter of snow. As for their lunch, they have to eat them over their book in 10 minutes max.” Yzabeau O.

“In Seattle, Washington, our problem is not cold or snow, but rain. We’ve had two days of sunshine, but I can already hear the rain has started before I even look outside. Kids play here outside every single day, no exceptions. I started my daughters at a farm preschool years ago that plays outside every day to get them ready. Pretty much every item of clothing we have has a hood (locals never carry umbrellas) so you are always ready . We get snow and low temps too, but the kids are outside then too. Yesterday was 42°F / 5°C, but mine went out right after school with friends to play capture the flag.” Koloud ‘Kay’ T.

“When we were in Montreal, Canada my kids were in preschool. They had no outdoor recess if the temperature was below 30°F / – 1°C  due to the wind chill factor. One time they had no outdoor play for almost a whole month because the weather was so cold.” Amanda H.B.

“I let my kids play out in any weather, if they are bundled up. But in Houston, Texas, it is under 40°F / 4°C  they stay inside for recess!!! If it is freezing temps and even the slightest chance of precipitation, school (and many companies) close. I lived in Minnesota for a while growing up and we would always have to go outside- I remember wearing so many layers and snow pants, and ski masks and climbing on the huge towers of snow made from the snowplows around the edge of the parking lot that was our playground. It was SO fun. I agree- people in the north are sooooo much tougher. I am worried that my kids’ blood is thinning being here in the south! People here freak out if it is even close to freezing (32°F / 0°C). The news tells people to stay indoors and business close. It only happens once a year (if that) so it is a big deal.” Becky M.

“I’m in Minnesota and the cut-off is 0°F / – 17°C. If either the temp or the windchill gets below zero, they say inside. They also get on parents’ cases if we don’t outfit our kids head to toe in winter gear (snow pants, heavy coat, snow boots, gloves, and hat).” Terri T.

“We live in the North of England where it is cooler but as you live with that weather you get used to it over a period of time!” Richard W.

“In Marrakech, Morocco people are wearing heavy parkas and it’s 50°F / 10°C. But higher in the mountains it snows and is very cold. But there’s no school cancelled for cold (or hot on the flip side) there were June days where it was easily over 115°F / 46°C and schools aren’t air conditioned.” Amanda M.

 

What about where you live?
How cold is too cold?

Join the conversation below!

It's all about the paste, the song.

The latest Viral song is for hummus lovers. Seriously.

Take one part hummus obsession and one part pop sensation – and this video by comedian Remy Munasifi (a.k.a. Go Remy) is the result. I laughed. I fell in love. And then I began rummaging around in my kitchen for hummus ingredients. Thankfully I had what I needed – and I was able to whip up the Lemon Garlic Hummus I made when my family tried Israel.

Here’s to all things hummus!

(And for those of you that think a video all about hummus will be a welcome break from pumpkin pie? Forget it. Watch the video and you’ll see how even pumpkin pie can “go” with hummus.)

P.S. Big thanks to reader Viola S. for sharing this gem with me! So. Much. Fun.

P.P.S. Here’s hoping you had an awesome Thanksgiving!

saint.vincent.grenadine.img_3726

10 Global Takes on Classic Thanksgiving Dishes

Sure, Thanksgiving is an American holiday but most of us can trace our ancestry back to some other part of the world. Which is why every year I like to bring you a selection of globally-inspired dishes for your Thanksgiving feast. Case in point? While mashed potatoes are classic components of the Thanksgiving table, there’s no reason you can’t add a bit of global flare to your recipe… and you’ll get a couple of ideas how to do so below!

Here are 10 global takes on classic Thanksgiving dishes. Try one out and add a touch of adventure to your Thanksgiving feast. You’ll be glad you did!

1.  Sweet & Spicy Korean Braised Turkey

How to make Sweet & Spicy Korean Braised Turkey

2. Zimbabwe’s Peanut Butter & Butternut Mash (Nhopi)

zimbabwe.food.recipe.img_3364

3. Zimbabwe’s Corn and Cheddar Stuffed Squash

zimbabwe.food.recipe.img_3325

4. Mealie Bread (Corn Bread) – Southern Africa

zambia.food.recipe.img_3228

5. Sweet Potato Biscuits (Mbatata) - Malawi

6. Mashed Potatoes with Veggies | Irio – Tanzania

tanzania.food.recipe.img_0765

7. Caribbean Pumpkin & Coconut Cream Bisque

8. Pumpkin Olad’yi – Russia

9. Maple Glazed Rutabaga – Finland

10. Honey & Pistachio Stuffed Quince – Uzbekistan

uzbekistan.food.recipe.img_2203

And if all that goodness whets your appetite, check out more Thanksgiving roundups from (many) years ago – these roundups include such yummies as homemade cranberry sauce and pumpkin flan!

Our Globally Inspired Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Menu Ideas from Around the World #1

Thanksgiving Menu Ideas from Around the World #2

 

An Indian lunch for kids or work

Indian Curry for Lunch

An Indian lunch for kids or work

Ava’s school encourages outdoor play – even when it snows. For this I am  SO grateful (if kids in northern climes like Alaska, Sweden, or Canada can go out to play when it’s cold outside my daughter can handle it, too). But if she’s going to face the elements, she also needs a hearty lunch to keep her furnace running.

recipe.chana.masala.img_6598

Curry is great for taking the snarl out of the winter air. This vegetarian chana masala warms with tomato cooked down into a bed of spices – cumin, coriander, turmeric, garlic and ginger. A healthy toss with chopped Serrano chilies will add pleasing heat, but it’s easily left out of the dish for mild sensibilities.

As for the rest?

Like most kids (?) Ava loves rice. And a heaping spoonful of plain yogurt and soft naan balances any heat. Finally: green peas because, yum!

That’s Ava’s lunch. What’s in your lunchbox?

Tips

  • Add a little salt to the plain yogurt to give it a savory quality little ones will really enjoy
  • While you can certainly make naan (I have a yogurt naan and a cumin naan from Afghanistan), there are several great brands available at the market nowadays – Ava loves the garlic naan (and her immune system thanks her).
  • If you want to mellow the spices in the curry, make sure to use ground cumin and coriander – the whole seeds can overwhelm young taste buds.

Ava's Around the World LunchesWhy show you Ava’s lunch?

Ava’s Around the World Lunches began when I shared a few of Ava’s globally-inspired lunches on Instagram and Facebook. Turns out a lot of people are looking for lunch ideas – whether for school or work.

In this weekly column, I share one of our Around the World lunches with you. I give you tips, like where to find ingredients or possible substitutions. If you have ideas for lunches you’d like to see or challenges you need help dealing with, let me know in the comments!