All posts filed under: Africa

Tunisian Grilled Salad with Tuna | Salata Mishwiyya

Usually, the food we grill stays whole. We put it on a bun, or we eat it with our hands. But today’s Tunisian Grilled Salad takes a different approach. The charred vegetables – peppers, onion, tomatoes – are pulsed together into a chunky mixture, then served with flaked tuna, and hard boiled egg. This salad has body. Much of the intensity comes off the grill,  from the raw garlic, hot chili peppers, and the caraway seeds, all of which can be tempered to taste. Please, please, please… let this salad meld for at least an hour before eating. This will give the bite time to mellow.   Because you wouldn’t want to serve your guests a grouchy salad. Mellow is much nicer. UPDATED 2015: Caraway cut down from 1 Tbsp to 1 teaspoon. Adapted from Clifford A. Wright’s A Mediterranean Feast. Serves 4-6 Ingredients: 3 green bell peppers 3 red chili peppers (like red fresno) 2 tomatoes (or 3 small) 1 onion, peeled and quartered (leave stem on to help hold it together) 3 cloves garlic 1 tsp caraway …

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Honey Almond Samsa with Orange Blossom Water

Every wedding, every baby shower, every birthday… every party… needs a smile. And by that, I mean, something that is delectable, not just to the spirit, but to the heart. Perhaps it’s an epic DJ known for Bollywood Dancing. Or perhaps it’s something as simple as a platter of Tunisian cigars, filled with crushed almonds, honey, orange blossom water, and cinnamon…Oh, and there’s a fair kiss of melted butter on them, too. These cigars are rather like baklava, but the orange blossom water makes them more floral, in a dreamy sort of way. The sticky, sweet mixture is guaranteed to get you and your guests licking their fingers. There will be murmurs and smiles. “What is that,” they’ll ask. And you know they’ll be talking about the orange blossom water. So fragrant, yet so delicate. Around the world, the word “samsa” is used to describe many, many different filled pastries, from meats to sweets. In Tunisia these are samsa. Every, last, glistening morsel is yours for the taking. Important note: Thaw the filo dough according to package instructions before …

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Menu: Tunisia

“If the full moon loves you, why worry about the stars?” Tunisian Proverb I never thought I’d compare tuna fish to the beautiful moon. But here we are. This week, there were so many beautiful recipes to choose from; I had a hard time choosing what best represented Tunisia. But then I read the proverb posted above, and realized maybe it was more important to showcase what made my stomach crawl. So I scanned the dozens of recipes for two dishes that could make my stomach growl. The first one? A grilled salad topped with tuna. I know funky tuna is not for everyone, but man, oh, man I love it (am I the only one that loves a good bit of tuna?). As for the dessert, I found something just as tantalizing. In short, I found a glittering menu, or moon, so to speak … so I didn’t worry about the stars I couldn’t get to.  All recipes and the meal review will be posted throughout the week. Tunisian Grilled Salad | Salata Mishwiyya [Recipe] A charred, …

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Fort Djerba, Tunisia. Photo by Cezary P.

About the food of Tunisia

The castles in Tunisia don’t look like they are made of stone. Not European stones, anyway. Those make for grey castles – the kind most of us are familiar with. No, Tunisian castles look like sandcastles. The soft yellow stones look like knobs of buttered polenta. Or couscous.  I know, because this is one of the twelve countries I visited when I was a teen. I went for my senior trip (from Luxembourg, where I was living at the time). While I was there I wanted to eat up those castles. I mean look at this… But before I ever saw the castles, I had to feel Tunisia. I stepped off of the plane, into the heat. The humidity squeezed me like a giant hug. Not only was it hot enough to swim at 8 a.m., it was hot enough to want to. The food was suitably refreshing. I had lots of tomato salads, grilled meats, and even grilled salads [Recipe]. In the morning, chakchouka was common, a quick fix cobbled together with simmered eggplant, peppers, onion, and …

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Sweet Potatoes in Coconut Caramel Sauce

I love necklaces. The bright stones add a splash of color and fun to my generally plain-Jane outfits. Seeing as I don’t general have time to put on makeup, necklaces are the one and only way to brighten up my look. To make it look like I tried. Well, today, we’re getting a taste of how the islanders in Tonga dress up dinner. In short? Sweet potatoes meet coconut caramel sauce – a vivid display of orange, white, and golden brown. Sweet potatoes and coconut grow easily in the Pacific, making this dish ubiquitous in Tonga. In fact, from what I read, this coconut caramel sauce is on everything in Tonga, from dumplings to taro. Instant goodness. The caramel is just sugar and coconut milk (yay, for an accidentally vegan caramel sauce!). The coconut milk gives the caramel a depth of flavor butter can’t touch. It’s just so tropical. So dressed up. TIP: You can substitute boiled taro, or even boiled dumplings, for the sweet potato in this recipe. Ingredients: 2 lbs sweet potatoes (about 2-3) …

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Monday Meal Review: Togo

“How many bites do I have to take?” “Do they have to be big bites?”  “Does this count as a big bite?” The questions kept coming from Miss Emma, one of the most picky eaters to grace our Global Table. She showed us her spoon, topped with Djenkoume (a.k.a. cornmeal cakes). This is what her big bite looked like: Thus far. Emma has spent the majority of her childhood “losing her lunch” when faced with new textures and flavors.  She couldn’t keep mash potatoes down until she was five… hers isn’t your ordinary finickiness. We were on very tenuous ground. I wanted to keep my furniture and rugs clean It was hard for me to relate to what Emma goes through when faced with new foods. Only rarely have I been physically affected by the thought of trying something new. There’s old Togolese proverb which reads: “It is impossible to go and look into the stomach of another.” How true. Even though I couldn’t put myself in Emma’s shoes, I was able to create an …

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Grilled Togo Chicken

  What brings a smile to your face? The sunshine? The taste of the ocean? What about security… that lovely feeling, when you know you can feed your family, without depending on someone else. Mrs. Essowedeou, from Togo, agrees. “I never knew how chickens could bring a smile to our faces,” she says. Mrs. Essowedeou raises chickens as part of the “Plan Togo” program.   These chickens are her smile because they are her (and her family’s) ticket to security. Independence. Food. She sells the chickens and the eggs to raise money for her family. This week, let’s smile with Togo in our hearts. And, in Kpetou’s honor, let’s do it with chicken. Because, sometimes, it’s that simple. Chicken recipes are plentiful in Togo, but Grilled Togo Chicken is probably the simplest, most straight forward way to enjoy the meat. All you need to do is marinate your favorite cut of chicken with ginger, garlic, and onion. Use a dash of cayenne if you’re feeling spicy, and be sure to rub on a hit of …

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Tomato Cornmeal Cakes | Djenkoume

Even grownups need to build sandcastles from time to time. The urge comes from deep within our hearts – some far away love for fantasy, perhaps formed in childhood. Today, we’re listening to our inner child; we’re making edible sandcastles… from Togo. At least, that’s what I’m calling them. If you want to be a serious adult, you can call them cornmeal cakes. In Togo, corn is everything, ever. Sometimes it is served as porridge. And sometimes it’s served as Djenkoume, a.k.a. cornmeal cakes, a.k.a. edible sand castles. Djenkoume is a cornmeal, tomato, and red palm oil corn cake, rather like polenta. But there’s so much more about the dish… there’s onion, garlic, and ginger in the mix.  And a mound of homemade, spiced tomato sauce. Hello. How could that not be wonderful? Friends, sometimes, I wonder if I’m really going to be able to find a dish I like in every country in the world. So far, I’ve had 100% success rate, and it’s not just because I’m fairly open minded.  It’s also because there …

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Menu: Togo

The last three people I’ve told that I’m cooking Togo have asked me what kind of food Togo is, not realizing Togo is a small west African country. So, friends, let’s learn together. Let’s put the Togolese spirit on our tables… along with a bit of their food. We’ll get to the menu we selected in a moment. First, let’s discuss the ‘spirit’ part of the meal. This week, I sought out some inspirational words from Togo. I had no choice. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately. For starters, I’ll be speaking in front of 3,000 people at the World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon. No biggie (total biggie!!).  Second, I’m about to turn in the next 1/3 of my memoir (I foresee a few all-nighters to finish the pages up). Third, my daughter is about to turn four (when on earth did that happen?). Fourth, I’m about to celebrate my fifth year of marriage (seriously, where has the time gone?). Fifth, I just spent the weekend visiting with my BFF from high school. It’s been …

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Local house in the Taberma Valley in Togo. The whole area is deignated a UNESCO Heritage Site. Photo by Erik Kristensen.

About the food of Togo

There’s an old Togolese proverb which says “Do not  roast all your corn in the winter.”  The proverb sums up Togo nicely. While the words point to importance placed on resourcefulness in this small, west African country, it also points to something much more obvious. The Togolese love their corn. As with most proverbs, they draw from the popular culture from whence they originate. This skinny strip of a country in western Africa really does love their corn, especially cornmeal. Cornmeal cakes called Djenkoume are a popular staple, as is fufu (stiff cornmeal porridge, although sometimes it is made with yam). Either might be served with chicken [like Grilled Togo Chicken], goat, or wild game. What does a Togolese person do when they tire of cornmeal? Eat cassava.  It can be savory, on the side of goat stew, or an after dinner treat, served as a soft, sweet porridge. From the dry savannas and tropical coast, this land also loves their peanuts. In fact, groundnut stew [Recipe] (an old favorite from our Ghanaian Global Table), makes …

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Kilma'njaro, captured out the window of a flight from Dar es Salaam. Photo by Paul Schaffner.

Monday Meal Review: Tanzania

  Moving Beyond Your Breaking Point Summer sweat is a near constant, now. I haunt my house, barefoot, draped in loose flowing dresses, completely aimless thanks to this seasonal fever. It’s all I can do to stay awake when the temperatures hit the nineties and the humidity approaches 100%. Eating Tanzania in this thick sort of summer heat was just perfect. All I had to do was close my eyes, and I was there. At least, I was there on the flatlands. But I wasn’t where I really, really wanted to be. Where I really wanted to be was Mount Kilimanjaro in northern Tanzania. Unlike the sizzling flatlands, Mount Kilimanjaro is covered with a perpetual blanket of snow. This epic mountain has fascinated me ever since I read about it in Michael Crichton’s book Travels. Have you read it? It is one of his least known books, but by-far my favorite because it covers Crichton’s globetrotting days. In the book, Michael Crichton attempts to climb Kilimanjaro. He approaches the mountain with all the swagger and arrogance of someone who’s …

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Greens with Veggies & Peanuts | Kisamvu

When my neighbor Jonathan told me he craves Kisamvu for weeks after his visits to Tanzania, I knew I had to try it. Kisamvu is just another word for cassava leaves, but Jonathan tells me he uses spinach whenever he’s in the states and the taste is a very good approximation. Jonathan gave me the very recipe they use at the orphanage he visited in Tanzania, called the Janada Batchelor Foundation for Children. While there, he films documentary footage to help promote the good work they JBFC does with his production company called RTC Pictures… What a fun gig! Now about that recipe… There are no exact measurements, although I did have the pleasure of watching the “Mamas” make a huge batch of kisamvu in his video footage (Mamas are the ladies in charge of the children). They do everything from build and stoke the kitchen fires (which are built under three large stones. The stones hold the pot). They also chop wood and cook the food. And the food comes straight from their gardens, moments …

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