Newroz celebration in Istanbul. Photo by Bertil Videt.

Plan a “Kuku” picnic with tips & recipes from the Persian holiday Nowruz

The first picnic of the year is a thing of beauty: tender daffodils and hyacinths poking through last season’s dusty, yellowed grass. Herbs getting bushy and fragrant. The air is cool, but the sun is warm. If you’re looking for an excuse to get outside and celebrate, you’re in luck: the Persian New Year, known as Nowruz, is the time to do it. But before you scope out a sunny patch of grass, there are a few things you should know. Why Nowruz? Sure, you could just plunk down a blanket and pull out a pb&j sandwich, but there’s a reason people have been celebrating Nowruz for centuries, all over Iran, Afghanistan, India, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, China, and Uzbekistan. Nowruz is FUN.  This is more than a picnic – this is a mega picnic – full of ULTIMATE meaning and all kinds of joy. What’s the big deal? Nowruz means “new light,” which is the kind of giddy statement people make after a long, dark winter: “Yay! …

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Make Saint Patrick’s Day even better: pour a mug of Guinness…cake!

Your friends are about to come over for your annual Saint Patty’s Day bash. They’re expecting the corned beef and cabbage, the glittery green shamrocks on walls and hats alike. They’re even expecting frosty mugs of beer. But they might not be expecting a cake they can “drink.” We’ve been down this road before: ultra moist Guinness Chocolate Cake with Bailey’s Buttercream. But this year I gave the recipe a festive spin by serving it in a frosty beer mug. Not to worry — this isn’t about smooshing cake into a cup – the trick is easier, classier, and more beautiful than you might imagine. The only special equipment required? A few clean, dry 15-ounce cans. In winter, this problem is easily solved by having soup for dinner. Grease and flour the cans (baking spray makes quick work of the job). Then line the sides with a strip of parchment paper (make sure the parchment sticks up 11/2-2 inches above the rim and covers the complete circumference – no need to cover the bottom). Fill …

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Julia Lipnitskaia, Russian figure skater. Photo by David W. Carmichael. Gold medal winner Stefan Groothuis during his race. Photo by M. Smelter.

7 Russian Dishes Worth Celebrating

Frankly, I’m embarrassed by the press’ coverage of the Olympics – it feels like the popular kids ganging up on the ‘outsiders’. While I don’t expect everything in the press to be all to be sunshine and rainbows, mean-spirited articles and blog posts whose primary goal has been to “poke fun” of the culture and people is a failure – a total disregard for the true purpose of the Olympics. We deserve more. They deserve better. The Olympics are a time to step up and celebrate each other – our athletes, our talents, that thing called dreams realized.  I recently read a fairly negative article about the food in Sochi, with interviewees calling their food experiences “bland” and “different” (citing the pervasiveness of cow tongue on the restaurant menus as a negative), with “McDonald’s as a best friend”. To be fair, the author did come around by the end of the article and cite a few decent meal reviews. Still, the time has come: someone needs to focus on the good. Let’s be real: it is all too …

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A older couple in love

Cook a “5 senses” Valentine’s Day Dinner with these world-wise tips

While I love my husband dearly, there are times that our love feels so comfortable I’m at risk for taking him for granted. But then I smell some garlic frying in oil, maybe some tomato sauce bubbling on the stovetop, and I know he’s making me pasta for dinner. It’s nothing complicated – a simple gesture, really – but I know in that moment he loves me. Food, prepared with care, is the meaningful gesture that can fix  just about everything, especially an in-the-rut relationship. To me, Valentine’s Day is about taking this simple attentiveness and amplifying it – by exposing our five senses to something new. After all, new experiences breathe life into the old.  They help us notice. And so this week, while I’m finishing up a few more last minute edits on my memoir, I assembled some awesome food traditions and ideas from around the world that will have your heart swooning in no time… in every sense, with every sense. Note: These tips, though most might assume are geared for couples, are completely …

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5 Secrets to Springtime in January, thanks to the Hindu Harvest Festival

You know that old saying, “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere”? Well the same can be said of springtime. Even while ice and and snow pummel the northern hemisphere and hot days sizzle in the southern, there are plenty of people celebrating springtime in India and other South Asian countries… Yes, in January. After the wild hair seventy degree day we had a couple of days ago, Ava and I were ready to say goodbye to winter, too. So how do we get there? This January 14 marks Makar Sankranti, the Hindu Harvest Festival. While Makar Sankranti is intended to celebrate the winter solstice and last year’s good harvest,  it also celebrates the arrival of spring. This is one of those “looking forward” to warmth, while looking back with appreciation. To Hindus, the Sun stands for knowledge, spiritual light and wisdom. Makara Sankranti signifies that we should turn away from the darkness of delusion in which we live, and begin to enjoy a new life with bright light within us to shine brighter and brighter. We should gradually begin to …

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wassail

Wassail

The question is not whether I’d sing to an apple tree, but rather where I can find an apple tree to sing to. My Oklahoman neighborhood just doesn’t deliver the crimson fruit. Regardless, I will tipple this wassail with a cheer (wassail literally means “wes hail”, or good cheer)- after all in 2014 I’m learning about celebrations around the world, a suitable follow-up to completing our first adventure: eating one meal for every country in the world. January is all about wassailing. What is wassailing? Wassailing is the Southern English art – yes, art – of cooking up some of last year’s apple crop with cider – sometimes with a flush of orange peel, warm cinnamon stick, flecks of nutmeg, or maybe allspice. To make it… just… Roast some apples. Click on the burner and clank on a pot of cider and spice. In a moment, heat shimmers through the pot and those first bubbles pop the surface. Seconds later, sweet apple and spice billows through the house. The roasted apples are whipped into a froth, then stirred to …

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Witch doctor of the Shona people close to Great Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe. Photo by Hans Hillewaert.

Menu: Zimbabwe

I don’t think I’ve ever done this. I’ve always told you the menu. Every Wednesday for 195 weeks, my choices have been in this space, recorded in black and white. But today… I’m just not ready to tell you what I’m making. Perhaps it’s panic. What if I make the wrong choice this week? Or perhaps it’s denial. What if I’m not ready for it to be over? I can tell you this much: there will be pumpkins and squashes. There will be peanuts and peanut butter. And there will be, I assure you, some kind of dessert. Because I just don’t know how to celebrate the ending without a little something sweet. So, bear with me, friends… The first recipe will be up tomorrow. UPDATE: 3 Quick Recipes for Zimbabwean Pumpkin and Squash [Recipe] Three amazing recipes: 1) Acorn squash roasted with corn and cheese 2) Peanut Butter Butternut Squash 3) Cinnamon Pumpkin Zimbabwe Candy Cake | Chikenduza [Recipe] A dense, yeasty cake with sweet icing. A favorite in Zimbabwe’s city bakeries. And here’s a proverb …

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Fish market stall on Great East Road at the Luangwa Bridge, Zambia by Hans Hillewaert

Menu: Zambia

  “Talk to a person who can understand and cook for a person who can be satisfied.” Zambian Proverb I’m in the final phases of writing my memoir. By the end of November, the manuscript will be sent off to National Geographic to do their magic. At that point, they’ll work on final edits, layout, and publicity. And then, boom, next year there will be a book. My book. It’s the story of my search for food, family, and home – and I can’t wait to share it with you. But right now, I’m in crunch time and the Zambian proverb above really spoke to me because, with my book, I’ll be talking to you and cooking for you. I’ll be telling you the story of my life, and the recipes that carried me through troubling times.  Hopefully, as the proverb reads, you’ll understand and be satisfied! These recipes and the meal review will be posted throughout the week. Spiced Tilapia Stew [Recipe] Typically made with dried tilapia, our version uses more readily available fresh fish, …

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Ava-halloween

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 …

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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 …

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global table experience

Menu: Venezuela

I’ll be posting about our Global Table Experience event  in a few weeks, once we’re done cooking the world (just five weeks left!) For now, here’s a sneak peek of the tables taken by my friends over at Concepts PR (you can click it to make it larger). There is 90% of the world on those tables. Amazing. While I was supposed to be cooking Venezuela, all the Global Table Experience craziness was going on. You can see the line starting to form on the right.  There was a massive crowd. But more on that later. For now, let’s talk Venezuela. I chose two amazing but simple items to try: Watch for the recipes in the coming days… Fresh Corncakes with Cheese | Cachapas [Recipe] Think pancakes, but made with blended corn kernels. Hot Cachapas are topped with cheese, then folded in half. Unlike Arepas, which require specialty flour, Cachapas are a very accessible taste of Venezuela. Venezuelan Fruit Punch | Tizana [Recipe] There are a million different ways to make Tizana, but two things …

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vatican-city-menu

Menu: Vatican City

Ava is the first to tell me what should be dinner. Even growing up with this Global Table Adventure since she was 7 months old, Ava asks for the same thing night after night: noodles. (Interestingly, her second most common request is avocado sushi). This week I got to tell her yes to noodles. Twice. There’s nothing wrong with carb-loading, right? Especially when eating the Vatican… right? I doubled up on pasta so I can share two amazing sauce recipes with you. One I learned from my distant cousin Alfred, another I learned this week thanks to a Pope!    The Pope’s Fettuccine | Fettuccine alla Papalina [Recipe] A simple pasta dish invented in the late 1930’s for Pope Pius XII, made with softened onion, prosciutto, a swirl of cream, plenty of good quality parmesan, and as many twists of fresh ground pepper as you can handle. Cousin Alfred’s Meat Sauce [Recipe] Ground beef, sweet Italian sausages, rich mushrooms, and the best Italian tomatoes around. This is the sauce to end all sauces, perfect ladled onto …

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