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Nova Scotian Hodge Podge with Tuna

Nova Scotia’s Hodge Podge, with Tuna

Nova Scotia’s Hodge Podge is a homey one-pot supper of fresh potatoes, carrots, peas and green beans. What takes it over the top? The addition of heavy cream and butter, along with a few pearl onions for mild sweetness. A gardener’s delight While there are different ways to go about making Hodge Podge, one thing is for certain: it’s best made straight from the garden, when vegetables are fresh and abundant, just as in the eastern Canadian province that lends its name to this dish. Fresh is fresh. In my research I discovered locals prepare Hodge Podge with baby potatoes just 50-60 days in the ground and the gangling carrots pulled to thin the garden bed. This is a foreign concept to someone who doesn’t grow their own vegetables, but it makes sense in verdant Nova Scotia. When a garden does well, it can produce so much food, it has to be used up throughout the growing season, not just in a final harvest. Farm life is common in the province, as are farmer’s markets – …

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Recipe for Vegetable Biryani

Vegetable Biryani for my “Rickshaw Girl”

Cooking a pot of Biryani can be deer-in-the-headlights overwhelming – so much so, most people wouldn’t consider getting the spiced rice dish anywhere but a restaurant. But – ah! I recently learned a few tricks that make cooking this party dish less like facing an oncoming semi-truck, and more like conducting a well-orchestrated fireworks show. A lesson in perseverance Real talk: The first time I made biryani I crashed, burned, and vowed to never make it again. Though you can also find the recipe in India and other nearby countries, I first got the idea of tackling biryani while reading Rickshaw Girl with my daughter. This empowering Bangladeshi chapter book features a young artist who wants to help her struggling family. Though the little girl can’t make money with her Alpana drawings, she hatches a plan to drive her sick father’s rickshaw to supplement the family’s income. Though men traditionally earn the money in her community, she perseveres, proving that girls contribute as much as boys. When the girl’s family shares a platter of biryani on International Mother Language Day (February 21 – “to promote the …

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Recipe for Colombian Steak & Eggs | Bistec a Caballo

Colombian Steak & Eggs | Bistec a caballo

Bistec a caballo is the kind of hearty, Colombian chow that will feed a child with a full grown appetite – and grow the appetite of an aged person. The seasoned steak and eggs are as easily gobbled up by children on the back porch (barefoot from playing in the creek, their minds already on the next adventure), as they are sliced up during a late summer dinner party (complete with twinkling candles, and bottles of Cerveza Ancla – a popular Colombian brew). Feeding children’s imagination Though I had an overactive imagination as a child, I was never much good at certain types of pretend. I specifically remember trying to make myself have an imaginary friend because all the other kids had one. I drug a rope around as a leash for two pitiful minutes before I gave up. Even though I couldn’t conjure up characters, going on adventures in character was one of my favorite pastimes. My brother Michael and I ran the neighborhood as any number of characters. Often he was the Lone Ranger and I was Tonto …

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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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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. 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 …

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Sweet & Spicy Korean Braised Turkey

You’ve had roast turkey and deep-fried turkey… but what about turkey with real international flavor? This Thanksgiving let’s honor our melting pot culture with a recipe worth talking about. This Korean stuffed turkey breast is perfect for a smaller gathering of curious epicureans, happily feeding 4-6. I can’t decide if the best part is the sweet and spicy glaze (made with soy sauce, mirin, ginger and garlic)… … or the butternut squash stuffing (complete with chestnuts, glutinous rice, and jujube dates)… Or maybe it’s the fact that it can be made on the stovetop… saving the oven for more important things like pie. Lots of pie. The recipe is inspired by a Korean stuffed chicken breast recipe in The Flavors of Asia by Mai Pham. There’s only a couple of watch spots with the recipe. On soaking the rice: depending on the age it can be quite hard and if it isn’t soaked enough it stays that way. Thankfully there’s a guideline on most bags for how long. My recommendation is to double soaking times since the turkey provides a …

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Celebrating the shining star of Palestinian cuisine: Musakhan

Within Palestine’s hotly contested territories there is one thing everyone can agree on: Musakhan. This simple dish doesn’t shout. It’s flavors don’t battle for dominance. No, Musakhan is a quiet meal – a layered preparation of chicken, onion softened with sumac, and doughy pieces of taboon bread. And yet this unassuming dish earned a Guinness World Record in 2010 in the city of Ramallah. Why a Guinness World Record Matters The clout of earning a Guinness World Record often remains limited to the feat itself – at most a symbol of egregious excess (consider the world’s largest pancake, for example – nearly 50 feet across with no other purpose than to … eat). But for Palestinians, the world’s largest Musakhan was a show of pride and honor far beyond simple bragging rights. Making the Musakhan was a critical show of cultural pride during a time of great crisis. More than 40 Palestinian chefs united efforts to cook and assemble the 4 meter loaf. The finished dish weighed nearly 3,000 pounds, including 1,100+ pounds of onion, 550+ pounds of flour, 370 …

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Celebrating the Ethiopian New Year with Doro Wat

There’s been a movement to make Enkutatash – a.k.a. Ethiopian New Year – as popular as St. Patrick’s Day or Cinco de Mayo.  But instead of wearing green or dancing to a mariachi band you’re invited for a much simpler, down to earth sort of celebration. Wear white. Pick yellow daisies. And enjoy traditional Ethiopian food. Waaaay back when “Enkutatash” literally stands for “gift of jewels.” As the story goes, several thousand years ago the Queen of Sheba delivered more than 4.5 tons of gold and as many spices to King Solomon. King Solomon was quite the host as he, too, showered her with gifts: …in return, King Solomon had assembled an array of gifts for her arrival. Great caskets of sticky Nubian millet beer awaited her party. The gifts were staked on mules outside Solomon’s palace, ready for her people to take to their camp and enjoy. Silks and linens from Gaza, Assyria, and Lebanon. Tapestry from Ma-Wara-Mnar. Dresses, sweet fruit from Iraq, Mongolistan winter melons. And basins of water from the spring at Siloe. Following …

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Iced Korean Buckwheat Noodles | Mul-naengmyeon

Perhaps you’ve had chilled soup, but have you ever had soup on ice? Korean naengmyeon is just that – a brothy, noodle soup topped with spicy cucumber, Asian pear, daikon radish, hard-boiled egg, and ice. While the soup starts out mild in flavor, adding vinegar, mustard oil (or paste), and even a spoonful of kimchee takes the soup to a whole new flavor profile – the catch is this seasoning is usually done at the table, so everyone can control how their naengmyeon tastes. Do you want it spicy? Sour? Heavy on the pear? The choice is yours. Have you ever had Asian pear? I love Ava’s face, here! She wasn’t sure about the Asian pear, but ended up eating nearly an entire pear herself by the end of dinner. While you could substitute bosc pears or just leave them off, crisp Asian pears are incredibly floral as compared to standard pears… they remind me a lot of star fruit in that way. Tips: – I made my own seasoned broth, adding dried mushrooms and kelp powder, but if you’re in …

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Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Mexican Grilled “Pizza” | Tlayuda

Sometimes I want it all: A clean house and a lazy weekend. A good night’s sleep and a Doctor Who marathon. Salad and pizza. Mexican and Italian food. I might not be able to balance out the former two, but as for the latter? Yes and yes.  The biggest tortilla in town. Tlayuda is Mexico’s answer to pizza. But don’t expect tomato sauce and basil leaves. This popular Oaxacan street food is made on an enormous tortilla and spread thickly with black beans (Take note: these aren’t ordinary black beans – they’ve been blended with a heaping of roasted garlic and onion, cumin, and chile powder). Purists will spread the tortilla with lard, too – though I prefer a light brush of vegetable oil. Finally, cheese is sprinkled on top, as is your choice of meat (beef, pork, or browned chorizo) and a garden’s-worth of toppings (think avocado, tomato, cheese, cilantro, lettuce, and jalepenos). It can be served open-faced or folded in half. When the first hot bite passes your lips, be prepared for a flavor explosion –  especially when you add a puckering of freshly …

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DIY Fresh 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 Fresh 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… also known as hot pot. 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 …

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Cousin Alfred’s Meat Sauce

When I ask my mother how I’m related to Cousin Alfred, the answer usually goes: “Well…” and then there’s a  contemplative silence. I can see her running through all our different relations, high up on the family tree, doing mental gymnastics to connect one branch to another. Eventually, she comes out with “I think he’s my mothers, mother’s cousin’s”… and then, either she trails off, or my attention span wanes because, really, all that matters is that he is family, one way or another. Alfred lived until he was 104 years old. I think much of his long life was due to making homemade ravioli and meat sauce. He taught me when I was about Ava’s age, or maybe a little younger. We made his spinach & pork ravioli for Italy and, today, we continue to keep Alfred’s memory alive with this sauce. Mom made sure to write down his recipe for meat sauce. But the title “meat sauce” doesn’t do it justice. This is meat sauce, yes, but it’s also filled with a half dozen …

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