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Eritrean Spiced Bread | Hembesha

This year Ava and I brought a loaf of Eritrean Hembesha bread to the annual Martin Luther King parade. It’s a random sort of thing to bring to a parade, but I’d just pulled batch #3 out of the oven and couldn’t stand the thought of the bread cooling down without being able to enjoy a still-steaming, soft wedge. There are few things better than a steaming-hot piece of homemade bread.  Hembesha is no exception: the east African bread is soft and earthy with whispers of garlic, coriander, cardamom, and fenugreek. The distinct flavor profile is great with hearty stews or even on the side of scrambled eggs (perfect for a savory brunch). That being said, hembesha is traditionally served in the afternoon with tea and a drizzle of honey and/or tesmi (tesemi is spiced ghee made with ginger, garlic, onions, and berbere) While original recipes decorate the flat loaves with nails, I’ve used a ravioli wheel (the idea came from the blog Yesterdish). I learned the hard way – don’t just score the dough – cut through 99-100% of the …

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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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Mealie Bread with Blackened Chilies

If you ask my husband, there’s always room for cornbread. And he’ll eat twice as much cornbread if green chilies dot through the crumb. But what would he think if the cornbread came from half a world away? If it came from Zambia? As a former “Mr Picky” he says: Mealie Bread is a good way to bridge the gap for picky eaters to try something from another culture.” The cornbread in Zambia is much like the cornbread in the USA – except it is made with fresh corn kernels instead of cornmeal. This makes the flavor come alive. Zambians call it mealie bread (mealie is just another name for corn; mealie bread is popular all over southern Africa). The result is moist (bordering on juicy), naturally sweet, and great on the side of any autumn stew (such as Zambia’s Spiced Tilapian Stew). If  you’re lucky enough to slice into the mealie bread while it’s still hot? Well… forget about having leftovers. So why stud the mealie bread with chilies? Because Zambians love chili peppers.  Chilies are available in the …

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Cream & Current Scones

The first time I had a scone – a real British scone – I almost lost my mind. The small disc had a tender crumb and tasted of lightly sweetened cream. A speckling of currants brightened the flavor, giving it just a hint of color, too. The giving texture of the scone is worth further mention. I think much of the lightness stems from the fact that  real scones are made with good quality European butter. European butter is richer (averaging 85% fat instead of just 81%), so there’s less water, which means a more delicate crumb. It also helped that the scone was made with a light touch: there was nothing overworked about the recipe ( a baking crime which can quickly turn a featherweight scone into a hockey puck). With such delicious ingredients, a true scone needs very little accouterments. Still, I did as the British do, and split my scone and added a spoonful of homemade strawberry preserves. The garnet colored preserves filled the craggy crevice so completely, the sticky goodness nearly spilled …

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Turkish Flatbread “Pizza” with Spiced Lamb | Lahmacun

Lahmacun is Turkey’s answer to pizza. The flavors are rich and deep, like an old love story. And, like any good love story, each bite makes my knees sink a little closer to the floor. Why? Because of the layers of flavor. This is no “jarred sauce” affair. This is no mess of waxy cheese. Lahmacun is pure, unadulterated ingredients – as fresh and intense as mother nature grew them. The version we made today includes lamb, olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, tomato paste, paprika, mint and parsley. There’s even a gated onion to provide a sweet background note. The flavors come together to create an unbelievable explosion of flavor. Once baked, Lahmacun is a DIY dream. Diners choose their own toppings and pile them on.  In Turkey, you can find everything from pickles and lettuce, to onions and lemon juice. It’s an awesome way to get kids involved and to work through dinner party doldrums. Ava had great fun adding onion, parsley and lemon juice to hers… plus a few sprinklings of sumac (a spice with a …

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Yogurt Naan/Non

Any woman worth her salt is an incredible, complex specimen which takes time and love to fully understand. But even when you think you know a woman, she remains – at her core – mysterious. And so it is with today’s Tajik naan recipe. She’s made with a blend of wheat and all purpose flour, a healthy glop of yogurt, and not much else. She gets her shine for a quick milk and egg wash. The flavor is rustic, thanks to the wheat flour, and there’s a slight, yet definite tang, thanks to the yogurt. The fact that she’s cooked in a super hot vertical oven makes this bread nearly an Olympic event. Just watch these women make one of the more complex forms of this bread… for a wedding. Note the full arm “potholder” they use while slapping the bread into the oven. Did you see that? How gorgeous is that bread!?  Wow. Even after several focused, heart-felt queries into her nature, I must admit I am unable to replicate the intricate, ornate designs found on the …

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Swiss Fondue

If I had to face life or death, I’d choose Swiss Fondue. Every. Single. Time. This decision is purely based on personal experience. A) I know that life gets better whenever I dunk hunks of rustic bread into ooey-gooey cheese. To support my case, I must call attention to a fictional character: Heidi (does this help me or hurt me?). She knows all things are better with melted cheese because, apparently, this is the only thing she eats at her grandfather’s house, on the flower dotted Alps… and she is happier there than anywhere else in the world B) If I’m faced with death, I’m willing to bet that, if I crack open a pot of fondue, Mr. Death would certainly realize they are no match for boozy cheese. I’d like to think that, as he slunk away, I’d toss him a cube of cheesy bread for the road. A peace offering of sorts. Two days ago I wrote about my near death experience in the Swiss Alps and how Fondue is one of the few comfort …

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Mealie Bread

The next time you walk into your kitchen, walk into the warm, sweet scent of mealie bread. Let a smile curl along your lips as you taste that first, moist bite with your imagination. Then take a moment for real indulgence: spread softened butter across the still-warm bread, only to see it melt into and down the sides of the tender crumb. I’ve had lots of corn bread before, but never something as rich and flavorful as this Mealie Bread. The main difference between this and ordinary corn bread is that it doesn’t rely on cornmeal, but actual corn to flavor the bread. Mealie Bread is a treat you will find throughout southern Africa. In olden days, it was steamed over a campfire, with little more than ground corn, wrapped up in husks. They used white corn, not sweet, yellow corn. The end result was more of a wet corn pudding. Today’s southern Africans, however, love mealie bread with more of a bread consistency, so they include flour. The jury is out, however, on whether or not the …

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Sudanese Kisra | Sorghum Crepes

I never thought I’d need a cow’s brain and a credit card for this lil’ ol’ Global Table Adventure of ours. The thing is, if I were to make Kisra in the most authentic way – the South Sudanese way –  that’s exactly what I’d need. Locals would use the cow’s brain,  which is naturally quite fatty, to grease the pan. I got the tip on good authority; from this amazing South Sudanese food post on Green Shakes in Sudan. There you’ll find photos of local women rubbing brain renderings on their flat griddle-like pan. According to The World Cookbook for Students, unroasted sesame oil works fine as well… and gives the wholesome crepe a clean sort of flavor and makes them entirely vegan. I know what I chose…. what would you choose? Now, let’s talk credit cards. I read several passages that indicate locals spread out the kisra batter with credit cards. I had a small plastic scraper that worked just fine… but the credit card would definitely add a touch of excitement (will it or …

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Sudanese Flatbread | Gorraasa

Gorraasa is a soft, doughy bread enjoyed in the Sudan that tastes like a really thick tortilla. The texture is a bit more spongy, however, and when I pulled mine into pieces, I was delighted to find the slight elasticity at once addicting and good for picking up food. Which is exactly how the Sudanese use Gorraasa. They place a round of Gorraasa under stewed meats or other entrees, then tear off bits of the bread to pick up the food instead of using utensils. It can also be enjoyed on its own… as Ava demonstrates here: I first learned about Gorraasa from Mark Tanner who spent quite a bit of time traveling through Sudan, though I found his recipe needed adjusting to work in my kitchen. Namely, more baking powder was needed to obtain the open holes (and if the batter happened to be too wet, the holes would pop before they set). Also, I found that, though he suggested flipping the Gorraasa while cooking, when I did so, the results no longer matched the photo …

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Coconut Roti

The best thing about thinking I don’t like something, is finding out how wrong I am. I’ve always operated under the assumption that flaked coconut is much too squeaky between my teeth. Sri Lanka and these Coconut Roti proved me wrong. There’s something so refreshing about dumping three ingredients in a bowl and emerging with warm, doughy flatbread that smells like a day in the tropics. Or Sri Lanka, to be specific. In fact, I did an entire post cataloging the best recipes with three ingredients or less from around the world. I learned how to make these by watching my friend shake flour and coconut shreds into a bowl. There wasn’t a measuring cup in sight. She added the water by feel, too. When I asked her the ratio of coconut to flour, she shrugged and said “a little coconut. more flour.” So, as you make these, remember her advice. There really is no wrong way to make coconut roti. As long as you eat them warm… Makes 8-10 small, or 4-6 large Ingredients: 2 cups flour …

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Braided Heart Bread | Pleteno Srce

We are closing in on spring …  that special time of year, when weddings and baby showers sprinkle our calendars, and everything is awash in the promise of new love. In Slovenia, such times are marked with Pleteno Scre – an ornamental, braided, tender loaf of bread, shaped into a heart. Pleteno Scre is an honored gift. The slightly sweet loaves are painstakingly decorated with edible tokens, like wedding rings and flowers (as I have done), or even astonishingly detailed birds, or paper thin leaves that seem to crackle under the slightest breeze. This art form takes time to master, so I stuck with simple flowers, a wreath, and rings. The best part is that this is something you can do as a family. Little ones love to have a piece of dough to play with. Mashing and rolling, twisting and turning – it’s what they do best. Ava didn’t even want to make any shapes for the heart – she just wanted to play next to me, while I worked. It was sweet. And …