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Mexican Mango with chili and lime juice

Mexican Mango with chili and lime juice

Mexicans offer up an unexpected appetizer for the margarita lover in all of us. Take a walk along a Mexican beach and you’re likely to find carts of mangoes being peeled and cut into elaborate flowers and wands. Mango carving is not unique to Mexico – the art can be found wherever the fruit is grown – but Mexican mango flowers smack of lime juice with puffs of chili powder and salt. Just look at this video: I planned to make a mango flower for you today. How could I not? Real Talk: When I tried to replicate his mango carving technique I ran into trouble. My first problem was that the ripe mango slid down any stick I put it on (I tried chopsticks and skewers). And, without the proper handle, carving the flower became a slippery, dangerous mess. By the end of the afternoon I’d hobbled together a few cranky looking flowers but, as I had nothing to stand them on, I’ll leave their appearance to your imagination. The happy solution? A ridiculously simple approach …

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Raspberry Hibiscus Paletas Recipe

Raspberry Hibiscus Paletas

What if summer’s best moments could be frozen in time? Picking berries… Running barefoot through tall grass… Dancing in sun and water alike… The smallest nibble of Paletas delivers a slush of ripe berries, sunshine, and laughter – about as close as I’ve ever gotten to capturing the glitter of the season… a frozen treat straight from Latin America and as precious as these Mexican garnets…   … but with much more color. Seriously. These are lovelier than any gemstone… The story behind these paletas is a simple one: I was looking for something my daughter could share with her classmates for her birthday celebration. Keith and I wanted to bring something nutritious and festive. She wanted something sweet and summery (she’s a July 4th baby after all). Meanwhile, some of her classmates are lactose intolerant and gluten-free. The happy solution came in the form of raspberry hibiscus paletas… a Latin-American recipe adapted from Paletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Ice & Aguas Frescas. You don’t need much. Freshly brewed hibiscus tea. A mound of crimson …

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Victoria Sponge Cake Recipe inspired by Mary Poppins

British Victoria Sponge Cake

Imagine a cake good enough to eat upside down. This Victoria Sponge Cake is 100% inspired by Mary Poppins – that lovable British nanny at the heart of  countless quirky adventures – and, yes, it’s that good. The recipe is mentioned in Mary Poppins: 80th Anniversary Collection, which I gave my daughter for Valentine’s Day. A note on these books: P.L. Travers’s collection goes well beyond the parameters of the Disney movie – the floating tea party scene at the heart of the film can be found on page 42, barely cracking the spine of this 1024 page classic. Every night at bedtime we settle into a new chapter, following the 5 Banks children on another adventure. They paint the sky, eat gingerbread stars, hang out with the constellations at a circus in space, and travel the world with a compass – and all that within the first few hundred pages. Mary Poppins not only never explains their adventures once they’re over, she insists she has no idea what the children are talking about. More than buttoned up, Mary Poppins is flat out strict, yet the children always have fun when she’s …

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Honeymoon Smoothie | عصر المتزوجين

How do you know it’s springtime in Yemen? So much of Yemen is dusty: sand overwhelms the northern stretches in an area called “Rub’ al Khali” or the “Empty Quarter”; even ancient skyscrapers are made of sun-baked mud, as can be found in the town of Shibam. But… like a mirage, there’s another, glimmering view of Yemen. Between the dusty cliffs of the Hadramout desert lies a valley of prickly trees and honey bees, where one of the world’s great aphrodisiacs accumulates in golden pools. This is Sidr Honey, a.k.a. jujube honey. Every year, semi-nomadic beekeepers flock to the Do’an Valley, where the sweet fragrance of the jujube tree sets the bees into motion. The resulting honey is said to be a tremendous aphrodisiac. And what do you do with an aphrodisiac? You drink it, of course. Honeymoon Smoothie عصير المتزوجين is a love potion of sorts – a honey-laced smoothie meant to sweeten marriage and to help single folks find true love. I call it a “honeymoon smoothie,” though I read that the literal translation is “married couples juice.” Inside you’ll find everything …

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Samoan Tropical Salad

Summer can’t come soon enough – the heat of sun on my shoulders, the way my skin smells with sunscreen on, hot evenings under the stars. So today we’re going to Samoa. There’ll be drippy sweetness: papaya and cantaloupe. There’ll be richness, too – buttery avocado and moody – almost bitter – spinach. And to finish it all off? A puckering of lime juice – as bright as a Samoan seascape.   Typically known for rich, coconut milk-laden recipes, this Samoan salad is a healthier twist on island fare. The version I based mine on even won a Samoan recipe challenge! I chose this salad for sentimental reasons – something to set the scene a bit for the release of my new book Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness. I went to Samoa 2 months before I was born (as a real life stowaway, I suppose). Scientists believe our taste preferences can be affected by what our mother’s ate while we were gestating. I like to think I carry a bit of Samoa with me today. It was an …

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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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Almond Stuffed Date Balls

When I made the amazing Pistachio Date Balls for Iraq, I thought I’d seen the easiest recipe in the world.  It only uses two ingredients (third if you feel like getting extra fancy), and there’s no cooking. Well, today’s date balls are even easier: they don’t require a food processor. Boom! Even as simple as they are, the flavor is amazing – as though from a much more complex recipe. There’s a sweetness from the dates that transports me straight to Yemen… I mean, forget it. Let’s just lay under some Yemeni trees for a while, before we get around to making this recipe. Okay? Now, maybe this sunny afternoon in Yemen has you wondering: why include almonds and sesame seeds? Why not just eat straight dates? Well, you know how good peanut butter is with jelly? The balance of the nuttiness with the fruity date in this dessert is similarly satisfying. And addicting. Before I knew, I ate three of these. And to think. When I started this adventure, I (thought) I hated dates. …

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Venezuelan Fruit Punch | Tizana

Crack open just about any Venezuelan fridge and you just might find a pitcher of tizana. Tizana is as much a drink as it is a fruit salad. The fruity concoction keeps for nearly a week, which makes it perfect for impromptu scooping. Though perhaps not traditional, I’m guilty of digging into the pitcher at breakfast time, dessert time, and, of course, at midnight. I can see how having tizana in the fridge would be a great way to get my daily allotment of fruit, especially when in a hurry.   So how is it made? For starters, you’ll need about… an entire orchard. Chopped. The kinds of fruit varies, but most recipes seemed to include one or more kinds of melon, pineapple, grapes, bananas, and apples. More exotic fruit like papaya, passion fruit, persimmons, guava, and mango appear once in a while, too. The whole mixture is thinned with good ol’ fashioned OJ and a splash of grenadine. Some people like to add club soda or regular soda to the mix, too.   Seriously. If this doesn’t …

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Honey & Pistachio Stuffed Quince

Say “Quince” to an Uzbek lady, and you just might see her flush with delight. Though they aren’t eaten raw, baked quince are soft and tender, like a pear.  The taste is mild, something like an apple, but with traces of pear, too. Uzbekistan is the third greatest producer of quince, after Turkey and China. They include the fruit in plov, stir it into preserves, and they bake it up with honey, and sometimes even stuff it nuts… as we’re doing today. How to choose a quince: – look for white fuzzies on the stem end, which indicate freshness – a ripe quince is yellow, although slightly green fruit can be used for this recipe – it can be bumpy and odd-shaped, but there should be no scarring or other markings. Serves 4-6 Ingredients: 2-3 quince (or 3 large apples) 1/2 cup pistachios 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (or substitute more pistachios) 1/2 tsp cinnamon honey, to taste (1-2 Tbsp per person) For the baking dish: 1 cup water 2-3 slices lemon Method: Let’s go to …

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Martin Fierro

Recipes usually evolve over a long period of time, but today we explore a recipe that one man changed forever. In the late 19th century, José Hernández wrote stories about gauchos, freedom, and love from his home, in Argentina. Gauchos are like the equivalent of the American cowboy: men who’s spirits are forever roaming. His most famous character was Martin Fierro (so famous, in fact, that when the author, Hernández, died, the people announced that Martin Fierro had died, too). Though his stories spoke to the people, he spent much of his life as an exile in Uruguay. As much a creature of habit as any other man, the author became known for ordering the same dessert – one that reminded him of home, but that also celebrated the local ingredients in Uruguay: He always ordered a certain dessert modeled on the popular Argentinian sweet known as Vigilante, which consisted of slices of cheese and sweet-potato paste. The dessert’s curious name derived from the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century policemen who ate cheese with sweet- potato paste because …

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All-American Apple Pie

Mom made apple pie all the time when I was little. It was my brother Damien’s choice for “birthday cake” several years in a row. He was born in October: it just made sense. Mom taught us how to cut the butter into the flour, to make a flaky pie crust, and she taught us how to add cinnamon and nutmeg to flavor it. (In her honor, I’ve labeled my cinnamon jar “sin,” just as she did then) Then I moved to Oklahoma, as far from New England’s familiar orchards as I could get. Every year about this time I start missing home – I start hungering for the bright, fall taste of apple pie. Of home. Use any firm baking apples you’d like.  This time I used pink lady, though many different varieties will do, as long as they are firm. Check with your grocer and see what crop they think would suit you well. While many insist on adding at least half granny smith, I prefer my pie granny-free. In the end, I …

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Emirati Date Crêpes | Muhalla

I’ve had a lot of breakfast treats over the years, but I’ve never tasted anything quite like these whole wheat date “crêpes” beloved in the United Arab Emirates. Made with whole wheat flour and a hearty helping of dates, they are a mildly sweet  and wholesome way to start the morning. I call them “crêpes” because of how they look, but, in truth, they’re called “Muhalla,” and quite different than a French crêpe. For starters, these are leavened with yeast, whose bubbles give the muhalla a more lacy texture. While you could make these with white flour, the whole wheat flour gives them a rich, nutty flavor – a nice contrast to the sweet note provided by the dates. The dates are the real star of Muhalla. In the United Arab Emirates, dates are one of the few ingredients which can grow, so they wind up in many of the local recipes such as this one. They are delicious, hot, warm or at room temperature. Be sure to serve them with some yogurt, fruit, or even a …

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