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Sweet Potato Simboro

It only takes five minutes of grating sweet potatoes to make me wax poetic on the brilliance of the food processor. Friends, I certainly don’t have biceps of steel. Most days, I don’t even see my biceps beneath the jiggle. Today’s recipe for Simboro gave them a work out. I first learned about Simboro from a reader named Benjamin who spent some time in Vanuatu. This comforting side dish is made with a grated starch, like cassava, sweet potato, or yam, wrapped in “island cabbage,” then simmered in coconut milk. As much as it pained my muscles… I treated the grating like a ritual – a rite of passage – a way to imagine myself in Vanuatu telling tourists “THIS way to the beach.” Thirty minutes later, only my pride had kept me from pulling out the food processor. Because, the fact of the matter is that the sweet potato could just as easily be run through the grater attachment on your food processor, then ground finer in the processor bowl to achieve similar results… leaving …

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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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Mashed Potatoes with Veggies | Irio

  I’m a little like mashed potatoes; I’m stable and sure, but I avoid wearing colorful makeup. The last time I wore blue eye liner was the nineties, and it was already a decade too late. I’m destined to recede behind more vibrant individuals – individuals of style. But imagine what good things could come from a splash of color? The jury is out with me, but consider the mashed potato. Must she remain the unadorned, pale wallflower in a buffet of color? Tanzania teaches that this doesn’t have to be so… Enter the rainbow known as Irio, a Kikuyu dish found in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Irio simply means “mashed” – a concoction of whatever tubers and vegetables the cook wants to pull together for an easy dinner. Most often, Irio is a combination of white potato, peas, and corn, but green beans, carrots, shredded spinach, or other veggies can also play star roles. Depending on how Irio is mixed, the mash might be sunset orange, or new leaf green.  For me, it was …

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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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Cassava Pudding

I secretly love it when a word like “pudding” takes on a whole new meaning than “the sweet chocolate goop  found in the refrigerator cases of American supermarkets” (although I do enjoy that sort of pudding as much as the next sugar crazed mom). I love surprises like this because they teach me not to take so much for granted. They remind me that there are people all over this beautiful world who have different ways of doing things. And, in case you didn’t get the memo, different is a beautiful thing. Imagine how boring our world would be if we all looked the same, talked the same, and… ate the very same pudding? In Solomon Islands and throughout Oceania, pudding is any goupy mixture that’s been grated and baked. Or sometimes steamed. Confused? Let’s get specific. The most popular pudding in Solomon Islands is Cassava Pudding. This is more of a savory cake than pudding.  It’s made with grated cassava, sweet potato, and coconut milk. The whole shebang is traditionally baked all afternoon in …

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Slovak Sour Bean Soup

When winter raindrops slide down the glass… when the droplets are  so close to ice that they sting on my wind-chapped face… there’s nothing better than a piping hot bowl of soup. Thankfully for me, Slovakia knows what’s what in this department. The fine people of Slovakia could probably make this staple soup with their eyes shut, and – for the first part, at least – that’s exactly what they do. While the house slumbers under the bright moon, a quiet bowl of bean sits in the shadows, soaking overnight. In the morning, after a big stretch, the softened beans are put to a bubble with bits of bacon (or perhaps a ham hock), potato, and – not to be forgotten – a splash of vinegar. The whole thing is thickened with sour cream and flour (or sometimes cream). The result is a bowl of warm, thick goodness – but of course every family has their own version… versions so good, you’ll want to snag a bite (or three) from under each other’s noses.   While traditional …

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Potato Musaka

Every once in a while we need chow down on good, ol’ fashioned home cooking. The kind that reminds us of mom, checkered aprons, and creaky kitchen chairs. We all need this edible comfort, especially when the wind chill drops down into the single digits. Keith informed me that, against all odds, I happened upon one such recipe when I selected Potato Musaka for our Serbian Global Table. “This is kind of like my mom’s ‘Hobo dinner,’” Mr Picky said, after his first taste. “Hobo what?” I asked, brow furrowed. I need not have worried. Clearly this was a good thing; he forked bite after bite of the layered potatoes and ground pork into his mouth, working quickly, looking more like a teenager than a 40-something who generally shows more restraint around food than I can fathom. After scraping his plate clean, he went back for seconds. Then thirds. He’s in good company. Potato Musaka is much beloved in the Balkans, especially in Serbia. She’s quite similar to her somewhat sloppier cousin, Eggplant Moussaka which can …

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Sweet Potato Frittata

Ava grabbed the small, purple step stool and placed it squarely in front of the kitchen counter. She’s gone through a growth spurt lately and yet my little girl still stands on her tippy toes to see into the mixing bowl. On days like today, when I see her eyes peep over the top of the bowl and grow wide with delight, I hope she never grows up. With quick jabs of her whisk, she pops the yolks and helps stir together the frittata mixture. In the background we hear the delicous sizzle of onion and sweet potatoes in oil.   Eggs are a West African staple, often making their way into toasted baguette sandwiches from our Nigerien Global Table and omelets, as with our Gabonese Global Table. Today, we’re taking inspiration from São Tomé and Príncipe and building a Sweet Potato Frittata complete with sweet bits of browned onion. This could just as well be a shredded sweet potato omelette, but I chose to call upon the islands’ Portuguese influence with today’s Frittata. And let it be heard: there’s …

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White Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet potatoes are up there with a good hair cut, purring cats, and sunlight through fiery autumn leaves. The simple sweetness is all I need on a chilly evening. But it’s not all about the coppery hued variety, which litter my counter tops like fallen leaves. There’s such a thing as white sweet potatoes, too. Rwandans love sweet potatoes, especially white sweet potatoes which they boil, mash, and even fry. I first saw this in action on the a Peace Corps blog En Route Rwanda: With help from some of our house mates and dinner guests, we peeled and sliced several kilos of knobby white sweet potatoes, which Zilpa then spent hours double-frying on the second charcoal stove. According to the Rwanda Agricultural Research Institute: Sweet potato is a major staple food in Rwanda and one of the second largest produces in terms of tons after bananas. The ability of sweet potato to adapt to a wide range of growing conditions, in both fertile and marginal areas, as well as its rapid growth rate as a ground cover to …

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Russian Potato Salad | Olivier Salad

Winter doesn’t just bite in Russia. It eats you alive. In the far east of this great nation, temperatures can actually drop to -95F. In the west, things are nearly so dire – winter might only drop to -22F (!), with occasional warm spurts in past years reaching 50F. 50F isn’t so bad. But the rest? Yikes. By the time New Year’s Eve comes, Russians are ready to break up the monotony with a blast of soul-warming comfort food. Major. Everyone tells me New Year’s Eve in Russia wouldn’t be complete without a scoop of Olivier Salad (and the same goes for weddings, Christmas, and just about any other festive occasion). It’s the “go to.” And by New Year’s Eve, I mean both of them. There’s the classic December 31/January 1 New Year’s Eve. Then, two weeks later is round two, a.k.a. “Old New Year’s Eve” on January 14th, which hails from the Orthodox calendar. P.S. Between the two? Russian Christmas falls on January 6th. Don’t think of it as complicated. Think of it as …

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Cumin Seed Potatoes | Batata b’kamun

When I look up at the turmeric-colored leaves that dangle in our now somewhat skeletal trees, I know I need a change. I crave something warm, comforting and full of spice. But I need it to happen quick, so I can run back outside, lay on my back, and watch those leaves shimmy and shake on their way down to the ground. Unless, I can find a compromise. A quick recipe I can bring on a picnic. One that can stand up to a chilly autumn afternoon and a toddler who recently got a big girl bike. A recipe I can bring to a potluck… perhaps a potluck featuring fairies from around the world. Well. Turns out, thanks to Qatar, I can. Enter Cumin Seed Potatoes – a recipe that rocks my world. The origins of this dish are a blend of Middle Eastern and Indian sensibilities, which is just about the way things work in Qatar. For a fun and equally authentic variation, try substituting some or all of the potatoes for steamed cauliflower. Ingredients: 2 lbs small …

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Kale, Potato & Chorizo Soup | Caldo Verde

Under the glimmering night skies of Portugal, lines of people snake through the streets, waiting for steaming hot bowls of Caldo Verde. This is the nightclub crowd. The night shift crowd. And the I-can’t-sleep-again-because-I’m-thinking-of-him crowd. I was once a part of this group, wearing high heels until they ached. I was much too young to be out so late at night, but there was nothing like sizzling, steaming European street food to keep the evening’s excitement alive, even at four in the morning when all sensible people had retreated under their comforters. But who needs to go to sleep when there is Caldo Verde? Often sold with a steaming hot chorizo stuffed roll (called Pao com Chourico), this hearty soup is considered by some to be the national dish of Portugal. Each bite is a smooth blend of potatoes, garlic, and onion, with shaved kale and sprinkled with chorizo sausage. Compared to fritters and hot dogs, this is gourmet street food. In my excitement to eat the soup, I forgot to add a healthy drizzle of olive oil, …