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Peruvian Quinoa Salad | A gift from the stars

Step out under the sky tonight and scan the heavens. Seek out a star, winking in the darkness, livelier than all the rest. This, my friends, is the proud, playful star-sister who brought quinoa to South America. Legend has it that, long before hip, suburban health food stores stocked this comma-shaped seed, the Aymara people* of the Andes were given the gift of quinoa. It was the Aymara’s first harvest, near Lake Titicaca. While toiling in the fields, the farmers noticed that someone had dug up and stolen some of their potatoes.  Determined to catch the thief red handed, one young man decided to stay up all night and keep watch over the fields. The young man hid behind some bushes and waited. The hours slipped slowly by, leaves rustling in the moonlight, tempting him with sleep. He eyes began to droop, his back began to hunch. Suddenly, the sound of laughter rang out. He bolted up and peered through the brush.  On the far side of the field he saw several young maidens – the star-sisters – come …

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Tanzania’s Fairytale “Coconut Potato Soup” | Supu Viazi

A spoonful of Tanzania’s Coconut Potato Soup garnished with moons of buttery avocado will transport you to the windswept slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.  Never fear: The howl you’ll hear as you chow down won’t be the wind on your face, or some dangerous beast – but rather the horn of the Wakonyingo, calling for help. Wakonyingo: Fact or fiction? More than a hiker’s haven, Mount Kilimanjaro is a wellspring of legends involving the Wakonyingo pygmies. The stories fall somewhere between history and fairy tale. History reports that the Wakonyingo were an early tribe inhabiting Kilimanjaro, driven out or absorbed by invading tribes. The fairy tales report a far more interesting story – that the Wakonyingo fled beneath the mountain, where they remain today. Legends claim they are still down there, hidden from sight in a network of tunnels and caves, living a life any gnome would love. They keep their cattle with them and even grow banana trees in their earthen lairs. Ladders from their caves are said to reach the heavens. Turns out this underground lifestyle isn’t so far-fetched. The Chagga people (also Chaga), who’ve …

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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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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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Swazi Salad | Slaai

Swaziland’s swooping slopes are dotted with crops; it is here that the Swazi grow the freshest produce, from sunshine yellow lemons, to buttery avocados. With farming of that caliber, it should come as no surprise that Swazi Salads are especially grand. This is not to say they are carefully composed salads. (Most things that are careful, aren’t nearly as delicious.) No, these are simple, heaped piles of chopped veggies. But you can get them on the side of even the most humble plate of beans, which counts for, well, everything. There’s no elaborate dressing, save, perhaps, a squeeze of lemon juice and fresh grated ginger. Croutons? Forget it. The crunch you seek comes from a handful of crushed peanuts and the crisp bite of a sharp radish. Feeling bold? Add minced hot peppers to that lemon juice. Fresher and brighter is the name of the game. So what’s in a Swazi Salad? Every time I looked up Swazi salads, I happened across some combination of avocado, lettuce, onion, and beets. Beets were everywhere: red heaped piles …

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Senegal’s Black-eyed Pea Salad | Saladu Ñebbe

This New Year, I’m making room for sunlight to lay across the floor. No more discarded shoes to trip over. No more stacks of books or useless tchotchkes. Senegal inspired me. I saw photo after photo of her beautiful waters… vast expanses where sunlight runs free, unhampered by clutter. Less stuff in general, with more of the right stuff – friendship, laughter, love. This is how I want my home and my life to be.  I want to eat fresh and right. I want sunlight in my body. There’s nothing like starting the New Year with Black-eyed Peas in a crisp, cheerful salad, loaded up with all of her favorite friends: tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado, and hard-boiled eggs. Coincidentally, the mild, tender bean (it’s not really a pea) is a Senegalese staple. You can find salads like this in restaurants along the coastal cities, either dressed simply with fresh lime juice, or coated thickly with a French dressing inspired mixture of ketchup and mayonnaise. Some will serve the beans spicy with minced habenero, while others keep it mild. …

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Rwandan Fruit Salad

We may be in the heart of autumn here in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but no celebration of Rwanda is complete without a sliver of tropical fruit. This is the most popular way to end in a meal in Rwanda. Varieties include mango, pineapple, papaya, passion fruit, banana, and even buttery avocado: Although Mukamana says she and her husband cannot afford to purchase all the fruits needed to make a salad every day, they buy enough produce to make sure everyone at home eats a banana, an orange, or a piece of pineapple after every meal. (USAID) From what I hear, one piece is enough in Rwanda. The fruit, fresh and thick from growing in the humming, humid tropical air, is lusciously sweet. Each bite hangs heavy in the mouth. Ingredients: banana pineapple avocado mango papaya passion fruit Method: NOTE: There’s no right or wrong way to make a fruit salad, but if the weather is chilly where you live, you might be best off sticking to bananas. Unlike more temperamental mangoes and papayas, bananas seem to …

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Ginger & Rocoto Ceviche

Last week I spoke with “Kelly,” a short, black-haired Peruvian restaurateur whose father had a thing for Western names (he also named one of her brother’s Kennedy – and, as she admitted with downcast eyes, another brother “Hitler”). If that wasn’t enough to blow my mind, she added in her thick, rolling accent that halibut ceviche is the “Dunkin’ Donuts” of Peru. I asked her twice to repeat herself. Each time her smile grew bigger and her words clearer. Ceviche is the Dunkin Donuts of Peru. Ceviche- Peru’s pride and joy – is light, fresh, and healthy, so I found the comparison strange. Unlike the doughnut, which takes a dip in a bubbling cauldron of oil, the seafood “cooks” in the acid of lime or lemon juice. Nothing could be cleaner. Each bite is bright, flavorful, and often spicy with the addition of the rocoto pepper (although any hot pepper can be used to taste) and a hit of fresh ginger. When I tried Kelly’s ceviche, I was happy to find an assortment of goodies accompanying it. There were the oversize corn kernels …

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Vegetarian Sushi | Futomaki

Makes 6 rolls (on 1/2 sheet nori seeweed) – serves 2 Do you have a yearning to be creative? An artist? Do you want to release your imagination into the wild? Are you also hungry? The answer is sushi. While sushi making is an art that requires years of training to master, everyone can play the game. It’s like I tell my husband – you don’t have to be Michelangelo to paint a personal masterpiece. Similarly, you don’t have to be a sushi chef to fill your belly with satisfying sushi. Today we’re tackling futomaki. Futomaki is a large sushi roll, typically filled with vegetables and/or cooked fish. I thought this was a good place to start for those of us who don’t have refrigerated work spaces for handling raw fish. After all, let’s be honest. This is all about fun. Not tummy troubles. So let’s get our art on and make some sushi. Once you get the hang of it, I highly suggest having a sushi themed small dinner party. It’s super sushi fun. Here’s what you …

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Ecuadorian Potato & Cheese soup with Avocado | Locro de papa con queso

Makes a gallon (4 quarts) If you’ve never had locro de papas, you’re in for a surprise. The fine people of Ecuador love this comforting and healthy soup, especially on a chilly day. And why not? Tinged orange from ground annato, most of the flavors remain familiar – potato, cheese, avocado, and cilantro. Feel free to substitute parsley if you hate cilantro. Just so long as you try this soup. You’ll love it. Ingredients: 1 onion, chopped 3 garlic cloves, crushed 1/2 tsp cumin 1 tsp ground annato/achiote 3 giant baking potatoes, peeled and cubed (each about 6″ long) 2 cups of milk enough water to cover the potatoes 1-3 cups extra milk for thinning to desired consistency salt & pepper 1 cup shredded cheese – cheddar or Monterey jack a palmful of chopped cilantro For the Garnish: chopped cilantro crumbled queso blanco 1-2 avocados, cubed green onion, sliced Method: Prepare yourself for an assault of deliciousness. First, cook the chopped onions in a large pot until softened. While they’re cooking, add in the crushed garlic… … …

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Grapefruit & Avocado Smoothie

Makes a quart Want a smoothie, but tired of all the “normal” options? Try this Domincan treat – a tantalizing blend of grapefruit juice and creamy avocado. The “ice” green color will have you cooled off in no time. (Thanks to the Facebook Fans who voted for this recipe) Ingredients: 3 avocados 2 1/2 cups grapefruit juice 1/2 cup sugar water (or extra grapefruit juice) for thinning to desired consistency Method: Take yourself to that special place, where the sun is shiny (shiny is one degree better than shining), the air is warm, and avocados are perfectly ripe and creamy. Now, wait a day. On this day the sun might or might not be shiny, but your avocados are really, really soft. Which is exactly what we need for this smoothie. See? Toss them in a blender (after removing the pits and the skins, of course). Splash on the grapefruit juice. Avalanche some sugar on top.  You might need more than me if you have a big sweet tooth. You might need less, if you like things …

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West African Shrimp in Avocado boats

Serves 6 This elegant appetizer showcases creamy avocado and delicate shrimp.  Your guests will never know it only took you a few minutes to throw together (make the shrimp salad an hour or two ahead – cut the avocados immediately before serving). Ingredients: 1/2 lb cooked & cooled shrimp (shelled) 1T ketchup 1T mayo 1/4 of a fresh lime, juice (or to taste) 3 avocados, halved and pitted Method: Cut shrimp into little pieces. Behold the little nuggets of shrimp goodness. A bit of ruby red ketchup for sweetness. And creamy white mayo for richness. That’s how they roll in the Ivory Coast. A splash of lime juice pulls all the flavors together. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Spoon into avocado halves and serve on a pretty platter to pretty people. Preferably by the beach. With a smile. Votes: 0 Rating: 0 You: Rate this recipe! Print Recipe This elegant appetizer showcases creamy avocado and delicate shrimp. Your guests will never know it only took you a few minutes to throw …

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