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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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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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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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Barbecued Ribs

I’ve heard that finger-lickin’ is not allowed in finer circles. Rumor has it, you should only order foods that are easy to eat during business dinners. No spaghetti, no lobster, and definitely no ribs. The same goes for when you meet your in-laws for the first time. Is this true? I don’t know. But I do know that, when you find yourself face to face with a rack of ribs, you aren’t getting away from them without a little finger lickin.’ Barbecued pork ribs can be made any number of ways, depending on the part of the USA you’re emulating. Some ribs are prepared as wet BBQ, meaning they are brushed with barbecue sauce throughout the cooking process, while others use a simple dry rub of assorted spices, as is popular in Memphis barbecue. Even though I’m American, I really don’t have much experience cooking ribs, so I looked at The Best Recipe by Chris Kimball for inspiration. He suggested going with a dry rub, then brushing BBQ sauce over them at the end.  I played around with …

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Massalé Spice Blend

The spice drawer is the most sensual part of any kitchen. On the inside seemingly innocuous  dry, brittle seeds rattle around, each with the power to take our minds from continent to content, country to country. All we need is a little warmth to coax their magic out and something like a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. Today’s daydream takes us the Seychelles where they enjoy this haunting spice blend called “massalé” (a variation on Indian garam masala)  in coconut fish curries. The heat is fairly mild, but can be quite hot if you add more chili powder. As always, spice blends make great DIY gifts. And, really, what better way is there to “heat up” Valentine’s Day? (Don’t answer that)   Makes about a 1/4 cup Ingredients: 3 Tbsp coriander seeds 1 Tbsp cumin seeds 1 Tbsp black peppercorns 8 cardamom pods 1 tsp whole cloves 1 small cinnamon stick, cracked into pieces 1 tsp chili powder, or more to taste 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg Method: First, get in the mood by setting …

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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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Ginger Peach Barbecue Sauce

Way out in the Pacific ocean sits a bumpy, bumbling little island country called Palau. From what I hear, the fine people (20,000 strong) slather barbecue sauce on just about anything. Fish. Chicken. Even mussels. Some say it’s the American influence on their cuisine, but I detect a nod to the rich gingery-garlic barbecue sauces of Asia as well. I immediately knew that I had to make homemade barbecue sauce to experience our Palauan Global Table to the fullest. And if I was going to take inspiration from anywhere for the sauce, it would have to be from one of my favorite food blogs, Joy the Baker. Joy recently made Bourbon Orange Coriander BBQ Sauce. Hello, there’ s bourbon in her sauce. As I went along, however, I realized I needed to make a few changes …. of the whimsical, I-can’t-leave-well-enough-alone variety.  For starters, I wanted to add peaches since I had a bunch to use up from the late summer’s harvest (oh… an Oklahoma peach is a divine thing indeed). Once there were peaches in the …

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Roasted Whole Fish from the Maldives | Fihunu Mas

You should have seen my brother’s face when I told him we were going to make whole fish for our Maldivian Global Table. His eyes about popped out of his head. In fact, my entire family – both brothers, my sister, mom, niece and nephew – was wary of the idea.  While eating the whole fish is rare in the United States, we knew from experience that our family was in for a treat. We ate this meal in Florida, as part of a celebration of my mom’s surprise 70th birthday, so I had a bounty of fresh, beautiful fish at my fingertips. Nothing had been previously frozen – it was glorious. I chose two large, bright-eyed grouper (almost $40 each) and began the process. I whipped together the marinade in my brother’s blender. Typically, locals mix together a combination of hot chili peppers, spices, and aromatics. In a fit of inspiration, I added the coconut milk as most every recipe in Maldives contains some form of coconut. The end result is a very moist sauce which gives …

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Berberé |Hot East African Spice blend

Berberé is a spicy and savory spice mixture used all over Eritrea and Ethiopia. This blend goes well with chicken, beef, or lamb, and would also be great with lentils and other legumes. I’ve used it with our Doro Wat (chicken stew) and Awaze Tibs (lamb stew) recipes. A few sprinkles would also be great in our Lentil Wat. Makes about 1/4 cup Ingredients: 3 cloves 1/2 tsp coriander seeds 1/2 tsp  fenugreek seeds 1 tsp cumin 1 Tbsp paprika 1/4 tsp peppercorns 1/4 tsp ground ginger 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon 1/4 tsp ground turmeric 5 whole allspice balls 1/4 tsp cardamom seeds (removed from pods) 1/8 cup chili powder Method: Heat the spices in a clean, dry skillet to toast them. Once cool, grind them in batches. Keep going until most of the stragglers get ground up! Hey, that’s my sister! Enjoy. Votes: 0 Rating: 0 You: Rate this recipe! Print Recipe Berberé is a spicy and savory spice mixture used all over Eritrea and Ethiopia. This blend goes well with chicken, beef, or lamb, and would …

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Hot Curried Okra

Serves 4-6 Okra amazes me. Fried, it behaves nicely. Crispy, yummy, good. When stewed okra becomes a little more… shall we say… unwieldy? Slippery? Viscous? No matter. In Equatorial Guinea they make the best of it and turn this tricky veggie into spicy and exotic side dish with a few simple spices (and one explosive habanero pepper). I avoided fire-engine heat levels by simply splitting the habanero to let a little juice out. It was more than enough heat for me. While the okra becomes characteristically gooey, the flavor is amazing – and supposedly, one of the forerunners to southern gumbo. Ingredients: 1 tsp red palm oil 1 onion, chopped 1 habenero pepper, slit 1 tsp curry 1/4 tsp chili powder 1 lb sliced okra water, to cover Method: If you can get fresh okra, fantastic. If not, thaw a bag of okra. Meanwhile, take a stroll. Wave at your neighbors and smile so big they’ll wonder what’s up your sleeve. When you get home, heat up the red palm oil in a medium pot. Add the …

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Fat Rice with Beef & Carrots | Riz au Gras

Serves 6 This spicy one pot dish is a meal unto itself. If you have a band of merry-men coming over for dinner, serve them heaping spoonfuls of this hearty and wholesome rice and they’ll leave with full bellies and even merrier grins. While Riz au Gras is eaten throughout West Africa, 0ur version is from the Ivory Coast as taught me by Linda of Tropical Foodies. NOTE: You may cut down or omit the chili powder if you would like a mild dish. Ingredients: 3 Tbsp vegetable oil 1 small onion, chopped (or half a big one) 4 cloves garlic, crushed 1 lb stew beef, cubed 2 cups white rice 4 cups water 1 1/2 cups tomato puree 1 tsp oregano 1/2 tsp chili powder (for medium heat) salt & pepper Method: Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pot. When shimmering, add in two of my BFF’s – onion and garlic. Cook them until translucent and fragrant. Next, increase the heat to medium-high and add seasoned beef. There will be a sizzle as the meat …

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Egusi Sauce

Makes about 2 cups Raw seeds give Egusi sauce grassy flavor and a little bit of texture. The sauce is popular in central Africa, and can be served over vegetables, meats, and fish. Ingredients: 1 small onion 1 tomato 1 chili pepper (I used a poblano from my garden, but you can go as spicy as you want with this recipe) salt red chili powder, to taste 1 1/2 cups ground egusi 1/2 cup water (or as needed) Method: Hunt down some ground melon seeds. I found these at our local African market. Latino stores have pepitas, or pumpkin seeds, which are an acceptable substitute. In a food processor, add tomato… Coarsely chopped onion … And a chili pepper. I left the poblano on the plant long enough that it turned red. The extra time on the plant made it sweeter 🙂 Puree everything together… Add it to a small pot with the egusi… Some salt and pepper… And water… Things don’t look so tasty here… but as the water mixes in, things smooth out. …

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