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Grilled Togo Chicken

  What brings a smile to your face? The sunshine? The taste of the ocean? What about security… that lovely feeling, when you know you can feed your family, without depending on someone else. Mrs. Essowedeou, from Togo, agrees. “I never knew how chickens could bring a smile to our faces,” she says. Mrs. Essowedeou raises chickens as part of the “Plan Togo” program.   These chickens are her smile because they are her (and her family’s) ticket to security. Independence. Food. She sells the chickens and the eggs to raise money for her family. This week, let’s smile with Togo in our hearts. And, in Kpetou’s honor, let’s do it with chicken. Because, sometimes, it’s that simple. Chicken recipes are plentiful in Togo, but Grilled Togo Chicken is probably the simplest, most straight forward way to enjoy the meat. All you need to do is marinate your favorite cut of chicken with ginger, garlic, and onion. Use a dash of cayenne if you’re feeling spicy, and be sure to rub on a hit of …

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Tomato Cornmeal Cakes | Djenkoume

Even grownups need to build sandcastles from time to time. The urge comes from deep within our hearts – some far away love for fantasy, perhaps formed in childhood. Today, we’re listening to our inner child; we’re making edible sandcastles… from Togo. At least, that’s what I’m calling them. If you want to be a serious adult, you can call them cornmeal cakes. In Togo, corn is everything, ever. Sometimes it is served as porridge. And sometimes it’s served as Djenkoume, a.k.a. cornmeal cakes, a.k.a. edible sand castles. Djenkoume is a cornmeal, tomato, and red palm oil corn cake, rather like polenta. But there’s so much more about the dish… there’s onion, garlic, and ginger in the mix.  And a mound of homemade, spiced tomato sauce. Hello. How could that not be wonderful? Friends, sometimes, I wonder if I’m really going to be able to find a dish I like in every country in the world. So far, I’ve had 100% success rate, and it’s not just because I’m fairly open minded.  It’s also because there …

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Okra Stew with Beef & Eggplant

“WE YU YεRI PIKIN SE “MAMA DE KUK כKRכ”, PAPA BIN DכN TכK AM. If you hear a child say “Mama is cooking okra,” it’s because Papa said it.”*  When I read this old proverb from Sierra Leone, I get goosebumps. The truth is, children pick up everything from their parents, from what’s for dinner to more serious considerations, like world views, either loaded with prejudice or full of grace. While sipping soup or nibbling rolls, they overhear snippets of conversation; verbal jabs and eye-rolls are noted. And nowhere is this more noticed, than at the dinner table. In fact, I’d like to suggest that this is one and the same: what’s for dinner reflects, in a very serious way, our world views. At every meal, our kids get a double whammy as they witness the foods we eat and refuse to eat. They notice when we squirm and mock our way through other people’s “normal.” Friends, we have the power to shape our children’s very thoughts, yet we so often forget that the main way …

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Weeknight Cod Fish Feijoada

One of our readers, Annabelle, suggested we try today’s Cod Fish Feijoada. This filling, yet healthy Portuguese stew made it’s way to the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe during colonization. Things have evolved quite a bit since then. While most Feijoada’s involve black beans (even as far away as the one we made for Brazil), the islanders favor this white bean version and make it with readily available fish (and sometimes pork). The entire principal is a slow-cooked, tender meal full of flavor from raw beans. In the old country, a variety of herbs and spices might be added, but things are simplified on the islands. Some recipes don’t even include the carrots as I have (and they might as often be substituted with cabbage). The really distinct part of São Tomé and Príncipe’s recipe is the red palm oil – a signature ingredient in West African cooking. I found mine at Whole Foods, but you can get it a lot cheaper at local African markets (such as Ebute Tropical Market in Tulsa). Since the fish …

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Grilled Plantain spears with crushed peanuts | Boli Bopa

This is so quick, it’s silly. All you need are a few medium-ripe plantains (as pictured), some red palm oil, and a bit of salt & hot pepper. You can find the red palm oil at your natural grocer or, if you’re lucky enough to have an African market, there. You brush on the red palm oil (back in the day I wrote a bit about this popular west African oil)… Sprinkle with salt and whatever spices you like (think hot, like cayenne… or mild, like paprika)… Grill until tender and charred, but not mushy. Slice and serve… … preferably with crushed peanuts and a sprinkling of extra spices, as desired. This would also be great with minced chili peppers, like jalapeno. That’s it! A quick and relatively fuss-free taste of Nigeria. Adapted from The Africa Cookbook: Tastes of a Continent by Jessica Harris. Here’s what you need… Ingredients: 3 plantains 1-2 Tbsp red palm oil handful crushed peanuts salt cayenne pepper, optional Votes: 0 Rating: 0 You: Rate this recipe! Print Recipe This is so quick, it’s …

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Black eyed peas in red sauce | Red Red

Serves 4-6 Have you always wanted to dye your hair red, but have never had the courage? Do the next best thing – cozy up to a bowl of west-African “Red Red.” Ginger people look dull in comparison to this electric one pot wonder. The bright red color comes from the addition of shockingly excessive amounts of red palm oil – up to one cup for three cups of beans in some recipes. Traditional recipes include so much oil that a red ring forms around the base of the beans. I’ve been fairly modest with my addition for health reasons and because I find the flavor of red palm oil quite strong. Play around with it – start with 1/8 cup, and add more at the end of cooking until you like the taste. Ingredients: 1/4 cup red palm oil (or more to taste) 1 small onion, chopped 1 poblano, chopped (or your favorite hot pepper) 5 cloves garlic, sliced or crushed 1 tsp curry powder 2 15 oz cans black eyed peas , drained 1 …

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Spicy Chicken Peanut Soup | Groundnut Soup

Serves 4 I can’t begin to explain why or how this recipe works, but it does. Of the four adults who sampled the soup, every single person had thirds. Thirds. Epic. Groundnut soup is your passport to west Africa. In less than an hour, you’ll be spooning a delicate blend of fresh ginger, garlic, tomato and groundnuts (a.k.a. peanut butter), with bites of browned chicken and bits of hot peppers. And you’ll be mourning the time you lived without this soup. Special thanks to Ghana and the rest of West Africa for sharing this gem of a recipe with the world. Variations include a perfectly smooth soup (the ingredients can either be pureed or simply mashed together), as well as prepared with fish or beef instead of chicken. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can make an even more authentic version of Groundnut Soup by substituting fish stock instead of chicken stock and garnishing with crushed, dried shrimp. The spice level of this soup is mild-medium. You can add more heat with ground cayenne pepper, if desired. Ingredients: …

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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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Stewed Cassava Leaves

Serves 4-6 Cassava leaves are highly fibrous, dense and grassy. We found ours frozen and “ground” at Ebutte Tropical Market – which saved us a lot of sweat around a mortar and pestle. You could easily double the aromatics in this recipe as the flavors rather get lost behind the domineering cassava. Ingredients: red palm oil 1 large onion, chopped 2 tomatoes, chopped 1 1/2 lbs fresh ground cassava leaves 1 Tbsp peanut butter water salt pepper Method: Thaw out some fresh ground cassava leaves. Over medium heat, cook chopped onion in a drizzle of red palm oil. Note how the oil stains the onions gold. Add tomatoes. And the cassava leaves. The smell will transport you to hay-ville. If such a place exists. Add enough water to keep things moist and sludgey, so that the mixture doesn’t burn. Bring to a simmer. Stir in peanut butter. Stew over low heat, covered, for about 30 minutes. Serve immediately with an Adventurous spirit. Votes: 0 Rating: 0 You: Rate this recipe! Print Recipe Cassava leaves are …

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West African Peanut Sauce

Makes 3/4 cup Mild heat with a nutty blast, this West African inspired peanut sauce is straightforward. This recipe lacks the bright flavor acquired from a splash of vinegar you might find in Asian peanut sauces. Vegetarian/vegan Ingredients: 1/2 cup peanut butter (natural, not sweet) 1 Tbsp tomato paste 3/4 cup water pinch of cayenne pepper red palm oil Method: Heat oil over medium. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper. You can always add more at the end, if you can handle the kick! Toast the cayenne in the oil for thirty seconds, until fragrant. Then add in the peanut butter. A little water will help you stir things around, and make a smooth sauce. Add in some tomato paste. I’m in love with the squeeze tubes of tomato paste, making it easy to use just a little. Cook on low for a few minutes and season with salt, as needed. Serve on the side in cute ramekins, with a big smile … OR pour directly on your food – chicken, fish, rice, … whatever …

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Red Kidney Beans with Plantains

Serves 4 If you can make this African bean dish a day ahead, please do. The sauce will thicken and coat every millimeter of the beans with chili and onion goodness. Great side dish for a party! Ingredients: 3 cups prepared red kidney beans (2 cans) 2 Tbsp red palm oil 1 onion, sliced 1 plantain, sliced salt 1 tsp chili powder 2 cups water Method: 1. Heat oil over medium heat, cook onion 2. Add beans, plantains, salt, and chili pepper. Cook for a minute. 3. Add water and simmer until plantains are cooked and about a 1/2 cup of liquid is left in the pan – 30 -45 min I chose a plantain with blackened skin. Unlike a banana, where darker skin indicates over-ripeness, blackened skin in a plantain indicates perfect sweetness with a little tooth – perfect for a short simmer. Always rinse canned beans. I bought “no salt added” to keep this dish low sodium. This photo flashes me back to spoonfuls of cod liver oil as a child. Luckily, red palm oil …

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Fish with Tomatoes & Red Palm oil

Serves 2-3 Make this African dish with your favorite white fish. In Burundi, they use whole Ndagala or mukéké. The tomatoes and onion make a fresh, brothy sauce, while a pinch of fresh parsley enhances the flavor. Sometimes the fish is fried separately, then added to the sauce. I prefer the health benefits of gently steaming the fish over the sauce. Ingredients: 1 Tbsp red palm oil 1 lb fish (we used cod) 1 onion, chopped 3 tomatoes, chopped 1 habenero (whole or halved) 1 cup water Salt to taste Method: 1. Heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft. Then add tomatoes, habenero, water, and salt. 2. Simmer, uncovered, about 15-30 minutes, until the tomatoes break down into a light, brothy sauce. If you prefer a more reduced sauce – or less, adjust time to your preferences. 3. Add fish, cover, and cook until done. This will depend on the thickness of your fish. Check to make sure the fish flakes easily to determine if done. Ours took about 15 minutes. Tomatoes …

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