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Maltese November Bone Cookies Recipe

Maltese Bone Cookies with Marzipan Marrow

This month we’re celebrating the most anatomically correct cookie there ever was – one whose astounding details should make it a favorite with medical students everywhere, and one who would be well placed at every white coat graduation buffet. The origins of this beautiful cookie are far humbler than you might think – November Bones hail from the small island nation of Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea. Why November Bones? Forget dress up and trick-or-treating; most people in the island nation of Malta skip right over Halloween in favor of All Saints and All Souls Days, two feast days that honor the dead (these more reverent holidays are not about vampires and zombies, but about taking time to honor cherished family members who have passed on). On November 1st and 2nd the graves are cleaned and decorated, but it’s the November Bones (a.k.a. l-għadam tal-mejtin) that stretch the holiday well beyond the two days (they’re sold all month long in many bakeries). Anatomy of a Cookie Usually cookies are just a “shape it and bake it” operation, but November Bones could come straight from a …

Happy Ethiopian New Year Greetings

Celebrating the Ethiopian New Year with Doro Wat

There’s been a movement to make Enkutatash – a.k.a. Ethiopian New Year – as popular as St. Patrick’s Day or Cinco de Mayo.  But instead of wearing green or dancing to a mariachi band you’re invited for a much simpler, down to earth sort of celebration. Wear white. Pick yellow daisies. And enjoy traditional Ethiopian food. Waaaay back when “Enkutatash” literally stands for “gift of jewels.” As the story goes, several thousand years ago the Queen of Sheba delivered more than 4.5 tons of gold and as many spices to King Solomon. King Solomon was quite the host as he, too, showered her with gifts: …in return, King Solomon had assembled an array of gifts for her arrival. Great caskets of sticky Nubian millet beer awaited her party. The gifts were staked on mules outside Solomon’s palace, ready for her people to take to their camp and enjoy. Silks and linens from Gaza, Assyria, and Lebanon. Tapestry from Ma-Wara-Mnar. Dresses, sweet fruit from Iraq, Mongolistan winter melons. And basins of water from the spring at Siloe. Following …

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Homemade Balsamic Figs | Entertaining the Italian way

A daydream worth dreaming

Cobblestone alleys flanked by weathered walls. Hilltop churches. Sunlight warm on fig trees and grapevines.  This is the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.

Deep in the cellars there’s Parmesan, balsamic, and prosciutto aging. They slumber in the dim recesses, the nuttiness and salt growing bolder, rounder. Waiting for the perfect moment to shine.

Newroz celebration in Istanbul. Photo by Bertil Videt.

Plan a “Kuku” picnic with tips & recipes from the Persian holiday Nowruz

The first picnic of the year is a thing of beauty: tender daffodils and hyacinths poking through last season’s dusty, yellowed grass. Herbs getting bushy and fragrant. The air is cool, but the sun is warm. If you’re looking for an excuse to get outside and celebrate, you’re in luck: the Persian New Year, known as Nowruz, is the time to do it. But before you scope out a sunny patch of grass, there are a few things you should know. Why Nowruz? Sure, you could just plunk down a blanket and pull out a pb&j sandwich, but there’s a reason people have been celebrating Nowruz for centuries, all over Iran, Afghanistan, India, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, China, and Uzbekistan. Nowruz is FUN.  This is more than a picnic – this is a mega picnic – full of ULTIMATE meaning and all kinds of joy. What’s the big deal? Nowruz means “new light,” which is the kind of giddy statement people make after a long, dark winter: “Yay! …

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Make Saint Patrick’s Day even better: pour a mug of Guinness…cake!

Your friends are about to come over for your annual Saint Patty’s Day bash. They’re expecting the corned beef and cabbage, the glittery green shamrocks on walls and hats alike. They’re even expecting frosty mugs of beer. But they might not be expecting a cake they can “drink.” We’ve been down this road before: ultra moist Guinness Chocolate Cake with Bailey’s Buttercream. But this year I gave the recipe a festive spin by serving it in a frosty beer mug. Not to worry — this isn’t about smooshing cake into a cup – the trick is easier, classier, and more beautiful than you might imagine. The only special equipment required? A few clean, dry 15-ounce cans. In winter, this problem is easily solved by having soup for dinner. Grease and flour the cans (baking spray makes quick work of the job). Then line the sides with a strip of parchment paper (make sure the parchment sticks up 11/2-2 inches above the rim and covers the complete circumference – no need to cover the bottom). Fill …

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Zimbabwean Pumpkin & Squash

Everywhere I go, I see the rust, orange, and gold of pumpkins and squashes. Some smile from my neighbors’ front stoops. Some have been tagged for this year’s Thanksgiving pie or pumpkin pancakes (Hello, Russia!). Even Pinterest looks like a digital pumpkin patch of late. All this for good reason. These beautiful gourds are autumn. They represent breathless hikes to pick out the biggest, the gnarliest, the cutest in the bunch. But for all that, I can only look at so many pumpkin recipes before my eyes glaze over. Until Zimbabwe. In this southern African country, gourds are served up in fun and fresh ways. In my wildest dreams I never considered putting peanut butter with butternut squash. But my goodness… it works! Here are three recipes from Zimbabwe to add interest to your global fall fest. 1. Roasted Acorn Squash with Cheddar & Corn Oh man, oh man, oh man. Seriously. I’d be proud to call this lunch any time of day. This recipe was originally made with a “gem” squash in Zimbabwe, which I can’t obtain in Oklahoma. …

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Mealie Bread with Blackened Chilies

If you ask my husband, there’s always room for cornbread. And he’ll eat twice as much cornbread if green chilies dot through the crumb. But what would he think if the cornbread came from half a world away? If it came from Zambia? As a former “Mr Picky” he says: Mealie Bread is a good way to bridge the gap for picky eaters to try something from another culture.” The cornbread in Zambia is much like the cornbread in the USA – except it is made with fresh corn kernels instead of cornmeal. This makes the flavor come alive. Zambians call it mealie bread (mealie is just another name for corn; mealie bread is popular all over southern Africa). The result is moist (bordering on juicy), naturally sweet, and great on the side of any autumn stew (such as Zambia’s Spiced Tilapian Stew). If  you’re lucky enough to slice into the mealie bread while it’s still hot? Well… forget about having leftovers. So why stud the mealie bread with chilies? Because Zambians love chili peppers.  Chilies are available in the …

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Zambia’s Spiced Tilapia Stew

  “Leading a race does not mean that you will win it.” Zambian Proverb It’s a chilly, wintery, blustery sort of day. Even the trees shudder, their leaves falling down in chatterings. Thankfully, Zambia makes quick work of dissipating the cold, with this Spiced Tilapia Stew.  Each bite pops with fresh lime juice, tomatoes, and Napa cabbage. A dusting of cumin, mustard seeds, fresh ginger and garlic give the broth depth. But it’s the Thai Bird chilies that’ll clear your sinuses.  Even just one in the pot promises a mellow tingle in every spoonful.   This is another kind of DIY soup, because of the garnishes. Children will especially enjoy squeezing lime juice on their soup and sprinkling their bowl with parsley.  Adults will enjoy seeing how many Thai Bird chili peppers they can handle. My husband added an entire sliced chili to his bowl; though he was sniffling and coughing from the heat, he then proceeded to add more. A note on the Tilapia: traditional Zambian stews often use dried tilapia. We’ve used fresh because …

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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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Cousin Alfred’s Meat Sauce

When I ask my mother how I’m related to Cousin Alfred, the answer usually goes: “Well…” and then there’s a  contemplative silence. I can see her running through all our different relations, high up on the family tree, doing mental gymnastics to connect one branch to another. Eventually, she comes out with “I think he’s my mothers, mother’s cousin’s”… and then, either she trails off, or my attention span wanes because, really, all that matters is that he is family, one way or another. Alfred lived until he was 104 years old. I think much of his long life was due to making homemade ravioli and meat sauce. He taught me when I was about Ava’s age, or maybe a little younger. We made his spinach & pork ravioli for Italy and, today, we continue to keep Alfred’s memory alive with this sauce. Mom made sure to write down his recipe for meat sauce. But the title “meat sauce” doesn’t do it justice. This is meat sauce, yes, but it’s also filled with a half dozen …

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The Pope’s Fettuccine | Fettuccine alla papalina

Before I knew about Papalina-style noodles, I thought Carbonara was the bees knees. But it turns out that Papalina is the richer version of carbonara. It uses cream, Parmesan, and prosciutto instead of the pancetta or guanciale (pig jowl) from in carbonara. One peppery bite in, and mac and cheese is a bland, happily forgotten memory. Let me be clear. My translation of the Italian is not entirely accurate. Papalina means skullcap, not pope. But I dubbed this recipe the Pope’s Fettuccine because it was literally created for Pope Pius XII in the late 1930’s. And guess what he wore? A skullcap. Anyway, there are many versions of how the recipe was invented. The most common, is that the pope wanted to enjoy a very typical Roman meal. The chef in charge decided that carbonara was very Roman… but he decided that he wanted to make a special version, just for the pope. So Papalina was born. Beautiful, peppery papalina.   It makes for a fancy but easy dinner party meal. It truly is the grown-up mac and …

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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 …