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malaysian-rice-salad-06

Malaysian Herbed Rice Salad | Nasi Ulam

Do packaged herbs ever go on strike at the back of your fridge? Now, thanks to Malaysian Herbed Rice Salad, bundles of herbs can finally go to work in a dish that everyone will love. When herbs go on strike I wonder how many partially used packages of fresh herbs lay wilting at the back of fridges across America. I’ve certainly been there. Even though I “store” my herbs in the garden, disgruntled leaves occasionally congregate behind the eggs and mustard (the few remaining upright stems looking like picket signs). The problem? Outside of a putting basil in pesto or parsley in tabbouleh, it’s hard to use most fresh herbs up. To give our herbs a chance, we need to rethink how we use them. A pinch here or there doesn’t really do the trick when it comes to adding flavor or using them up. Standing them in a jar of fresh water helps tremendously (sometimes adding a couple of weeks of life to them). Another idea is to find a recipe that makes good use of …

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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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Lemon Rasam - one of Gandhi's favorite recipes.

Celebrating World Vegetarian Day with Gandhi and Lemon Rasam

In our house we live by Michael Pollan’s addage: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”  This week we’re going one step further, invoking Mahatma Gandhi’s strict vegetarian diet in honor of World Vegetarian Day (October 1st). While most people think of Gandhi as a famous pacifist, he also had a lot to say about eating a pant-based diet, led in great part by his compassion and respect for the lives of even the smallest creatures. Not one to mince words, Gandhi wasn’t afraid to puts his beliefs in black and white:  No flocks that range the valley free To slaughter I condemn Taught by the power that pities me I learn to pity them – Gandhi (1869 – 1948) Our daughter Ava has been eating mostly vegetarian for a while now, so she was particularly happy to celebrate World Vegetarian Day with a new-to-us dish. What to eat for World Vegetarian Day? While we have hundreds of vegetarian and vegan recipes from around the world, I thought it’d be fun to try a dish Gandhi might have enjoyed …

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Fattoush, a Levantene Salad for Kahlil Gibran

“The astronomer may speak to you of his understanding of space, but he cannot give you his understanding … the vision of one man lends not its wings to another man.” – Kahlil Gibran The best teachers’ lessons stay relevant long after their deaths. Such is the case with the Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931). Often, when I’m at a loss for what to do, I’ll pick up his book The Prophet. Despite living a nearly hundred years ago, his wisdom still disarms me. That’s just one of his many beautiful lines. I love the idea that the fresh produce we eat not only becomes a part of us, but improves us – brings us to life. The work of modern nutritionists back up Gibran – this is not just poetry, it’s science. So this week I’m making him a salad. A salad enjoyed in his corner of the world (Gibran was born in Lebanon and, even after living in the United States, chose to be buried in Lebanon). Here’s the museum they built in his honor: This salad celebrates …

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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.

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Filipino Garlic Rice

Filipino Garlic-Fried Rice | Panlasang Pinoy

  A Labor of Love I have a garden. It’s small – an L-shaped  raised bed built with heavy stones. In it I have a few tomato plants, basil, thyme, parsley, chives, and lemongrass. There’s also an abundance of mums; they come back every year and explode with burgundy, gold, and white in the autumn. Just next to the wall is my terracotta strawberry planter, perched atop a pedestal of chubby cherubs. It’s about as idyllic as my corner of the world gets. This is the first year I’ve really been able to dote over my plants. I recently handed in the last edits of my memoir, so time – for a little while, at least – is mine again (I even used old drafts of my memoir as weed guard). But paying attention comes with a certain degree of… noticing. How ants cluster and teem along the stone wall whenever I water the plants. How on hot days, even before a leaf begins to wilt, it’s shiny luster goes dull. How my cat likes to sleep …

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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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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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Green Papaya Salad

  What do you do when you’re running low on inspiration? Do you sip a cup of tea, take a walk, paint, write a poem, cook something? Or do you freeze up, unable to create? Writing a book for the last several months has had an interesting effect on my brain-space. The book is incredibly daunting and takes all my creative juices. I find myself sopping through my house like a wrung out rag. I once read that we are only capable of making a certain number of decisions each day. After that time, we’re pretty much worthless.  Sometimes, after a particularly long book writing session, I can’t even decide what pajamas I want to curl up in to decompress.   Thankfully, the world is a resource. It’s a constant inspiration. Remember, even on those nights you’re too tired to pop popcorn, the world is there, whispering sweet nothings to you. Inviting you to try something different. And so here we are… today, Vanuatu is doing the whispering. Since I spent yesterday grating a mountain range of …

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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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Ukrainian Beet Salad | Salat Vinagret

  Well, hello. Today we’re biting into a very pink salad. There’s not a lot of pink food I can think of besides strawberry ice cream. There’s certainly not a lot of savory pink food. Unless you live in Ukraine, where beets reign supreme. Beets are one of Ukraine’s most beloved root vegetables, and for good reason. They’re packed with fiber, vitamins A, B & C, magnesium, and iron. When they’re not mixed up in borsch, beets make their way into salad vinagret.  This salad is a vegan meal unto itself as it includes potatoes, carrots, peas, and sauerkraut. Some recipes swap the peas and sauerkraut for white beans and chopped pickles.   Salat Vinagret is funny, because there’s nothing vinegar about it. In fact, there’s no dressing added. The only “tang” comes from the sauerkraut, and the only seasoning from a bit of salt, pepper, and oil. Done and done.  The simplicity of this salad makes for a great summer supper, or autumn side dish (perhaps next to a few slices of pot roast). We …

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Peanut Brittle with Coconut & Cardamom | Kashata

On the simmering streets of Uganda, you can walk up to a street vendor and satisfy your sweet tooth with a big bite of Kashata. Loosely speaking, Kashata is East African brittle.  It’s most popular in Uganda and Tanzania. It’s hard, sweet, and all kinds of delicious. I’ve seen Kashata shaped as cubes, balls, and diamonds. Some are flat, some are thick. Just like people, the shape doesn’t matter; it’s all about what’s on the inside. The most glorious Kashata are a blend of peanuts, shredded coconut, and either cinnamon or cardamom. You can also find Kashata made from all coconut or all peanuts. Moreover, sometimes you simply dump in whatever nuts you have on hand. Easy. Makes enough to share. 1-2 dozen (depending on how thin you spread the mixture) Ingredients: 2 cups sugar 1 1/2 – 2 cups peanuts 1 1/2 – 2 cups dried coconut (unsweet) 3/4 tsp ground cardamom (or cinnamon) pinch salt oil, for greasing Method: Let’s go to Uganda, where electricity is optional… because, truth be told, this entire …

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