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Recipe for Tanzanian Coconut Potato Soup

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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Recipe for hot hummus with caramelized onion and mushroom

Warm Hummus with Mushrooms & Caramelized Onion

Israeli folks know – loaded hummus is everything. An entire meal can be made from a cozy bowl of warm chickpea puree when loaded with caramelized onion and cumin-laced mushrooms. A raggedy pile of pita bread is the exclamation point on this edible yes. To get your fix in Israel you’d head down to a hummusia restaurant. There you can order up warm or cold hummus with your favorite filling – anything from cooked cauliflower, to ground beef or lamb. You can even find the classic tomato and poached egg dish, shakshouka, in the middle of hummus! But you don’t need to travel to Israel to bring these amazing flavors into your kitchen. Today’s hot mushroom filling is just the warmth a 25F degree freeze calls for, and is a welcome break from the heavy meals (and mountains of dishes!) of the holiday season. Real Talk: I need a cooking win. I’m 100% in the middle of a scary cooking carnival … in the last month of 2015 I made two bad lasagnas (in which the lasagna noodles actually dissolved), one excellent lasagna (finally!), …

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Recipe for Smoking Bishop

Smoking Bishop from “A Christmas Carol”

Twice a month I head up the road to a 1920’s mansion where I meet with several writers (many 25 years my senior). For two hours we laugh and ramble. Brief critiques soon devolve into spirited discussions about the good old days (most of which were well before my time). Writing exercises, often based on bizarre photos from the 1890’s, are read aloud. These displays of wit and absurdity often leave me in tears. Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Seuss, and Chretiens de Troyes get equal billing, but not by all members. In an era of masterminds and conferences, this little Writer’s Group does not provide a leg up nor much in the way of pretense. At least one third of the attendees dismiss Facebook and have no idea what a tweet is. We’re a motley crew bound only by our love of the written word. And we’re not entirely productive. But goodness, it’s fun. We just had our annual holiday party, which required I bring something hot, boozy, and – for extra credit – bookish.  I’m making a vegetable lasagna but that …

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Recipe for Gingered Pineapple Sundae with Toasted Coconut Flakes

Gingered Pineapple Ice Cream Sundae with Toasted Coconut

Let’s travel to Sub-Saharan Africa, where the flavors of the tropics make an ordinary ice cream sundae outstanding. Start by harvesting real vanilla beans from Madagascar to make the ice cream. Then head to Nigeria to pluck a heavy, sweet pineapple and a knob of ginger root. Nigeria is the world’s 8th largest producer of pineapple and the 4th largest producer of ginger.* Chunk up the golden fruit, then cook it with brown sugar and a whisper of the freshly grated ginger. Ten minutes on a flame will release the pineapple juices into the brown sugar, making a sticky, caramel-like sauce. Look how tall my little girl is getting… Sometime this fall she stopped using the step stool. I always knew bringing the world into our kitchen was good nourishment, but she grew an inch over the summer. <sigh> When you’re done bemoaning how fast life flies, assemble your ice cream sundae. First: Drop two fat scoops of vanilla ice cream into a shallow bowl. Second: Spoon on the hot pineapple and sauce. Work quickly to sprinkle with lightly toasted …

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Mexican Mango with chili and lime juice

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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Raspberry Hibiscus Paletas Recipe

Raspberry Hibiscus Paletas

What if summer’s best moments could be frozen in time? Picking berries… Running barefoot through tall grass… Dancing in sun and water alike… The smallest nibble of Paletas delivers a slush of ripe berries, sunshine, and laughter – about as close as I’ve ever gotten to capturing the glitter of the season… a frozen treat straight from Latin America and as precious as these Mexican garnets…   … but with much more color. Seriously. These are lovelier than any gemstone… The story behind these paletas is a simple one: I was looking for something my daughter could share with her classmates for her birthday celebration. Keith and I wanted to bring something nutritious and festive. She wanted something sweet and summery (she’s a July 4th baby after all). Meanwhile, some of her classmates are lactose intolerant and gluten-free. The happy solution came in the form of raspberry hibiscus paletas… a Latin-American recipe adapted from Paletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Ice & Aguas Frescas. You don’t need much. Freshly brewed hibiscus tea. A mound of crimson …

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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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