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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 …

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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Mexican corn on the cob | Spiced Elote

A well-roasted corn kernel is smoky.  Chewy. Juicy. Irresistible. This much, Mexicans know. Some elote are cooked for hours inside clay ovens. They sit over shimmering coals until their bright yellow kernels turn deep, toasty brown and their husks turn brittle.* More simple recipes speed up the roasting process, but have triple-decker toppings: salty cotija cheese, rich mayonnaise (just enough to make the cheese stick), and smoky ancho chili powder. Then the whole cob is sprinkled with cilantro and a good puckering of fresh lime juice. The end result is an ear of corn that is practically a meal in itself. Ultimately, the lime juice is what sold me on elote. Even a single, tart wedge does wonders to bring the richly spiced corn into relief… though I found myself squeezing much more on each cob. One bite satisfies me almost as well as a good margarita does. My version of elote takes extra limes into consideration as well as an interesting technique from America’s Test Kitchen – adding the ancho chili powder before grilling in order to bloom the flavor. …

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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.

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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Zimbabwe Candy Cake | Chikenduza

Candy. Cake. From Zimbabwe. Given the name… and the fact that we needed a celebration recipe (this being the last recipe of our ‘official’ adventure to eat a dish from every country in the world)… well, I had to make it. That’s not to say there weren’t other choices for celebration food. I could have made sweet potato cake (spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg) or sliced mango with custard. But I was sold when I saw the shiny pink glaze on the mound of cakey bread. I would have never known this cake existed, if it weren’t for several homesick Zimbabweans who shared their pinings on Fiso’s Kitchen. This is a treat you’d find in Zimbabwe’s city bakeries. From what Fiso says, Candy Cakes are usually big and dense, made in a double a standard muffin, but I made mini ones in my muffin tin so I wouldn’t have to go buy special equipment. Though her version is yeasty, she also mentions a recent trend of baking powder being used in Zimbabwe’s Candy Cake. Personally, I’m …

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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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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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Spiced Skillet Eggs | Yemeni Shakshouka

Eggs. In the shell, they seems so… ordinary. But glowing, too, like they’re full of potential. Like they’re ready to become something more. When it comes to breakfast, Yemen knows how to dress them up – as Shakshouka. Shakshouka is a beloved skillet egg dish popular all over North Africa and the Middle East. We’ve made shakshouka before – the kind that is rather like a tomato sauce with poached eggs inside (and, by the way, yum!) – but Yemen makes shakshouka differently. For starters, they include spices like cumin, turmeric, cardamom, and clove. They also add hot green chili peppers for kick. Anything from an anaheim to a jalepeno would work well for this recipe. I’m a half hot pepper kind of gal. Keith’s more of a whole hot pepper. If you’re a no pepper person, that works too – though a touch of heat does add a layer of authenticity to the dish. But the biggest difference of all  with Yemeni shakshouka is that, in Yemen, the eggs are scrambled, not poached. The result is …

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Fresh Corncakes with Cheese | Cachapas

“There’s nothing hidden between heaven and earth.” Venezuelan Proverb Nothing hidden indeed… except, perhaps the cheese inside a steaming, hot Cachapas. Brittle autumn days require an extra slathering of comfort. Ooey gooey cheese-filled corncakes, a.k.a. cachapas fit the bill nicely. Think of them as the South American version of pancakes. The cakes are made with just two ingredients: corn and masa harina, plus the requisite sprinkling of salt and pepper. There’s a simplicity to the recipe that means a batch can be made as easily at midnight as in the afternoon. Which means you can stovetop travel to the beaches of Venezuela any time you like. While you can make cachapas with fresh corn in the fall, you can also use frozen corn any time of year. Corn gives the cachapas sweet overtones. Masa harina – a flour made from hominy, the big-kerneled cousin to corn – binds the mixture together so the corncake holds its shape (all the better for topping with ooey gooey cheese!). Speaking of cheese, the key to the cachapas is to sprinkle them …