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Honeymoon Smoothie | عصير المتزوجين

How do you know it’s springtime in Yemen? So much of Yemen is dusty: sand overwhelms the northern stretches in an area called “Rub’ al Khali” or the “Empty Quarter”; even ancient skyscrapers are made of sun-baked mud, as can be found in the town of Shibam. But… like a mirage, there’s another, glimmering view of Yemen. Between the dusty cliffs of the Hadramout desert lies a valley of prickly trees and honey bees, where one of the world’s great aphrodisiacs accumulates in golden pools. This is Sidr Honey, a.k.a. jujube honey. Every year, semi-nomadic beekeepers flock to the Do’an Valley, where the sweet fragrance of the jujube tree sets the bees into motion. The resulting honey is said to be a tremendous aphrodisiac. And what do you do with an aphrodisiac? You drink it, of course. Honeymoon Smoothie عصير المتزوجين is a love potion of sorts – a honey-laced smoothie meant to sweeten marriage and to help single folks find true love. I call it a “honeymoon smoothie,” though I read that the literal translation is “married couples juice.” Inside you’ll find everything …

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Russian Cabbage Pie

This much Russia knows: the chilly, early days of spring go hand-in-hand with cabbage. Throughout the countryside, rows of cabbages can be found poking through the ground even as the last freeze thaws. The tough, squeaky heads are impenetrable to all but the peskiest of creatures, but give them some attention with a sharp knife and persistent flame and you’ll see why cabbage is the pride of Russian home cooking. From cabbage rolls to borscht, Russian cookbooks are fat with ideas to use up the spring harvest – and at a mere $2-$3 per head at the market, it’s tempting to attempt them all. But if I had to pick just one, cabbage pie seems to shows off the humble vegetable’s truest potential. Cook it up with little more than butter, a smattering of onion and lay it between sticky spoonfuls of sour cream batter… bake, then slice into neat squares and you’ll have a feast fit for any potluck. (We took it over to our neighbor’s potluck party; the casserole was cleaned out in mere minutes!) The ingredients …

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O’Hara’s Irish Red Velvet Cake with Bailey’s Buttercream

Think you need to eat green this Saint Patrick’s Day? Think again. Come Saint Patrick’s Day, few desserts can stand up to the mighty Guinness Chocolate Cake – until now.  Irish Red Velvet Cake is as cheery as a wee leprechaun’s cheeks and as fiery as his beard. The crimson batter contains a dusting of cocoa and is bound with buttermilk – both characteristics of a traditional Red Velvet Cake, popular in the American South. But a few glugs of O’Hara’s Irish Red Ale gives this otherwise ordinary cake Celtic edge. This delightful Irish-American fusion makes an ideal dessert for the 40 million Irish Americans who celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day every year. (And, since Saint Patrick’s Day is more widely celebrated by Irish Americans than the Irish, this fusion turns out to be quite apropos.) What is an Irish Red Ale? Irish Red ales are reddish-brown in color and full-bodied. In the case of O’Hara’s, toasted malt sweetens the drink, while a bit of hops deepens the finish. Too much of the bubbly brew can give the Irish Red Velvet Cake a yeasty, bread-like flavor – a modest 1/2 cup does the trick. Cutting back on the …

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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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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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pickled-figs

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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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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