All posts tagged: spring

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Celebrating the shining star of Palestinian cuisine: Musakhan

Within Palestine’s hotly contested territories there is one thing everyone can agree on: Musakhan. This simple dish doesn’t shout. It’s flavors don’t battle for dominance. No, Musakhan is a quiet meal – a layered preparation of chicken, onion softened with sumac, and doughy pieces of taboon bread. And yet this unassuming dish earned a Guinness World Record in 2010 in the city of Ramallah. Why a Guinness World Record Matters The clout of earning a Guinness World Record often remains limited to the feat itself – at most a symbol of egregious excess (consider the world’s largest pancake, for example – nearly 50 feet across with no other purpose than to … eat). But for Palestinians, the world’s largest Musakhan was a show of pride and honor far beyond simple bragging rights. Making the Musakhan was a critical show of cultural pride during a time of great crisis. More than 40 Palestinian chefs united efforts to cook and assemble the 4 meter loaf. The finished dish weighed nearly 3,000 pounds, including 1,100+ pounds of onion, 550+ pounds of flour, 370 …

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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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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Coronation Chicken Finger Sandwiches

Let’s be real. Any chance I get to play dress up with my daughter, I take. Like last week, when we wore fancy hats and had a British tea party, complete with coronation chicken and coronation egg salad sandwiches.  Coronation chicken was invented in 1952, for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. She was twenty-five years old. Her coronation was the first one to ever be televised, and she dressed for the occasion. Her amazing gown was embroidered with symbols of the commonwealth, including food, flowers, and more. Elizabeth’s coronation gown was commissioned from Norman Hartnell and embroidered on her instructions with the floral emblems of the Commonwealth countries: English Tudor rose; Scots thistle; Welsh leek; Irish shamrock; Australian wattle; Canadian maple leaf; New Zealand silver fern; South African protea; lotus flowers for India and Ceylon; and Pakistan’s wheat, cotton, and jute. (Wikipedia) Fact: no tea party is complete, if the queen isn’t in attendance. If not in person, then at least in spirit. The royal wave adds just the right flair. Even when served as dainty “finger” sandwiches, coronation chicken salad is big, bold, and curried. You’ll find it worthy of any …

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Orange Blossom Juice

Orange juice is a hardworking breakfast drink. When everyone else in the house is still rubbing the sleep out of their eyes, orange juice is waaaay perky. It contains enough joy to put coffee out of business. But what if you had something a little more fancy to offer your family (or guests) in the morning? Orange juice with a splash of orange blossom water is a direct inspiration from the United Arab Emirates (and all over the Gulf), where hosts offer guests orange blossom water & orange juice syrups to their guests.  The orange blossom water adds a floral note – a bit of  perfume-laden romance – something which is often sorely lacking in the early morning hours. If you’d like to get extra fancy, squeeze in a few drops of lemon juice. That’ll brighten up the flavor even more. There’s really no recipe… start with a 1/4 tsp orange blossom water per cup of OJ, and add more to taste. I suggest you use the best orange juice you can find. If you …

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Turkish tabbouleh | Kisir

What happens when you eat a lot of international food, but still get in a rut? Is it like when you live by the sea but get tired of looking at the lapping waves (is that even possible?). It’s so easy (and delicious), to return to old favorites like stuffed grape leaves, hummus and tabbouleh, but sometimes a little shakedown is in order. We’re big tabbouleh eaters in this house, so when I found out there’s a Turkish version of this popular bulgur salad, you can bet I jumped on board. This guy knows what I’m talking about… He’s been waiting for a bite for nearly three centuries. What makes kisir different from mainstream Tabbouleh is the addition of two ingredients: tomato paste and pepper paste. These stain the bulgur grains orange-red, and gives the finished dish a rich, earthy flavor. If you use hot pepper paste, the kisir will also go down with a lovely burn. And then there’s a bit more red, too. Say “Merhaba,” or “hello” to a couple of tomatoes from my garden… I was so …

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Turkish Flatbread “Pizza” with Spiced Lamb | Lahmacun

Lahmacun is Turkey’s answer to pizza. The flavors are rich and deep, like an old love story. And, like any good love story, each bite makes my knees sink a little closer to the floor. Why? Because of the layers of flavor. This is no “jarred sauce” affair. This is no mess of waxy cheese. Lahmacun is pure, unadulterated ingredients – as fresh and intense as mother nature grew them. The version we made today includes lamb, olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, tomato paste, paprika, mint and parsley. There’s even a gated onion to provide a sweet background note. The flavors come together to create an unbelievable explosion of flavor. Once baked, Lahmacun is a DIY dream. Diners choose their own toppings and pile them on.  In Turkey, you can find everything from pickles and lettuce, to onions and lemon juice. It’s an awesome way to get kids involved and to work through dinner party doldrums. Ava had great fun adding onion, parsley and lemon juice to hers… plus a few sprinklings of sumac (a spice with a …

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Green Papaya Salad | Som Tam

Whomp. Womp. Womp. Everything worth doing takes a little bit of work. And so it is with Som Tam. The mortar and pestle crushes the garlic, mashes a Thai bird chili peppers,  and wooshes the fish sauce and lime juice into the green beans and papaya. I put the bowl on the table, dotted red with tomatoes. Ava thinks the papaya is spaghetti. The pale green shreds curl around her fork. “It’s something like that…” I say, hoping she believes me. She takes a bite, then another. Soon the forks on plates are the only noise. While I adore Thai food, I’d never had green papaya salad before this week. When several readers suggested I try it on our Facebook Page, I listened. First, I tried to order it at a local restaurant called My Thai Kitchen, just to see what all the fuss was about, but it wasn’t on the menu. So, instead, I went to our local  Asian market, Nam Hai, and picked up what I needed, including some palm sugar, a green …

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Syrian Lamb kebabs with Sour Cherries | Kebab Karaz

I can almost hear it; the hiss and sizzle of grills waking up from their long winter naps. It’s warm in Oklahoma and we’re ready to move our kitchen outside, into the sparkling sun. Today’s inspiration comes from Syria and the pucker of sour cherries, which will be in season sometime in the next few weeks, depending where in the world you live. Syrian Lamb Kebabs with Cherries can be made two different ways. The first is easy – you string up the meat along with the sour cherries. The second involves creating a gravy of sorts with the sour cherries and serving the whole shebang on a platter over pita bread. The latter is more of a winter dish, so we’re going all summer, all the way. The distinctive seasoning in these kebabs is baharat (we’ll have that recipe posted very soon), but if you don’t have time to make any, add some pepper, allspice, and cinnamon, plus a pinch of clove and nutmeg  to this recipe and you’ll be good to go. Makes …

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Almond Carrot Cake | Aargauer Rüeblitorte

Yes, I have a three year old daughter. No, I don’t hide a head of cauliflower in her mashed potatoes. I never slip zucchini in her pancakes when she’s not looking. And I refuse to bury carrots in her cake. I don’t cater to my daughter that way. Don’t get me wrong.  On any old Monday, Ava can blow through a bowl of cauliflower mashed potatoes. On the weekend, she can annihilate a tower of zucchini pancakes before the early bird has had his breakfast. And, as of today, she loves carrot in cake as well as any Swiss child. But she knows the vegetables are there. We talk about it. Laugh about it. In our house, we revel in a real carrot’s gnarly glory. I point out the knots, the hairs, the fuzzy green top to Ava.  She giggles, she scrunches up her nose, and then she chows down. When I happened upon this traditional Swiss Carrot Cake, I realized that, though Ava had enjoyed many a gnarly carrot, she had never eaten carrot …

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Swazi Salad | Slaai

Swaziland’s swooping slopes are dotted with crops; it is here that the Swazi grow the freshest produce, from sunshine yellow lemons, to buttery avocados. With farming of that caliber, it should come as no surprise that Swazi Salads are especially grand. This is not to say they are carefully composed salads. (Most things that are careful, aren’t nearly as delicious.) No, these are simple, heaped piles of chopped veggies. But you can get them on the side of even the most humble plate of beans, which counts for, well, everything. There’s no elaborate dressing, save, perhaps, a squeeze of lemon juice and fresh grated ginger. Croutons? Forget it. The crunch you seek comes from a handful of crushed peanuts and the crisp bite of a sharp radish. Feeling bold? Add minced hot peppers to that lemon juice. Fresher and brighter is the name of the game. So what’s in a Swazi Salad? Every time I looked up Swazi salads, I happened across some combination of avocado, lettuce, onion, and beets. Beets were everywhere: red heaped piles …

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Mixed Vegetable Salad with Coconut Dressing | Goedangan

Introducing Geodangan, your answer to healthy munchies. (Honestly, I’m not sure if there’s such a thing as healthy munchies. But if there were, then this is it.) This Asian-style salad that is incredibly popular in Suriname. And for good reason. Don’t be shy. Geodangan is everything spring has to offer – crisp green beans, giant cabbages, golden yolked eggs… with the addition of a coconut, lime, yogurt dressing. (The dressing could also be coconut sambal, a spicy shredded coconut condiment.) Either way, you’ll feel like your in Suriname… by way of Indonesia. And that’s definitely a good thing. Today’s recipe for Goedangan is adapted from Holidays of the World Cookbook for Students; they suggest serving the salad for a traditional Surinamese lunch, which I think sounds just lovely. Serves 6 Ingredients: For the salad: 1 small head cabbage, cored, shredded and blanched 1 lb French green beans 1/2 lb mung bean sprouts 1 hard boiled egg per person 1 cucumber, sliced shredded coconut or coconut flakes, optional For the dressing: 1/2 cup coconut milk 1/2 cup yogurt …