Monday Meal Review: Burundi

Burundi reminds me of my mother – wonderfully inventive with just a few ingredients. She could whip up dinner with a bucket of cement if she had to.

Although made with simple, affordable ingredients, the plate you see before you is a feast worthy of any table – spicy, sweet, fresh, flavorful – betraying no signs of poverty or struggle. What a lesson we can learn from the creativity and fortitude of Burundi.

Getting Ava to eat her meal was also a lesson in creativity and fortitude.

A test of wills. And of patience.

With several quick head shakes, Ava has refusing food down to an art.

She wasn’t interested in the beans. Or the plantains. Or the tomatoes.

Once in a while she faked interest, opening wide for a bite, but once the food touched her tongue, she pushed it back out, screwing her face up into a squinty smile. Little stinker knows she’s making my hair turn grey.

In all of beautiful Burundi, fish was her only interest.

With quickly fading hope, I filled her plate with a little of everything and “looked away.”

Really, I was peeking out of the corner of my eye, holding my breath, hoping she’d try something – anything – besides the fish.

Watch the video in “Ava’s Corner” to see what happened.

Fish in Tomatoes and Onion [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

There’s little better than fish, gently steamed with ripe tomatoes, soft onion, and touch of red palm oil. What a quick, healthy, easy, weeknight dinner. The bonus? I got to use three gorgeous tomatoes from my garden for this recipe. I’ll never tire of eating produce from my own back yard! This is the first year I’ve been able to do it (my black thumb seems to be healing).

What I liked least about this dish:

The whole habenero didn’t give the dish the heat I expected. The cooking time is simply too short to extract the hot oils from the pepper. However, I’d be too scared to mince the habenero up, for fear of unleashing an inferno. I was happy that this dish wasn’t spicy, though. I prefer to have a balance of heat in a meal, and the beans were already (and appropriately) spicy.

Red Kidney Beans with Plantains [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

This dish packed incredibly flavor, especially the second day. I almost left the plantains out of the dish (because I was also serving fried plantains). Boy, am I glad that I didn’t. Plantains were just what the doctor ordered. They cook down and add sweet, slightly citrusy flavor to the spicy beans – the perfect counterpart to cool the palate.

What I liked least about this dish:

When first cooked, this dish tastes like “good.” I didn’t realize, however, that it would taste dynamite the next day. In hindsight I would have made it ahead and reheated it!

Fried Plantains [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

I vaguely remember having fried plantains at a small Jamaican restaurant while in college. I thought then, and still think now, “oh. my. yes!” Amazing that I didn’t make them myself until this Adventure, almost ten years later. They are so easy – slice, fry in a little oil, and serve with a sprinkle of salt. I should have been cooking them all along!

What I liked least about this dish:

This comfort food isn’t exactly the healthiest, but then it wouldn’t be comfort food. Check your oil temperatures – you don’t want burnt plantains. When I made them for Belize they got a little – er – crispy.

Also, make sure you pick good plantains – anywhere from yellow to blackish in color. The green ones are too young and you’ll have trouble peeling them. Also they are super astringent and lack sweetness when green.

Hot Sauce (Pili Pili) [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

I love the flexibility of this pili pili, leaving room for (and expecting) each person to make their own concoction. Although the recipe traditionally calls for red chili peppers, I had some poblanos in the garden that were starting to turn orange!! I needed to use them up asap. As a result, my version has an intense flavor, more citrus and garlic, with a background of mild heat. I could not stop pouring this on my fish. The tang is perfect for seafood. I would use hotter chilis for red meat, though.

What I liked least about this dish:

Nothing! It was great.

Ava’s Corner

Fish! Fish! Fish! This child is going to grow gills!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.