Cooking Around The World: Gambia
Africa, oh Africa.
What a year ago was this exotic, unknown thing, to me, African cuisine has become the comfortable, familiar thing I cook in between the food of other nations. Go figure.
Yes, we have arrived at Week 62 of my around-the-world-learn-to-cook-and-satisfy-my-neurotic-need-for-alphabetical-lists project and … Gambia!
Hey, you could even call it The Delaware of Africa. The Gambia is the smallest nation in continental Africa, a mere 4,007 square miles of land mass, basically both sides of the Gambia River in West Africa, surrounded on three sides by Senegal.
Once a major source of the slave trade to Europe and the Western Hemisphere, The Gambia was fought over by the French and British for ages until it gained independence in 1965.
Since then, it’s been, sadly, a pretty typical West African story. For the first 30 years after independence, the nation was governed by one strong leader who was deposed in a coup by … another strong leader who has ruled ever since then … and has not taken too keenly to dissent.
Plus, he’s called gay people one of the “biggest threats to human existence" and has gone about arresting and threatening them with the death penalty if they don’t leave the country. And he’s pushing this marvelous idea that AIDS can be cured with herbs and bananas.
And he’s planning on having the nation leave the Commonwealth of Nations on the grounds that it’s a vestige of colonialism (that suggests that people should be treated like, er, people).
So, it’s a pretty awful place to exist.
Which is additionally sad because all reports I have read suggest that the people of the country are notably warm and welcoming, with a notable part of its economy now being based on tourism.
As with most other African nations, there aren’t a ton of recipes to be found. And those that are out there all seem to be one-pot dishes, known as benachin locally. A variety of meats are used when available, except for pork, as the nation is majority Muslim. Root vegetables and leafy greens are employed, as well as some hints of the cuisines of Northern Africa in the form of couscous.
Also, as with all the other nations of the region, peanuts (or, as they are known there, “groundnuts”) are found in the majority of recipes.
First I spent a good amount of time vetoing a number of recipes for fish and chicken benachin dishes on the grounds that the recipes either served too many people, were too vague or included items (possibly misspelled) that were so rare as to be unGooglable.
So, I finally decided that I’d make what appears to be the national dish with a green vegetable recipe from another global cooking blog.
I’d make …
- Domoda (Gambian Peanut Stew) using this recipe, and
- West African Spinach with Groundnuts (Peanut Butter) using this recipe.
Seeing as I 86’ed the idea of finding whatever “yate” is, I didn’t have a hunt at all. The only problem was finding the two cubes of tomato bouillon that neither the local grocer nor the produce market carried. And since I didn’t feel like spending an hour of my day traveling to the Massive Global Market of Many Lands and No Idea Where Anything Is, I punted and voted to just use vegetable broth bouillon cubes instead.
The Peanut Stew
I started — as with just about every other recipe on the planet — by caramelizing the diced onions in oil, in this case, olive.
After those were golden brown, I added in the cubed beef.
And I sautéed that until the beef was no longer pink. (I realize that I should have added the garlic in here, but, like an idiot, I didn’t catch that until a couple of steps later. Drat.)
After that, I added in the diced tomatoes.
And I let that simmer for about three minutes.
Next, I added in the tomato paste.
The diced pepper. (I chose a habanero since the produce market didn’t have Scotch bonnets. I gather they’re similar enough in heat to do the trick. … And, yes, we do like things hot and spicy.)
I added in the peanut butter.
And at this point I realized that I missed adding in the garlic earlier and threw it into the mix.
After stirring everything into a paste, I added in the water.
And the two vegetable boullion cubes.
I brought that to a boil and turned it down to simmer, covered, for fifteen minutes.
After that time expired, I added in my diced sweet potatoes. (I opted for that since I couldn’t find pre-sliced pumpkin at the produce market and didn’t want to figure out what to do with the rest of a whole one.)
I added in the salt and pepper.
And I stirred it, covered it, and let it simmer for about 30-40 minutes.
In the meantime, I’d make the rice which would be served along with it.
The Spinach With Peanut Butter
This one would be quick, even if the recipe was particularly vague about how long things should take.
I’d start by heating up some peanut oil.
And sautéing the sliced red pepper.
After a bit, I added in the peanut butter.
And I heated and mixed that until it was a smooth paste.
Once I figured it was time, I added in the spinach.
And added in cayenne pepper and salt.
And I heated it until it looked ready, which is just about as vague as the recipe.
Once time was up, I plated my mounds of rice, spooned out the spinach and dressed it with sliced green onions. I ladled out the peanut stew and I was done.
In the end, it all looked like this.
I really do love African cooking, I do. More often than not, I end up with a hearty, delicious meal that is filling and not that hard to make.
The Spinach and Peanut Butter: It tasted fine, and it had a pleasant texture. However, considering the green onions were raw, I realize I should have sliced those more thinly since they gave the dish a more chewy texture than I think was intended. Also, I think I may have been a bit stingy with the salt on it, since The Husband had to go add some to bring out more of the flavor.
The Peanut Butter Stew: This was a serious winner. I just loved the radiant heat brought out by the pepper and the meat was soft and delicious. Mixed with the rice, it was just what down-home cooking should be, comforting and a warm embrace.
A comforting, warm embrace. Now, wouldn’t that be a great way to think of Gambia from now on? I vote yes.
Next Week: It’s off to the crossroads of Asia and Eastern Europe and … Georgia!
Cooking Around The World: Gabon
Quick, what is roughly the size of Colorado, sits right on the Equator and has roughly six traditional dishes to its name?
If you’ve been playing along, you know that it’s the subject of Week 61 of my personal-global-alphabetical-educational-learn-to-cook-and-not-die-ical challenge and … Gabon!
Gabon? (h/t Special Facebook friend with an apparent great memory for all things AbFab.)
Located on the Atlantic coast of Africa, directly on the Equator (as I mentioned), Gabon is the first nation we’ve cooked that is completely surrounded on land by other nations we’ve done already, (Week 30, Cameroon), (Week 54, Equatorial Guinea) and (Week 39, Congo [Brazzaville]).
In 1910, the area became part of French Equatorial Africa. It remained part of that union until 1960 when Gabon claimed its independence. And about ten minutes later, it was controlled by strongman Omar Bongo Odimba … who ruled until his death … in 2009.
And after he died, national elections were held wherein —surprise! — President Bongo’s son was elected president.
But despite income inequality and corruption remaining major problems, measured against other East African nations Gabon is one of the more prosperous nations in the region, with oil reserves being the primary source of national wealth. Also, Gabon has proven vital in negotiating conflicts in the Central African region, so there is reason for optimism.
Now, how about the food?
Oh, I’m going to get whiplash at this rate.
Why? Well, when you go from cooking the nation with the broadest cuisine, with the most recipes on the planet (Week 60, France), to one with some six dishes, one is bound to get the bends.
I know that people from developing nations have more important things to do than post recipes online. I know that if I were to be hunting around for these things in the nation’s language (in this case, French), I’d have more resources. But, still.
Even some of the other global cooking bloggers were stumped on this one. Either they opted for breakfast or lunch dishes (omelets, sandwiches) or they went headlong into using more unusual food items to unsatisfying, un-delicious effect.
Making matters worse was the fact that, as I mentioned, I already cooked meals from the surrounding region. What would be unique? I wondered.
After doing some research, I learned that one regional favorite (which I haven’t cooked yet) is a staple of virtually every meal: bâton de manioc, or sticks of cassava/yuca.
Hmph, I thought. Being Puerto Rican and growing up surrounded by Cubans and Cuban food, yuca was always on the dinner table.
And I always hated the stuff. And when my mother insisted The Husband try some a while back, he hated it just as much as I did.
So, why not try it?
Counterintuitive, I know.
Aside from that, though, I wasn’t left with much. Most of the dinner entree recipes all came from the central repository of poorly transcribed, vague and incomplete global recipes that is Celtnet.
Well, yous takes whats yous can gets.
After deciding that I wasn’t going to go on a major scavenger hunt for palm butter, the (reportedly odd tasting) main ingredient in the primary national dish, I decided I’d prepare the following.
Nope. No hunt this week. A year ago, in the middle of the Thanksgiving grocery store crush, I was hunting down dried sour plums for Week 11, Azerbaijan. I wasn’t going to live that kind of nightmare again this year. No, sir.
Back during Week 36, China, I was startled to find that I could have served up a nice dose of cyanide via bamboo. In researching that, I learned that cassava (a/k/a yuca) also is capable of delivering that little extra treat if not prepared properly.
And I had just decided to cook that.
So, taking no chances, I started three days early and went the extra mile to ensure safety, even if (reportedly) it’s overkill to do that in the U.S.
Favorite tip from one recipe:
Soak the whole tubers in a tub, pond or stream for at least three days. At the end of this time peel the tubers and wash them in a large tub, changing the water several times.
Well, I didn’t have a tub, pond or stream, but a pot would have to do.
I took my whole tuber …
Peeled it and placed it in a pot of water to soak for the three days.
Naturally, as soon as I had that in the pot, I read that 1.) I should have cut off the ends first, and 2.) I shouldn’t have used a vegetable peeler to cut through the waxy skin. Oh well.
At the end of the three days, I extracted the tuber from its watery bath, cut off the ends and grated it into oblivion.
I had been warned about the “inedible,” “woody” center that may or may not be dangerous to eat. So, I was on the lookout for that. What I ended up finding was that thing I always thought was a random piece of string that someone left on the plate when I was growing up.
In any case, I mashed up the grated yuca into a paste.
And I pulled a couple of plantain leaves out of the freezer.
Oh, I’m so proud of myself. After adventures with the leaves during Week 29, Cambodia; Week 39, Congo [Brazzaville]; and Week 40, Congo [Kinshasa], I feel I’ve finally figured out how to properly defrost and heat the leaves over a stove until pliable. Not to mention the fact that I may have finally wrapped something properly for the first time ever.
I took out the paste and formed a 1” x 4” stick of the stuff.
I wrapped them deftly in the plantain leaves and set the packets to steam in the pot for a full six hours.
I am also proud of myself in finally realizing that to “steam” meant to put the stove on low. low heat for that entire period. The last time I tried this, I barely avoided a fire by putting the heat on too high and not realizing that until it was all done.
I took out the mandoline and sliced half an onion into paper thin pieces.
I thinly cut a tomato and added the slices to the bowl.
I cut half a cucumber into strips as indicated. (In retrospect, they were probably too long to eat properly.)
I added in about half a bunch of minced parsley.
Salt and pepper.
And I tossed the whole thing. I set that in the fridge and I had one more dish down.
The Mustard Chicken
I started by browning the chicken pieces in some oil.
And, after setting those on a plate, into the same pan I poured the (seemingly massive amount of) onions.
And, of course, it wouldn’t be a Celtnet recipe if there wasn’t something missing in the instruction. In this case, it was missing direction on where and when to add the minced garlic. Having at this stage learned something about cooking, I gathered that this is where this should be added.
Once the onions were translucent, I transferred the onions and garlic to a larger pot.
And I added in the chicken pieces.
A bit later, I plopped in the mustard. (I used Dijon, in case you’re interested.)
I poured in the lemon juice.
And I mixed the whole mess together.
I covered the pot with aluminum foil to keep all the vapors inside and put the lid on top of that. I let it simmer for an hour and then, ta da, it was done!
I plated my salad in salad bowls.
I unwrapped the manioc sticks and plated them. I spooned out the white rice I had made while the chicken cooked and ladled on heaping servings of the mustard chicken.
In the end, it looked like this.
Talk about a surprise!
Previous attempts at random Celtnet recipes have ended in some of the most disastrous meals I’ve made so far. So, color me shocked that this came out really well.
The Salad: What I considered a throwaway came up aces. While the cucumber sticks were really too long to be eaten in one bite, the taste of the almost-pickled salad was fresh and really interesting, with its citrus from the lemon and the mild hint of mint. I must try this one again.
The Manioc/Yuca: It isn’t going to make it to my list of favorite items anytime soon, but I am so happy to report that I no longer hate yuca! Steaming the paste thusly resulted in a dense, almost dumpling-like texture. And, on its own, it had a not-unpleasant taste which was just sour enough to be interesting. And mixed in with the mustard chicken, it was much better.
(I gather that, like Hawaiian poi, the tasteless tuber-derived food is meant to be eaten in combination with other, more flavorful items.)
The Chicken: What a revelation. Simple, unpretentious, but flavorful. I would never have imagined cooking with mustard like this. Yum!
Let’s just say there were no leftovers.
And that’s what’s going on, Gabon.
Next Week: We move up the African coast to the small state of The Gambia!
Cooking Around The World: France
Let’s just get this out of the way right now.
There is no way I was ready for this. And the timing wasn’t any help.
See, we have arrived at Week 60 of my around-the-globe-in-alphabetical-order-learning-to-cook saga and … France!
Yeah, France. The one with the baguettes, berets and La Marseillaise.
Oh, my sweet Piaf.
If you’ve been following along (all 10 of you), The Husband and I traveled to get married (after 23 years together) about a month ago (Eritrea, Week 55). And, as we wanted to celebrate with family and friends back home in South Florida, we planned a reception here for this week.
The week I was cooking France.
France. You know the one which invented the words “sauté,” flambé,” “entree,” and even “restaurant.”
The one with arguably the world’s largest and most complex cuisine.
The cuisine which thousands of people dedicate their entire lives to perfecting.
The cuisine which saw a woman spend years of her life preparing every recipe out of a cookbook and turned that into a book and a major motion picture.
And I was going to cover this in a day? While I was stressing caterers, timetables and guests coming in from out of town?
Dites ce n’est pas si!
But, time and OCD wait for no man. So, onward we march into the rémoulade.
As soon as my friends realized I was cooking France, they each said what was already pounding inside my brain: How can you do that in one week?
Demi-assedly, that’s how.
My head was already swimming with options just from my surface knowledge of French food. Coq au vin? Crepes? Bœuf bourguignon? Salade niçoise?
Well, I wanted to make escargot. I even told myself I would when I finally got to cooking France. In part that’s because it’s truly French, but mostly it’s because I developed a crazy thing for escargot as a small child. I forever flummoxed waiters who would put plates of it down in front of my father who would always laugh and then explain that it was “for the kid.”
But nuptial celebrations nixed any scavenger hunt for that this week. Dommage.
Yet, I really wanted to do more than one meal. And when one friend tossed the suggestion to do the simple dish which inspired Julia Child to become a French chef, I had one I could do early in order to get another item under my belt.
Night One I’d make …
And Night Two(my usual cooking night, delayed 24 hours by another function involving beaucoup de hors-d’œuvre) I’d make …
Since I wasn’t going to need to scavenge for snails, I hoped finding duck would be easier.
Well, it was and it wasn’t.
I had hoped against hope that I’d be able to find just the duck breasts I’d need for the recipe. But after contacting about four places, I realized that fresh duck is just not “a thing” here. And the dozen live ones that congregate outside the grocery store dumpster were going to keep doing that for a long, long time.
No, the only option was a whole, frozen duck.
We’ll see how that went in a moment.
The Cook (Night One): The Fillet of Sole
Disclaimer: As I just wanted to be able say I did France over more than one night, I threw this dish onto a regular Friday dinner alongside something very un-French.
I pulled the two sole fillets out of the fridge where they had been sitting for the two minutes after I brought them back from the fishmonger.
I salted them, as instructed.
I heated up the olive oil in the pan and quickly dredged the fish in the two cups of flour. (That seemed like a lot of flour, considering so much was left behind. I suspect this is because the recipe was written for twice as much fish.)
Fish was here. This is what remained. My apologies. Things moved awfully fast at this stage.
I quickly threw the fish into the pan to fry for a couple of minutes on each side.
Once it seemed like they were ready, I put the fillets on a sheet in the oven at 200ºF.
Then, after draining the excess oil from the pan, I tossed on the butter and thyme leaves. And, boy howdy, did it bubble!
Immediately, I started flashing back to the various times along this path where I’ve learned that butter does burn. Looking back at the recipe, I saw that shaking the pan is somehow key here, so shake it I did. Like a Polaroid picture.
I then whisked in the lemon juice.
And chopped parsley.
Moments later, it was ready. I plated the fish and poured the buttery sauce over the top.
In the end, it looked like this.
Simple, buttery, classic and delicious. And I’m sure I’ll be helping AstraZeneca, makers of Crestorˇ, stay in business.
Again, I’m stunned how something so simple and quick can taste so good. It’s no wonder that this inspired Chef Julia.
The Cook (Night Two)
As I mentioned earlier, the only option I had for the duck was to buy a whole one frozen. And since I don’t have the sense of rocks, I didn’t manage to get to the store to buy it until the day before my cook.
Whattayawant? I thought overnight would be enough time to defrost the thing in the refrigerator.
Come my cooking day, I could tell that the bird wasn’t completely thawed out. And I was getting worried.
About what? Well, aside from not having my main ingredient ready for dinner, I was worried that if I took any step to defrost the sucker faster I’d end up with (another) foodbourne illness like the one which (30 years ago) sent me to the hospital for a week and kept me from touching a stove until I started this whole project.
Yes, I have issues.
After reviewing safe practices for defrosting duck on about five different sites, I learned that, as I thought, the microwave was out, since I wanted to save the legs, wings and thighs for another dish later this week.
In case you’re interested, I’ll be trying Braised Duck Legs with Figs, Star Anise, and Winter Squash using this recipe.
But, in the meantime, this meant I’d have to soak the bird in the plastic package in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes.
After what seemed like forever, I sensed the bird was sufficiently thawed out. I pulled out the contents of the chest cavity (the neck, heart and kidneys and a package of orange sauce) and disposed of them.
Why? Because by the time I ever, ever find myself needing those for a something, I’ll have already cooked every dish from here to Zimbabwe.
So, as for Daffy here …
I’d spend the next hour or so reading and watching online videos on how to quarter this thing before finally taking a deep breath and digging in.
It didn’t go too well. But, considering it was my very first stab at this — literally — I managed to get the breasts off marginally well.
Yes, I ended up leaving too much meat on the carcass and had to hack that off eventually, but I did better than I expected.
Following the instructions, I scored the fat in hash patterns. (I see that I only partially accomplished this. But I tried.)
I smeared the breasts with salt and honey.
And rubbed the chopped thyme into them as well.
And after placing them into a plastic bag, I poured in the orange juice.
Here is where The Fail comes in.
See, in between all the drama, I had failed to notice that the recipe demanded that the duck marinate in the juice in the fridge from between 8 and 48 hours.
I had, oh, maybe three?
After the too-short time, I extracted the breasts and patted them dry, attempting to pull out the thyme. (Most of it, anyway.)
I placed them, fat side down, in the cold pan, set it medium low, and let the fat render for about five minutes.
I turned the heat up to medium and let the fat render for another four minutes.
Theoretically, at this point, the skin would be crispy, with the hash marks clearly marked. That didn’t really happen, but I carried on.
I flipped the breasts and placed the skillet in the oven at 400ºF for five minutes.
When I saw the internal temperature reached 130ºF, I declared it ready and I set it to rest on the cutting board for 8 minutes before slicing and serving.
I peeled my potatoes and garlic and prepped the gratin bowl.
Carefully, I sliced the potatoes thinly and placed them in the bowl.
I showered them with grated garlic, pepper and salt.
And I mixed that all up.
I poured on the container of heavy cream. (Again, AstraZeneca thanks you.)
And I added a smidge more of the cream I had leftover from a couple of weeks ago in order to nearly cover the potatoes.
And I set that in the oven for an hour and a half at 320ºF.
As I mentioned, I was a bit perturbed by the vagueness of the primary recipe’s instructions so I decided I should use the Emeril Lagasse method on those ingredients instead.
I started by browning the onions in the oil.
And then adding the sliced garlic to heat up for a few minutes.
Next, I added in the cubed eggplant.
And the chopped thyme.
After about five minutes, I added in the red peppers.
The yellow peppers.
Another five minutes later, I added in the tomatoes.
Seasoned with salt and pepper and the chopped rosemary.
And … done!
When everything was finally cooked, I plated the ratatouille and that looked like this.
And the duck and potatoes looked like this.
The Ratatouille: Shrug. It was OK. The flavor of the peppers really made it. And, thankfully, I seasoned it well. It just wasn’t something I was crazy about. I don’t know if it’s because I’m still not over my feelings about eggplant or if it’s just the dish.
The Potatoes: That was a clear winner. Positively delicious and very rich, it had me going back for more … and promising myself I’d run an extra mile tomorrow.
The Duck: Well, considering it was my first try at this, it was successful. The duck itself was delicious, even if the skin wasn’t the crispy glory that I gather is how it’s supposed to come out. At least I have the rest of the bird to try out later.
So, that’s France. It may not have reached the heights of the Alps, but it wasn’t my Waterloo either.
Next Week: It’s back to Africa again for the start of the “G” nations and … Gabon!
Cooking Around The World: Finland
Finland, Finland, Finland
That’s the country for me!
You simply can’t go wrong
Vith traditional fish-schlapping song
Please forgive the brief foray into musical theater, it’s just that we’ve reached Week 59 of my alphabetical-geographical-educational experiment in learning to cook (after putting it off for decades) and … Finland!
Located in far Northern Europe in what is technically not Scandinavia, but rather Fennoscandia, Finland sits on the Baltic Sea, sandwiched between Russia and Sweden.
Its history goes back to the Stone Age, and for most of the past 800 years it was either part of Sweden or Russia. It finally became a sovereign nation in 1917 after having had enough of battling its neighbors. During World War II, Finland fought two wars with the Soviets, losing territory to the USSR by the time it was all over.
Throughout the Cold War, the Finns occupied the grey area in between Soviet and Western interests. And over the past few decades, Finland has emerged as an economic force with one of the highest per-capita incomes on the continent.
Oh, and did I mention that, not only did they invent the video game Angry Birds, but they have an entire theme park dedicated to it?
As for the food, as you’d expect, it is quite similar to that of a couple of nearby nations we’ve covered already, Denmark (Week 47) and Estonia (Week 56) with a number of fish dishes, mushrooms, a traditional meatball dish and lots and lots of butter, cream and eggs. And dill. Always with the dill.
One thing that really sets Finland apart, though, is the food of the Sami people, the Laplanders of the northern region. And the unique protein there is … reindeer.
Run, Rudolph, Run.
The Scavenger Hunt
Well, looking at my options, I had a few problems with picking a menu. The first one of those would be: If I chose to go that route, could I possibly find reindeer meat in South Florida?
Short answer: No.
I called a variety of stores, butcher shops, food boutiques and even a local game-processing outfit (with a web site that made me consider vegetarianism for a split second). Zero hits.
What about venison, I wondered. I mean, the recipes suggested that was an acceptable substitute, right?
One hit. The food boutique. For $48 a pound.
Nope. Bambi’s mom lives.
Reindeer being off the menu, I was left to ponder the various choices out there. And the problem then became picking dishes that weren’t too close to those I did for Denmark or Estonia,
So, in the end I decided I’d make …
* To use the Flash-based cookbook, you must view it on a computer (not a mobile device) and search for “Finland.”
Normally, I find myself having to plan to slow-cook things for the better part of the afternoon. Not so this time.
This gave me the luxury of attempting yet another adventure in the ongoing clown show that is my baking.
I mean, really. Look at the disasters from Bosnia and Herzegovina (Week 22), Cuba (Week 44) and the massive embarrassment that I experienced way back in Argentina (Week 8). I seriously need help here.
The Sweet Buns
I started by dissolving the yeast in the milk.
I added in the beaten egg (half of one, actually, since I halved the recipe).
And the flour.
Lacking a bread maker, I was left to mix that all up with a wooden spoon.
I kneaded the dough “until elastic” and then mixed in the butter as indicated.
As promised, it got really messy really quickly. After kneading that in, I put the dough in a bowl to rise. (Totally serious question: Am I totally honking this up at this stage by doing this in a metal bowl?)
Here I examined the recipe and saw one different instruction that I hoped was the thing I was missing from the last time I messed up bread: It told me to cover it with a wet towel as it rose. (See, when I used the warming drawer for Bosnia, I gather the covering is what made the bread cook rather than rise.)
I set the warming drawer under the oven to the lowest setting and left it in there “until doubled.”
I gambled that that would be about two hours. Fingers crossed.
After the two hours, it looked like it had risen a bit, but I couldn’t really tell if had doubled. And when I went to take it out and knead the dough some more, the bottom was hotter than I expected. And I felt the metal bowl had cooked the dough partially. Ugh.
Well, on we go.
I divided the dough into the twelve portions and set them on a floured cookie tray to rise for another hour.
After an hour, they may or may not have risen any more. I brushed the rest of the egg on top and set them in the oven to bake for about eight minutes.
And at the end of that time, well, they were as done as they were going to be.
The Mushroom Salad
A friend told me a couple of weeks ago that her veto food is mushrooms. And while I like eating mushrooms, I have to admit that looking at them (in nature) totally gives me the heebie jeebies.
This recipe called for oyster mushrooms. And the ones I found at the produce stand set my fight-or-flight response into the red. (I really didn’t know that “oyster mushrooms” looked like this.)
But as my therapist has suggested, I should just breathe and carry on. So I took a deep breath and did just that.
Step one (after breathing), collect the mushrooms and rinse them throughly.
Next, I dug in and dissected the gross-looking fungus tree.
There, that’s better. That I can cope with.
Next, to prepare the sauce for the ‘shrooms.
I poured out the cream.
Squeezed in the lemon juice.
Seasoned with salt.
And white pepper.
I mixed in the chopped onion.
And, finally, the mushrooms.
And I mixed that all together.
Whew. Another one down.
The Glazed Rutabaga
I can honestly say that I have never so much as considered the lowly rutabaga. In fact, I didn’t even really know what to look for in the market aside from it being a root vegetable.
I had located one at the second market I tried and was floored as to how big it was. The recipe suggested that to get one pound of the stuff I’d need two of them, but this one was one pound all by itself.
Well, I spent the next week and a half peeling and cubing that, noticing that, as I cut, it was oxidizing. So, hoping it was the right thing to do, I popped the cut pieces in a bowl of water as I would with a potato.
See, I am learning something!
When it came time to cook, I melted the butter on medium, as instructed.
And I added in the cubed rutabaga to brown on medium high for an indeterminate amount of time.
As that browned, I added in the salt and pepper.
Once they were browned (enough), I poured on the sweet, pure maple syrup.
I covered it, lowered to simmer, and I let it sit for yet another indeterminate amount of time. (I really require far more specific instructions, as you may have figured out already.)
The Salmon in Dill Sauce
Step one, greet your salmon.
Next, the recipe said to add “crushed” peppercorns, not “ground.” So, I bypassed the Szechwan peppercorns I first selected (not very Finnish, after all) and instead extracted a few kernels from the pepper mill and threw those in the mortar.
I sprinkled the salmon with some olive oil.
And I pressed the peppercorns into the salmon.
I had initially resisted doing this recipe on account of it insisting that the fish be grilled. See, every time I tell myself I’m using the damn grill, Florida’s weather gods decide to open up the heavens on my head. Thankfully, though, this time the forecast and the skies cooperated.
I placed the fish in the fish-grilling cage I bought ages ago and set that to cook on the grill outside. (No picture, though; It’s dark out there.)
Meanwhile, I got to work on the dill sauce.
I sautéed the diced cucumber.
And, after it came to a bubble, the butter.
As soon as the butter melted, I took it off the heat and got to plating.
I scooped out the mushroom salad and the rutabaga. I placed the salmon on the plate, spooning sauce over the top of it, garnishing with more chopped dill. I put down a bun on each plate and I was ready to serve.
In the end, it looked like this.
How is it that every time I cook something European I imagine it’s going to be bland and boring and I end up being delighted instead?
Yes, this was a serious winner.
The Sweet Buns: Well, it was good, but clearly not nearly right. The taste was there, with its strong flavor of cardamom. But while not as bad as my previous awful baked goods, it was still a bit dense. Someday I shall figure this out!
The Mushroom Salad: Another winner. Simple and flavorful, the mushrooms were meaty and the acid of the lemon juice and onion played off the creamy dressing. If I had one complaint it’s that perhaps it could have used less onion, since that was a bit too strong when I think about it.
The Rutabaga: People, go make this. Do. How is it that people don’t eat this all the time?
The Salmon: I am so glad this came out this well. For maybe the second or third time, I felt that one item I made was as good if not better than something I’ve had in a good restaurant. Again I’m learning that doing something simple well can real great rewards.
That’s it. I’m Finnish(ed).
Next Week: You’re kidding, right? I’m not nearly ready for … France?!
Cooking Around The World: Fiji
Sail with me to the South Seas …
Do you hear the wind gently rustling the palm fronds as you lie back and the gentle sound of the Pacific lapping at the shore? Well, that’s because we’ve arrived at Week 58 of my around-the-world-learn-to-cook-and-not-make-a-total-fool-of-myself challenge and … Fiji!
Located in the South Pacific, northeast of New Zealand’s north island, Fiji is a small nation comprised of some 332 islands, 110 of which are inhabited. The capital of Suva is located on the largest and most populated island, Viti Levu.
Though known to Westerners for its tropical beauty and the brand of bottled water which actually comes all the way from there (and for at least one season of Survivor), the place has a long and complex history.
While evidence of Polynesian ancestors exists dating back thousands of years, it is the Melanesian people who met Western explorers. And once the British controlled the place in the 1800s, they imported laborers from India to work in the islands’ sugar plantations.
And that action has been at the center of Fijian politics ever since, as ethnic politics between Melanesians and Indo-Fijians have seemingly shaped every conflict since the place became independent from Great Britain in 1970.
In fact, there have been a series of coups in Fiji since independence (at least four by my count), each of which involved this ethnic conflict in some fashion. As a result, the Indo-Fijian population has diminished over the years, cementing Melanesian control. The current prime minister seized power in 2007 and has since refused to hold promised elections.
So there’s that.
As for the food, this ethnic twist gives the cuisine of the nation a curious mix of island and Indian flavors, with coconuts and fish on the same plate as strong Indian curries.
They also have a storied history of cannibalism, but we’re just going to ignore that for taste reasons.
After some research, I noticed that one dish, a ceviche with coconut milk, was by far the most popular item among the various global cooking bloggers. That one looked like a gimme. To that, I decided I’d add a cold salad and, to honor the Pacific Islands modern penchant for canned meats, I decided to add a popular dish made with corned beef. (When I finished choosing, I realized I had picked three of the same recipes done by another global cooking project.)
I’d make …
- Kokoda (Fijian Ceviche with Coconut Milk) using this recipe,
- Spiced Sweet Potato and Banana Salad using this recipe (oh, and check the great local dining anecdote on that page for laughs), and
- Fijian Palusami (Corned Beef in Taro Leaves) using this recipe.
Taro leaves. I’m guessing they’re as common as anything by the Pacific Ocean. But I’m in South Florida. And once again I found myself having to explain to a half-dozen grocers, produce managers and shopkeepers (and to my mother) what the hell they even are.
After all my calls, I located two Asian specialty stores that said they had them. One very far to the north, the other not too far to the south. The one to the south said they had them, though only dried ones. Not fresh ones.
I had neglected to ask the one to the far north if the ones they had were fresh or dried. (I had called them first, before I knew the dry/fresh thing could be an issue.)
So, what do you think happened after a certain blogger who didn’t feel like calling back to ask the details paddled his canoe to The Land So Far Away to buy leaves?
If you guessed that he ended up buying a bag of dried leaves and losing an hour of his day to the hunt, give yourself two points.
As I learned the hard way with sorrel leaves back during Congo (Brazzaville) (Week 39), reconstituting dried leaves might work. But they’d have to be soaked for a good amount of time if I had any chance.
Also, a quick trip to Googlelandia suggested that people work with the dried leaves all the time. But I didn’t know how that would work in practice.
Still, I greeted my Bag From Afar, opened it, and soaked a few in a bowl of water overnight.
In the morning as those did their watery thing (and I went out for a bag of spinach just in case), I got to work on the rest, starting with the …
I collected my limes and lemons.
Squeezed them into a bowl.
I extracted my fresh mahi-mahi.
I chopped it into cubes and placed them in the citrus juices to cook for a few hours in the fridge.
Afterwards, I gathered together my ingredients and took the fish out of the fridge.
I drained the fish and added in the chopped onion.
Minced Thai chili.
Chopped spring onion.
And coconut milk.
And I mixed the whole soupy concoction together.
I popped that into the fridge. Boom, one down!
The Banana and Sweet Potato Salad
This one was going to be fun.
I chopped my sweet potato, sliced up a banana and got my lemon ready for juicing.
Once I had all my prep done, I heated up some vegetable oil in a pan and tossed in the curry powder and crushed garlic.
After sautéing that for a few minutes, I took it off the heat and let it cool.
At this point, I realized that I had neglected to read the word “cooked” next to “cubed sweet potatoes” and rushed to boil those for a few minutes.
One the oil and spices mixture cooled down, I poured it onto the mayonnaise.
I mixed that up good until it was a curry-colored slurry.
And once the sweet potatoes were ready (and had cooled off for the most part), I drained them and put them in a bowl with the bananas.
I poured on the curry and mayonnaise mixture.
I mixed in the chopped spring onions.
And, after tossing everything together, I threw that into the fridge as well.
Now for the Drama of the Dreaded Taro.
Incidentally, I gather from my research that folks get very touchy about what you call a palusami. I figure this has to do with the variances between islands and island nations. This is the one I found for Fiji. If you have a problem with that, take it up with the recipe’s author. (Drops mic.)
So, about those dried taro leaves. This is what they looked like once drained and strained.
Oh my head. After reviewing a few different recipes and watching a few YouTube videos, I discerned that fresh ones are somewhat large, which would make all the sense in the world, since that would let one layer them on top of each other to make a nice pouch to hold the palusami’s guts.
The dried ones, however, were mostly small and broken in pieces. I had no real idea how this was going to work. But bravely forward we march.
I pulled out my lovely can of (Uruguayan imported) canned beef.
I peeled that sucker open and put it in a bowl and poured some coconut milk over it.
And I mixed it up. I needed it to have enough milk in it to serve the dish, but not so much as to make it runny.
And here’s where I again cursed the Gods of Vague Recipes. The recipe seemed to suggest I’d be making one huge pouch, but the videos and other recipes suggested they were smaller, single-serve pouches.
I decided I’d just make two.
So, as best I could, I arranged the reconstituted leaves on top of one another for the base of the thing.
I ladled on a heaping spoonful of the meat/coconut milk mixture.
And placed chopped tomatoes and sliced onions atop that.
I put on another helping of the meat mix.
And another layer of tomatoes and onions.
I threw in a pinch each of crushed garlic, dried sage and dried thyme (as suggested), poured come coconut milk over the mound and feebly attempted to cover the top and sides with more reconstituted taro leaves.
I folded the pouches up in foil and set them in the oven to bake for some 45 minutes.
Once time was up, I ladled the ceviche into bowls, plated the cold salad, garnished that with chopped cilantro, and (somehow) extracted the palusami from the foil and onto the plate.
I poured more coconut milk onto the palusami and I was ready to serve.
In the end, it all ended up looking like this.
Ceviche: Wowsers. That was amazing. I’ve made ceviche a few times now and each time it’s been great. This ceviche, with heat from the Thai chill and coolness from the coconut milk, is in the running for the best one so far. I had to make a conscious effort to leave some for lunch the next day.
Paulsami: Well, it wasn’t awful. The Husband left most of his on his plate, though. Not because he didn’t like it, but because he said it tasted like it was part of some other meal and didn’t go with the other two items.
I found it acceptable. The mix of the salty corned beef and the milky coconut had its moments, but was set back by its gop-like texture. And since the leaves were advertised as being similar to spinach, I figured one was expected to eat them.
I had a few and I could sense how, if they were fresh, they would compliment the rest of the dish. It just didn’t work in this case. Plus, I got the hard ridges of some leaves in there and that was really distasteful.
The Banana and Sweet Potato Salad: This was the superstar of the night. Cold, flavorful, fruity and filling and delivering the big surprise taste of curry, this was just fantastic. I will most definitely be making this on a large scale the next time I have to bring a cold plate someplace. (I can do that kind of thing now!)
Now, where’s my square bottle of H2O?
Next Week: It’s back to Scandinavia for … Finland!
Cooking Around The World: Ethiopia
Haven’t we been here before?
Well, sort of, but not quite.
Yes, welcome to Week 57 of my around-the-world, learn-to-cook-and-end-up-with-more-flours-than-you-can-count challenge and Ethiopia!
Located in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia is one of the places on Earth where, well, humans started. And owing to the conclusion of a long war with neighboring Eritrea (Week 55), it is now the most populous landlocked nation on Earth.
Ethiopia stands alone as being the only African nation which was able to, during the scramble for Africa in the 1800s, fight off European forces and maintain its independence. Save for a brief period of occupation by the Italians during WWII, it has been independent since its founding.
To most modern Westerners, Ethiopia is best known for the terrible famines which seem to occur every ten years or so. (There are dozens of reasons for this phenomenon. Read up on it.)
However, despite that — and various other problems, including de facto one-party rule, various refugee crises and the ongoing nightmare of “marriage by abduction" — the nation does boast the largest economy in Central and Eastern Africa.
As I stated back during Djibouti (Week 48) and Eritrea (Week 55), the dishes of the region’s various nations are very similar. And finding the differences between the food of Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea was going to be a challenge, since for a great while the two were part of the same country.
They both eat the spongy sourdough injera bread (which I destroyed last time) and wats (or “wots”), stews which are eaten by hand with the bread. Also both season dishes with a hot berberé spice mix.
The differences, I gather, are in the method of preparation of some things, particularly in the making of each nation’s version of clarified butter. Also, as Ethiopia is larger, it is home to a few unique ethnic groups which bring their own dishes to the national cuisine.
I hope I got that right.
After my research, I had way too many recipes. And, as it was, after nixing most of them, including the one vegetable dish, I ended up with three main courses. And that doesn’t even include the four other sub-recipes I’d have to be using.
I was going to be working all day.
I decided I’d make …
This all meant I’d have to also make the injera bread that I messed up last time out. Hence, I’d also make …
- Injera (East African Flatbread) using (parts of) this recipe with an assist from about four other ones.
And since I only had a bit left, I’d also have to prepare more of the …
But wait, there’s more.
The Scavenger Hunt
In perusing the recipes, I found two very specific items which I hoped against hope that I’d be able to find at the Global Market Where Every Item On The Planet Goes To Hide Tucked Away On A Peg Someplace. Those items, included in a couple of the recipes, were niter kibe, Ethiopia’s version of clarified butter, and mitmita, another hot Ethiopian spice mix.
Well, that didn’t work out well.
Suffice it to say that, while East Africans and their food items are legion in many parts of the U.S., particularly in the DC area where I used to live, in South Florida they are as rare as snowflakes.
In fact, this is so distinct that, without fail, when I mention Ethiopian food to anyone from anywhere but Florida, they’re already familiar with it. But when I say word one about it to anyone living in and raised in Florida, they ask me how Ethiopians even have a cuisine. Thanks, Bono.
In any case, my fruitless search meant that I’d have to also make my own clarified butter and Spice Mix #2.
So, add to the list …
- Nitter Kibbeh (Ethiopian Spiced Clarified Butter) using this recipe, and
- Mitmita(Ethiopian Spice Mix) using this recipe.
I’d better start early.
I started fermenting the injera batter three days earlier and, until I started cooking it on the stove (not in the oven this time, thank you very much), it was just like before. Also, the berberé prep was just the same as last time. (See Eritrea.)
The Mitmita Spice Mix
Step one, freak the freak out. Why? Well, did you see the recipe? Item one was ONE KILO of dried red chilies. (When I was done, I’d need less than a teaspoon of spice mix.)
That would not do. And my math skills aren’t such that I could calculate ratios for that entire recipe.
So, instead, I found another one (which really seemed to be a major bastardization, since it wasn’t from an Ethiopian source and had about six additional ingredients). But at least, it was small enough that I could make a small enough quantity.
To meld the two recipes, I just put in the ingredients that were in both recipes and left out the rest. I hope that was the right choice.
After my freakout, I gathered up the smaller quantities of cayenne, salt, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and ginger and put them into the mortar.
A quick grinding later, I placed them in a warm pan to roast for a minute or two.
I let that cool and, boom, one down!
The Clarified Butter
I measured out the butter and minced some garlic.
And I tossed it in a bowl with chopped onions, a cinnamon stick, grated ginger, black pepper, turmeric, cardamom, cloves and fenugreek seeds (procured two weeks ago in DC).
I set that in a pan and let it melt and froth for 30 minutes.
Afterwards, I placed a strainer over some cheesecloth in a bowl and got ready to strain.
Carefully, I poured the concoction through the strainer.
And a couple cheesecloth strains later, I ended up with the clear, spicy butter.
Two down! (Well, three if you count the berberé.) Next …
The Doro Wot
This one also gave me fits, since getting ready for my Tuesday run, I reviewed the recipe and calculated that the entire operation could take almost five freakin’ hours to complete. Perhaps a run wasn’t in the plan for the day? (Nah, I just ran faster.)
Somehow, I’d make it work.
I started by browning the chopped onions in no oil. (Really, I gather that’s the procedure there.)
After a solid hour of low-temperature browning (and desperate attempts to make sure they didn’t meld with the pot), I was ready to add in the tomato paste.
After about five minutes, I added in the clarified butter.
The berberé spice mix.
Fresh grated ginger.
And I mixed it up and set it to simmer for another hour.
About a half-hour into that, I started the prep on the chicken portion of the dish. I peeled the skin off the chicken parts (something I neglected to do for Eritrea) and I set them to poach in water for 15-30 minutes. (It took 15 to get the water to boil.)
Once that was ready, I plucked out the chicken and mixed it in with the spice and onion concoction.
After that hour was up, I added in the extra water.
And another 15 minutes later, the white wine …
The black pepper.
And the two hard-boiled eggs I had prepared earlier.
And I let that simmer yet another 15 minutes.
The Lamb Stew
This one started out with slicing up two red onions and sticking those in a pot with just a trace of peanut oil (which may or may not have saved the pot from becoming one with the onions).
After about 15 minutes of browning, I added in the fresh grated ginger, (Oy! I grated so much ginger this week!)
I lobbed in the crushed garlic.
A bit of the berberé spice mix.
And, after a while. the cubed lamb.
After browning that for a while, I added in the beef broth.
And I let it simmer for 35 minutes (or so). (The “or so” owes to the fact that since the Doro Wot took so long I’m afraid the lamb cooked for longer than it should have. This might have made it taste a bit drier than it should have.)
The Injera Bread
Once it was close enough to dinner time, I started to make the bread. Like I mentioned, I eschewed the recipe’s “do it in a huge pan” guidance and went with the crepe pan-on-a-stovetop method outlined in other recipes.
I poured the batter into the pan and heated it up until the bubbles formed on top and the texture felt dry and the edges began to curl up. (The ones after this first one looked better than this one.)
I flipped them out of the pan onto a clean dish cloth and let them cool off, one by one.
The Minced Beef
This was supposed to be a tartare dish. As it turns out, it more closely approximated the “half cooked” version outlined in the recipe.
I melted the clarified butter in a pan and set out the ground beef and spices to get ready to mix everything up.
I quickly threw in the beef, mitmita powder, cardamom and salt and started feverishly mixing and chopping with my wooden spoon.
At long last, it was all ready.
I placed an injera on the bottom of each plate and spooned onto that the lamb, the chicken and the beef dishes. And in the end, it looked like this.
It was all good. Really good. But I’m afraid The Husband was spoiled from having had Ethiopian food dozens of times at restaurants and was a mite disappointed that the sauces weren’t, well, as “saucy” as they were runny.
Plus, as I mentioned, the lamb may have simmered just that much too long, since it wasn’t quite as moist as it should have been.
Here’s where knowing what I’m doing, or at least understanding more cooking basics would come in handy.
Yet, it was all really amazingly flavorful and hearty. And that minced beef thing? Well, I just loved that, particularly since it was a new one on me and it really packed the heat.
I have become addicted to spice, it seems, and that bit of mitmita powder was so wonderfully hot it made me wanna holla.
I love Ethiopian! (If only it didn’t require a day-long commitment or a plane ticket.)
Next Week: It’s off to the South Seas and … Fiji!
Cooking Around The World: Estonia
Every nation I do on this virtual journey seems to bring with it a whole stream of challenges. Sometimes it’s rare ingredients. Sometimes it’s a scarcity of dishes. Sometimes it’s the complexity of the dishes I do find.
And sometimes it’s … well, read on.
Yes, folks, we’ve arrived at Week 56 of my global-learn-to-cook-culinary-globetrotting-thingamagig and … Estonia!
Located on the northern end of the Baltic Sea, Estonia is roughly half the size of the state of Maine. Over the centuries, it has been overrun by various neighboring forces, from the Danes and the Swedes to the Germans and the Russians. In 1918, the nation finally achieved independence until, a World War later, the Soviets annexed it into the USSR, a move the US refused to recognize.
And as the Cold War came to an end in 1991, Estonia finally reclaimed its independence. Since then, it has become a member of the European Union and now has a vibrant economy that has even brought unto this world … Skype.
As for the food, that was a tough one to pin down and it presented all kinds of new and exciting challenges.
First off, while the nation now has a varied palate with fine dining and such, the traditional food of the nation is something of — well, I gather from my research — an acquired taste. Viking food is, apparently, not for the squeamish.
Look, I’m actually a pretty adventurous eater, as these things go. I see “in aspic” (read: in jelly) and I don’t flinch. But when I have to not only overcome the idea of “blood dumplings,” hooves and pigs knuckles, but then have to then ponder recipes calling for three pounds of the stuff — and I’m sure I saw a whole head in one recipe someplace — well, that’s a whole other kettle of fish.
Speaking of fish, I did rightly assume that in addition to pork, fish is a large part of the diet in Estonia. So far so good. But finding the fish from around the Baltic Sea in South Florida was yet another problem.
So, I was already having issues. Then, reading the various blogs of other people who have gone down this global cooking road before and researching beyond that, I discovered that (what felt like) 90% of the recipes I found for Estonian dishes were for baked goods (they worship their rye bread, it seems) and desserts. I wasn’t looking to try to screw up baking yet again and, well, I don’t do desserts.
(Cue clip from Top Chef: “I am not a pastry chef.”)
And then there’s the national dish, Verivorst with Mulgikapsad, a stew of blood sausage with sauerkraut. I don’t have a problem with blood sausage. The Husband, though, has one veto: sauerkraut.
When I finally thought I found something worthwhile, like this page of videos of Estonian “national dishes,” I ran into the bugaboo of vague instructions like “cook until done.”
I need more guidance than that. I repeat: I do not know what I’m doing.
Somehow, I managed to find a few recipes that I thought could constitute dinner without doing damage to our constitution.
I’d serve …
Vendace. You don’t know what that is, do you? Well, neither did I. And neither did the two fish counter guys I encountered, one at the regular market and the other at the posh food boutique.
I had been fully prepared to have to punt and go with smoked herring, something I felt pretty certain I’d be able to find in this area, with its large Jewish population. Clearly though, I made a bad assumption, because all I found was pickled herring, which wasn’t going to work here. And I didn’t feel like going another half-hour out of my way to find it where I did for Denmark (Week 47) a few weeks back.
So, since the recipe page helpfully explained what fish was most closely related to vendace, I ended up with a lovely piece of rainbow trout.
It would just have to do.
Have I mentioned that I despise having to do recipes that call for anything to be prepared the night before? Because I do.
Virtually all the fish dishes I found discussed cooking and marinating everything overnight, so I had vetoed those. But somehow I had it in my head that something I was doing was thusly annoying. (I mean, I read the damn recipes, right?)
Come cook day, I reviewed the recipes again and, voila, it was the damn mushrooms that demanded overnight action.
So, since “overnight” was out, “a few hours” would have to suffice.
I started on the marinade, only I screwed up a couple of steps, since I was only half paying attention to what I was doing (and half paying attention to the latest Apple Keynote). Sue me.
I poured out the vinegar and added the salt.
A bay leaf.
Diced red pepper.
But here’s (the first place) I screwed up. See, I added the water in here, when that was supposed to come later.
I also mistakenly added the oil here, instead of waiting until later.
In any case, I mixed those up.
And, then seeing my mistake, just went ahead and simmered the whole thing in a pan for ten minutes before taking it off the heat.
I took the mushrooms out of the fridge and made Mistake #3. See, I had figured I’d make a quarter of the recipe. But when I looked at the mushrooms, I thought I had decided I’d make half.
Which meant I had exactly half as much marinade as I’d need.
Time to rinse those mushrooms.
After doing that, I chopped them up into small pieces.
I put a bit of vinegar in a pot of water and set that to boil.
I poured in the mushroom pieces
I covered that and set it to simmer for three minutes or so.
Afterwards, I drained them and set them in a bowl.
I poured the (half quantity of) marinade over them.
And I set the whole thing to cool off in the fridge for a few hours.
The Potatoes and Barley
I’ve only had to make potatoes a few times before, so, while they are one of the most basic food items for most people, I’m still getting a hang of them. (Reminder: I barely knew how to boil water 13 months ago.)
First, I peeled my potatoes.
I set them to soak in a bowl of water while I got everything else ready (a trick the Estonian video page above suggested, which was helpful).
Next, I had a screaming fit.
I do mean that literally.
See, the *&#% recipe is very unhelpfully vague on some things. But I wasn’t prepared for this one line.
200 dl cracked barley
What’s “200 dl”?
I remember my middle school metric system education from back when Jimmy Carter promised we’d all be on it by the mid ’80s (something Reagan put a stop to faster than you can say, “Remove those solar panels, too!”). And I knew there are deciliters (dl) and decaliters (dal). But my Googling suggested “dl” is exactly I thought it was.
200 dl = 84.5350568 US cups
Are. You. Freakin’. Nuts?
I was not happy.
Finally, I just figured someone missed a decimal somewhere and decided that half of whatever blankity-blank quantity they were proposing was going to be two cups, no matter it was supposed to be originally.
And, naturally, I’d have yet another addition to the bulging Cabinet-Of-Global-Grains.
After finishing my prep and cubing the potatoes, I was ready to cook.
I fried the chopped garlic in some butter.
And added the cubed potatoes.
I poured water over them.
And set it to boil. (The recipe suggested that “boiling water” was to be added, but I guess I screwed that one up, too.)
I poured in the barley.
And I set that to simmer for a frustratingly indeterminate amount of time.
"How long does it take for cubed potatoes to boil until done?" I asked the iPad.
I kept checking to see when they were sufficiently soft. And when I finally decided they were, I set to mashin’ taters.
After stirring it all up until the potatoes were almost creamy, I tossed on my grated carrot, salt and pepper.
And I let that simmer uncovered until the water was absorbed (mostly).
Meanwhile, I fried the (not thinly sliced enough) red onions in butter.
And, once those were ready, I replaced the onions with bacon.
I drained those on some paper towels while I attended to …
Yet another addition to the “Don’t We Already Have The Entire Line Of Offerings From Bob’s Red Mill” Cabinet Of Fruits Of The Earth is … oats.
The recipe had called for either rye flour (my preference) or oats. Since I didn’t find the former, I chose the latter.
And since the grains seemed a mite large to coat fish, I thought I’d mash those.
A second later, I realized that was a stupid idea.
Enter the wand blender.
I poured that in a bowl with some salt and pepper.
I retrieved my lovely rainbow trout from the fridge.
And I dredged it in the oats and seasoning.
I put some butter in the pan and fried it “until done” (as it were).
And I started plating.
I placed the fish on the plates, sprinkled on some dill and placed a dollop of mayonnaise — not homemade, as suggested in the recipe, sorry — on the side. (I was somehow afraid to put it on top.)
I scooped out the potatoes and barley and placed some onions and a couple of strips of bacon on top. And I spooned some sour cream on top of that.
I ladled out some mushrooms and placed those down, too.
Yes, I know from watching Top Chef that it’s considered wrong to put something hot and something cold on the same plate. I’ll have to just live with what happens when you do that, I guess.
And it looked like this.
I was actually startled. I didn’t expect this to be very good at all and it really delivered.
The fish was tasty and flaky. And with the dill and mayonnaise, it was fantastic, something I didn’t expect at all.
The mushrooms were fine, but I could tell that had I let it marinade as long as indicated, it would have been better.
What made me feel really stupid was how good the potatoes and barley were … and why.
It wasn’t until I was eating it (and loving every bite) that I did the math. Potatoes. Bacon. Sour cream. Onions. For Pete’s sake, it’s a classic loaded baked potato … with barley. Duh.
But we really loved it, making this another in a string of countries I hadn’t really thought would rate but instead delivered a great meal.
Now run and Skype that.
Next Week: It’s time for take two (out of three weeks) for the Horn of Africa and Ethiopia!
Cooking Around The World: Eritrea
Six hours later: “Oh, that wasn’t complicated at all.”
If this whole project has given me anything, it’s given me something to talk about at cocktail parties and assorted personal gatherings. (On that note, we had our own “personal gathering” this last week when we went to DC and, after nearly 23 years, “the husband” became The Husband. Yay us!)
In any case, one comment I always get is if, since I do one country and move right on to the next, do I ever get a chance to do something again if I mess something up (or get it really right)?
Normally I say, “Not really, though doing neighboring countries does help.”
But this week may end up being Attempt 1 of 2 on a certain cuisine.
Yes, we’ve arrived at Week 55 of my circle-the-world-alphabetically-and-learn-to-cook-in-the-process challenge and … Eritrea!
Located on the shores of the Red Sea in Northeast Africa, Eritrea is at once one of the world’s oldest and newest nations.
Once part of the ancient land of Punt, the area over the millennia was conquered by the ancient Egyptians, Arabians, the Portuguese, the Ottomans, the Italians and the British. Then, in 1951, it was incorporated into neighboring Ethiopia as an autonomous state.
But that marriage didn’t go too well, leading to a 30-year long war with Ethiopia which finally culminated in Eritrean independence in 1993.
Since then, sadly, the heavily militarized nation has stagnated developmentally, suffering from extreme poverty, refugee crises, the world’s lowest-in-the-world media freedom rating and a dictatorial leader.
As for the food, well, at least there’s good news there. See, as you’d guess, the food is virtually indistinguishable from Ethiopian. (I was only able to find some minor differences in my research.)
I’m going to bet that if you live or have ever lived in a city with any number of people hailing from the Horn of Africa and you are at all interested in global cuisines, you’ve probably had Ethiopian food. And if you live somewhere without said population, you probably have zero idea that they even have a cuisine. (I blame "Do They Know It’s Christmas?" for that one.)
Having lived in DC for a time, I came to adore this food, yet never imagined I’d be cooking it myself someday. Yet, I didn’t know how Eritrean and Ethiopian dishes vary.
And neither did the nice waitress at the Ethiopian restaurant in DC where we celebrated our wedding last weekend.
After some research, I came up with a menu that, minimally, had a couple Eritrean-specific items/preparations.
I’d make …
- Injera (Flatbread from Northeast Africa) using this recipe, itself culled from a variety of others, and
- Wat (Eritrean Lentil Stew) using this recipe, and
- Tsebhi Derho (Spicy Chicken) using a recipe found here.
A note about that last link. It’s a Flash-based textbook, not visible on mobile devices. Plus, you have to search for the country name or recipe name to find it. This made for a fun technological challenge for your gentle blogger as he cooked while using his iPad.
The various recipes called for two specific ingredients which would require their own recipes.
- Berberé (Hot East African Spice Mix) which I made from this recipe with an assist from the Flash-based cookbook.
And, I found one item that, at least in preparation method, is uniquely Eritrean …
Did I mention that South Florida has zero restauranteurs serving food from the Horn of Africa? Because there are exactly that many. This has saddened me since we moved back here. Also, it made me pretty certain I’d strike out completely looking for key items for the injera bread and the spice mix, namely teff flour and fenugreek seeds.
But whattayaknow, I just happened to be in DC getting married! And isn’t that where I came to fall in love with Ethiopian food in the first place? Wouldn’t that be the the perfect place to find these items?
So, whereas anyone else would bring back a t-shirt reading “The Government Got Shut Down And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt,” I returned home with a suitcase loaded up with flour and spices.
I felt exactly like a newlywed Marco Polo.
I read that the bread batter would need to ferment for two to three days. Considering we were traveling in the days ahead of dinner, that would be a problem.
Meaning: Fermenting would have to be done in two days.
As soon as we got back into town, I took out the new grainy addition to my bulging-at-the-hinges Cabinet Of 101 World Flours, teff.
I decided that every recipe would be halved. (It is only two of us eating, after all.) I poured out 1 3/4 cups of teff flour.
I added to that half a cup of all-purpose flour.
I sprinkled on the yeast and salt.
And I poured on the “splash” of water, in my case 2 1/4 cups, again deciding to halve the linked recipe.
I mixed that all up.
I covered it and I let it sit for a couple of days.
Come cooking day, I had the slurry on top that was threatened in the recipe.
I drained that ick-ness off and whisked it up.
Afterwards, I boiled a cup of water and dropped into it about a quarter cup of the batter.
And whisked vigorously.
Once that was at the indicated “toffee pudding” consistency, I poured that into the batter.
And whisked again.
After letting it sit for about half an hour, I had the bubbles promised in the recipe.
Here’s where I probably went wrong. I had read that one can pour out the batter into skillets to make the crepe-like bread. But, going from the attached recipe, I went instead for one large injera, using my baking pan.
I greased it (though not enough) and poured the batter in.
Mistake #2: I probably poured that out too thickly.
Mistake #3: I foolishly took the advice to cover that with aluminum foil so as it catch the steam.
See, since I had no real guidance on time and temperature for the oven, I just kept checking the stove every five minutes. And after the first five, I discovered that the foil was sticking to the batter, which left holes in the bread.
Plus, when I went to take it out of the pan using about six different instruments, some of it stuck to the pan.
Which meant that — brace yourself — when it finally made it onto the cooling towel, it looked like …
I can hear you laughing from here.
In any case, on to the next recipe …
The Berberé Spice Mix
I scooped out the ground cloves.
Crushed the coriander seeds.
Made the acquaintance of my new friend from DC, Mr. Fenugreek Seed.
I crushed those up and moved on to crushing up some cumin.
Onto which I added paprika.
And, making use of that leftover massive vat of Szechuan peppercorns (See entry, Week 20, Bhutan), I crushed up some of those too.
Onto all that, I added the crushed ginger.
And chili powder.
Wow, that’s a ton of spices!
I mixed those up. But without a spice mixer, I wasn’t sure if the consistency was right.
After consulting that Flash-based cookbook, I added a couple of other steps.
First, I’d roast it for two minutes on the stove.
I’d add some salt.
And I’d put it in a cup to give the wand blender a stab at grinding it all up some more.
The Clarified Butter with Herbs
I scraped out all the ghee I had left from previous adventures. (See Week 20, Bhutan.)
And I shredded an onion, crushed garlic and measured out more ginger.
I heated up the ghee and some water in a pan.
Added in the rest of the ingredients.
And I let that simmer for about 20 minutes.
Once that was ready, I strained out the solids, leaving behind the fragrant buttery butter.
Next, it was time to turn to …
The Lentil Stew
First, to soften the chopped onions.
And add in the crushed garlic.
I added a heaping teaspoon of the Berberé spice mix.
And after heating all that up, I added in the chopped carrots.
And I set that to simmer for 45 minutes or so.
Finally, our last item …
I pulled the chicken thighs out of the fridge and rubbed them with lemon juice and salt.
And I let that sit for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, I fried the onions on a low heat. (Curious tip: The book suggests that Eritreans heat up their onions with no oil. It seemed to work.)
Onto that, I added about 1/8th of a cup of the Berberé spice mix.
And, after melting it again …
About 1/8th cup of the herb butter.
After letting that simmer for a bit, I added onto that my diced tomatoes, fresh grated ginger, tomato paste and crushed garlic.
And after letting that simmer, stirring occasionally, I added in the chicken, covered it, and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, I hard-boiled an egg, which would eventually be part of the dish.
Finally, it was all done.
I cut the injera into two plate-sized pieces and ladled on the lentils and chicken. And it looked like this.
In the looks department, this would win no prizes. The injera was a brown color and not the usual cool, slightly clammy grey I’m used to seeing. And it wasn’t what you’d call supple. Still, the taste was all there.
The lentils were astronomically good. Spicy, without being really hot. And packed with a ton of flavor. I can’t recommend that enough. Particularly to my vegetarian/vegan friends, as this is just up their alley.
The chicken was similarly delicious. Juicy and tender, the chicken fell off the bone. And though the consistency of the sauce wasn’t really quite right (I added a bit of water, hoping it would help the chicken cook), the flavors were all there.
Now, at least, I can say I’m ready for its neighbor in two weeks.
But, for now …
Next Week: Back to Europe after some time away and … Estonia!
Cooking Around The World: Equatorial Guinea
First, a few notes on last week’s post, which got, shall we say, a surprising amount of attention, considering this blog’s tiny audience.
I am not an expert. Statements about a country are, unless so stated, a summary of my research on it, most of which comes from the linked articles, with an occasional assist from the CIA World Factbook and linked news articles. I am not defending a doctoral thesis here; if something is demonstrably false, I welcome verifiable evidence to the contrary and will fix posts if necessary.
I am not a chef. Before I started this project, I could barely boil water. I started this whole thing to learn how to cook (and to explore the world). As such, I am making these dishes for the first time and, hence, I have made and will continue to make total disasters along the way. I know people will point and laugh. Just know where I’m coming from.
Don’t make assumptions about my ethnic background. Not that it should matter, but I am 100% Latino and 100% Puerto Rican; I grew up submerged in Cuban culture and in the homes and at the tables of friends, neighbors and family from most (though not all) Latin American nations. That doesn’t make me any kind of expert, but it does give me enough of a familiarity to know (at least) when I’ve fallen embarrassingly short.
Now that that’s out of the way …
Welcome to Week 54 of my alphabetical, globe-trotting-by-stovetop, learning-to-cook-and-not-totally-lose-my-marbles challenge and … Equatorial Guinea!
Located on the Western shore of Africa (curiously, entirely North of the Equator) and covering about the same land mass as does Hawaii, Equatorial Guinea is comprised of a patch of land on the continent and a few islands offshore.
Geographically, it’s quirky in that the nation’s capital is located on one of the islands, though a recent initiative points to a new capital being built from scratch on the mainland. Also, it happens to be the only U.N. recognized independent state in Africa where Spanish is the official language.
That would be because at some point in the 1700s, the Spanish and Portuguese struck a deal giving the Spanish access to a source of slaves that previously had been controlled by the British. After 190 years of rule by the Spanish, the nation became independent in 1968.
For years, the nation was ruled by one of Africa’s most ruthless dictators, who reportedly killed more than a quarter of the nation’s population. In 1979, the current president seized power in a coup.
Relatively recently, the nation has discovered vast offshore oil reserves and (the government) is now reaping the financial benefits of that. Unfortunately, despite improvements in some quarters, few of those benefits have made it to the people who still struggle with massive income disparity, disease and crushing poverty. Oh, and political censorship and human trafficking for forced labor and sexual exploitation.
So, yes, misery.
But how about the food?
Well, as with the other destitute nations, the people of this country don’t spend a great deal of time cataloguing their cuisine and putting recipes online.
What I did find, though suggests the food is, naturally, very similar to other Central and West African cuisines, with, as per its history, a strong influence from Spanish cuisine. People tend to eat what they can catch and kill, be that fish, fowl or assorted land mammals. (Yeah, we’re not eating monkey, thank you very much.)
After my research, I settled on a menu.
I’d make …
Guinea Fowl. Seriously.
I knew finding that sucker was going to be a tall order. Another blogger’s report suggested that the bird could actually be found at The Market That Shall Not Be Named, so I reluctantly called them. But, nope. No bird.
After querying a few more places, I discovered that a frozen one could probably be found with sufficient planning and/or travel. But that just wasn’t happening. Not this week anyway.
See, that would involve a massive amount of leftovers and, put obliquely, that’s not going to work this week.
So, “tastes like chicken” is going to have to do … as will actual chicken.
Seeing as I was already substituting the primary ingredient in my primary dish, I decided to embrace the change.
In place of the “500g guineafowl breasts, cut into 3cm strips,” I got one pound of boneless chicken breasts.
And, having by this time learned that boneless, skinless chicken breasts, lacking that layer of fat provided by the skin, can be dry, I got creative.
A few weeks ago on a non-global dinner night, I investigated how to make juicy, boneless, skinless chicken breasts. That got me to this article. Basically, it involves coating the breasts with flour and cooking them a particular way.
So, I figured, since the Equatoguinean recipe said to cut the breasts into strips, cook them and then reserve them for later, I could do that, only with this method.
And since I decided against making this other Equatoguinean recipe for millet porridge despite having millet flour in the cabinet, I thought, “Hey, millet flour is African. Why not use that flour to bread the chicken?”
So, I measured out a quarter cup of the stuff.
I pulled the chicken breasts out of the fridge, pounded them thin, cut them into strips and dredged them in the millet flour, salt and pepper.
I cooked them according to the chicken breast recipe.
And I set them aside.
Once that was prepped, I assessed how much time everything would take and decided I should get started on the okra side dish.
Like famed chef Tom Colicchio, the husband hates okra. (Well, maybe “hates” is too strong a term. Still.) So, it was my duty to reduce the slime factor as much as I could. Let’s see how that went.
I heated up the red palm oil (another thing the husband really dislikes).
And I threw in the chopped onion and a sliced habanero pepper.
A note on habanero peppers: it’s crazy that my usual grocery stores just don’t carry them. This makes me go out of my way to buy one 9-cent pepper at the local produce market. It gets me funny looks.
Once those got softened up, I added the curry and chili powder.
I tossed on the chopped okra.
Gave it a “splash” of water, as per the recipe, still afraid I’d end up with yet another soupy mess. (See entry, Week 34, Chad.)
And I let it simmer.
Here, I started to wonder if I’d end up with a burnt mess as the water and goo evaporated from the large pot. So, I switched things out to a smaller pot, added a bit more water and hoped for the best.
Now, simmer down naw.
Next, it was time to get to work on that not-Guinea-fowl paella.
I heated up the oil and minced garlic.
And, hoping against hope that the vague recipe meant I should add the rice here (and not later, which it also states), I added it first.
After “a few minutes” (I just adore these wobbly Celtnet recipes), I poured in the chicken broth.
I added the oregano.
A healthy dose of cayenne pepper for kick.
And salt and pepper.
I brought that to a boil, turned it to low and covered it, leaving it to sit for some 20 minutes.
When time was up, I added in the diced tomatoes. (As I’ve finally figured out how to effectively peel and seed those, I went for fresh, as opposed to canned.)
And I added in the chopped red pepper.
After a few more minutes, I added in the black-eyed peas. (Again, rather than go with canned beans, I had the foresight to soak dry ones overnight. I even boiled them for a while before starting dinner, thought that might have been one step too far.)
After a few more minutes of cooking, I finally got to adding in the chicken strips which I had reserved earlier.
Finally, it was dinner time. I had stretched this out as long as possible, since I figured that the longer I cooked the okra, the less slimy it would be.
I spooned the okra into ramekins and plated the paella. In the end, it looked like this.
Verdict: Not bad. Nothing to write home about, but not bad.
The okra was still a mite slimy, but not as bad as it could have been had I served it earlier. The heat from the habanero gave it a nice kick. But we agreed that it really needed to be served on or in something else, like, say, a separate rice dish.
The husband added his into his paella and it helped the okra. But, overall, I’m glad I only made enough for one night’s dinner.
As for the paella, it was certainly different. The red pepper gave it a nice and much-needed texture. And the strong heat from the cayenne pepper gave it a nice overall spicy heat.
But I could taste the mistakes quickly. Having been boiled before, most of the black-eyed peas became somewhat mushy, which didn’t help the dish texturally.
And the whole “let’s improvise” thing with the chicken and the millet flour was … well, kind of strange. It did have the positive effect of leaving the chicken breast juicy and not at all rubbery, which was the intent. But, probably on account of it being millet and not wheat flour, the chicken felt coated with an odd-flavored substance.
Yet, it was all hearty and filling. So, I’ll take that as a win, E.G. Onward!
Next Week: A new personal development and, on the other side of the continent … Eritrea!
Cooking Around The World: El Salvador
There are a lot of things that can go wrong when you’re feeling ill and completely stressed. Forgetting things is one of them. And when you’re in the midst of a global cooking challenge, well, that can lead to an incomplete meal.
More on that in a moment.
So, here we are at Week 53 of my around-the-world-in-a-manner-most-listical cooking experiment and … El Salvador!
Located on the Pacific shore of Central America, to the south of Guatemala and to the west of Honduras, the nation of El Salvador was originally populated by the Pipil people.
Pipil people, Pipil people, Pipil people. I just enjoy saying that.
And that’s the last time the history of the area was in any way simple. I mean, they went from the Pipil to the Mayans to smallpox to Spaniards, to independence, to union with a few other Central American states, to, well murder, coups and, eventually, a bloody civil war that raged from 1984 to 1993.
But despite problems with earthquakes, hurricanes and corruption, the nation has managed to have the third largest economy in the region. Since the arrival of the Spanish, the nation’s economy has been tied to the coffee trade, though over the past few years the country has been experiencing growth in the tourism industry.
Culturally, the nation has a few things that make it unique among its neighbors, the most distinctive being that it is the only Central American/Caribbean nation without the influence of Africans on its culture and cuisine. And you only need to look at a map to see why, for, as the only nation in the region without a port on the Atlantic Ocean or Caribbean Sea, the historical use of Africans as slave labor was not something the Spaniards thought feasible here.
As for the food, there are a host of items that appear on the nation’s dinner tables. But if you know anything about Salvadoran food, you know it’s dominated by one food item: the pupusa, a stuffed tortilla similar to the South American arepa. (See Week 37, Colombia.)
So, after some research, I decided my menu would be:
- Pupusas Revueltasusing the three recipes found on this site, and
- Curtido(Salvadoran Pickled Cabbage Slaw) using this recipe.
Now, here’s where the whole “incomplete meal” part comes in.
See, I had decided to make the totally necessary sauce that goes with this …
… but because I was not in my right mind when I went shopping — a fever of 101ºF will do that to you — I neglected to get a key ingredient for the sauce and, come cooking time, I ended up just skipping it.
There wasn’t a scavenger hunt this week. Thankfully, owing to the local Latino population in my town being largely Guatemalan (or at least Central American), the corn masa was easily found … which let me go back to bed to nurse my fever after a brief trip to the grocery store.
I had read that the slaw really tastes best after it’s had three days to pickle in the vinegar, so days before the planned dinner, I took care of that one.
First, I sliced and chopped my cabbage and red onion and grated the carrots into a bowl.
Naturally, I realized just that much too late that the cabbage wasn’t sliced thinly enough. Alas.
Next, I started on the marinade for the slaw by pouring out the olive oil.
And I mixed in the red pepper flakes.
I added salt and oregano and a little water.
And, after mixing it up, I poured it over the veggies.
I covered it and threw it in the fridge to marinate for a few days.
Hence, a few days (and a raging fever) later, it was cooking day. And once I saw that my fever broke, I figured I was good to go with working in the kitchen.
Thankfully, the pupusas seemed pretty straightforward. And having had years of living in the DC area (with its large Salvadoran community) and having Salvadoran relatives-by-marriage, I had at least an idea of what they were supposed to look and taste like.
I had had the good sense the day before to soak my black beans in water. And, once I felt well enough to cook, I set those to slow simmer for a few hours.
Meanwhile, I prepped the ingredients for the filling for the meat pupusas.
I chopped my onion and green pepper, prepped my garlic cloves and peeled and sliced a couple of tomatoes.
I set the pork shoulder chunks to brown for a bit in some olive oil.
And, once those were browned, I added in the rest of the ingredients.
After letting that simmer for 20 minutes, I poured the pan’s contents into the food processor.
Steamy, fragrant meat. Yum!
I scraped that out and put it in a bowl in the fridge for later.
Next, the filling for the bean pupusas.
I drained the now-softened beans.
I put those in a pan with a bit of olive oil and added in the diced onion.
And after a while, they seemed sufficiently dried out and soft to work as the filling.
I put that into a bowl and let it cool off. Once it was cool enough, I mixed in the Monterrey Jack cheese I had grated while the beans were cooking.
Into the fridge with that!
(It’s exactly at this point that I realized that I didn’t have tomatoes for the salsa and, still not feeling 100 percent, I figured I could do without. … Nuts.)
Finally, it was time to go ahead and get my hands dirty. And for the first time, I’d need the husband’s help. For the camera work.
I poured the water into the masa and started mixing it all together with my fingers.
One by one, I made golf ball-sized balls of dough.
The husband says I have a bright future as a hand model.
After some back and forth with the method of slapping vs. pressing the ball back and forth, I had a very messy pupusa exterior ready for filling.
I pressed down in the center of the (really messy) circle and filled it with a pinch of the filling (in this case, the meat filling).
I pressed up the edges and made a larger tennis ball of dough (with a meaty surprise inside).
And, after getting my hands good and greasy in some olive oil, I pressed it down into a more perfect circle of pupusa goodness.
I did that some ten times, alternating between meat and beat pupusas.
Once I had those all ready, I started frying them in the skillet.
"Honey, I think those are burning," said the husband.
"Nope, they’re supposed to get those ‘sunspots,’ on each side." I retorted. And, for once, I was right. They were just burnt enough. And the fried corn meal made the house smell just like cooked popcorn.
Since I’d have to make so many, and since I only had one pan and not some big ole’ fry grill, I made use of my oven’s warming drawer until they were all ready.
Finally, I extracted the slaw from the fridge and plated it alongside the pupusas.
And it looked like this.
It was all good. But, again, incomplete.
The husband noted that the slaw had a nice bit of heat, but I just couldn’t get past my mistake of slicing the cabbage too thickly, which made it awkward to eat.
And we have soooo much of it left over.
The pupusas were indeed delicious. But owing to random chance, I ended up with almost all bean ones on my plate and the husband got almost all of the meat ones.
The bean pupusas were yummy and the cheese gave it a needed bit of flavor. And the meat pupusas were were a bit more interesting, flavor-wise.
But on each of these, I kept imagining how much more amazing they would have been had I had the salsa to pour over them. Sort of like if I had made great burgers but completely forgot to have any kind of topping ready.
Well, there’s more than enough filling left to make another batch later this week and, by then, I’ll have developed the sense (and regained my strength) so I can do it with the salsa.
I’ll just hold a thought in my head, “You have to do it for the Pipil.”
Next Time: It’s back to Africa again for … Equatorial Guinea!