Category Archives: Eating and Cooking Adventure 2011

Eritrea…

Thursday, September 13 –

Sometimes dinner needs to be quiet, spicy, and just two people that need to reconnect. That was dinner last night for BestieExtraordinaire and me. I pretty much threw this recipe together without doing the math to make sure that measurements for two people matched the same measurements for this recipe. But I did use all of the same ingredients!

My measurements worked out like this: 2/3 onion, 4 teaspoons of berbere, 2 teaspoons of butter, 4 cloves of garlic, 2 teaspoons chopped garlic, 1 squeezed lemon for juice, 1 small can of tomato paste, some salt, 2 medium on-the-vine tomatoes, 2 chicken breasts, and 2 eggs (even though I forgot them on the counter and we ate the dish without them. oops!). With white rice and garlic naan to serve.

Onions went in first, with no oil/butter. I cooked them until they were translucent but not browned. Then I put in the berbere and let it get hot and aromatic. In next went the butter, and I let the onions sizzle and start to brown a little. Tomatoes, ginger, garlic, and tomato paste went in next. I let that heat up all the way through – probably about 5-8 minutes. Then I put in the chicken chunks with the salt/lemon mixture, stirring it so that it was all incorporated. I put the naan into the oven to warm, cooked the rice, and set the table. BestieExtraordinaire poured us glasses of cider. Once the chicken pieces were done all the way through but still juicy and tender I served all of it up on our plates. And then we sat and talked about everything in life, like good, close friends should.

This project has been about connecting with food and all of the possible ways to cook it, but it has also been about connecting with the people I love and showing them I care by filling their plates full of homemade creations. Thank you, Bestie, for sharing this dinner with me!

Eritrea
(recipe borrowed from the cooks at: www.eritra.be)

Tsebhi derho (spicy chicken)

  • 3 Medium size onions, chopped
  • 50 cc chili paste (berbere)
  • 50 cc tegelese tesmi (herbed butter)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped ginger
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 2 spoons lemon juice
  • 2 spoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 large tomatoes, peeled
  • 1 kilo chicken
  • 6 hard boiled eggs (peeled)
  • pepper and salt to taste

Cut the chicken into pieces and drain them well. Sprinkle the pieces with a mixture of the lemon juice and the salt and marinate during 30 minutes. Fry the onions lightly on a low fire in the frying-pan. Do not use butter or oil. Add some water if necessary to prevent burning or sticking. When the onions are done, add the berbere and fry shortly. Add the tegelese tesmi and fry this mixture for 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes skinned and sliced, garlic and ginger and simmer during 20 minutes on a low fire, stirring regularly to prevent sticking. Add some water and the pieces of chicken and simmer until the chicken is done. Add the eggs to the sauce shortly before serving.

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Bolivia…

Thursday, December 28 –

This dinner was super, extra easy. It was, however, in need of a little bit of editing to make a dinner for people after work. Wonderful Boyfriend, Roommate Extraordinaire, WingWoman, and LightsOn were all over for this dinner, so I couldn’t let it sit and stew for 2.5 hours. So I started with putting the potatoes into the oven to roast, pierced with a fork and wrapped in foil. I chose golden potatoes because I thought their flavor would be a good addition to this recipe. Then I got the veggies chopped up and the meat cubed. I started like the recipe says with oil in the pan, adding the meat to sear it, but I let the meat brown and added the spices in earlier than it said. I just layered the spices on top and tossed when I added the onion and green onion slices. After the onions had softened and started to take on the reddish color of the spices, I added just one cup of hot water and covered it to simmer for the time it took the potatoes to cook. I will also add that the recipe called for 1/2 cup of cayenne (!!!) and I knocked it down to 2 teaspoons. I don’t know if they put that much in because it was supposed to simmer in 8 cups of water, or if they were really trying to cleanse the intestinal tracts of everyone that even came close to the dish. So, knowing that the people eating this dinner likes to sniffle from the heat, maybe even sweat a little, but not puke from the heat, I turned it down a little (no really, a whole lot. eek!).

While everything was simmering I put the white corn (that I got in cans) covered with plastic wrap into the microwave to heat up for dinner. Once the potatoes were easy to pierce with a fork, I took them out and got everyone ready to serve up. The corn was sweet and a great combo with the spicy of the meat, the potatoes were a smooth flavor and a good size (some people had one, some had two), and the meat. Oh, the flavor. Just thinking about it makes me wish that we had any left for leftovers. But it was gone so quickly that no one even had a chance to have seconds! On a gluten free note, I didn’t add any bread crumbs to this, and I think that it didn’t need them at all. I also didn’t simmer down from 8 cups of water, so maybe if you followed the boiling meat directions (!!!) you would need them. We didn’t, and the flavor and texture was excellent.

The dessert that WingWoman made was so good, I don’t think the picture does it justice (which seems to be a trend, now that I think of it). It was like the best part of fire-toasted marshmallows with just a hint of lemon to make it interesting. We literally crowded the pan and peeled them off, burning hot and sticky onto our fingers. There was no waiting for cool down time for us! The part that we changed for this recipe was the temperature. She made the first batch just like it said, at 350 then down to 250 – but it just wouldn’t finish cooking! So we turned the heat back up to 350 and they turned out perfect. Then the second batch we cooked at 350 the entire time, and they were even more amazing!

LightsOn, WingWoman, and I supplied the wine this time, and we had some wins and some losses. We had a syrah that was way, way too strong/dark/heavy. It literally coated the tongue/throat/teeth. We had a shiraz that was pretty sweet, and didn’t really fit the dinner. And then we had an Italian red (I don’t remember what kind! Sorry!) that matched the dishes, was easy to drink, and made everyone at the table happy. Hooray for wine!

Things I have learned: It’s ok to use less spice. I never, ever thought I’d say that because I’m usually the one tripling or quadrupling any flavor that I’m cooking with. But this time, I actually met my match!

Bolivia
(recipes borrowed from the cooks at: www.boliviaweb.com and www.boliviabella.com)

Fricasé (spicy pork meat stew)

  • 2 spoonfuls oil
  • 2.2 pounds pork meat, preferable ribs, cut into 16 pieces
  • 1 cup white onion, cut into thin strips
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon crumbled oregano
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup ground cayenne pepper (1/2 kilo in cases)
  • 1 spoonful salt
  • 1/2 cup green onion, cut into thin strips
  • 8 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs, to thicken

To Serve

  • 4 cups cooked white corn
  • 8 peeled potatoes (cooked separately)
  • Preparation

In a large pot heat the two spoonfuls of oil over medium heat. Add the pork and fry until golden. Add onion, cumin, pepper, oregano, garlic, cayenne pepper, salt and green onion. Stir and add the eight cups of boiling water. Let cook until the meat comes off a little of the bones, at least two hours. Try to maintain the initial amount of broth, adding a little of water if necessary. Shortly before serving, add bread crumbs to thicken. Serve in a deep plate with sufficient broth. Garnish with one cooked potato and cooked white corn.

Suspiros (Baked Meringues)

  • 8 egg whites
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 3 and 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
  • Baking paper

Instructions: Beat the eggs until they form soft peaks. Continue to beat them as you gradually add the sifted powdered sugar and juice from 1/2 a lemon. Beat continually until firm peaks form. Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Place a piece of baking paper on a cookie sheet and drop the meringue by large spoonfuls onto the paper. Lower the oven temperature to about 250 and bake until slightly toasted. Remove and cool. Your meringues will be crunchy but fragile and will break easily. They’ll also melt in your mouth.


Bhutan…

Thursday, December 22 –

This dinner was wonderful and easy to put together before the Christmas madness. We had Wonderful Boyfriend, Roommate Extraordinaire, WingWoman, LightsOn, and our newest blog participant, CannonBall (who is LightsOn’s daughter). CannonBall is a self-admitted super picky eater, so I was a little nervous as to how this sort of food experiment would work for her. But! She was super excited, and I was super excited to have someone try something new. Give it your all at least once, right?

For these recipes I started with chopping all of my veggies and prepping all of the ingredients. It seemed easier to just get all the stuff together first, because I was going to have to cook both recipes at the same time. Instead of using a food processor I just chopped everything by hand, putting all of the different ingredients in separate bowls. Last I cut the dried pork into strips and the pork shoulder into bite-sized pieces. I put the unsalted butter into the pan, followed by the chili powder and the salt. I let it start to bubble and then I added the pork shoulder. I seared the chunks so they were browned on most sides and then put the onion pieces on top. That was followed by the daikon radish pieces and ginger (yes, I know I did it out of order from the recipe). Instead of simmering on low for an hour and a half I simmered on medium high for a half hour. I steamed the bok choy separately and added it to the mix at about the half hour mark. Then in went the dried pork strips and I put the lid back on to let it bubble together.

On the side, I was also cooking the buckwheat noodles, which sadly had gluten in them, and so I steamed broccoli on the side for WingWoman. I was running out of pans and burners at this point, so instead of a beautifully formed omelet I ended up making something much closer to scrambled eggs with salt and pepper in it. I also used 6 eggs instead of 3 because we had 6 people to dinner. (That and I figured that even eggs are usually safe for picky eaters, so having a little more would be a good thing.)

I also sauteed the jalapenos on the side to keep the heat down for CannonBall. But WingWoman and I taste tested the pork and found it to be bordering on really bland. So I added a little more salt and upended the container of chili powder until the sauce was glowing red. Didn’t really help keep the spice down (oops!) but it did taste amazing!

With Sriracha on the table for us spicy people and wine on the table thanks to WingWoman, LightsOn, and Roommate Extraordinaire, dinner was ready!

As you can see by this photo, it was a steaming, spicy pile of glorious food. Everyone had the spicy food sniffles, and no one complained about my chili powder dumping except for CannonBall. Who, actually, did really, really well! She ate most of the stuff on her plate, even with the spice! I’m very proud of her. She even helped me pin the map! It was all very exciting.

Bhutan
(recipes borrowed from the cooks at: www.peisch.com)

Buckwheat Noodles With Egg Strips And Scallion (Bumthang Putta)

  • 1 bunch large scallions, trimmed and cut into lengths to fit the feed tube
  • 1 small onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 medium tomato, quartered
  • 3 large eggs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 pound Japanese buckwheat noodles (soba)

Cook the noodles in a saucepan of boiling water until just tender. Drain and rinse under cold water. Reserve.

Slice the scallions with the thin [2mm] slicing disc. Set aside. Chop the onion coarsely with the metal blade, about 5 pulses. Set aside. Chop the tomato, about 4 pulses.

Beat the eggs in a bowl with salt and pepper to taste. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a nonstick 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat, add the eggs, and cook, tilting the skillet to let the uncooked egg flow underneath the omelet, until set, 2 to 3 minutes. Invert onto a cutting board and cut into 1/4-inch strips.

Cook the onion in the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in the skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the scallions and tomato and cook until softened, about 3 minutes.

Add the noodles and egg strips and toss carefully over low heat until heated through. Makes 6 servings.

Pork with Radish and Bok Choy (Phaksha Pa)

  • 1 medium onion [about 4 ounces, 110g], peeled and quartered
  • Fresh ginger, peeled and cut into a 1 inch [2.5cm] cube
  • 1 medium daikon or white radish [about 31/2 ounces, 100g], peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut crosswise to fit the feed tube
  • 1 stick unsalted butter [4 ounces, 40g]
  • 1 pound boneless pork shoulder [450g], cut into 6 by 1/2 inch [15 by 1.25cm] strips
  • 1/2 cup water [120ml]
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 large heads bok choy [about 3 pounds total, 1.3kg], stems removed and leaves cut into 1/2-inch [1.25cm] strips
  • 6 ounces dried pork [170g], cut into 3 by 1/2 inch [7.5 by 1.25cm] strips
  • 1 large fresh green chili pepper [about 1/2 ounce, 15g], seeded and cut into julienne strips

Chop the onion coarsely with the metal blade of a food processor, about 4 pulses. Set aside.

Drop the ginger through the feed tube with the motor running and chop finely, about 10 seconds. Set aside. Slice the daikon with the thick [6mm] slicing disc.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the pork shoulder, onion, daikon, water, chili powder, and salt and simmer over low heat until the pork is just tender, about 1 hour and 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the bok choy in a saucepan of boiling water until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain.

Add the ginger, bok choy, dried pork, and chili pepper to the stew and simmer over low heat until heated through, 5 to 10 minutes. Makes 6 servings.


Bermuda…

Thursday, December 15 –

Yesterday was a rough day for me personally, and I really needed this dinner to cheer me up. It was one of those things that I had built my expectations up so high, that if it had been terrible it would have crushed me like a bug. Fortunately, Bermuda saved the day (my day, specifically) and I was not disappointed. It was not only good, it was different than dinners that I usually cook, so it was new and fun as well as tasty.

This dinner was especially interesting because it was not only made for a full house, but a house full of different food limitations. We had the guys, Wonderful Boyfriend, Roommate Extraordinaire, and LightsOn. We also had WingWoman (no soy or gluten) and Amine Chef (whole list of food issues). So I made this dinner in pieces and let people put the pieces they could eat onto their plates. The pieces: pan and oven roasted rockfish, caramelized artichokes, sauteed tofu, Spanish rice with a Bermuda twist, fennel salad, and my own addition (just to add a little character to the plate) of garlicky pepper mushrooms. Not only that, but WingWoman made another dessert (hooray!) that capped the night off. I had some wine already and LightsOn brought a couple more bottles, so the dinner prep was well lubricated with wine.

I decided to start with the rice dish – make bacon, pull the bacon out, saute the veggies in the bacon fat, add tomatoes and tomato paste (I used canned tomatoes to save time), add rice, thyme, and chicken stock, simmer. Dump into baking dish, cover, and put into oven. Super simple!

Once the rice dish was in the oven, I moved on to the fennel salad. Slice the fennel into thin strips, put into bowl. Zest and juice limes, mix with sugar and oil, whisk well. Pour over fennel and mix well with hands. I set it in the fridge until everything was ready to go. (I actually forgot about it until dinner was almost over, and it ended up being a palate-cleanser. Or something like that. Oops!)

Into the pan went the veggies for the coulis, which smelled amazing. This was the first time I’ve ever cooked with tamarind paste, and boy, it was good stuff! Amine Chef kindly brought me her immersion blender (which I need to buy, pronto!), making the pureeing easy. I didn’t strain it, I just put it into a bowl for people to scoop onto their plates in whatever amounts they wanted. On the side, for Amine Chef, I made sauteed carrots with a tamarind glaze. They turned out good but strong – I think I had the ration a little off.

Next I moved on to the artichokes (the frozen kind, for my low amine friend), which ended up in the pan covered for a little while, uncovered for a longer while, with oil, garlic salt, and black pepper. They browned nicely and evenly and required very little attention except for the occasional flip.

Then I got the fish deboned with Wonderful Boyfriend’s help, into the pan with a little oil, and  browned just slightly on one side. I slipped them onto a baking sheet and into the oven (at the same temp as the rice, now out and resting) for 8 minutes. They came out juicy and tender.

As the fish were baking I put the tofu slices into the pan the fish came out of and lightly browned them on both sides. I also put my chopped mushrooms into a pan with some oil, a little salt, a ton of black pepper and about a blub of crushed garlic. Browned everything evenly and put it as a side dish on the table. Then I crumbled the bacon into the rice dish, mixing it all together. And… dinner was ready!

I’m pretty sure all six of us agreed that it was good instead of great. But the plates were all clean and there were no serious complaints (or food ending up in the garbage). There was a little wishing that it had more “kick”, so if you have guests that like a little spice in their meals, you might want to perk these recipes up a little. The flavor was good, the base for the sauce was great, it just didn’t have punch for the taste buds.

I had a lot of the coulis left over, so for leftovers tonight I’m going to add a bunch of chipotle and some peppers to it, simmer chicken in it and then shred it all for a messy southwest chicken dish.

WingWoman found a dessert that was basically banana, mango, and papaya with chocolate topping and whipped cream on top. Wonderful Boyfriend licked the plate. Need I say more?

Things I have learned: Last week, failing so epically that I had to spit food out was a real blow to my ego. Even though I’m not using my own recipes. I need to keep my faith going that this project is to learn and have fun, not get too proud about anything. That and friends and good food make even terrible days into wonderful evenings. Thank you to everyone who has participated so far, I look forward to having you around for many more of these. And to the people who want to come but haven’t, please join us!

Bermuda
(recipes borrowed from the cooks at: www.experiencebermuda.com and www.caribbeanchoice.com)

Roast Rockfish, Pan Fried Tofu with Caramelized Artichokes, Shaved Fennel Salad, Red Pepper and Tamarind Coulis

  • 6 oz. Portion rockfish (skin off)
  • 20 oz. Slice of tofu (can get flavored tofu for added flavor)
  • 2 tinned artichoke hearts, halved lengthways
  • 1 bulb baby fennel
  • 50 ml Virgin olive oil
  • Juice and zest of one lime
  • 1 lemon
  • Half a teaspoon white sugar
  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 large shallot
  • 2 oz. Tamarind paste
  • Boiling water
  • A little diced butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sprig of chervil

Red Pepper and Tamarind Coulis

1. Gently sauté red peppers and finely diced shallots in a little olive oil being careful not to add any color.

2. When peppers and shallots have softened and starting to stew, season with salt and pepper, then add a little boiling water until just covered.

3. Add tamarind paste and stir. Transfer to food processor and blend till smooth puree. Pass coulis through fine sieve.

4. Whisk in a little cold diced butter to add richness and sheen.

Citrus Vinaigrette with Shaved Fennel Salad

1. Whisk 2 tablespoons of olive oil into the juice and zest of the lime, add the sugar and season to taste.

2. Run fennel through mandolin (watching fingers) in long even strokes or very fine strips called ‘julienne’ which is the fennel cut finely length ways with a sharp knife.

3. Marinate fennel with vinaigrette. (If fennel has frizzy green leaves these can be finely chopped and added for extra flavor and garnish.)

Pan frying of Tofu and Artichoke Hearts

1. Place tofu in a pan with a little hot oil, lightly season, then shallow fry till golden all over.

2. Place artichoke halves face side (flat side) down in a little hot oil and caramelize till golden, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper.

Roasting of Rockfish

1. Place seasoned rockfish (rounded side/spine side) down in a lightly oiled preheated, nonstick pan.

2. Let it sit without moving for a couple of minutes over the heat allowing a golden crust to form.

3. Place fish in pan into a preheated hot oven and allow cook through. Approximately 8 minutes. Fish must feel firm to touch.

4. Remove pan from oven, gently turn fish over, and squeeze a good sprinkling of lemon juice over beautifully golden fish.

To Assemble

1. Spread the coulis on the bottom of warm plate or bowl by making a generous dot.

2. Place the panfried golden tofu on the dot just off centre with the artichoke halves running down next to it.

3. Then place the rockfish at a slight angle over tofu and artichokes, allowing you to see a little of the garnish and sauce on either side.

4. Top the rockfish with the shaved fennel salad, garnish with a sprig of chervil and serve.

Bermudan Spanish Rice

  • 6 strips bacon
  •  1 onion, minced
  •  1 green bell pepper, minced
  •  2 cups chopped tomatoes and their juices
  •  1/4 cup tomato paste
  •  1 1/2 cups rice, medium grain
  •  1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 cups water or chicken stock

METHOD / DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In an oven-proof casserole or a sauce pan, large enough to hold 4 cups of finished rice and fitted with a cover to be used in step 3 below, over high heat, cook the bacon until crisp, remove from pan, let cool, and crumble into small pieces.

In the pan drippings from the bacon, over medium heat, cook the onion for 3 minutes. Add the bell pepper and sauté for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and their juices, the tomato paste, the rice, salt, and pepper to taste, and the thyme, and sauté for 1 minute. Add the water and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and place it into the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the rice from the oven. Using a fork, fluff the cooked rice and mix in the crisp crumbled bacon before serving.


Benin…

Friday, December 9 –

This week was terrible, tragic, and hilarious all at the same time. The one word that describes this dinner: fail. I didn’t even want to write this post, to tell you the truth, but this journey is about the failures as well as the successes – so here it is.

I thought to myself, “Self, you really love peanut sauce. So how could this recipe go wrong?” Apparently very, very wrong. I started off with ground chicken instead of a whole chicken thrown into a blender. I added the peanut butter, green onions, and jalapeno and blended. I think my blender decided it wanted to die from the sheer wrongness of what I put in it; needless to say I need to buy a new blender now. So I scooped the goop and smooshed it into balls. The smell was so bad that Roommate Extraordinaire had to stand back to the dining room instead of the kitchen. (Should have told me to stop, right at the very beginning.) I left the frying of these to Wonderful Boyfriend, and turned to making the bean patties.

To save time I thought I’d use canned white beans. That was probably where this went wrong. I did the recipe as it called, and it turned into a very liquid-y paste. I tried to fry it anyway, and it turned into bean soup that mixed with the oil. (Can you hear the puking sounds I was thinking in my head?) As you can see by these tragic photos, it wasn’t pretty. I have had people tell me that they didn’t want to eat something because of the texture (I blame Mr. Hero for a lot of that in my life…) but I had never experienced it… until now. I put one bite of the chicken/peanut butter mixture into my mouth and it got promptly spit out into the sink. Um. Yuck. Wonderful Boyfriend didn’t like it either, but he managed to swallow it. Roommate Extraordinaire said, “I could eat this. It’s not so bad.” So I shoveled it all into a tupperware and sent him off with it. It saddened me to even have it in my kitchen, so I made him take it away as quickly as possible.

Then we went out for Mexican food. *sigh* Next week will be better!

Things I have learned: If I doubt the recipe even at the beginning, maybe rethink my strategy! And don’t be afraid to fail, it makes for a funny story at the very least.

Benin
(recipes borrowed from the cooks at: www.celtnet.org.uk and www.cdkitchen.com)

Chicken Meatballs with Red Sauce

  • 1 chicken, jointed and deboned
  • 200g peanut butter
  • 1 hot red chilli
  • 1 bunch of spring onions, washed and chopped
  • 4 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 6 tomatoes, blanched, peeled, de-seeded and chopped
  • 250ml red palm oil
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Method: Place half the peanut butter in a bowl and work in a little hot water, so you have a smooth paste. In the meantime, combine the chicken flesh, the remaining peanut butter, chili, spring onions and salt in a blender. Process until smooth then scoop out. Take teaspoons of the meat mixture and shape into balls. Heat the red palm oil in a pan, add the chicken meat balls and fry until golden brown all over. As soon as they are nicely cooked add the onions, tomatoes and diluted peanut butter. Season to taste with salt and black pepper then bring to a boil. Cover the pan and cook over low heat for 15 minutes. Turn the mixture into a serving dish and serve immediately.

Akkra Funfun (Benin) Recipe

  • 1 1/2 cup dried white beans
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • oil for deep-fat frying (a mixture of two parts peanut oil to one part palm oil gives an authentic taste)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped onions
  • salt, to taste
  • cayenne pepper, to taste

Wash and soak the beans and cook them according to directions on the package. Drain them well and place in a blender with the water and salt. Blend until they form a thick, dough-like paste. (Add more water if necessary.)

Heat the oil to 350 to 375 degrees F in a deep, heavy saucepan or a deep-fat fryer.

Fold the chopped onion, salt, and cayenne pepper into the bean paste. Drop the mixture into the oil 1 tablespoon at a time and fry until golden brown. Drain the fritters on paper towels and serve while hot. Coarsely chopped hot Guinea pepper-type chilies or finely chopped okra may also be added to the mixture.


Belize…

Wednesday, November 30 –

This dinner was supposed to be a whole chicken stuffed with the plantain and pepper mix, which I turned into leg quarters baked in a casserole dish with the stuffing. (It was too close to Thanksgiving to want to deal with stuffing, roasting, and carving a bird again.) There were five of us for this, Roommate Extraordinaire, Wonderful Boyfriend, WingWoman, and LightsOn. Both Roommate Extraordinaire and LightsOn brought wine for this dinner, and WingWoman made another amazing dessert.

So I doubled the marinade for the chicken and put five leg quarters in it in a baking dish and let them sit on the counter to soak while I was making the doubled stuffing recipe. I started with the bacon, then took the bacon pieces out of the fat and set them aside. Then I put the plantains into the bacon grease to brown. After they looked browned on most sides and corners I added the red peppers, Anaheim chilies, garlic, and fresh oregano. (Wonderful Boyfriend handled the cooking of the bacon and veggies so I could keep chopping stuff.) I seasoned the mix with salt and pepper at this point so the seasonings would have a chance to soak in. I let the veggies get soft and then put the bacon pieces back in. I deglazed the pan with a cup of chicken stock and mixed everything together well and let it simmer for a bit. I left the bread out on purpose so this recipe would be gluten free for my wonderful WingWoman. After the stuffing mix was bubbling and tasted amazing, I scooped the stuffing mix and spread it in between the leg quarters. I did not drain the marinade mix from the pan, because I thought the extra juices would make the flavor a little bit more lively. Did I mention that I used a whole bulb of garlic for the marinade? Bacon + garlic + dinner + wine = my favorite foods. Too true.

While the chicken and stuffing were in the oven, I started on the beans and rice. I made the rice in a rice cooker and used beans that I had let soak since the morning. They weren’t soft yet, so I simmered them in chicken stock to soak up a little bit more liquid. Then I added the veggies and seasonings and let everything simmer together. At the very end I added the rice and coconut milk.

The chicken was moist and delicious, having been basted several times and baked for an hour. The stuffing was amazingly flavorful and I would happily make it again. You could use the combination of flavors for a side dish that would go with most proteins.  The beans ended up a little bit burned (my fault for focusing on the wine instead of my cooking) and it pretty much ruined the flavor of the rice dish. I still ate most of mine because it wasn’t terrible, but I would definitely have simmered it on lower heat if I could go back and fix what went wrong. The wine was a great addition, and we only made it through the three bottles that Roommate Extraordinaire brought, so we already have wine for the next dinner that LightsOn contributed.

The dessert was sweet potato, ginger, ginger, and delicious. But you would have to love ginger in order to love the flavor of it. (Which I do, so I was a big fan.) I will put the recipe up in my recipe page again, so that fellow ginger lovers can share the yumminess. It doesn’t look like much from this photo, but believe me, it was really, really good!

Things I have learned: Don’t ignore beans when they are simmering because they soak up the liquid and then start to burn. Remember to get the top of the chicken browned a little, because it looks better and tastes better (in my opinion). Don’t throw out marinade if it adds good flavor to the dish that you’re making. And most importantly, don’t be afraid to substitute out different versions of the pieces of animal that the recipe calls for. I’m sure a whole chicken would have been just as good, but having the different leg quarters so each of us could have our own was a great decision.

Belize
(recipes borrowed from the cooks at: www.caribbeanchoice.com and www.belize.com)

Belinean Rice & Beans

  • ½ pound red kidney beans
  • 2 cups rice
  • 1 cup thick coconut milk
  • 1 medium onion (sliced)
  • ½ bell (green) pepper
  • 1 clove garlic (optional)
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme

METHOD / DIRECTIONS:  Cover beans in water, and soak overnight. Put beans in pot; add onions, bell pepper, garlic, and enough water to boil until beans are tender and whole. Add coconut milk, and seasonings. Add rice to beans, and cook over gentle heat until liquid is absorbed. Stir gently with a fork, and add a little water as necessary, until rice is cooked.

Sweet Plantain and Pepper Stuffed Chicken Matinade   

  • 2 fresh lemons, juiced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 whole 3 to 31/2 pound chicken

METHOD / DIRECTIONS:  In a small bowl, combine the juice of the lemons, garlic, dried oregano, olive oil, salt and pepper. Rub all over the chicken and allow it to set in the refrigerator 1 to 2 hours.

Sweet Plantain and Pepper Stuffing

  • 4 slices bacon, diced
  • 1 large ripe plantain, peeled and cut into 1/2inch cubes
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small red pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 Anaheim chili, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 bunch oregano, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 2 slices country bread, diced and dried
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock

METHOD / DIRECTIONS:  Over medium high heat, sauté the bacon until crisp. Remove from the pan. Place the plantains to the pan and cook until lightly browned. Add the garlic, peppers and oregano and cook 2 to 3 minutes more. Pour in the chicken stock to deglaze the pan, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the bread, salt and pepper. Stir gently to combine. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and stuff it with the plantain pepper mixture. Tie the legs together and place on a rack in a roasting pan, breast side down. Cook for 1/2 hour, turn the chicken breast side up and roast for another 1/2 hour or until the skin is golden brown and the chicken is cooked through.

Potato Pone

  • 2 pounds sweet potato
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2-4 oz root ginger (grated)
  • 1 cup raisin
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 tsps. vanilla
  • 4 cups milk (evaporated or coconut)
  • 2 tbsps. margarine (melted)

METHOD

1. Grease baking tins or Pyrex dishes.

2. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit

3. Wash, peel and grate potato

4. If using coconut milk not canned or from powdered mix, then grate your coconut and squeeze with water to get four cups milk (or use the evaporated milk)

5. In a large bowl, add the grated potato, sugar,vanilla, nutmeg and ginger. Mix well.

6. Add the milk and margarine. Mix well. Put in baking pans or Pyrex dishes.

7. Put on bottom shelf of oven for 35 -40 minutes. Then remove to top shelf, lowering oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 8. Cook for about 80 minutes until brown or check with a knife, which should come out clean. The top should have a jelly, sticky look.

The potato pound is similar to another all-Belizean quick and easy dessert – bread pudding – and yes, you got it – basically you substitute the grated potato in the above recipe for mashed up bread and bake for less time.

The ginger used in the above recipe and the aforementioned tablata is not only used in desserts, but is also a key ingredient in some East Indian dishes, especially those made by the descendants of the original East Indians, many of whom have intermarried with Creole families. In particular, the yellow ginger is a delicacy used in the distinctive cohune cabbage dish


Belgium…

Monday, November 21 –

Today we added a new face to this project, LightsOn (sorry, it’s an inside joke that I just couldn’t help). He’s new to the idea, new to the project, and new to my cooking. So much bravery all in one go! 😉 We also had WingWoman, Roommate Extraordinaire, and of course my Wonderful Boyfriend.

This dinner was chicken soup, two different kinds of cooked Brussels sprouts, french bread baguette, and dessert made by WingWoman. So I started with the chicken soup by chopping all the veggies and getting them into the pan with the butter. I used dried spices instead of bundles of fresh (it’s the week of Thanksgiving, so please don’t judge me!) and used one rounded palm-full of each. I also skewed the chicken a little by chopping the chicken while it was raw into mouth-sized pieces and dumping them into the boiling chicken broth. I stirred it altogether and let it simmer until it was done. I whisked the cream and the egg yolk together and scooped out a couple of cups of broth that I added a little bit at a time so the mixture would come up to temperature and blend well (good trick for most recipes that add dairy or egg to anything warm). Then I just let it simmer together to blend the flavors together.

The Brussels sprouts I did two different ways because WingWoman can’t have gluten (so no beer) and I don’t normally like beer, so I wanted to give myself another way to enjoy the combination of soup and greens. The recipe from Belgium has you simmer them in beer (I used a German beer because I was rushed and that’s all Safeway had), then strain them and saute them in butter and salt. The other way I cooked them, how I normally cook them, is in bacon fat. I cooked about five strips of bacon, which were cut up into pieces, pulled the bacon out, threw the sprouts and about a half of an onion in, added some garlic salt and pepper, and let them get crispy and browned. At the end I throw the bacon back in and serve it. Everything is better with bacon, I swear it!

Roommate Extraordinaire took care of slicing, buttering, and garlic salt-ing the baguette, which we toasted in the oven just long enough to brown it a little. We both thought it would be better in soup if it had a little crunch.

Roommate Extraordinaire brought beer, two different Belgian styles that he and Wonderful Boyfriend both agreed were delicious. LightsOn brought two different wines, which were amazing and went perfectly with the dinner.

WingWoman made the dessert, which was simply heaven. Pure, sugary bliss in a cup. The photo doesn’t really do this amazing dessert justice, believe me. It was blended strawberries, cream, and sugar on the top with strawberries and Grand Marnier on the bottom. Make it, savor it, and thank her for the recipe. I’ll add it to the recipe page so it will live on forever where everyone can find it.

Things I have learned: Asking guests to bring wine and dessert makes this whole adventure a whole lot more fun. (Not that my diet would agree…) Adding more people to my blog list has become a fun and unique challenge to find fun names for them. And I look forward each week to the different flavors this journey helps me create. Four and a half years? To go around the world with my friends and loved ones? To learn to make all of these fun recipes? Priceless.

Belgium
(recipes borrowed from the cooks at: www.foodnetwork.com, www.recipes4us.co.uk, and answers.yahoo.com)

Waterzooi de Poulet

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 leeks, chopped, rinsed and dried
  • 2 all-purpose potatoes, peeled and diced
  • Salt and white pepper
  • 6 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 1 fresh bay leaf or 2 leaves dried
  • 4 sprigs fresh parsley, plus a handful chopped for garnish
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 8 ounces
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • Crusty baguette, warmed, for passing

Directions: In a deep pot over moderate heat melt butter and saute the vegetables for 5 minutes. Season with salt and white pepper. Tie together bay, parsley and thyme and add to the pot with stock or broth. Cover the pot and raise heat to bring liquid to a boil. Add chicken to the pot, cover and reduce heat to medium low. Poach the chicken 10 minutes. Uncover the pot. Remove chicken and slice. Whisk cream and egg together. Add a ladle of cooking broth to cream and egg to temper it. Stir cream and egg mixture into the waterzooi and stir constantly for 2 to 3 minutes to thicken. Add chicken back to the pot along with chopped parsley. Adjust seasoning. Ladle waterzooi into warm shallow bowls and serve with crusty baguette for dipping.

Brussels Sprouts in Beer

  • 450g/1lb Brussels Sprouts, trimmed
  • Approx. 480ml/16fl.oz. Dark Beer
  • 1/2 teasp Salt
  • 3 tbsp Butter

Instructions

1.  Place the sprouts in a medium saucepan and pour in enough beer to cover.

2. Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until tender, adding more beer if necessary.

3. Drain well then return to the pan, season with salt and add the butter. Stir over a low heat until the butter has melted and coated the sprouts. Serve immediately.

Belgium Strawberry Mousse

  • 1 Pound Strawberries — sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Kirsch Or Grand Marnier
  • 1/2 Cup Confectioner’s Sugar
  • 1 1/4 Cups Whipping Cream

Directions: Place half the strawberries in bowl and sprinkle with the granulated sugar and kirsch. Let macerate for 15 minutes. Puree the remaining strawberries together with the confectioner’s sugar. Whip the cream into stiff peaks. Reserve a quarter of the whipped cream for garnish and refrigerate. Carefully fold the remaining cream into the pureed strawberries. Arrange the macerated strawberries in 4 wine glasses, reserving a few slices for garnish. Fill the glasses with strawberry cream, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours. Pipe the reserved whipped cream through a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and decorate with sliced strawberries.