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About the Fabulous Food of Djibouti

December 28, 2010 by  

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Djibouti: if you’re pronouncing the name of this African country right, English-speaking people will raise their eyebrows. Try it out - ”dja booty.”

The word has had endless inappropriate puns associated with it. But let’s move past the unusual name… to the unusual food situation. According to doctor’s without borders, less than 1/2 of 1 percent of the small, arid landscape can be farmed. As a result, most food is imported and expensive. I’ve read accounts of eggs costing seven dollars a dozen. Seven dollars!

Meals are a blend of Middle Eastern, Somali, French, and other regional influences.

Imagine slaughtering your own meat. Would you have the stomach for it?

In Djibouti, the practice is fairly common – meat is purchased “living” and then, when feast day arrives, the animal is slaughtered and prepared. Lamb is particularly popular and is served in association with special holidays such as the Islamic one, Eid al-Adha. The national dish, called Skoudekharis, is a one pot dish of rice and includes generous portions of lamb.

I found an incredible blog by the mom of an American family living in Djibouti; her accounts of the food are worth repeating. Here is her account of a typical meal for Eid al-Adha:

Our neighbors downstairs brought us a plate of ambabuur, a sugary, fried sour pancake dipped in runny yogurt. For fourteen Eids now, they have brought us this breakfast and I am always thankful they do, though we can never eat all of it. But I’m grateful for how they include us and welcome us into their holiday. Whenever they slaughter a sheep they also bring us platters of brightly dyed rice, boiled sheep, spicy sauce and salad.
- Djibouti Jones

Here’s another special meal – both the garoobey and the subag sounds fascinating:

On my right was the food table, cambaboor (a sort of sweet, fried, rancid pancake and sour yogurt), garoobey (like oats soaked in milk with cumin) and subag (runny butter cooked over charcoal and left buried in the ground to ferment).
-Djibouti Jones

Here are a few other day-to-day meals – love the term “grease-bomb” – Mr Picky would be all over that!):

Shaah iyo furin or beer or laxoox for breakfast (tea and bread or liver or an injera-like flat bread), sugo or hilib iyo bariis for lunch (grease-bomb spaghetti or beef and rice), misir for dinner (beans), kalluun on Friday (fish). During holidays or in a particularly wealthy family, the menu may vary a bit more.
-Djibouti Jones

I get giddy inside when I come across these kinds of first hand accounts. They make me feel like I am sitting down for dinner in each of these countries. The bonus? Mrs. Jones is putting together a cookbook with her community in Djibouti. I, for one, am keeping my eyes on her blogspot!

To learn more about Sasha’s culinary experiences, visit Global Table Adventure.

What Do They Eat in Denmark?

December 27, 2010 by  

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Why Denmark, why? Just when I start to think the winters in Tulsa are dark and bitter cold, I learn about Denmark…and my heart breaks a little. You see, Denmark beats anything we’ve got going on in Tulsa. Situated way up in northern Europe, winter is not just a season in their great country, but a state of being.

In the time up to Christmas, sunlight is scarce. The winter solstice on 22 December marks the shortest day of the year where the sun rises as late as 8:39 and sets as early as 15:36.

That’s 3:36 pm, for those of you who don’t read military time… which makes 17 hours of darkness. Yikes.

But where’s theres darkness, the Danes bring their own light. In fact, the winter season is alloted comfort and joy in the form of cozy fireplaces, warm candlelight, and good food. They call this warm, tranquil atmosphere “Hygge” and it is an integral part of Danish culture.

From what I’ve read, the best way to warm up on a cold winter’s night is with Gløgg, or steaming hot, mulled red wine. Cooked with fresh spices, orange peel, and port, one sip of this beverage could even thaw out the Grinch.

If you’re looking for fun finger food – try a platter of Frikadeller – or Danish meatballs. Recipes generally combine pork and beef (or veal) for this tasty treat. Leftovers can be served as a topping for the popular open faced sandwiches called Smorrebrod. Other Smorrebrod toppings include liver pate, smoked salmon, and herring. While these sandwiches can be beautiful works of art, they are usually mounded with ingredients so thickly, the bread disappears. Diners manage them with a fork and knife. Personally, I rather like using them as finger food for a special appetizer.

Desserts can be simple or extraordinary. Many utilize fruits such as apples, plums, or berries. Common treats include Danish Apple Cake (Æblekage), assorted pastries, and rice pudding.

To learn more about Sasha’s culinary experiences, visit Global Table Adventure.

The Food of the Czech Republic

December 18, 2010 by  

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There’s only one reason to go outside when temperatures drop below freezing: to enjoy the thrill of hot food thawing you out when you come home.

Otherwise, I vote for staying in bed all day, snuggled under a comforter, watching chick flicks… or dude flicks (do they even make those?).

Thankfully, the Czech Republic has many wonderful foods for bitterly cold winter days. This means that I’ll be able to leave the house this week. Hurrah!

The Czech Republic is in eastern Europe where summers are hot and winters are c-c-c-cold. The nation consumes dishes loaded with all manner of potatoes and cabbage, as well as stews and roasts. Think rugged, down-home cooking. Typical of many eastern European countries, the Czech Republic uses sour cream as a thickener, dipper, topper.. you name it, sour cream is in it. They also enjoy caraway seed and dill as principal seasoning agents.

You won’t believe it (I almost don’t believe it), but I dug up a dish that includes more than half of these ingredients: Potato & Pickle Soup. Oh yeah. Special thanks to those of you on our Facebook Fan Page who voted to include it on our menu this week and to Clifford A. Wright -one of my favorite cookbook authors – for sharing the recipe with us. I’ll be posting an interview with him later this week, so stay tuned!

Funny thing about the Czech Republic is how much of their food can be found here, in America. When their immigrants, like so many others, came to our side of the “big, salty pond,” they cooked their favorite recipes to remind them of home. For example, you’ll find the much adored meat and sweet filled buns called Klobasneks/klobasnikis and Kolaches dotted throughout our culinary landscape (most notably in Texas and Oklahoma, where entire festivals are dedicated to the treats).

For those with a bit of a sweet tooth, plums and apricots are beloved in the Czech Republic. When dried they are often cooked down with sweeteners into a thick, sticky filling for Kolaches. As for their savory counterparts, the Klobasneks/klobasnikis? There are many choices for fillings, but in my opinion there’s nothing better than wrapping dough around a spicy Kielbasa.

To learn more about Sasha’s culinary experiences, visit Global Table Adventure.

The Rich, Indulgent Food Of Cyprus

December 9, 2010 by  

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Psst… does your heart ache? Even just a little? I’ve got the cure: take a tour of Cyprus. In this gloriously mountainous Mediterranean island even the loneliest heart will find love in the air and on the beaches. In fact, legend has it that Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love, was born amidst the crashing waves and sandy shores of Cyprus.

Befitting this romantic legacy, the Cypriot have a fascinating habit of cooking food in red wine. Almost anything can get a long slow simmer in the stuff – pork chops, potatoes, or even squid. The red color bleeds into the food making a rosy statement perfect for any date night.

Most Cypriot food is an alluring blend of Greek, Turkish, and Middle Eastern cuisine – you’ll find staples such as oregano, olive oil, lamb, cucumber, yogurt and eggplant mixed on menus with such delicacies as octopus or squid.

Once the romance of Cyprus grabs hold of you, celebrate with a dish fit for any holiday table. Oh, and I just happen to know the perfect one: succulent lamb shanks roasted in clay ovens, called Kleftiko. Locals replicate this method at home with a covered casserole. The tender meat will astound you with its elegance and complex flavor.

If you’d rather vegetables, the Cypriot are renowned for stewing/roasting in loads of olive oil. As in…there is enough oil you could almost deep fry the food. The flavor is rich and addicting, although small portions are encouraged. Eggplant always makes an appearance, especially on Meze-style meals – a seemingly endless parade of small dishes (rather like the Spanish tapas). Then there’s the famous Cyprus potato, which is prepared in a sloshy bath of olive oil and red wine.

At the end of the day, you’ll need to cut through all that oil with something sweet. Typical desserts include regional favorites such as Turkish delights (recipe), baklava, and spoon sweets – fruits cooked in syrup until tender and saturated with sticky goodness. A more unique dessert is Souzouko – a long string of almonds dipped repeatedly in thickened grape juice and hung to harden. This “wand” of sweet goodness takes days to make but is available for purchase almost anywhere on the island, especially around festivals and fairs.

To learn more about Sasha’s culinary experiences, visit Global Table Adventure.

Riz Gras & Fruit: Ivory Coast Style

November 23, 2010 by  

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From skyscrapers, to mud huts with thatched roofs, the Ivory Coast has it all. This west African country is deeply imbued with French food and culture. In fact, French is still the national language. Over the phone, Linda shared details about her country with me, trailing along a beautiful, thick accent that reflects this history. Thanks to Linda an alum from Wesleyan University (and a few of her friends), this week’s Global Table is going to be especially grand!

I’ll be honest. Thanksgiving has been on my mind, so I begged Linda for some ideas. Linda didn’t disappoint. She tells me that there is a dish that originates in the northern part of Cote d’Ivoire which is perfect for the Thanksgiving buffet – smoked Turkey thighs simmered in a creamy sauce made from ground melon seeds (more readily available pumpkin seeds can be substituted in a pinch).

Then there’s Riz Gras (or Fat Rice) which, in her neck of the woods, is made with plenty of tomato puree, chunks of beef, and carrot sticks. While this dish is popular throughout west Africa, there are many variations. However you make it, you’ll need an army to eat it all. This is a real potluck friendly dish, again a great addition to the buffet of any Global Table.

For those with a more delicate constitution – perhaps who enjoy looking at their food as much as eating it – Avocat Crevette (or Avocado boats filled with shrimp) can be found in restaurants all over the coastline (especially in Abidjan).

This simple, yet stunning presentation – is just half an avocado filled with shrimp salad. Linda tells me most people eat it for their first course, with a slice of baguette on the side.

In the Ivory Coast, dessert is usually fresh fruit. For a sweet and healthy ending to any meal, Linda recommends making a fruit salad with juicy chunks of fresh mango and pineapple – both tropical fruits are readily available throughout the Ivory Coast.

To learn more about Sasha’s culinary experiences, visit Global Table Adventure.

About the Food of Cuba

November 19, 2010 by  

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Beam me up, Scotty. I’m ready for incredible stews, rich soups, and mind-blowing sandwiches. I’m ready for Cuba. Heck – it isn’t even all that spicy. Just flavorful goodness. Count me in.

Most of my Cuban research kept linking me back to Florida. There’s one big reason – the size of Cuba (it is the largest country in the Caribbean)- and one simple reason – how close it is to Florida. Still authentic Cuban food has a distinct identity, whether it is enjoyed on the island or in the United States.

That being said, let’s start with the famous Cuban Sandwich. Incredible. Soft, fresh Cuban bread is a must, which is then topped with roast pork, ham, pickles, mustard, and swiss cheese. Some include salami and provolone. Others shout blasphemy. Either way, they all get pressed like a panini and toasted through and through.

While I’m always in the mood for a good sandwich, you might not be. So be it. There’s more goodness to be found. Cuba is one of several countries that enjoy the famous dish called Ropa Vieja. Literally, Old Clothes, this dish is slowly stewed beef in a seasoned tomato sauce base. It might be served alongside a glowing pile of yellow rice. Gorgeous. And, of course, the ever wonderful bean usually takes a role.

Let’s move on to dessert, though. While rice pudding is common, Cubans are practically part flan…. Flan is a thing of beauty in Cuba – available in a multitude of flavors. This creamy dessert sets up firm enough to slice, but remains delicate like pudding. Cooked and served in a bath of caramel, calling it “sweet” just doesn’t seem to convey the full truth.

Rum, as in most Caribbean countries, makes its way into the end (or the beginning) of many meals. Actually, the meal part is optional. Cuba Libre’s are Rum and Coke’s with a splash of lime. Mojitos are a stout blend of mint, lime, and rum. Pick your poison! :)

To learn more about Sasha’s culinary experiences, visit Global Table Adventure.

What Do They Eat in Croatia?

November 14, 2010 by  

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Croatia is a rambling collection of mountains and forests with bursts of plains which hide secrets of scrumptious food, wonderful olive oil and tasty, age-old wine.

But what about bad wine? Well, if you happen upon such a dismal thing as a bottle of bad wine on their turf, the Croatians (and other nearby countries) know what to do. The remedy includes coca cola or fanta. You’ll just have to wait a week to find out what Mr Picky and I think about that! (Officially, you’ll have to wait another 20 years to get Ava’s take on the whole thing. If you leave it up to me? You ‘ll have to wait another 98.9 years.)

Thanks to a meandering and lengthy coastline, eastern Croatia boasts an abundance of seafood, including oysters, shrimp, and other fresh fish. Eating fish must be like breathing – the houses on the shore literally seem to float on the water. Incredible. For those who like the old standbys our grandmother’s loved, salt cod – literally fish dried and stored in a bed of salt – is also used in many regional recipes.

From my research it would seem that no Croatian meal is complete without ham, bacon, or both. It is used with cabbage and potatoes in any number of permutations. As the food is typically Balkan, many dishes are similar to Bosnia & Herzegovina, so be sure to look at our Bosnian Global Table if you like food from this region.

Bosnian pancakes are thin, like crepes, and they’ll eat them sweet – perhaps with fig jam, or savory – stuffed and baked with cottage cheese and sour cream. Although a little different, here is my go-to crepe recipe (their version often includes some bubbly water to give it lift).

Baked goods include plums, apples, cherries, cheeses, and nuts – especially walnuts. The famous holiday roll, Povatica, is rather like our cinnabuns but shaped into a loaf and heavy on the walnuts. Delish!

To learn more about Sasha’s culinary experiences, visit Global Table Adventure.

What Do They Eat in Costa Rica?

October 29, 2010 by  

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Lush, tropical greens and mouthwash blue waters make Costa Rica a stunning destination. Eating a typical “Tican” meal is incredibly easy, even if one doesn’t have access to Latino markets.

The most common dish is gallo pinto (or black beans and rice). This dish often made from leftover rice and seasoned with a little onion and garlic, as well as a healthy splash of Worcestershire sauce (or Salsa Lizano). A great accompaniment for eggs, this filling dish is often found on the Tican breakfast table.

For those who love potatoes, Gallitos de Papas are a must-try. Indeed, these paprika and garlic infused cubes of potato delight are another great accompaniment to eggs. Typically, however, they are served in a corn tortilla. Carb on carb – seems logical to me! :)

Since I know some of you are getting palpatations just thinking about all those carbs, have no fear. Costa Ricans are known for fresh salads – including a wonderful Heart of Palm Salad (palmitos) which includes any number of veggies – such as tomato, cucumber, lettuce, and sweet peppers – and is topped with a squeeze of lime and a drizzle of olive oil. It doesn’t get much healthier than that!

Oh, but then there’s dessert. While fruit is popular (pineapple, mango, guava, and bananas), the South American love for all things dulce de leche runs deep in Tican blood. It might be in cookies, or cakes, or on ice cream, or in candies… anything goes with dulce de leche! :)

To learn more about Sasha’s culinary experiences, visit Global Table Adventure.

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