Thursday, December 30, 2010


My little sister Molly spent a summer teaching English in Senegal. We had planned to cook Senegalese food together over Christmas, but since I had my annual deathcold I had no motivation to leave the couch and the cat and she probably didn't want me near food anyway, she did all the work. Here's what she says about Senegalese cuisine and what she made:

"The national meal of Senegal is ceebu jen, or "fish rice," which is basically fish and vegetables served over rice in a fish sauce.  Since I don't eat fish and am still traumatized from being served ceebu jen day in and day out, I instead suggested yassa poulet ("chicken yassa"), another classic dish, for the blog. Senegalese cuisine is very West African with some French influences.  Meals are eaten by hand (or sometimes with a spoon) from a communal platter, often with a side of crisp French bread.  According to Muslim tradition it's considered rude to eat with one's left hand; given that toilet paper is extremely uncommon, the left hand serves another purpose..."

Anyway, this meal was delicious. Thanks, Molly!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Costa Rica

Costa Rican cuisine is relatively typical of the Central American region, with some notable exceptions. Spicy food is less common, although food tends not to be entirely bland. Cilantro, sweet peppers, and onions are common flavoring agents. Rice and beans are common, as are potatoes and plantains.

According to a video we watched in my introduction to sociocultural anthropology class, tamales are an important Latin American Christmas tradition. Women get together and spend hours making hundreds of tamales. They're made of cornmeal batter filled with meat or vegetables, wrapped in corn husks and steamed. The Costa Rican version uses banana leaves tied up and boiled, but as I came down with my annual plague on Saturday I was in no condition to seek out a Latin market to find them. The Costa Rican version also uses rice and potatoes as filling along with shredded pork. I thought they were tasty, but could definitely have used more seasoning. I added a bunch of chili powder, paprika, salt, and cumin to my leftover pork. I probably won't make tamales again, as they take hours! To accompany the tamales, I made a black bean soup with boiled eggs (boiled in the soup, incidentally) and a heart of palm salad. The soup was a little bland, but a liberal addition of salt and pepper made it better. It might have been better with dried or fresh beans, but I took the easy way out (and cut off several hours) by using a can. I also forgot the garlic. I think the salad was my favorite part of the meal, although I'm happy to have soup leftovers now that I'm sick.

Christmas cookies parts 2 and 3: Lebkuchen and Pavlovas

Lebkuchen, or German spice cookies for Christmas, are so popular that they're sold from October to March. I first encountered them in Nuremberg in late January 2006, on one of the coldest days I've ever experienced. They're not my usual cookie - they're not that sweet, and chocolate doesn't need to be involved - but when I found the recipe in my America's Test Kitchen International Recipes book I had to make them. They were a little intimidating - I've never baked with nuts before, and these had to be toasted as well as ground. Fortunately, I already had all the spices I needed, and they came out perfectly. I took the last few home for my dad to try, and they were gone before lunchtime.

After the Roshky and Lebkuchen, I was looking for a Christmas cookie from a country outside of Europe. I found a fruity Mexican concoction, but it looked like a lot of work, and I was busy and sick. Then I hit upon a recipe for Pavlovas, named for a ballerina many years ago. No one's sure whether they come from Australia or New Zealand, but everyone agrees that they're delicious. You make a cake of meringue, then top it with freshly whipped cream and fruit (I used blackberries). I don't have pictures of the final product because I made individual ones for my coworkers (yes, I did whip cream in my office's kitchen) and cameras are verboten, but they were delicious. A little sticky, but the possibly overwhelming sweetness was balanced out by the cool whipped cream and tart blackberries.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Armenian cuisine is fairly typical of the Mediterranean and Eastern European regions. Fresh ingredients are usually more important than spices, and common elements include lamb, bulghur, rice, yogurt, apricots, nuts, zucchini, and stuffed fruit and vegetables.

I planned to make zucchini fritters, a pilaf with bulghur, and apricots stuffed with beef. I was pretty sure this meal was going to be an epic disaster. Here is a list of the things that went wrong before I even started cooking:
1. I got home later than expected and had about an hour less to cook than I had hoped for.
2. Trader Joe's did not have bulghur and I scraped my car on a pillar in the parking garage (pretty sure this was divine punishment for stopping there on the way home instead of parking at home and walking the two blocks over).
3. I didn't think to label the ziplock bags of meat in my freezer and accidentally thawed pork instead of beef (hello, cultural inaccuracy).
4. Shoppers didn't have apricots to stuff with said pork, so I turned to zucchini. Unfortunately, they also only had tiny zucchini. So I figured I would just have to deal.

I assured my friend Anika that there was excellent pizza only a few minutes away if it all proved inedible, but ended up being pleasantly surprised. The pilaf turned out pretty delicious with rice instead of bulghur, and the fritters were excellent. I didn't keep the leftover stuffed zucchini (the recipe didn't say to cook the rice beforehand, so I didn't...and maybe I should have? It was crunchy and I did not find it delicious), but we each ate one.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas cookies part 1: Roshky

I love Christmas cookies. My family has a bunch that we always make: snickerdoodles, chocolate sugar puffs, thumbprints. But what actually inspired this series was the recipe for Lebkuchen (coming up) in my new America's Test Kitchen International cookbook.  When I asked around on Twitter about international Christmas traditions, my friend Katie said that her family makes roshky, a Slovak delicacy. Or rather, she said, her grandmother and mother make roshky, and she stands around feeling helpless. I read this and thought to myself, I'm a great baker, this should be no problem. Oh, hubris.

I don't love walnuts, so I only made the apricot one and cut the recipe way down (I used one egg and proportional other ingredients). The major issue was the dough. I'm not that good at working with dough that needs to be rolled out. When I read "roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface," I thought let's use wax paper, that'll be much quicker and easier. False. The dough was incredibly sticky (I probably should have kneaded it beyond what the hand mixer could do) and I'm pretty sure I lost about half of it on the wax paper. Instead of getting a cute little tightly rolled spiral log, I couldn't roll it over more than twice. I lost enough of the dough that apricot filling was everywhere. I was pretty sure they were going to be the worst cookies ever. Miraculously, though, the dough did rise a bit while I let them sit, and the cookies taste pretty good (not because of anything I did, I'm sure). Before I try this again, though, I plan to obtain a pet Slovak, preferably of the grandmother variety.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Help - holiday cookies

I'd like to do a post on holiday treats, focusing on Christmas cookies. But the only recipe I have is for Lebkuchen. Lebkuchen are awesome, but I'd love to do a couple more. Send your favorite international recipes to 45sqftkitchen at gmail dot com!

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Turkish food is quite similar to other Mediterranean food, with lots of meat, feta, yogurt, and fresh vegetables. Lamb and beef are common, but pork is not as most citizens are Muslim. When I was in Turkey, my mother and I ate almost nothing but döner kebab (the Turkish version of gyros) and were totally all right with that. Unfortunately, making it involves taking ground lamb and beef, seasoning the crap out of it, and slow-roasting it on a spit. So when I decided to make Turkish food it wasn't an option.

I built the meal around a boneless leg of lamb I had in the freezer and needed to get rid of before a Groupon for Springfield Butcher expired. I found a recipe for something called pink leg of lamb, which was supposed to be Turkish and looked manageable. I decided to alter the recipe a bit to make something more like Iskender kebab, which is a seriously amazing Turkish food (chunks of meat in tomato sauce with yogurt and melted butter). To round it out, I made fried zucchini (it's an informal goal to fry zucchini as many times as possible throughout this endeavor) with yogurt sauce, cigarette borek, olives and garlic with pita, and a basic rice pilaf with saffron. I also mixed up a little ayran, which is a yogurt drink that's super popular over there. I hate the stuff so didn't have any myself, but I made my friends Ben and Katie try some. In general, everything was tasty. I'd hoped the lamb would come out a little more tender, and was upset that the yogurt separated despite my efforts to stabilize it. I didn't follow the directions with the phyllo, but the cigars were still really good. I think my favorite part was the olives; I couldn't find pitted black olives at the olive bar and didn't want to use canned or jarred so I used kalamata. I had the leftovers sauteed with mushrooms and pasta, and they were incredibly flavorful.

Friday, November 26, 2010

United States: Thanksgiving Dinner

When I started this blog a bunch of people asked me what I would cook for the US, if I would even bother. And I wasn't sure. I thought about a Southern feast of fried chicken and biscuits, I thought about a barbecue with burgers and hot dogs. Then, because of a family situation, I had to cook Thanksgiving dinner for the second year in a row. And this is a pretty American meal. I kept it pretty simple, since it was just for the four of us. Also, my grandmother can make several more dishes, including gravy, and have it all on the table at the same time, when she says it's going to be ready, but I don't know how she does it.

Simple, in my family, meant a young turkey (12 lbs, give or take, on a rack of celery with an onion inside), stuffing separate, mashed potatoes, corn and green beans, cranberry sauce, and apple sauce, with apple pie for dessert. I made the stuffing and apple pie in the morning, since all they needed to do was heat up at the last minute. Last year the mashed potatoes proved stressful, but my sister vetoed my dad's suggestion of instant and made them herself from scratch. Even with low-fat milk instead of cream, they were delicious. The cranberry sauce came out of a can (the best kind!), the applesauce out of a jar (we didn't end up touching it), and the vegetables out of the freezer. The turkey, which I made following the directions on the package, was a little overdone; it cooked faster than I expected, but it wasn't that dry. And much better than last year's perfect breast and not nearly done dark meat.The gravy came from Trader Joe's. I was unimpressed, even after adding some pepper and poultry seasoning. The stuffing was delicious as always, and the pie came out well (not out of the pan well, though, as you'll see from the pictures). I used the America's Test Kitchen dough recipe, which is a little easier to work with, but I don't think the crust keeps well overnight. May have to experiment with other recipes. Dad and sister's take on the filling:
Molly: The nutmeg really adds a little somethin...
Dad: Nutmeg flavor?
Molly: Yeah, that.

Recipes (when I have them) and photos are after the jump. Tell me about your family's Thanksgiving traditions in the comments!

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Belgian cuisine is heavily influenced by French and German cuisine depending on the area. Staples include meat, potatoes, and beer. Endives are a particularly popular, and mussels and french fries (moules-frites) are a common fast food near the border with France.

Until about 6 months ago, I refused to eat cooked seafood of any kind. Then I went to Granville Moore's in Washington, DC, one of the moules-frites joints that are becoming more common in the area. The fries were amazing, of course, and the mussels were served in a delicious garlic and white wine broth. Turns out there was nothing not to love, so I decided to make my own. I learned that the secret to Belgian fries is frying them twice, but since I was cooking on a Monday night after a long day I totally wimped out and bought extra-crispy frozen french fries that only needed to be fried once. I'm not proud of it, but they were delicious. The mussels were far more complicated. Not the cooking, that part was pretty simple. But I've never cooked any kind of seafood before, so I was a little neurotic about getting sick from bad shellfish. I got a bag of mussels from H Mart and the first thing to do was pick out the ones that were open. But you can also see if they close. So I was pretty sure the ones I took out were not going to close. Then I scrubbed off the remaining ones and removed as much of the "beards" as I could and threw them in the pan with the broth, then put the lid on. After a few minutes, most seemed to be open, so I dumped the whole thing into a bowl. The next thing to freak out about was that while most had opened considerably and a few hadn't opened at all, a few had only opened a little. I decided they were ok, but I was nervous until I realized I definitely had not gotten food poisoning.

The last part of the meal was endives braised in butter and lemon. They were good, and not as bitter as raw endives, but probably not something I'd make again.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Thai cuisine is based on strongly aromatic ingredients like chile peppers, ginger, and lemongrass. Each meal is supposed to be composed of sweet, sour, spicy, salty, and optionally bitter flavors. Regional cuisine is influenced by neighbors including Malaysia, China, Laos, Cambodia, and Burma. Traditionally, one would serve more dishes than there are guests at the table. Staples include rice, noodles, fish sauce, and curry.

I'd certainly had Thai food before, but it's never been one of my favorite cuisines. I've never been able to find anything that excites me. So since I didn't expect to love this meal, my major priorities were nutrition and low hassle, which included easy ingredients and fast preparation. I left out the spiciness and bitterness, but I did serve three dishes for the two of us. The won-tons were easy (although the oil spattered like no other!) and tasty enough even without a dipping sauce. The curry (which was a last-minute addition after I realized I had half a can of coconut milk left over from Cameroon) was reasonably inoffensive, and if I make it again I might even use more curry paste. The noodles were downright tasty, and I'll definitely make something like that again. Blair agreed.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mexico Bonus Round: Carnitas

When I was at H Mart the other week, I came across a package of pre-cut pork shoulder chunks for stew. My mind immediately went CARNITAS. Because I love carnitas, but let's face it, dealing with a giant hunk of pork is a chore. These chunks were small enough that making it was not nearly as much of a process as I thought it would be (as the recipe said it would be). I'm making quesadillas with them for dinner, but the preliminary word is that they are absolutely delicious.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Cameroonian food is influenced by France, the former colonizer, as well as the rest of the African continent. Staple foods are yams, cassava, rice, and corn, and most people eat fish because meat is expensive. The national dish is called Ndole, and it's a spicy stew with bitterleaf, peanut paste, and some sort of meat or fish. I didn't make it because I found a recipe for a dish called Poulet Directeur Général, so obviously I had to make that. Bonus: it was delicious. So was the rice. Unfortunately, I learned an important lesson about the plantains: when they say ripe plantains, that does not actually just mean "the ripest Shoppers has." It means go shopping a week early and let a partially green plantain actually ripen so it's not icky.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Mexico, like most countries, has great regional variation in its cuisine. (I, of course, ignored this while choosing recipes.) In general, corn, rice, and beans are widely used. Common seasonings include chile peppers, cumin, and oregano. Many dishes consist of some sort of grain (flour or corn tortillas, or cornmeal batter called masa) filled with some combination of beans, meat, vegetables, cheese, and sauces. Sauces tend to be flavorful rather than blindingly spicy. Chocolate was first grown by the Aztecs, and was originally not sweetened. Even today, "Mexican" hot chocolate is bitter and spicy rather than sweet.

I'm pretty sure I decided it was time to make Mexican food because I found ancho chile powder at Penzey's (for those who are unaware, I'm afraid of chiles. I know I'll have to get over it at some point, but for now I like my paste, and was thrilled to find the right kind in powder form!). Since it was Sunday lunch in a packed weekend, I decided to make it a relatively simple meal: chicken with mole sauce and Mexican rice. Aside for the chicken needing to be poached and shredded to make it delicious, and deciding to make enchiladas instead of just plain chicken, it wasn't too bad. The mole sauce was sweeter than I had imagined it would be, and possibly could have used more chile powder (or - perish the thought - actual peppers), but I really liked it. The chicken was flavorful and delicious, and I loved the enchiladas. I'll definitely be making more, although probably with different fillings and sauces. The rice was, I thought, the weak link in the meal. I don't think it was quite done and I definitely didn't salt it enough while it was cooking; also, I used basmati instead of regular white rice because that's what I happened to have laying around and I don't eat so much rice on a regular basis that I want to have tons of different packages in my cupboard. But all in all, I enjoyed the meal and the leftovers.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


From my recipe searches, Swedish cuisine appears to be centered on meat, cookies, and sweet breads, with some potatoes thrown in for good measure. Wikipedia tells me that traditional Swedish cuisine includes local ingredients such as berries as well. I guess the latitude is a good reason for the lack of vegetables other than potatoes. There are also fish dishes such as pickled herring, but I'm definitely not adventurous enough to touch that yet. I am REALLY not adventurous enough to try Lutfisk, fish cured in lye. As one of my coworkers told me, friends don't let friends eat Lutfisk.

In case you needed proof that there's no particular order to these countries, I picked Sweden this past weekend because I read the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo last weekend and the bacon pancake sounded good. Unfortunately, I got to the bacon pancake after I'd left my parents' house outside Philadelphia - and the Ikea I drive past to get back to DC. Consequently, I was worried about finding lingonberry anything, especially after the red currant jam issues. And I definitely couldn't make Swedish food without lingonberry! So my plan was to try World Market first, then Harris Teeter and Whole Foods, and settle for the boysenberry I used for Austria if I couldn't find it. Luckily, World Market came through!

While I was traipsing all over NoVA, I decided to check out Penzey's Spices in Falls Church to pick up white pepper. Great decision! They had almost everything I could have wanted (no vanilla beans that I saw, but they did have vanilla sugar), and I'll definitely be heading back there. Everything was cheaper than the supermarket, there was way more variety, I could usually get smaller quantities, and I'm pretty sure the quality is higher. As a bonus, they have descriptions of many of the more exotic spices or varieties posted so you know what you're buying.

My parents have been making Swedish meatballs since I was little, but theirs are just basic meatballs in a simple beef gravy. I wanted to see what the real thing was like. The recipe I used had all this stuff like roll the meat carefully into balls, dip in flour, freeze so that they stay together better. I didn't want to deal with all of that, so I made little patties using spoons. They're not the most baller meatballs I've ever made, but they were also fast, and I fried them in so much butter that they were in no danger of sticking to the pan and coming apart. I also knew I wanted to make that bacon pancake, but the recipes I found were for a large souffle like the Salzburger Nockerl, and souffles do not make good leftovers. So I made a third of the recipe and baked it in two personal-sized ramekins until they were golden brown and delicious. It worked well, although the actual pancakes were a little eggy for my taste, and I didn't think the bacon flavor was as integrated as I wanted it to be. I was at a loss for a vegetable recipe - I'm trying to eat a little healthier, and potatoes do not count as vegetables. Finally I found a creamed mushroom recipe from Jamie Oliver Does Sweden. I don't know how authentic it was, but it worked. It was supposed to be made with chanterelles, which are allegedly common in Sweden, but I had shiitakes. The meatballs and mushrooms were really tasty, if incredibly fattening from all the sweet, sweet butter.

The first recipe I found that I decided I wanted to make was glogg, a mulled wine. This recipe was unique because it also included white rum and bourbon, and was supposed to be SET ON FIRE. Unfortunately, my landlords are not fans of temperature moderation, so between the blasting heat and slaving over the stove, oven, and skillet, I was just not in the mood to mull anything, much less set it on fire.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


I love Ethiopian food. I love eating with my fingers and the bread, I love the flavors, I love telling the server I don't love spicy food and leaving the choice of what I'm eating in his or her hands. But making Ethiopian food was more than a little intimidating. Ethiopian cuisine is based on stews of vegetables, lentils, and meat served on and scooped up with flatbread called injera. Chicken, beef, and lamb are common, especially on special occasions, but pork is never eaten. The two most prevalent flavoring agents are niter kibbeh, or spiced ghee, and berbere, a hot pepper-based paste. Most dishes contain cardamom and ginger; garlic and onions are common as well. Many Ethiopians drink a honey wine called tej on special occasions. I didn't have this, but I did have a bottle of mead sitting around!

If I knew of a place to buy injera, the flat, spongy bread, I probably would have. I definitely didn't plan on making as many dishes as I did! I split up the work over several days: I made the niter kibbeh and started the injera on Friday (it had to sit for three days before being cooked), made the two lentil dishes on Sunday night because I knew they'd reheat well, and made everything else on Monday. Altogether, about 5 or 6 hours of active cooking time. I cooked for Ben and his dad, who was in town to help him move (to my neighborhood, yay!). Luckily, Papa Ben isn't a picky eater! I ended up making sega wat (beef in a zesty-ish sauce), mesir wat (stewed red lentils), kik alicha (yellow split peas), atakilt wat (stewed vegetables), alicha doro wat (chicken in a mild sauce), and kitfo (seasoned raw beef). Even though the injera didn't come out quite right (probably because I used all purpose flour instead of teff), everyone seemed to enjoy it, and the leftovers are fantastic. I'll probably make one or two of these dishes at a time in the future to just eat with a fork or over rice.

Local Butcher

I knew that for my Ethiopian feast I wanted to make kitfo (raw ground beef in butter and other seasonings). But even though I've seen my grandmother munch on raw ground beef out of the package, I wasn't that brave. So I turned to Steve, my local butcher. He owns Let's Meat on the Avenue in Del Ray, Alexandria. I sent him an email explaining what I wanted to do and asking whether he knew of any ways to make that safer, and he said that if I met him when he opened, he'd grind the beef for me in a freshly sanitized grinder, and that should be just fine. I didn't get sick, so I guess he was right! While I was there, I also saw signs that if you want something he doesn't have, he'll order it and have it within a couple of days. It's not cheap, but I'll definitely be going back! I also saw signs for wild boar and KANGAROO. No lie.

Steve posing next to my pile of freshly ground beef.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

South Africa

South African cuisine is influenced by many different cultures. One very popular dish, from the indigenous people of the area, is called pap, similar to grits or polenta served with flavorful sauces. Indo-Malaysian cuisine is common as well, since the people frequently served the European colonizers of South Africa. Finally, the Dutch (Boers) and English colonizers had a strong impact on the cuisine as well.

One tradition particularly dear to the descendants of the Boers is the braai, or barbecue. Families and friends get together and cook on a grill over an elaborate charcoal fire - the braai. One's braai is typically a point of pride. Common dishes include skewered meat and vegetables, grilled sandwiches with cheese, other grilled meat, and skillet breads. Men in particular frequently cook a pot of stew over the fire, called a potiejko.

My original plan had been to break out my own charcoal grill and have a braai of my own. But my dinner partner had to cancel, there are still mosquitoes, and it got a little chilly for me to want to grill alone. So I ended up just roasting most of the food and skipping the griddle cakes in favor of leftover bread from Trader Joe's, and skipping the beans entirely. This left me with braised peri-peri chicken livers, marinated vegetable skewers, and ribs.

I'd only had chicken liver once before, and while I wasn't a big fan of the experience, I thought a flavorful sauce and more adventurous palate would make a difference. It didn't. I also learned that buying the peeled and sliced butternut squash from Trader Joe's is more than worth the extra couple of dollars, which was extra unfortunate because the squash was definitely the weakest part of the vegetable skewers. But on the plus side, the ribs are delicious - I'm looking forward to eating them all week with the rest of the vegetables. And my apartment smells pretty fantastic. Finally, I remembered to put foil down on the pans before putting the racks on, so clean-up should be pretty simple. Thank goodness!

Monday, October 4, 2010


Afghan cuisine is diverse, as is the culture, but there are some things that are close to universal. Flatbread and yogurt seem to be consumed all over the country. Lamb is common, when meat is available. Common seasonings include onions, garlic, and mint. Meals are typically consumed communally, with each person dipping into a big bowl of stew or similar food.

My first exposure to Afghan food was at Friends Kebab in Vienna, VA, from which my department ordered lunch on my first day at my company. Meat on a stick, rice, tomatoes, bread..what's not to love? Months later, I finally tried the lentil soup, and was totally blown away. I decided that when I made Afghan food, that soup was going to be the first thing I did. While I was looking at recipes, a former coworker who's now on his way to becoming an Afghanistan subject matter expert told me I had to make these dumplings called Mantus. I also planned to make some fried kebabs.

Unfortunately, I got busy. I was going to be eating alone, and cooking around a lot of other activities in a packed day. The kebabs didn't make it. I couldn't find ground lamb. I bought bread instead of making it (although it was good). I left the garlic out of the yogurt sauce for the Mantus because I was going dancing, and I just spread the beef-and-yogurt mixture over a piece of bread and ate it like a pizza on the run instead of really sitting down and enjoying it. The dumplings were fine, but only that. Overall, the meal was not a success. Fortunately, the lentil soup I had for lunch was excellent, although not the same as Friends Kebab. I want this blog to be a mixture of meals that take hours to prepare and meals I could just make for dinner after work (and eat before 9!), but I guess I need to put a little more thought into how to do that.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is located in the Caribbean, on the same island as Haiti. Culinary influences include the Spanish (it used to be a Spanish colony), indigenous Taino, and African (Africans were brought by the Spanish to be slaves), and is most similar to Cuba and Puerto Rico. Common dishes include rice and beans, pork, other stewed meat, and seafood (for coastal residents). Dominican food tends to be less spicy than most other Caribbean food, and dominant seasonings are garlic, onion, cilantro, and oregano. I've also heard that chicken bouillon cubes contribute to a uniquely Dominican flavor.

I came across the recipe for the chicken nuggets online and decided that anything marinated in rum was all right with me. Usually chicharrones are made with pork rind, but chicken is apparently the Dominican way. I used chicken thighs and marinated them overnight in a ziplock bag. The frying process was surprisingly painless and the nuggets were flavorful but not actually spicy. My friend Ben said that he'd only had them with pork before, but that these tasted just about right. My only regrets were that I could have fried a few of them longer and that I didn't have any lime wedges!

My friend Ashley spent some time in the Dominican Republic and told me that I couldn't skip rice and red beans. She was kind enough to pass along her recipe and some tips, and it was delicious! I used basmati rice, since it was what I had around. Next time I might chop the onion a bit smaller (the recipe calls for quarters), but it was surprisingly tasty and sweet. I'll definitely make this again! Maybe I'll even have it for breakfast topped with a fried egg.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Burma (or Myanmar) is located in southern Asia between China, India, Laos, and Thailand. The country's current military government has promoted the name Myanmar since 1989, but the US government still uses the name Burma. Burmese cuisine is heavily influenced by China, India, and Thailand - not surprising, given its location. This means that fish sauce, clear noodle soups, and curries are all common elements. However, curries do not use curry powder, relying instead on turmeric and chili powder for flavor, as well as onions, garlic, and ginger.

I made the curry and the cucumbers while I was making the Bissau-Guinean stew, since both needed to simmer for hours and my schedule's a little hectic this week. The cucumbers were meant to be served cold, and I couldn't imagine that curry wouldn't reheat well. I thought the coolest part of the recipe was processing the onions, garlic, and ginger into a paste to get the flavor without the chunks. Of course, the friend hanging out with me pointed out that onions are *really* strong when they're processed into a paste; his eyes were watering from across the room! I made the coconut rice when I was actually ready to eat the meal (accidentally burned it, so I had to scrape off the unburned parts and just eat them - oops), and all in all, I was impressed. The rice was very mild, but the flavor went well with the curry. The meat was relatively tender and the curry was delicious; flavorful without being spicy. The cucumbers were...a little weird. But generally enjoyable.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Guinea-Bissau is a small country located on the west coast of Africa, between Senegal and Guinea. Bissau-Guinean cuisine is based on rice and millet (a grain), typically paired with vegetables and zesty sauces. Coastal people may eat fish regularly, but due to the poverty of the country, meat is typically only consumed on special occasions, when livestock is slaughtered.

I wanted to cover Guinea-Bissau early on because it’s the last book I worked on for my contract, and my team just finished on Friday. I had a hard time finding recipes - there were links to a few, but the recipes themselves could generally not be found, except for the one I made. The original called for mutton, but after trying Harris Teeter, Whole Foods, Super Giant, and the butcher in Del Ray, I came to the conclusion that mutton is unavailable near Old Town, so I substituted lamb neckbones. When I was ready to serve the stew, I fished out as many of the bones as I could. A lot of the meat had already fallen off, and I used forks to get the rest off, then put it back in the pot. Generally, I liked it. I was way too shy with the salt, and I might flavor it more strongly next time (although I’m not sure with what). But it’s very hearty, and I’m enjoying the leftovers as I write this.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


I'm starting with Austria because Austria was the place I first learned about a cuisine and its cultural influences, and I think my love affair with excellent food really started there. As a bonus, I took a cooking class, so it was easy to choose recipes.

Austria is located in central Europe near Germany, Hungary, Italy, and Slovakia. It was, of course, the center of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, alternately known as the Habsburg or Holy Roman Empire. Consequently, culinary influences come from all over the former empire. Dumplings from Bohemia, sausages from Germany, breaded and fried cutlets from Italy, clear soups from France, and more.

Last night's menu consisted of Wienerschnitzel, Kartoffelkrapfen, green beans mit Speck, and Salzburger Nockerl. In English, that's breaded and fried veal cutlets, fried mashed potato pancakes, green beans with bacon, and a boysenberry-flavored souffle for dessert. Wine was a German Riesling, because I couldn't find an Austrian wine at Shoppers or Trader Joe's yesterday afternoon. I also couldn't find the traditional red currant jam for the schnitzel or nockerl, hence the boysenberry. This would have been a good meal for four people, although there could have been more veal.


For the last few years, whenever people ask me about places I've traveled, the first thing that comes to mind is the food. When I talk about Austria I go into raptures over my host mother's cooking. I went to Istanbul primarily for the doener kebab (and oh, was that a good decision!). I don't want to go to Asia for a while because I think I'm still too picky an eater to fully appreciate it. At the same time, I'm becoming much more adventurous, both in what I'll eat and what I'll cook. It was a big deal for me when I realized that I could go to any restaurant in the DC area and find something I would enjoy on the menu. But I want to take it further - I want to cook a meal from every country in the world.

Goals (and caveats)
1. I want to cook a full meal from every country in the world. At this point, I'm defining countries as UN members.* I do realize that this might be impossible. I may just not be able to find enough recipes to do separate meals for, say, Tonga, Tuvalu, Nauru, Palau, Samoa, Kiribati, and Micronesia. There might not be a noticeable difference in cuisine. But I'll do my best.
2. I want to make the recipes as authentic as possible, and in-season. Again, this might be impossible. I may have to tone down the spiciness or I may not have specialized equipment or ingredients.
3. I don't just want to write about recipes. Food is an important part of culture, and I'd like to give it some context in each entry.

Cooking is a lot more fun to do with or for other people. To that end, I'd like to offer three ways to get involved. The easiest way is to send recipes to** If you'd like to eat with me, send me an email! Anyone is welcome*** as long as they're willing to work around my schedule and either do dishes or bring a beverage (preferably related to the country in question). If your family is from a country or you spent time in one and learned some recipes, I'd love to have you guest-blog! In this case, guest-blog means come cook with me and help me write the entry.

*If you can make a strong case for a country that is not a member of the UN, I'll consider it. Plan to provide recipes and possibly guest-blog.
**I may not use your submission, but will give you credit if I do. I'm much less picky than I used to be, but am still not a fan of spicy food or cooked fish/shrimp.
***I live in Old Town Alexandria. If you want to cook or eat with me, you should probably be relatively local. If I haven't met you before, you're absolutely welcome; we just may need to meet up for coffee first.