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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Cooking Our Way Through The World

In looking back through the blog, I've noticed that while I've blabbed about writing, and music a great deal, there is a third love that for some reason I've shoved on the back burner.

Food.

Eating.

Cooking.

Did I mention eating?

I love food. I don't know anyone who doesn't have an opinion on eating, like "thanks but I had a Mentos for dinner, so I'll pass on the spaghetti." Or "no that bit of spinach stuck in my teeth was filling enough, so I don't need that piece of fresh baked French bread." No. Not only is it crucial for survival, but we hedonist foodies expound on the nature of the universe through each and every rapturous bite. We live in the breath of a well crafted pastry. We find our inner peace in a new sweet-and-savory concoction designed to tempt the taste buds and meld it in different directions.

I also love eating the world.

The first moment I had home cooked Indian food (and I came to the world of Indian curries and flatbreads later in life than I would ever like to admit), I thought I'd found a slice of spiced heaven. Consequently, my spice cabinet has overgrown, as I now live within walking distance of an Indian grocery. And I've stained my fingernails a that long-time-smoker turmeric-yellow from, well, the turmeric on many occasions.

The best quiche of my whole friggin' life was in Tangier, Morocco, and there are barely words to describe it. The Phở place I went to recently handcrafts their own fresh noodles. Down the street from the phở king place is a dumpling house, where you can sit down to eat next to the little old ladies pinching closed the dough they've worked with their wrinkled, ancient hands into beautiful dumplings. I may have also become enamored (nay obsessed) with Moroccan pastilla, that all day cooking ordeal I have yet to attempt, though a friend of mine has: TWICE.

I've tried cooking a lot of cuisines, simply because I want to take them home with me. My kitchen has smelled of curry for days on end as I try, and retry to get it right. Soy sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce and Szechuan chili sauce are more an ever present condiment staple in my fridge than ketchup and mayo. I've made corn tortillas from scratch (barring the step where I grind the corn into masa), and samosas from scratch (yes, I've made a shorter version of the dough, and it's worth it. Store bought egg roll wrappers make me weep to see them anywhere near samosa filling). Grill-roasted home grown tomatoes have magically turned into a delectable marinara sauce, with a ricer and a lot of elbow grease. I love fresh corn season so I can make elotes, or slather some homemade Cajun spice rub on it.

Recently in my cooking the world endeavors, I stumbled across one woman and her family doing just that. Global Table Adventure is all the things I sought for in a food blog. World cuisine brought home. Great writing, and a passionate, upbeat attitude about the cultures that bring you the menu for the week. So far I've tried a number of recipes from this entertaining blog, and have loved some of them enough to cook multiple times, while one horrifying failed attempt had my partner-in-cooking-crime asking how we wound up with a liquid-runny puke smell in the food processor.

Here are my favorite world recipes from that food blogo (and no, no one is paying me anything to promote this site. But if you'd like to, I also love money):

Beef Peanut Kabobs from Nigeria: There is absolutely nothing to hate about this recipe (unless you're a vegetarian or allergic to peanuts). Thinly sliced beef, that tang of freshly grated ginger, the wondrously aromatic qualities of roasting peanuts. Add all that to open flame of a grill, and voila! The bouillon cube was a surprise ingredient I was leery of, but now I can't imagine this without one.

Bobotie from South Africa: This is one of those astonishing how-can-all-of-these-ingredients-work-together type recipes. It does. Just trust me. If you like sweet and savory combinations, you will enjoy this. It's like a meatloaf that is worlds better than any meatloaf ever.

Pastel de Choclo (Chicken Casserole) from Chile: Another sweet/savory are-those-ingredients-actually-used-together type recipes. I've made this twice with regular cut up chicken, and it doesn't do it justice. Go rotisserie. Go Costco sized. It involves chicken, hard-boiled eggs, pimento-stuffed olives, raisins (I used craisins), and a wonderfully sugared corn puree on top. I once switched out the corn puree for cornbread topping for my severe milk allergic cooking-partner-in-crime...and no. Just no.

So what's the best meal you've ever made? What's the worst cooking mistake?

Any favorite international recipes? Regale me with your spicy ways.


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