Saturday, March 28, 2009

Friday Night Ethiopian Extravagana (Recipes 15-17)

So my guy Curtis and I had an Ethiopian food night on Friday. We had decided about a week ago that we wanted to get together and cook something new, and we settled upon Ethiopian food because neither of us had ever attempted that at home and there were tons of vegetarian options for Curtis and meat options for me.

The Menu:
Since neither of us had had Ethiopian food for a while, I found a few menus online for Ethiopian restaurants and Curtis picked 2 veggie dishes (Atakilt Wot and Shiro) and I picked 1 beef dish (Tibs Wot) since I had beef in the freezer that needed to be used. In addition to the dishes we, of course, had to have some Injera and I made a little cocktail for us as well.

Ingredients of interest:
Ethiopians use a LOT of spices in their cooking. The only spice that neither of us had ever cooked with was Fenugreek seed. Fenugreek seed seemed to provide an essential flavor to 2 of the staple components of Ethiopian cooking, Niter kibbeh and berbere (more about those later). Fenugreek is native to India and is often used in Indian, Mediterranean and Northern African cooking. By itself fenugreek has a slightly bitter taste. Incidentally I had become familiar with fenugreek a few years earlier when I ordered a "grow your boobs big" kit online. It came with a bunch of herbs and berries that were supposed to make your boobs bigger. One of them was fenugreek! I believe you were supposed to make tea out of the seeds AND use a lotion on your boobies that was infused with fenugreek. Obviously this didn't work out for me, but now that I have stock of seeds I may give it another shot... Anyway moving on...

The Process...
So before Curtis came over I decided to make 2 elements of the meal, the niter kibbeh and the Tef. Niter kibbeh is a clarified butter that is infused with ginger, garlic and a ton of other spices. To make the niter kibbeh I just melted a 1/2 pound of butter with a couple slices of fresh ginger, 2 cloves of garlic, cardamon pods, cinnamon, cloves, turmeric and fenugreek, let it simmer for an hour and then strained out the solids. It smelled AMAZING! The smell was very warm and "comforting" (for lack of a better word) from the cloves, ginger and cinnamon, with a certain spiciness from the fenugreek and tumeric. it smelled SOOo good... i wish this blog had smell'o'vision so I could share it.

Tej is a sweet wine that is made from fermented honey and the leaves and twigs from a special kind of hops called gesho. Obviously i wasn't going to be fermenting honey in Bed Stuy so I decided to go with this rough approximation of tej that was basically honey, water and wine. It was tasty... I'm sure it didn't taste ANYTHING like real tej, but it was sweet, refreshing and got the job done. I think I'm going to try and get some real tej sometime soon then just so I can try it.

Curtis came through around 7:30 and we quickly got started on the berbere. The berbere, along with the niter kibbeh, seemed to be the most important, quintessentially Ethiopian, elements of the meal. Berbere is a hot pepper baste (or dry powder) that is made from a TON of spices (cumin, cardamom, allspice, cloves, turmeric, nutmeg, paprika, cayenne, etc etc). Curtis and I had most of the spices on hand in ground form, but we decided to be authentic as possible and purchase the whole form of each spice, and toast and grind it into powder ourselves. The berbere was really easy to make.. we just toasted the spices until they became fragrant, ground them up in my coffee grinder, and then threw them in the blender with some onion, garlic, ginger, oil and water. So easy and so tasty! I can't really describe the taste of the berbere itself it was similar to Indian curry but sharper... not quite as muddled. Ours wasn't that hot, but i don't think I got the right kind of peppers for it. I have about a cup of berbere left over and I'm definitely going to keep it on hand. It would make a fabulous marinate for fish or chicken, or just an additive to stews for an extra kick of flavor. Yumm....

The actual dishes were probably the least excite portions of the meal to make. To prepare Tibs Wat (Beef stew) you cook up some pureed ginger, onion and garlic in hot niter kibbeh, add some paprika and berbere paste, red wine, beef stock, cayenne and beef chunks marinated in lemon and salt and let it cook for about 40 min. Nothing terribly exciting but this mess was hella tasty. I was very concerned because I tasted the mixture after the addition of the paprika and berbere and it was REALLY disgusting. If it weren't for Curtis calming me down I might have chucked it... it was that nasty, but obviously the addition of the wine, stock and beef created some sort of culinary magic because in the end it was fantastic... spicy, complex, creamy, and a tad bitter.

Curtis took the lead on preparing the veggie dishes but they also didn't seem that difficult to make. The atkilt wot was basically a bunch of cut up veggies (carrots, green beens, cabbage) and potato cut up, COVERED in niter kibbeh and baked until tender, buttery and delicious... and it was.. Seriously that niter kibbeh is no joke because those veggies were excellent. The taste was much milder than the tibs wot, but i liked it because it allowed you to really taste the complexities of the niter kibbeh. Also the flavor wasn't so overpowering that it couldn't be combined with other types of cuisine. I would totally make this as a side dish to go along with baked chicken and brown rice... I think a lot of people would enjoy their veggies prepared this way. Not particularly healthy (veggies doused in spiced butter) but definitely delicious.

Lastly Curtis made the Shiro Wot which was spicy green pea stew. As written the Shiro Wot was simply peas, onion, garlic, ginger, salt and pepper. The flavor was obviously really mild and not particularly Ethiopian... I think I dropped the ball on this recipe. I should have looked for a better one. I think niter kibbeh should have been subbed for the oil and there should have been some berbere in there. We ended up adding a few tablespoons of berbere at the end and it really kicked up the dish.

Lastly we tried our hand at injera... injera is a spongy, sour, crepe-like flat bread that is used as a utensil for eating the stews. Proper injera is made from teff (a cereal grain indigenous to Ethiopia) flour mixed with water and allowed to ferment for several days. Because of the fermentation, injera is very sour. After fermentation the injera is baked into large flat pancakes. Soo... we decided on our Ethiopian theme late Wednesday and I didn't figure out how to make injera until Thursday so obviously the fermentation was out. Instead we decided to make this "quick injera" recipe that I saw online which was basically a batter made from whole wheat and white flour, baking powder, club soda and a little lemon joice. This was not injera. These were very bland pancakes. They definitely LOOKED like injera and were spongy like injera... but they tasted like very bland pancakes. Thankfully neither of us really like injera so we were pleased with our pancakes.

Overall I give the meal a solid A and the company an A+. Although we didn't actually eat until 11:00 we had a great time cooking and chatting and it was just really nice to be able to share an activity that I like so much with someone who enjoys it just as much as I do. By the end of the night i was EX.HAUSTED but the learning and company was totally worth the effort. Hopefully we can make this a monthly or bi-monthly activity. Here are a few shots of our finished products:
My Plate...

Curtis' Plate...

The table:

I think I'm going to use my leftover berbere to make some doro wat next weekend or later on this month and try to make a proper injera. If anyone interested in coming over for dinner just let me know. :-)


Spring has sprung in Brooklyn!

I had a FABULOUS time this weekend! My friend Curtis and I had an Ethiopian food extravaganza on Friday night yummmmm. Cooking, great food, awesome company, good conversation; what more could a gal ask for?

Saturday was an absolutely gorgeous spring day so Leroy and I decided to take a little stroll around the Stuy. We went to the dog park where he played with a 80 pound pitt bull and did a fabulous time teaching a cute little girl about proper puppy care. I was so proud of him! He didn't really jump of on her and he let her attempt to pick him up by his front legs, pull on his tail, generally manhandle him while constantly yelling at him to lick her. Such a good dog! Maybe he does have some therapy dog in him yet. :-)

Leroy and I then strolled over to Fort Greene and checked out the Fero and Addy "Leaving New York" Sale (R.I.P Fero and Addy...) where I ran into my girl Candace and FINALLY found a great bag!

A beautiful Tano bag for less than $100 bucks! Can't beat that!

I also found some adorable earrings and Candace purchased a hot clutch and an iridescent orange bag... Very cute.

So sad Fero and Addy is closing.

Candice, Leroy and I met up with our girl Tania for a late lunch at Cafe Lafayette in Fort Greene where we had a few drinks (ok just I had a few drinks), laughed and entertained the obligatory relationship discussion from a nosey, but kind of cute, passerby. Good times.

Sunday Leroy and I chillaxed the rainy morning away chatting with friends over IM, finally catching up with my Sis, watching bad VH1 reality shows, and eating leftover Tibs Wot. Leroy now loves watching TV (he's much calmer post-snipping)... although he seems a little suspicious of this Ceaser Milan character.

I finally got off my butt around 3:00, took a shower and decided to actually achieve something today. I hung out in Target for a few hours... Target is like a black hole... I haven't been there in a while, but there is SO much to look at... I bought a few things that I needed and bought another bag... a white faux-leather tote. I like it. What do ya'll think?

After Target I headed over to the gym for a late workout. No cute boys to look at, but I did get some good circuit training in and feel like my beach body is coming together. I finshed off the weekend with a delicious dinner and dessert from Peaches Brooklyn. If you are in Brooklyn and are in the mood for chocolate you should RUN, not stroll, over to Lewis and MacDonough for Peaches' triple chocolate brownie... So.Flucking.Good. No more sweets for me until next Satuday so I was sure to end the weekend on a sweet note!

This was such a beautiful weekend! I can't even verbalize how excited I am that it's spring. Corny as it sounds, I really feel like every spring is a rebirth. Winters are hard for me. Each winter I start out strong, but by the end of the season I'm always depressed and feel like I'm running the last lap of a marathon in the midst of a blizzard so severe that I can't see the finish line... Winter exhausts me. I LOVE it in the beginning, but by the end I'm literally on my knees begging mother nature for mercy. When spring comes it feels like the planet is hugging me and telling me that I made it.... I feel so grateful to be alive and able to experience another spring.

Anywhoo that's enough for now,


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Blog Roundup- 3/26/2009

Just a few thangs from the ever revolving blogiverse….


Gettogetha (a really cool lifestyle) posted these awesome bulletin boards from a designer on Etsy. I have been looking for a bulletin board for my apartment, but really didn’t want to do the standard dorm, cork board look… I don’t’ really have that much on my walls so I feel like everything I hang up has to add value…. Even a bulletin board. I LOVE these “Hoop de doo” bulletin boards from little pretty studio. They are so adorable. They are small, so you’d have to get a few

Gettogetha also posted a really cute idea for host/hostess gifts. As a girl who likes to entertain friends (AND drink) I always appreciate people bringing a bottle of wine or spirits as a hostess gift, but the wine undoubtedly will be drunk at the party leaving me as the poor hostess empty handed when it’s over. Enter the wine stopper! Perfect hostess gift. You can use them at the party to keep the wine corked, and the hostess can keep them for her personal use. I am definitely going to keep a stock of these on hand. Gettogetha posted some cute ones


Anyone who knows me KNOWS I love personal challenges. I’m always trying to get people to enter them with me (budget challenges, workout challenges, water drinking challenges LOL), so the “April Body of Work” challenge at Social Fitness was right up my alley. Basically the challenge is to work out 26 times in April and go on Social fitness and write up a short ditty about your workouts to keep yourself accountable and give others ideas. The prizes aren’t too shallow either. The grand prize is a free year membership to Crunch (over $1000) value. Anyone else want to join in?

Evil Mad Scientist's project for this week were mini pizzas made in little springform pans. SUCH a cute, delicious (looking) and potentially healthy ideas. I will be trying these in the near future...

That's it for today.... thankfully Budget Babe has stopped that Spotlight Store of the day nonsense... the "Babe" is costing me dearly but hopefully I'll be cuter for it come spring.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Oh My Damn....

OKAY Eric Benet... I see you... I watched this video at work... probably shouldn't have.... Whoo wee..... That's all I'm going to say...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

2 More Best Picture Movites- Platoon and Out of Africa

I watched 2 more movies on my "picture of the year list". I watched both of these last Saturday during my failed DIY kinky twist experiment... Even though I wasted 3-4 hours last weekend trying and failing to put in my twist extensions, the day wasn't a complete loss because i got to see 2 really good movies!

The first movie I watched was Platoon. I didn't think I would really like this movie, since I'm not that into war movies but it turned out to be a pretty decent flick. The movie centered around the lives of 13 soldiers and specifically 1 new soldier who had volunteered to go to Vietnam (he was a wealthy, white guy who dropped out of college) in an effort to personally recify the injustice of only the poor having to go to war (something the other "poor" soldiers thought was really idiotic). The movie kind of followed his change from a shared shitless newbie to a "real" soldier and showed his struggle to not let the atrocities that he saw committed in Vietnam turn him into a monster as well.

The movie was violent, but not in a gratuitous way, and had that late '70s, grimy, M.A.S.H type visual effect... like the movies i used to watch on Sunday afternoons on FOX growing up. Overall I really enjoyed the movie To me, the main theme of the movie seemed to be the struggle not to let Vietnam eat the soldiers alive... Stress, fatigue, disease, often leads soldiers to do things that they wouldn't normally do (rape, kill innocents, pillage villages) and it seemed like there was a real struggle within all of the characters around what Vietnam was making them become. There were 13 or so "supporting" characters and I really appreciated the fact that each of the 13 had their own personality with depth... it wasn't just like, "this is the evil guy ann this is the good guy..." they each had their own struggle, which Oliver Stone was able to get across quite skillfully despite the fact that no one had that many lines. Also it was also just kind of cool to see all of the young actors, Charlie Sheen, Johnny Depp, The guy from Scrubs, Willem Defou, Forrest Whitaker, the bad guy trying to take over Ice Cube's shop in Barbershop... Good times all around. I don't know if I'd watch the movie again, but i give it a solid B.

The second film I watched was Out of Africa. I was NOT excited about watching this... from the previews it seemed like it was going to be one of those beautiful, sweeping, but mind-numbingly boring pics... like the English Patient. Also the movie is about colonial Kenya and the main characters were all rich white people.... I was not excited about this movie. But it turned out to be REALLY great! The main character, played by Meryl Streep, was an "aging" (probably late 20's... but I guess that's old for a single woman in the early 1900s) single woman with family money who married her best friend, a poor Baron, in exchange for a title and had to relocate to Kenya to be with her new husband.

When she arrived at her new place it was made pretty clear to her that her marriage wasn't real and her new husband wasn't really going to be around much and of course at first she was put off by all the black faces she saw. She didn't trust anyone... she looked at all the natives like they were dirty and were going to steal her stuff...( needless to say I was getting annoyed at this point.) With no friends or family in the remote area where she lived, the Baroness decided to throw all of her energy into making sure her farm prospered and creating actual relationships with the people who worked on the farm and lived in the neighboring villages. During this time she met and fell in love with a man, played by Robert Redford, who seemed to be sort of a wandering/jack of all trades type... but with money. LOL He was sexy and funny and they had a true connection and fell in love.. aWWW but he was also a man and didn't want to be "controlled" by calling it a relationship or actually getting married.

Anywhoo I'm not going to recap the entire story, but all in all the Baroness grew to really care about her "native" neighbors and friends... not in an annoying, paternalistic type of way, but a real, honest affection for who they were and respect for their ways and culture. Through her relationship with Robert Redford's character (who was RIDICULOUSLY hot in this movie...) she discovered herself, her own self worth. SUCH a great movie! The end was heartbreaking... I was sitting in my apartment crying like a fool. I won't spoil it, but it's definitely worth checking out. I would watch it again in a heartbeat, so i give Out of Africa a solid A.

Spring Decorating

Spring has sprung and I decided I HAVE to switch up my living room. I have some beautiful curtains, pillows and couch throw that my mom made for me 3 years ago, but they are just TOOOO dark for me now and for some reason the combination of the bright yellow walls and dark maroon curtains is making me feel like the room closing in around me. So I'm going to change it. It's spring so I'm going to try and redecorate in a happy, sunny, springy way.

I don't really want to repaint my wall, so I'm going to have to just work around the yellow and try to make it less manically intense and more sunny and happy. So here's my living room at this point:

It was night time, but you can see how heavy and dark the curtains are, and just how generally dark the color scheme is.

So the plan is this:
1- Get new window treatments
2- Get some cute throw pillows for the couch
3- reupholster my dining room chairs and benches
4- Get some plants/window boxes for the windows
5- figure out a simple, cheery and cheap tablescape.

I did some research online and I think the main accent color I want to go with is in the vermilion/coral/orange family. All the decorating shows say that when you're picking colors you should find an inspiration room, or pillow/accessory or image that inspires you. Here are the things that spoke to me...

I really like the sunnyness of the sunflower on the Nourish and Shine Pomade label and I just LOVE the dining room in the picture, although I feel like it may be a little orange for me. My original plan was to do more coral and yellow (like Michelle Obama's outfit)... but I don't know if that or the orange will do better.

At this point I've taken down my curtains and the room already looks so much brighter. I've found a couple cute pillows at Crate and Barrel and CB2 that I may start out with... Anyone have any suggestions on curtain color or how I should reupholster my chairs and stools?

Gracias folks!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Blog Roundup 3/20/2009

What up party people.... It's the first day of Spring!!! YAY! Here's some fun stuff I found today :-)

The Budget Babe is QUICKLY becoming my favorite blog (and my bank account's nemesis...). The babe over at Budget Babe has bled my bank account a bit more today's "New Store Spotlight" The store of today is "Akira Chicago" Akira is a trendy high end/low end (ie you can get a D&G $300 watch and a $15 plastic belt all in one stop!) boutique in Chicago. I checked out their website and they have some cute stuff! Their Spring line is called "Couture for the Poor". Ooowee they have some cute stuff! Argh! Damn you Budget Diva! Here are a few things that caught my eye...

In addition to Akira, Budget Diva also notified me to a sale at 6pm...Nine west shoes for $19.99.... I bought 2... Grrrr... oh well I guess $40 for 2 pairs of 9 West work shoes ain't that bad :-) at

Shefinds "Deal of the day" was Banana Republic's sale on "frill free dresses" I was actually at Banana yesterday trying, in vain, to find some work slacks and I saw this dress... It's on sale for $100 now. Is it worth it? --->

TheKtchn posted this little can strainer kitchen gaget thingie.... If I could find it in a store I would totally buy it because I'm always losing corn kernels, etc when I try and strain the liquid out of the can.... and I think this would be a GREAT use of $9.00 :-D

And Lastly, TheKtchn also posted this awesome easy spring dessert recipe: Shortbread Jam Tart I love shortbread... and I'm sure I have all the ingredients (sugar, butter and jam) at home.. so sounds like a possible dessert for this weekend.

That's all for now. Have a fabulous weekend!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pasta in Almond Garlic Sauce (recipe #15)

I made a pretty tasty new dish last night- Penne pasta in Almond Garlic sauce. I came across this recipe last week on one of the blogs that I follow and it seemed pretty interesting. It's basically a pasta with a white sauce made of pureed almond, garlic, butter, Parmesan cheese, and lemon, mixed with frozen peas and topped with mint and basil. The idea of pureeing almonds into a pasta sauce was intruiging, and I had basically all the ingredients on hand (except for the mint and Parm) so I figured I'd give it a shot.

According to the recipe, this entire meal (including prep, etc) was only supposed to take 20 min and wonder of wonders, it actually did! This was a super easy meal. There was virtually no prep work. No onions or garlic to chop, no peas to de-shell... Pretty much the only prep type work you had to do was blanch the almonds... but then again you could buy almonds already blanched.

For those of you who aren't cookers, blanching is basically dipping a food into boiling water briefly. Vegetables (asparagus, snowpeas, etc) are often blanced to bring out their color and then placed in ice water. You can also blanch tomatoes to easily remove the skin... but I digress. I generally think of blanching as ONLY dipping the food into hot water, but apparently "blanching" an almond is dipping it into hot water and then removing the skin from each almond. I found this out by mistake... I don't think I've ever blanched almonds, so when they came out of the water and the skin was all bubbly I just figured that's what they were supposed to look like. I was about to throw the almonds in the blender when I saw that the skin was peeling off of a few of them and I realized "OOOOOH maybe I'm supposed to take this skin off so it's not all chunky and stuff in the sauce!" I'm smart :-p So I peeled all the almonds... which was kind of fun.. If you grasp them with your thumb and forefinger at the pointy end, the white inside will kind of shoot out of the skin like a little nut missle... This was great fun for me... because I'm a dork. It was great fun for Leroy as well because he got to eat a few wayward missles.

After I finished with the almonds I threw them in the blender with a little water and a couple cloves of garlic. Next you heat a little butter and olive oil in a pan and add the almond-garlic mixture. The garlic almond mixture will begin to thicken after a few minutes...
It will go from this ---- > To this --- >

After the mixture thickens you add a little bit of the water that you cooked the pasta in. The starchy water will help the mixture thicken. Then you throw in the cheese, peas and lemon juice and lastly you add the basil and mint. When I opened up the basil I had in my fridge I realized it had gone all funky, so I had to use dried basil instead of fresh. Other than that (and not using as much butter) I pretty much followed the recipe. This is what my version looked like!

Overall it was pretty darn good. It wasnt' particularly nutty... the almond taste was really mild. I LOVED the peas and mint combination. Apparently that is a very "spring" combo... according to my boss :-p And honestly even though I didn't necessarily know those 2 were like quintisential "spring" ingredients, when I tasted it, I thought "This tastes like spring..." As written I think I give the dish a solid B+. If I were to make it again, I would obviously use fresh basil. I would also think about using a sharper cheese? I'm not sure if straight Parmesan is sharper than Parmesan-Reggiano, or if there a sharper hard Italian cheese I could sub? I would also probably add far more lemon juice, and more garlic.

Anyway, my Penne with Almond Garlic sauce was QUITE tasty. Please let me know how it turns out if any of you make it.

I need a new bag... STAT!

So the horror of almost losing my brand new cell phone yesterday has put a fire under my ass about getting a new purse. All of my current purses came off of the street (the nice bag guy at 18/19th and 6th... Thanks Sabs) and while they look nice-ish, none of them are particularly durable or zip all the way shut... And I'm getting very annoyed with my change, ipod and phone always getting caught underneath the torn lining. So I"m getting a new bag this week. Period. I don't want to spend more than 100 on it, but I'd like it to be cute.... That being said... Does anyone have any ideas or seen any cute bags around? My only requirements are that it's cute, leather or high quality pleather, fully zips closed and has functional compartments. Here are a few I've seen on the net within the past few days that I thought were cute... just so you'd know the style I'm kind of going for.... Thoughts/suggestions anyone?

Grey Bselma from Steve Madden: On sale for $73.00

Whitney Drawstring Bag from Steven by Steve Madden- Ivory on sale for $164

This is cute from Bluefly (Matt and Nat), but it's $150 and it's not leather..

That's all I got so far...

Suggestions anyone?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Blog Roundup 3/17/2009

Just a few thangs fo yo ass.....


So Budget Babe is doing this
cool thing where they spotlight a new online store every day for a week (or a month?). Yesterday's store was Bare Acessories which is an online store selling accessories (bags, jewelry, hoisery, sunglasses, etc). They had some cute stuff! Here are a few of the bags and Jewelry that I liked...

A few blogs posted recipes yesterdays in honor of St. Patrick's day. One was a SUPER cute peppermint cupcake (pictured to the left) from the Simply Recipes blog. Thektchn posted a Guinness Chocolate cake. I've never had Guinness before, but the recipe was from Nigella Lawson and I think she generally makes tasty stuff... A couple ideas for next year. :-)


The folks over at the Exercise blog finally posted something useful (there were about to get deleted from my subscription list). I love exercises that you can do between sets of strength training to keep your heart rate up... some of my faves are jumping jacks (Old school, I know), jump rope, and burpees. posted a new one; Froggy Jumps! They are basically like jumping squats but harder. Here are the instructions:
  1. Squat all the way down to the floor, putting your hands on the floor in front of you.
  2. In an explosive movement, push up from the floor, jumping up in the air.
  3. As you jump, tap your heels together and take the hands behind the head or up in the air.
  4. Land with bent knees to protect the joints and go back into your squat to prepare for the next jump.
  5. Repeat 10-20 froggy jumps, rest and repeat, if desired.
I tried a few of these last night... they're no joke. They really work your legs because of the deep squat, and you can't be lazy about pushing off into the jump or you won't have time to click your heels together. Good stuff.

That's all for today!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The food of the Garifuna... (new foods 9-10)

So this weekend my homegirl Tania invited me to a wonderful Garifuna cultural affair in the Bronx. Tania is Garifuna and she was born in Honduras. Just a little history on the Garifuna, the Garifuna are mixed race people who are descendants of Carib, Arawak and African peoples. The Garifuna generally live in Central America along the Caribbean Coast of Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua. I kind of thought that the Garifuna were like Black Hondurans.... I'm not sure that's 100% accurate, but the folks at the festival were definitely of African descent and the food was delicious and had definite African inspirations.

Given that it was Tania and I at this affair, obviously the first thing that we did was take a shot. Guifiti is a traditional Garifuna spirit made from rum infused with herbs, nuts and berries. Apparently alcohol was not allowed at this function because after we paid for our shots (actually a scary drunk man paid for them.... but that's another story) we were covertly handed 2 little cups and a half empty bottle of rum and had to pour the shots ourselves under the table while trying to disentangle ourselves (physically and socially) from the scary drunk guy... Anywhoo I have no idea what the rum was infused with, but it was strong and it was tasty. It had a bit of an anise taste to me... a little licorice-y. The guifiti went down fairly smooth, but I think I would like to mix it with something or at least have a chaser next time.

Machuca- The next thing we ate was this DELICIOUS coconut based seafood soup that you eat with a mash of green plantains called Machuca. We actually got to the Machuca right when they ran out, but Tania told her friend, who was making the food, that she wanted to introduce me to the Garifuna culture and I NEEDED to taste the Machuca so she scraped a bit more soup and plantain out for me. And I'm glad she did because it was tasty... coconutty, but not in a heavy way and had notes of cilantro and lime in it. There was only a bit of seafood in my portion, but the broth was nicely infused with seafood flavor. The plantain mash was actually pretty tasty. I'm not usually a fan of starchy mashes (fufu, etc), but the mash actually had a flavor of it's own...

Next on the list was also one of my favorites, Baleada. Baleada is popular street food in Honduras... it's basically a thick, homemade tortilla filled with refried beans and a slightly sweet cream. It sounds like it would be a bit odd, but it was really tasty. The cream tasted a bit like cream cheese or sour cream but it was a bit sweet. The refried beans were just refried beans, but together it worked. Yummm...

After the Baleada we got a couple cups of hot Atole. Atole is porridge like drink made with corn, coconut (or Carnation evaporated milk I was told... Do any people of African descent NOT love the Carnation?!?), hominy, and spices... i think i tasted nutmeg and maybe cinnamon. It was VERY sweet and heavy. I initially though that it was a soup because, despite the fact it was served in a cup, they gave us spoons, but apparently Atole is actually a drink. It was tasty, but it was so rich I could only have a couple spoonfulls.

Next on our gastronomic tour of Honduras we had some Tamales... They were very much like traditional Mexican tamales... chick wrapped in cornmeal and steamed in leaves. They were tasty, but not my fav.

Tania and I took a few sweets to go. One was a sweet called semitas that looks like a very large, puffy sugar cookie with a braided ring of dough surrounding it. The Semitas (I'm not sure if that's singular or plural :-/) were tasty... They pretty much tasted like sugar cookies... with some nutmeg. Blacks all over the diaspora love them some nutmeg... almost as much as they love the Carnation...

The last thing i tasted was the Garifuna Yucca Bread. It is pretty much what it sounds, like... "bread" made of mashed yucca. It was quite interesting... They cut it off of a big tray, and when I saw it on the tray, I kind of thought it was flan, or something similar... The inside of the bread had that kind of flan-like firm mush look. Upon tasting it, the texture was a little like flan, but much denser and chewier... i can't think of much to compare it with, but it kind of had the consistency of fufu... if you for some reason decided to chew your fufu. It was chewy, firm and kind of elastic. The texture was interesting, but definitely not unappealing. The bread tasted pretty good... it was very sweet and moist and tasted of.... you guessed it! Brown sugar and nutmeg... heh heh... yum..

All in all I really enjoyed my taste of Garifuna! I am going to count it as 2 new foods given the Machuca, Guifiti, Tamales and Semitas were not totally foreign to me. I think I am going to try and make machuca this month... it was really tasty. So look out for that :-p


Friday, March 13, 2009

Recipe #14- Barley Risotto with Asparagus and Peas

I tried one of the recipes from this month's issue of Clean Eating this past week. It was a take on risotto, but instead of using a short grain, sticky rice like Arborio, you use barley. I was intrigued when I first saw the recipe, not only because the picture was so beautiful, but also because I'm always looking to introduce grains in interesting ways into my cooking.

So why try the risotto with barley as opposed to just using the rice (What's wrong with Rice? Right Janet :-p) Well when compared to white rice, barley has almost half the calories (193 v. 242 calories per cup) and fewer grams of total carbs (53 v. 44), but I think the biggest difference between rice and barley is the fiber content. While white rice has a whopping 53 grams of carbs, it only has .6 grams of fiber. Barley, on the other hand, is lower in carbs, but MUCH higher in dietary fiber with 6 grams per serving! Barley even tops brown rice when it comes to calories, carbs and fiber. Anyway...we all need to up our fiber content, and barley risotto sounded WAY better than a glass of Metamucil...

The recipe was pretty simple. You basically saute up some shallots and scallions in olive oil, add the barley and some chicken broth. Let that cook. Add the cut up asparagus and peas, and then stir in fresh basil, parsley and lemon zest.

Overall I REALLY enjoyed my barley risotto! Initially I had planned on putting a little butter in it and maybe throwing in some white wine, but I figured I would try and make it a totally clean meal and see how it tasted. It was really good. Clean and simple, but very very tasty and that was just with the asparagus (I forgot the peas).

The thing I was most worried about was getting the creamy consistency that most risottos have. While it wasn't creamy like a typical risotto, it did have an element of creaminess to it.... I'm not really sure where the creaminess came from... maybe it was cooked in more or less liquid than normal, or maybe barley is supposed to a little creamy when cooked? Either way I was pleasantly surprised by the texture and the taste of the dish. The next time I make it I may try and up the creaminess quotient (without ruining the clean-ness of the meal) by roasting and pureeing some cauliflower to add to the broth... I'll probably also add a little coriander (which I like with asparagus), more lemon zest to brighten up the flavor, and I have to think of a different herb to add... I'm not really a fan of parsley.

Overall I give the dish a solid A