Sunday, September 27, 2009

Antigua and Barbuda

No, we are not cheating and doing two countries at once. Although they are separate isles, Antigua and Barbuda (not to be confused with Barbados) is a single country, much like Trinidad and Tobago. Originally inhabited for the sole purpose of a sugar plantation, the history of this Eastern Caribbean country is a tale of slave trade and European rule. They have only been independent of British rule since 1981.

This just happens to be our first tropical island country, so we naturally centered all the courses around fresh fruit, vegetables and of course, seafood.

Macaroni Pie

1 pound dried macaroni
1 large red onion, chopped
1 habanero pepper, seeded
1 pound of grated cheddar cheese
3 eggs
1 pint of half and half
salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil macaroni until cooked and drain.
2. Combine cheese, onions, habanero, half and half and eggs in a large bowl. Add macaroni and mix thoroughly.
3. Put contents of bowl into a greased 2 quart baking dish.
4. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 1 hour.

Coconut Encrusted Tilapia Fillets with a Mango Habanero Chutney

1 tilapia fillet per guest
Shredded coconut
1 tablespoon of thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 eggs

1.Combine coconut with thyme, salt and pepper.
2. Coat tilapia with beaten eggs and place on baking sheet.
3. Apply coconut mixture on top of the fillets.
4. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.

Mango Habanero Chutney:
1 mango, fully ripened and chopped
half of a red onion, chopped
1 habanero, seeded and minced
1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
salt and pepper

1. Mix all ingredients together.
2. Simply serve on top of the tilapia.

Red Cabbage and Avocado Coleslaw

1/2 large head of red cabbage, thinly sliced
4 carrots grated
2 medium yellow onions sliced
1 habanero, seeded and minced
1/2 cup vinegar
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 handful cilantro chopped
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1.5 tablespoons sugar
Flesh of 2 avocados roughly chopped

1. In a large bowl combine the chopped cabbage with the salt. Smash the cabbage with a potato masher. I used the bottle from a beer I just finished.
2. Let the cabbage sit for 15 minutes allowing the salt to draw out the moisture. This makes the cabbage less tough.
3. Add the remaining ingredients except for the avocado, mix, and chill until you are ready to eat.
4. Before eating, chop the avocados and fold them into the coleslaw. Taste for salt and serve.

Papaya Pie

Pie Crust:
*Make this the night before. You can actually make this up to a week in advance, if you so choose.

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter cut into about 8 pieces
about 3 tablespoons ice water
1 egg yolk

1. Combine flour, salt and sugar in a food processor. Pulse once or twice.
2. Add the butter and process until the mixture looks grainy
3. Combine the yolk and water together.
4. Turn the processor on and add the water and yolk. Process until mixture balls up.
5. Wrap in saran wrap and place in refrigerator.

Baking the crust:
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
2. Roll out dough on a floured surface so that it fits nicely into your pie pan.
3. Take a piece of foil and place it into the pie pan and put either dried bean, rice, a pie weight or a tight fitting saucepan on top of the foil. (for this step, you can improvise. For example, I used wax paper and a few small plates that fit snug into my pie pan)
3. Bake this for about 12 minutes and remove from oven.
4. Remove the weight and foil and reduce the heat to 350 degrees
5. Bake another 10-15 minutes until the crust is brown. Remove and cool before filling.

Papaya filling:
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups fresh papaya cut into cubes
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten

1. Whisk together brown sugar and sugar. Toss the papaya in this mixture and let it sit for 10 minutes.
2. In a heavy saucepan, simmer the papaya and it's juices for 10 minutes.
3. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and salt to the papaya and cook for another 10 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and let the mixture stand until it is lukewarm.
5. When it has cooled, mix gently with the beaten egg. Try not to break the fruit.
6. Pour filling into the pie crust and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
7. Let it cool before serving.

We neglected to take a photo of the Red Cabbage salad, but you can see it here on the plates. We also provided our guests with some papaya with some sugar and lime juice. Papayas are quite large and you need less than half of one for the pie.

Antigua turned out to be a fairly simple meal to put together. The preparation time for each dish was swift and then you just sit back and relax while everything bakes up in the oven. This gives a wonderful opportunity to sit with your guests and relax and even nosh on some papaya. The only thing that takes a bit of time was the papaya pie, which turned out more like what we would consider a tart than a pie.

Every dish was wonderful in it's own way and we had plenty of macaroni pie to enjoy the next day. All in all, Antigua turned out to be quite a pleasant treat because of all the different flavors paired together. If you have never tried habanero and coconut together or avocado in cole slaw, you are in for quite an experience. So far, this was my personal favorite.

Argentina is up next!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Angola is a country that neither I nor Amy know much about. The only thing about Angola that I've always appreciated is the fact that the national flag is my favorite redesign of the classic communist hammer and sickle. That and the Cubans were involved in their 1980's civil war.

After perusing Angolan recipes, we were pleased to find that Angolan food is similar to many Caribbean and Latin American foods that both of us love. It should come as no surprise that the foods of Angola and much of West Africa came to play a dominant role in the cuisine of much of the New World. Many ingredients of the new world such as squash, beans, and especially chiles have also come to play a strong role in Angolan food. This is sadly the result of a vicious slave trade as well as years of violent Portuguese colonialism that did not end for Angola until the middle of the 1970's. What survives all of this is a cuisine that can be loved by anyone who appreciates the glorious standard of rice, beans, and stew.

Calulu de Bacalhau: Salt Cod Calulu

Many, many, countries throughout Africa and the Caribbean claim calulu as a national dish. There is actually an extensive debate on whether or not it originated in Africa or the Americas. Every country has a unique standard of preparing this dish, but all the recipes are stews that include a sauce composed of blanched greens. We chose to include salt fish from our nearby Puerto Rican market in the recipe. Unlike Caribbean versions of the dish, the Angolan gets much of its flavor from palm oil that can be purchased from most Afro/Caribbean grocers.

1 lb bacalao or other salt fish (soaked 24 hours in the fridge with the water changed 3 times)
1 lb catfish fillet
1 lb zucchini chopped
2 large onions chopped
4 tomatoes chopped
1/2 cup palm oil
5 cups water
3 cloves garlic chopped
1 habanero chile seeded and chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme
Juice of 1 lemon
1 lb spinach
1 lb chard leaves only
1 can coconut milk
Salt to taste

1. Heat a large pot over medium heat and add the palm oil. Saute the onions and zucchini for five minutes until the onions become translucent.
2. Add the tomatoes, chile, garlic, and thyme and cook for a further 2 minutes until fragrant.
3. Add the water, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 40 minutes.
4. Blend the soup and add the coconut milk, fish, and lemon and cook for a further 20 minutes.
5. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.
6. Garnish with cream and palm oil.

Squash and Cornmeal Mash

There was plenty of time to throw this dish together while we waited for the calulu to cook.

1 cup cornmeal
4 cups water
1 butternut squash cubed and boiled til tender
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup cream
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt to taste

1. Combine the cornmeal and water, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes.
2. Add the boiled squash and mash with remaining ingredients.
3. Allow 15 minutes to cool before serving.

Black Beans and Palm Oil

We first attempted to use dry beans, but due to a lack of water in the pressure cooker we ended up with a nasty mess and ended up buying a can o' beans. Whoops!

1 32 oz can black beans
1/2 cup water
Sprig of thyme
1/3 cup of palm oil

1. Open the can, drain it, and put the beans in a pot over medium heat with 1/2 cup water
2. Add remaining ingredients and boil down to desired thickness.
3. Serve it up!

Baked Bananas in their Skins

We baked these bananas while we ate the dinner. Like everything else they involved very little work.

1 banana per person
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
2 tbsps sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 lemon
Honey for drizzlin'

1. Preheat oven to 350 and bake the bananas in their skins for 20 minutes.
2. Remove the now brown bananas and cut the top portions of the skin to expose the bananas.
3. Mix lemon, sugar, and cream and place on the hot bananas.
4. Top with peanuts and honey and serve.


Sadly, Amy was a sick lady today and, due to seasonal allergies, she lost her sense of smell and taste and struggled through the dinner like a champ. Adding insult to injury I accidentally served her dessert with the same spoon I used to scrape out the habanero seeds and gave her dulled taste buds a bit of a shock. Sorry, darlin! But we did have our good friends Marco and Drew over as guests and received good reviews of the food. Thanks for coming over, guys! The portions we used could probably have fed eight comfortably and everybody walked away with full bellies. So we'll be eating green soup for the next four days. Antigua is up next, and we promise a great feast will be had!


Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Andorra, a tiny country that has only half the population of Schaumburg, Illinois. The GDP is two-thirds based on tourists, mainly skiers that take advantage of the Pyrenees Mountains. Andorrans, as a nation, also live longer than any one else in the world.

Being nestled between France and Spain, Andorra presents us with a fusion of Catalan and Southeastern French cuisine. We decided that such a small country deserves a bountiful feast, so we chose a four course meal over our usual three.

Cunillo: Rabbit Braised in a White Wine and Tomato Sauce

1 rabbit cut into serving pieces
4 strips of bacon
2 yellow onions thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic minced
4 roma tomatoes coarsely chopped
1 tbsp of tomato paste (Only if the tomatoes don't look so great. This year's tomatoes have been very sad looking.)
1 cup white wine
1 tsp chopped fresh oregano
1/2 tsp fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a deep cast iron dutch oven or whatever you may have, cook bacon until crispy over medium heat and remove from pan. Cut the bacon into small pieces and reserve for later.
2. Brown the rabbit pieces in the bacon fat over a medium high heat. Remove browned pieces and set alongside the bacon.
3. Saute the onions and garlic in the remaining fat until the onions become translucent. Add olive oil to the pot if the onions begin to smoke.
4. Add tomatoes and tomato paste and cook for another five minutes.
5. Pour on the wine, add the herbs, rabbit, bacon, and season to taste. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat for 1 hour or until the rabbit is tender.
6. After the hour is up remove the rabbit from the sauce. Reduce the sauce by 1/2, return the rabbit to the pot, check for seasoning, and serve.

Trinxat: Cabbage, Bacon, and Potato Cake

1 head savoy cabbage (2lbs)
2 lbs of small red potatoes: boiled and mashed
4 thick slices of bacon
2 cloves garlic
4 tbs butter
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat your oven to 450. Boil and mash the potatoes. In the same water used for boiling potatoes, boil the head of cabbage for ten minutes.
2. Remove the cabbage and cool under cold water in the sink until you are able to hold the cabbage without burning your hands.
3. Cut the cabbage into fourths and remove the hard, white, unappetizing core.
4. Cut the cabbage into thin strips and mix with mashed potatoes, butter, garlic, salt, and pepper.
5. In a 12 inch cast iron frying pan, fry the bacon until it is half done.
6. Remove the bacon and add the potato cabbage mush and flatten the mixture to cover the entire pan's surface evenly.
7. Place the half cooked bacon on top of the mixture and place the whole pan into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top of the cake is brown and crispy.
8. Allow to cool at the table and serve alongside the rabbit.

Spinach Sauteed with Almonds, and Golden Raisins

This can be done ten minutes before serving.

1 lb spinach blanched in boiling water and drained.
1 handful almonds chopped coarsely
1 handful golden raisins
2 tablespoons of butter

1. Heat a small 8 inch skillet over medium heat an melt the butter.
2. Add the almonds and cook for two minutes.
3. Add the raisins and cook for another minute.
4. Add the blanched spinach and cook for a further five minutes.
5. Salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Ice Cream With a Cantaloupe and White Wine Syrup

We did not actually make the ice cream. We don't have an ice cream maker as of yet. But we did make this lovely syrup to go over our dessert.

1 cantaloupe peeled, seeded and chopped into small cubes.
4 tbsp sugar
1 tblsp honey
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup white wine
2 tbsp butter
pinch of nutmeg
1 stick of cinnamon

1. Combine the melon pieces with sugar and honey and let sit for half hour or while you're eating dinner.
2. Place melon into a small pan set over high heat.
3. Add the remaining ingredients and boil down until the liquid renders a thick syrup.
4. Pour the hot syrup over vanilla ice cream and serve.

The overall Andorran experience

I believe this was our biggest success thus far. Perhaps it was because it was our first bacon-loving country, thus we used our home cured bacon twice. Or maybe it was because rabbit is ridiculously wonderful. Whatever the case may be, the Andorran people really know how to make savory, hearty food that is surprisingly simple in execution.

I actually ate potatoes and enjoyed them! For those who know me, I am not a fan, but combined with cabbage, I find that they can be quite tasty. Tom is forever grateful to Andorra for this!

We also had a semi-breakthrough with our friend Marco. He, apparently, does not like spinach but didn't absolutely hate the Andorran spinach dish. Huzzah!

Get ready, folks....Angola is next!!! Until then, Salut!!

Friday, September 11, 2009


I've only met three Algerians in my life and they all lived in Hanoi while I was there teaching English. One of them is a good friend of mine. Another is her brother. And the other one beat me up in a dark alley after an evening of frenzied drinking and foolish decisions. Aside from that one incident, I'm sure the overwhelming majority of Algerians are as wonderful as their food.

Algerian cuisine is the perfect combination of two of my favorite cooking styles: North African and French. This is the result of over a century of brutal colonial rule by the French that finally came to an end in the 1960's. Like many countries, Algeria's independence was immediately followed by years of corruption, civil war, and violence that finally simmered away less than a decade ago. Fortunately, an amazing cuisine has survived the rocking of the Casbah that can be enjoyed by any foodie.

Unfortunately, we don't see much Algerian cuisine here in the States, and most of the literature on Algeria's food has been published in French. However, cookbook author Paula Wolfert includes a few recipes in Mediterranean Cooking that we were able to use as a starting point for our cooking. And nearly all the ingredients are readily available at either a supermarket or better yet a Middle Eastern or Indian grocery. After much perusing of recipes we settled on a menu consisting of eggplant and yogurt salad, chicken and chickpea tagine, and potato gruyere croquettes.

Eggplant and Yogurt Salad:
This was a very simple recipe. The only change I would make to my preparation is to use baby eggplant instead of the giant eggplant that we had on hand. We used homemade yogurt and were pleased with the results. Here's a recipe for those who want to start growing their own yogurt cultures, for everybody else store bought plain yogurt works fine.

1.5 lbs eggplant cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cup yogurt
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tbsps chopped mint
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp olive oil for frying

1. Heat oil in skillet over medium and add eggplant and cook on medium low heat for about 15 minutes until tender.
2. Drain eggplant on paper towels, combine with remaining ingredients in a large bowl, cover and chill before serving.

Chicken and Chickpea Tagine:
With the eggplant in the fridge we started working on the chicken tagine. We used an actual clay tagine that was given to me by my good friend Justin. If you don't have a fancy tagine, it's fine to just use a cast iron pot:

1 chicken cut into serving portions
2 tablespoons butter
2 onions grated and drained
1 clove garlic minced
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 tsp cayenne
2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 cup water
salt and pepper

1. Melt the butter in the pot and brown the chicken on all sides over medum heat. I had to do this in two stages because the chicken I used was rather large.
2. Add the onions, garlic, spices and cook covered for about five minutes.
3. Add 1 cup of water and increase to a boil, reduce and simmer covered for 1 hour

4. Remove the chicken to a plate and finish boiling the sauce until reduced by one half.
5. Place chicken back into the sauce, remove from heat and serve!

Potato Gruyere Croquettes:

While the bird was braising in the tagine we made these croquettes to accompany the meal.

2 lbs potatoes peeled and quartered
1 clove garlic
1 cup gruyere cheese
2 tbsps chopped parsley
1 grated onion drained
1 large pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
flour for dredging
oil for frying

1. Boil potatoes until tender and then mash them or pass through a ricer if you have one.
2. Allow potatoes to cool slightly and add remaining ingredients except of course the flour and oil.
3. Roll potatoes into 2 inch balls, dust with flour, and shallow fry in a centimeter of oil until they are brown on all sides. You'll have to do this in batches unless you have a giant pan and a lot of oil and mix thoroughly.
4. Drain the croquettes on paper towels and bring them to the table with everything else. The cooking has finished!

The meal in retrospect:
Sadly the meal was rushed due to the our desire to watch the opening game of the NFL season and some horrible mistakes were made along the way. Our good semi-vegetarian friend, Drew came over and I attempted to make him a simple bulgur, lentil, and rice soup in place of the tagine. Sadly the burners on our tiny stove are way too close to one another and the soup burned to carbon next to the mighty heat of the frying croquettes. So Drew ended up eating more croquettes than he'd bargained for. I'm sorry, Drew. That's him in the yellow:

On the plus side we are getting better at photographing the food. The food pictures above look much nicer mainly because we've stopped using the flash in our kitchen. Below is a picture of what the food looks like when photographed with a flash. Compare it with the others to decide which looks better. Still our kitchen looks mighty orange at night. This is because we have yet to install overhead lighting and are currently using a desk lamp to light the whole room. Renovations should be completed in the near future. Andorra's next! Until then, fisehatak!

Friday, September 4, 2009


Before we started any research on Albania, we realized that all we knew about it was that the population consisted of a lot of non-practicing Muslims, that "The Simpsons" had an episode where they housed an Albanian foreign exchange student, and that Monty Python used Albania as an ongoing joke, mainly centering around King Zog. Further research uncovered Albania as a country with a complex history of takeovers by Italy, Greece, and Ottoman Turks. Albania was also an on and off ally with the USSR.

So, with a Communist, Italian and Greek history, Albania is quite the country and their cuisine is a fusion of it's history. We tried to take some of the best elements of Albanian dishes and put our own spin on them.

Chilled yogurt cucumber soup: Taratore

3 cups yogurt
1 big cucumber peeled and finely chopped (or grated)
2-3 cloves garlic minced
3 tbsps fresh mint chopped
1.5 cups water
salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine yogurt, cucumber, garlic, mint, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
2. Slowly pour in water and stir with whisk until you achieve the desired thickness for serving.
3. Chill and serve garnished with a bit of olive oil on the surface of each bowl. We find that fresh rye bread is great with this.

This seemed to be a big hit with all attending. Our only regret was not having more for our vegetarian friend. We favor the Albanian version of this soup compared to other cucumber-yogurt soups and sauces for the use of fresh mint instead of dill.

Beef, eggplant, and sun dried tomato stew:

For The Stew

2 lbs stewing beef cut into 1.5 inch cubes
1 lb eggplant cut into 1 inch cubes
2 oz sundried tomatoes rehydrated in a cup of boiling water for ten minutes and blended
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tsp dried Greek oregano
1 white onion thinly sliced
1 cup chopped celery
3 cups water (enough to cover meat by 1/2 inch)
2 tbsps flour disolved in 1/2 cup water
salt and pepper

For the Garnish

4 oz pitted and chopped Kalamata olives
2 tbsps chopped mint
Splash of lemon juice

1. In a cast iron pot, brown the eggplant in a 1/4 cup olive oil and remove.
2. Add the remaining olive oil and saute the onions and celery on medium heat for five minutes.
3. Add the beef and saute for another five minutes.
4. Pour in the tomato mixture and cook another five minutes.
5. Pour on the water and add the oregano, reserved eggplant, salt, and pepper. Raise to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cover pot and cook for at least 1.5 hours or until the meat is tender.
6. After meat is tender, pour flour mixture into the sauce to thicken and cook another five minutes.
7. Cut the heat, garnish and taste for seasoning. Serve with Balkan cornbread.

This is what the result looked like with the cornbread:

Balkan Cornbread

*1 cup feta cheese
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs, beaten lightly
2 cups milk
**1 cup of beer
.5 cup of corn oil
1.5 cups yellow cormeal
1 cup farina
1.5 tsps baking soda
Pinch of salt
Unsalted butter to grease 13x9 baking pan

*can substitute ricotta or cottage cheese. We happen to have a very good supply of feta in the neighborhood. So whatever cheese you like is good
**club soda can be substituted

1. Combine cheese and sour cream in a big bowl; then add eggs, milk, beer, and corn oil until it's smooth. In a different bowl, stir the remaining dry ingredients together. Add those to the cheese mixture and pour into the greased baking dish. Cover at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake the bread for about 45 minutes. When it's done it should look golden brown and feel firm to the touch. Turn off the oven and let the bread settle for 10 minutes before serving. Cut and portion while it's still warm.

We had some guests over for this dinner and we would like to thank them for trying Albanian food and listening to Albanian music with us. Especially to our guest that came all the way from England to partake in our feast (well, we like to think he came all this way just to dine with us). Thanks everyone!

Algeria is up next! Until then, Gëzuar!