Friday, March 1, 2013

Eating in a Traditional Tanzanian Restaurant with our Heifer Project group

Notes of the week:  Daffodils, Plum Blossoms, Mocking Bird songs... yes it is glorious spring in Northern California!
My surgery was 6 weeks ago today - Final check up next Tuesday - hoping for permission to drive!

Food, food,  wonderful food!

Photos this week show food  that we have encountered...

I grew up in a home in the country with unlimited farm raised eggs, cream, milk from our cow Bossy, butter, bacon, and frequent cuts of beef and whole chickens with all the tasty fat floating on top.  Over the years my wife and I  have been influenced in what we eat by the medical discoveries that show how diet can affect the quality and length of life as well as our susceptibility to disease. 

Chicken, vegetables, rice being served up for us in Southern Mexico 

What my wife and I now eat has also been influenced by the cultures that we encounter around us in Fremont.    We have evolved a style of eating that is eclectic and open to new food ideas.  We have come to relish culinary influences from Asian, Mexican, European, and Middle Eastern cuisines. We have come to feel comfortable using spices and herbs that are not frequently part of the traditional “American” diet that I grew up with.

Fried bananas - Tanzania
Here are five recipes that we eat with regularity...They are all tried and true and absolutely delicious!  All of them seem to get even tastier with over-night storage – So make enough for left overs.  Some of them are from vegetarian sources - but we frequently add chicken or beef to suit our fancy.

Roast Goat, vegetables and corn tortillas - Zapotec birthday paryty - Oaxaca  Mexico
A.     Butternut Squash with Chicken  - North Africa

This is an example of a North African “Tagine”, combining meat and dried fruit.  Be sure to keep the full mixture of spices! It is also possible to cut all proportions in half for a smaller batch.

9 cups peeled butternut squash cur in 1-inch cubes (this is one large Butternut Squash)
1-cup small-pitted prunes
3 cloves minced garlic
2 medium shallots, sliced separate into rings
1-teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1-teaspoon salt ½ and ½
½ teaspoon ground pepper
8 skinless, bone in chicken thighs
1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
¼ Cup orange juice

Tanzanian Lunch : Plantains, Taro, Yam, Avacado slices
1.  Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Place squash, prunes, garlic, shallots, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, 1/2-teaspoon salt and pepper in large bowl and mix well.
2.  Transfer to a 9 by 13 inch baking dish.  Sprinkle chicken with remaining ½ teaspoon salt and place on top of the vegetables.  Mix broth, orange zest and juice in a small bowl and pour over the chicken.  Cover the baking dish with foil.  Bake for 40 minutes, Uncover and continue to bake until vegetables are tender and the chicken is cooked through, basting often, about an hour more

Spanish breakfast, Crusty rolls, cheese, slices cold meat, fruit, good strong coffee

B.     Megadara  - Lebanon

This recipe is known in different forms throughout the Middle East,.  It is proported to be the famous “pottage” for which the Biblical Esah sold his birthright.

1 cup dry lentils
2-3 T olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 medium red onions, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup short grain brown rice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust )
1 inch cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons pine nuts, optional
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Greek yogurt, for topping

Bakery window in Spain
Cook lentils in medium saucepan.
Fill with enough cold water to cover the lentils by about an inch.
Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn down to a simmer and cook until the lentils are tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes.
Drain and set aside.

While the lentils cook, place large skillet on medium-high heat and add oil. When oil is hot, add cumin seeds for about 1 minute. ( Don”t burn )

Cook onions until they turn caramel brown ( avoid burning ) , stirring often. This will take about 15 minutes. Add a little water   to onions if they stick to the bottom of the pan.

Remove about half of the onions for garnish later.
Sprinkle in the ground cumin, cayenne and then add the cinnamon stick; saute about 1 minute.

Breakfast in Chiapas Mexico: Hot chocolate with Whipped cream, crusty bread, marmalade

Add the dry rice to the remaining half of the onions and cook, stirring often until some rice grains start to brown.
Add the cooked lentils, 3 cups of water and bring to a boil.
Add salt and pepper to taste at this time
Turn the heat down to low so that the pan is at a simmer, cover and cook 30 minutes. The water should be completely evaporated and rice should be tender.
If there's still  water in the bottom, put the lid back on and cook for another 5 minutes.

Turn off the heat, keep the lid on, and allow the rice to steam undisturbed for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts, if using, in a small skillet over medium-low heat, shaking often, about 5 minutes.

Adjust the taste of the rice for seasoning. Serve with the reserved caramelized onions spread on top with the toasted pine nuts.

This dish is delicious served either hot or cold, and accompanied by yogurt.

John helping to stir a pot of banana beer... Tanzania

C.  Primavera Sauce - French/Italian

We work together to double or triple this recipe and then package it in 8 and 12 oz jars to store in the freezer – Can b used to flavor cooked vegetables, meat, pasta... or just about anything...One of our staples!

2-3 T olive oil
2 C chopped onion
1 medium sized bell pepper - diced
2 medium stalks celery, minced
1 lb. mushrooms, chopped
2 medium ( 6 inch ) zucchini, diced
Handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped (if available)
2 t dry Basil
1 t dry Oregano
1 t dry Thyme
1.5 t salt
1 can  ( l lb, 13 oz )  crushed tomatoes and juice( or substitute fresh tomatoes )
1    6 oz can tomato paste
1 T Honey
Black pepper to taste
6 cloves minced garlic
John helping to stir a pot of Atole - Oaxaca Mexico
1.   Heat olive oil in kettle -
2.   Add onion, bell pepper, celery, mushrooms, zucchini, ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, dry herbs, salt
3.   Sauté over medium heat until onions are very soft ( 8-10 minutes)
4.   Add tomatoes, tomato paste, honey, black pepper.
5.   Use a spoon to break up the tomatoes into bite size pieces
6.   Bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer, partly covered, for 20-30 minutes
7.   Add garlic and cook about 10 minutes more
8.   The sauce can sit for several hours or can be refrigerated for up to a week.
9.   Heat gently before serving
… I double the recipe and freeze in separate packets for quick meals… good with chicken, vegetables,  legumes, almost anything!
Mountain village above Oaxaca -the community is celebrating work done in a water pipeline ( still to be completed ) 

D.  Vegetable Curry  - Optional:  3-4 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces – East Indian
Our favorite East Indian curry!  Whatever you do... do not add curry powder! Include all of the spices listed here– Cayenne is the hot one – but 1/4 t is not excessive.  I get my spices in an Indian market but Safeway has them too.

2T veg. oil
1/2 t black mustard seed
3/4 t cinnamon
1.5 t cumin
1.5 t ground coriander seeds
.5 t ground fennel seeds
1 t turmeric
2 t grated fresh ginger
1/4 t cayenne (or to taste)

2 C Chopped onions
3 garlic cloves – crushed
2 med carrots- sliced
3 C cubed sweet potato or yams
1 medium head cauliflower – cut into flowerlets
3/4 C water
2 med tomatoes – chopped
2 C green peas or 2 medium green peppers – chopped
Deli window in NW Spain - cheese, yogurt, octopus, sausage, bacon

Heat oil in deep fly pan
Add mustard seed and heat on med heat until they begin to pop
Add other spices and cook on low heat for 2 minutes to enhance flavors of spices
Don’t burn them!
Add chopped onions and sauté until translucent
Add carrots and cook several minutes
Add sweet potato and cook few minutes more
Add cauliflower and stir well to coat all the vegetables with spice mix.
Add water, cover pan, simmer for 20 min., and stir occasionally.
When sweet potatoes are tender, but not fully cooked, add tomato and peas (or gr. Pepper)
Simmer covered for 10-15 min. more
Vegetables should retain bright color
Sweet potato will soften and become part of the saucea
Serve with short grain brown rice for best flavor
Garnish with yogurt, chopped cashews, raisins, or mango chutney

Grinding soaked corn kernals to make 'masa' to be used in making tortillas
E.  Tunisian stew

One of our all time favorite company dishes - memorable blend of flavors.
2 onions - cut into thin slices - slow cooked until golden brown
Peel and cube 2 large potatoes (1/2 inch cubes)
Peel and cut two carrots into 1/4 inch discs – add to mix


·      2 Cloves garlic – crushed
·      2 sausages - (chicken sausages ) - slice thin and add
·      2 Bay leaves
·      1 can garbanzo beans – drained and washed
      (or precook 1 cup of dry beans -  White Italian beans are good )
·      1 can - crushed Tomatoes
·      1 t Turmeric
·      1 t  medium hot Paprika
·      1/2 t  Cardamom
·      1/2 t  Coriander
·      1/4 t Cinnamon
·      Black pepper to taste
S. Mexico Village - making soup over a 3 stone fireplace

Cook gently until potatoes and carrots are somewhat soft
Best made a few hours before serving - to allow flavors to blend
Can be served with middle eastern bread or rice & sala

Picnic in Tanzania- We had walked all morning to reach this location!