I cook Bissau-Guinean, Guinean, Guyanese, Grenadan, Ghizhou, Guadeloupean, Equatorial Guinean and Gujarati food – and this is what I think

Seventeen years into my International Food Project, it’s become pretty clear that I’ll be lucky if I get to the middle of the alphabet before I die.  The real problem is that I get enthusiastic for a while, do a lot of cooking, and then just get tired of it and go back to eating frozen food for months on end.  Now that my children are vegetarians-that-don’t-eat-vegetables, finding recipes that even a couple of us will like is very hard.  And if I can’t cook for my kids-that-won’t-eat-anything, it seems selfish to cook for just Mike and I.

Still, after a few months of frozen food I’m hungry for some good homecook food so I’m going back to this project.  And this means getting to date with my writing.  I cooked all these cuisines in late 2016 and early 2017.  I thought I was done with “G” cuisines, but I discovered a few new ones: Gascon, Greenlandish, Gibraltarian and Guernsey.  I also found other cuisines that come earlier in the alphabet.  That, of course, is one reason why I’ll never finish this.

Meanwhile, here are the cuisines I did finish!:

Bissau-Guinean – My journey into this Portuguese inspired West African cuisine could have gone better.

Equatorial Guinea – Try as I might, I could not avoid making yet another dish of chicken with peanut sauce.

Guinean – I made just one dish from this neighboring country, fortunately it was good!

Ghizhou – Another tough country to tackle, but I found one good recipe

Grenadan – I tried, I failed, I moved on

Guadeloupean – Don’t miss the chicken colombo!

Gujarati – I found the most delicious beef kebab dish in this mostly vegetarian cuisine

Guyanese – I loved exploring this cuisine that owes so much to India

 


Christmas Eve 2015 Menu – Better Late than Never

For memory’s sake alone, I want to record here – over a year late – my menu for Christmas Eve 2015. My bathroom sink broke in December 2014, so that year we went out to dinner, but in 2015 my parents and siblings came to visit us. It was bittersweet as my sister Gabriela had passed away the previous spring. I made a very simple meal, with all repeated favorites.

This is what I served:

First Course: Bread & chips vinegars, oils & dips

Second Course: Mixed Green Salad with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette and Iceberg Lettuce with Thousand Islands

The mixed green salad is one of my favorites and my youngest daughter asked me to serve it against in 2016.  The lettuce with Thousand Island salad was for my oldest daughter who is very picky.

Third Course: Mushroom Soup

Another old favorite, from the Les Halles cookbook.

Fourth Course: Flamishe

This leek tart has become an obligatory course at all my Holiday dinners.

Fifth Course: Lime Sorbet in shell

I can’t recall if I made or bought the sorbet, but I halvened the limes in two and scooped out the flesh, then I froze them, filled them with lime sorbet, and put them back in the freezer.  It was a beautiful presentation.

Sixth CoursePrime Rib with Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans Almondine plus Brown Rice with Coconut Curry

To make the green beans, just steam them, salt them, toss them with butter and roasted sliced almonds.  I made the coconut curry for my vegetarian daughters. I no longer recall what recipe I used, but I don’t recall her being crazy about it.

Seventh Course: Cheese Plate

I’m sure it was great, but I don’t recall what I served.

Eight Course: Chocolate Peppermint Cake with Maple Nut Ice Cream

The chocolate cake is one that my grandmother used to make and I wanted to surprise my father with it.  Unfortunately, he couldn’t remember it.  My grandmother also used to make maple ice cream and serve it with chopped nuts.  She had tiny bottles of maple essence she had brought from her trip to the US before I was born (I imagine, I have no idea how else she could have gotten them) and would make this special ice cream once in a big while.  This recipe uses maple syrup, however.


Christmas Eve 2016 Dinner Menu (with Recipes)

xmastableThis year, my father and my friends Lola and Iggy came over for Christmas Eve dinner.  It was a simpler affair than in other years, with only eight courses.  I decided early on that I wanted to make a cheesecake for dessert – a favorite of my friend Lola.  Alas, that means displacing the cheese course to the start of the meal.  No matter, the meal flowed perfectly and everything was great.

I was able to make most of the dishes in advance, which made for a much less stressful Christmas Eve.  This is what we had:

First course: Cheeses

I served a manchego, le Pommier Camembert and Délice de Bourgogne with sliced baguette, crackers, green apple slices, grapes, caramelized walnuts and orange marmalade.   The cheeses were from La Fromagerie in San Francisco.  Most of us preferred the délice, though my dad liked the camembert the most.  Still, these weren’t the best cheeses we’ve had.

Second course: Amuse Bouche of Polenta with Mushroom Ragout

I spent a lot of time looking for recipes of amuse bouches that I could serve in a spoon, but wasn’t satisfied with any. Finally, I decided to wing it and placed a tiny bit of store-bought polenta on each spoon and topped it with a quick, recipe-less mushroom ragout. Wow, was it delicious.  Everyone wanted more!

Third course: Mixed Green Salad with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

This is an old favorite and was requested by my youngest daughter – who had forgotten it had blue cheese in it and didn’t like it.  This time I used Point Reyes blue instead of a milder Gorgonzola, so perhaps that was the problem.  Most of us were happy with it.

Fourth course: Coconut Butternut Squash Soup

My oldest daughter requested I make this soup.  I wanted to try a new recipe, as none of the ones I tried before were that great, and I was intrigued by using one with coconut milk.  This one proved to be a huge hit. It was absolutely delicious.  I had meant to add some pumpkin seeds for color/texture (instead of the red onions and kale the original recipe called for) but I forgot.  Nobody missed them.  Do serve this with sour cream.  It needs the added acidity to be truly great. And great it is.  I made this in advance and then added some water to reheat it.

Fifth Course: Flamishe 

This leek tart is another old favorite requested by my oldest daughter.  It’s one of the simplest things you could ever made but also the most delicious. Once again, I made individual tarts to make it more elegant and served the cream in a creamer, so everyone could pour themselves some.  I made the filling in advance but prepared the leek tarts the day I served them.

Six Course: Lemon Sorbet

Store bought Haagen-Dazs, I’m afraid.

Seventh Course: Five Spice Short Ribs, Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Asparagus

We finally get to the main dish! My vegetarian daughters forewent the ribs, but the rest of us were very happy with them.  I made them in advance, of course.  The buttermilk mashed potatoes are my usually recipe, which I multiplied a few times.  The asparagus were simply roasted with olive oil and salt.

Eighth Course: Dulce de Leche Cheesecake

Being an Argentinian, dulce de leche cheesecake might seem like an obvious idea.  And yet it did not occur to me to make it until I finally decided that my choice of peanut butter cheesecake did not fit with the menu above.  It’s a good thing I listened to those voices, as this was probably the most delicious dessert I’ve made in a long time.  I used San Ignacio Dulce de Leche, which is a great brand, but I’m sure any other would do.  Don’t miss the glace, as the cheesecake is not nearly as good without it.

I served an expensive California sparkling wine with the first part of the meal and Clos Pegase Atlas Peak 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, which we’d bought at the winery, with the main dish.  They were both delicious.

The Recipes

Mixed Green Salad with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

Polenta with Mushroom Ragout

Ingredients:

  • 1 small package of tubed ready-made polenta
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup madeira or marsala wine
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Slice about half the tube of polenta. Bake or saute it until heated through.  Place in serving plates.

Heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat in a medium saute pan.  Once the butter is melted add the shallot and cook until soft, stirring as necessary.  Add the mushrooms and continue cooking until they are soft and all the liquid evaporates.  Add the whipping cream and madeira and cook, stirring, until it reduces to a thick glace.  Sprinkle with salt and paper to taste.

Place the mushroom ragout on top of the polenta and serve.

Coconut Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 green apple, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Sour cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum oil.  Cut the butternut quash in half (or quarters, if easier).  Place cut side up on the baking sheet and cover with aluminum foil.  Cook until the flesh is soft, 30 to 50 minutes.  Cool until you can handle it, then peel or scoop out the flesh onto a plate or bowl and set aside.

Heat oil in a soup pot over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and cook until golden, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the squash, apple, broth, ginger, curry powder and nutmeg.  Bring to a boil, then reduce temperature to low, cover and simmer until the apples are soft, about 10 minutes.

Remove pot from the heat and, using an immersion blender, puree until smooth.  Alternatively, transfer solids to a food processor or blender in batches and process until pureed, then transfer back to the soup pot and mix well.

Add the coconut milk, stir and cook on low for about ten minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with sour cream.

Based on a recipe from the New York Times.

Flamishe (Leek Tart)

Five Spice Short Ribs

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 lbs English cut short ribs
  • kosher or sea salt and pepper
  • flour for dusting
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 bottle dry red wine
  • 1 carrot, rinsed and cut into thirds
  • 1 parsnip, rinsed and cut into thirds
  • 1 onion, cut in wedges
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/4 cup cilantro stems
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups beef broth

Directions:

Sprinkle salt and pepper on short ribs. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Dust in flour.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven.  Working in batches, add short ribs and brown on all sides, removing to a plate as they brown.  Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the Dutch oven and set on medium heat.  Add tomato paste and give-spice powder and cook, stirring, for one minute.  Add wine and deglace pan.  Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer, and cook until the liquid is almost completely reduced, about 10 minutes.

Add the short ribs, carrot, parsnip, garlic, cilantro stems and bay leaves.  Cover with the broth.  Bring the braise to a boil over high heat.  Then cover and transfer to the oven.  Cook for 2 hours. Remove from oven, let cool, and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 350F.  Remove pot from the refrigerator and remove and discard the congealed fat.  Return pot to the oven and cook, uncovered, for 40 to 60 minutes, until the meat is falling off the bone.  Gently remove the short ribs from the cooking liquid and keep warm.  Strain cooking liquid into a large bowl and discard the solids.  Return strained liquid to the cooking pot, set on the stove over medium-high heat and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.  Return the short ribs to the liquid, and cook until the ribs are warmed through.

Based on a recipe at Epicurious.com

 

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake

Ingredients:

For the Crust

  • 50 vanilla wafers
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Cheesecake

  • 2 lbs cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup dulce de leche
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch salt

For the Glace

  • 2/3 cup dulce de leche
  • 2 Tbsp whipping cream or milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F.  Butter a springform mold. Line inside with parchment paper and butter again.

Using a food processor, crumble the vanilla wafers into a coarse powder.  Stir in the melted butter, sugar and vanilla cream. Press against the bottom of the pan and about 1/3 up the sides.  Bake in the oven for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, using an electric mixer cream together the cream cheese and the sugar.  Mix in the eggs, one at the time.  Mix in the dulce de leche, the vanila extract and the pinch of salt.  Pour onto prepared crust.

Bake in the oven until it sets, about 50 minutes.  Remove, let cool and unmold.

Prepare the glace by heating together the dulce de leche and whipping cream and whisking to combine.  Once the cheesecake is cool, spread dulce de leche sauce on the top and sides.  Note: if it cracks, you can fill the cracks with dulce de leche as well.


Recipes from Guam, Guanajuato and Germany Up

Ìt’s been a long time, but I’ve finally updated my website with recipes of cuisines I’ve been working on lately.  You can find them here:

Germany: Mushrooms & Horseradish Mashed Potatoes, yum!

Guam: Don’t miss the Beef & Coconut empanadas or the BBQ!

Guanajuato: The peanut mole was quite good!

 


New Cuisines Up: Central & Easter German, German-American, Galician, Greek Jewish and Georgian Era

It’s sort of weird. I go through periods when I cook every day and make an effort to continue my international food project.  Then there are periods where I go months and months without cooking at all, having take out or frozen food.  And sometimes I just make simpler things – though usually that happens when I’m not caught up.

Lately, though, I’ve been cooking and I’ve been cooking quite a bit.  So much so that my husband has started to complain that we are always eating something new.  So I’ve made a deal that I would cook an oldie every week.  But the rest will be new cuisines.

In the last few weeks I’ve finished a number of cuisines. Please check them out:

In the next few weeks I’m planning on making Chamorro, Guatemalan, Guizhou and Grenadan dishes among others.


New International Recipes Up!

Slowly but surely I’m continuing in my international food project.  For the last fifteen years I’ve been coking foods from different world cuisines, alphabetically.  I’m still at the “G’s”.  It may not seem like much, but in these fifteen years I have explored 134 cuisines and cooked 441 recipes – and more are coming!

I just uploaded a few cuisines I’ve been working on in the last couple of months (or more). They are:

Among the best recipes from these cuisines there is a Bavarian onion pie to die for, a simple and delicious Bordelaise chicken and a great stewed beef.

Check them out!


Bene Israel & Friulian Recipes are up

Bene Israel Recipes

The Bene Israel are one of three Jewish communities native to India.  They are also likely the oldest – tracing their history to the 2nd century BC – and largest.  They are now based in Bombay, though most of their members have emigrated to Israel.  Their cuisine is based on Indian flavors and foodstuffs, but it’s adapted to fit with Jewish dietary requirements and holidays.  Two of the three dishes I made were really good.  Check out my Bene Israel recipes.

Friuli

Friuli occupies the northwestern corner of Italy.  Its cuisine is northern Italian with Austro-Hungarian influences.  Check out my Friulian recipes.


Grand Cru Fondue

I grew up loving fondue, and I still love it.  It turns out that so do my children, so I make it from time to time.  Not only is it delicious, but it has the advantage of being fairly quick to make.  Sure, the dippers can take time, but on lazy nights like tonight we just default to bread.  Bread and cheese, what can be better?

I no longer make the “classic” fondue recipe because I have little desire to hunt for the right cheeses – plus they are expensive!  Instead I wing it with whatever cheeses I find that I think can combine well.  I like going for two mildish-to-medium cheeses, one slightly sweet, and then a sharper one to elevate the flavor.  But really, I wing it.  To the grated cheeses I add just 1/2 a cup of white wine (hunting after kirsch is too much trouble), and some nutmeg if I remember.

Today’s fondue was phenomenal, much better than the classic fondue.  It had

This serve 4 of us and we had more than enough.

For those who actually need a recipe, what you do is: Shred or chop the cheese (I just put it in my food processor), mix it with a little cornstarch and set aside.  Meanwhile rub the fondue pot with a garlic clove.  Set on medium-high and add the wine.  Wait until it boils and then add the cheese by the handful, mixing well and making sure it all melts.  Bring down the temperature to a simmer, and enjoy!

 


Best Banana Bread recipe

They weren’t kidding when they said this was the best banana bread recipe. It’s absolutely delicious, specially right out of the oven.  Though I couldn’t tell you how it’d be cold as none of it survived to that stage.

  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F

Grease a loaf pan

Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together into a medium-size bowl. Set aside

Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer.  Add the eggs and the bananas and mix well.  Add the sifted flour and mix well.  Add the vanilla extract and mix again until combined.  Pour into the prepared loaf pan and cook for 1 hour. Test with a fork to make sure it’s dry inside.

Adapted from a recipe at Food.com

Marga’s Best Recipes

 


Chicken Genoa

I was thinking of cooking Genoese cuisine as part of my International food project, but I finally decided to get to it when I do Liguria.  However, I was in need of an easy recipe using boneless, skinless chicken thighs and this recipe for Chicken Genoa looked delicious.  Of course, I don’t really know if it is from Genoa, and I did change it a bit (used thighs instead of breasts, sherry instead of wine and fresh mushrooms instead of canned ones), but the results were wonderful. As in seriously addictive, will crave it sort of wonderful.

Perhaps the best part about the dish is just how perfectly moist the chicken thighs are.  I don’t think I’ve had better boneless thighs.  So please, follow the cooking method to the letter.

It also microwaves wonderfully

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sherry or white wine
  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 3/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • olive oil
  • 8-12 oz Mozarella cheese, shredded

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350F. Ready a 9″x 13″ glass baking dish or equivalent.

Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a frying pan.  Add the mushrooms and cook, tossing, for a minute or two.  Add the sherry, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium.  Cook until soft and wine is absorbed, stirring occasionally, around 5 minutes.  Let cool

Meanwhile, remove any surplus fat from the chicken thighs.  Mix the bread crumbs with the Parmesan cheese.  Coat the chicken thighs with the egg and then with the bread crumbs.

Heat a thick layer of olive oil in a frying pan over high heat.  Add the chicken thighs and brown on both sides, about a minute per side. You may need to do this in batches.  Place the chicken thighs in the baking dish, careful to not overlap. Use more than one dish if necessary.  Top with the mozarella cheese (use as much as you like), and then with the sauteed mushrooms.

Cook for 30 minutes.