Doro Wot, Azifa, and Ye’Abesha Gomen

This was our last Ethiopian meal and the one I was most looking forward to because I love me a wot! Wots (or wats, I’ve seen it spelled both ways) are basically stews but what makes them different from others is a very long sweating of large amounts of onions in nit’r qibe, a spiced butter. I didn’t have nit’r qibe and I didn’t want to go through the effort of making it so I just used ghee and added some extra spices. I don’t think it affected the taste though because it came out ah-mah-zing! I don’t remember my exact feelings but I do remember that we didn’t have any leftovers because we ate everything.

Everything.

The girls even ate the collard greens in the ye’abesha gome and the lentils in the azifa. The baby especially couldn’t get enough of the lentils and I believe she had multiple bowls. Huzzah!

The only downside to this meal was that we didn’t have any injera to go with it. I didn’t use it for two days and I didn’t think it would affect it much because by then it would have been fermenting for four days. On the fourth day I unwrapped my bowl of batter and found that a tiny bit of mold had grown on top of it. I didn’t bother looking up if this was normal because typically mold growing on things is not a good sign. Also, I’d had a run-in with mold and an attempted sourdough starter in the not too distant past so I was still recovering from that episode. Mold in a sourdough starter is not good and you have to throw out the entire starter if it grows on it so with that in mind, I threw away about two cups of injera batter. I later learned that a bit of mold on injera batter is not the end of the world and it can be removed and you can continue on your merry way. The more you know.

So while our week in Ethiopia didn’t start off so well, it ended on a pretty high note. I mean, the four year old ate greens! Voluntarily! That’s a pretty big deal! We had Chinese food for lunch today and as she was eating her eggroll, I saw her pull out of every piece of green onion she could find. I didn’t mention the fact that she was still eating a good amount of cabbage because, why kill the dream? She clearly hates anything green but in that one moment during Ethiopia week, she ate it and it was wonderful. I will forever hold that moment in my heart.

Recipe, Recipe, Recipe

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Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Curry

By the time I prepared this meal, my injera batter was two days old so I was hopeful that whatever needed to happen would happen and my injera was would be bomb.com.

Well, it wasn’t necessarily bomb.com. Everything was there, ready to go live, but it was still in the test phase. This injera was an improvement from the previous day in terms of sponginess and it was less sour but it still tasted off. It was just very, very tart and I didn’t really enjoy eating it by itself. Normally I can munch on injera alone, I don’t even need to fill it with anything, but my injera definitely needed some filling.

And this filling was great! James actually chose this recipe and I was really pleased with the curry. I don’t have a lot of experience cooking with sweet potatoes so I always take an opportunity to do so. Most of the work for this meal came in cutting up the veggies and then once they were in the pot, I got to party in my kitchen! Of course that means I just stood in the kitchen and hid from my kids.

Thankfully this meal worked out because I would have be sad two days in a row and that would have been terrible. Hahaha! Oh, when I thought being sad two days in a row over food was the worst it could get!

Recipe

Kik Alicha, Timatim Firfir, Beet-Potato Salad, and Injera

I know, it’s been a WHILE since I last posted, four weeks to be exact. Sorry! We had a lot of social obligations, then Halloween, my birthday, the election… Life has been hectic and I have not had the time nor energy to sit and talk about food. There has been a lot of good, actually a ton of good, and bad in the past month and this project took a backseat to more pressing issues. It’s really hard to get excited about food when there are bigger things to focus on. I’m not going to get into it because I think there has been enough talk in the past week. I will say this, I feel like we need to accept where we are and focus our energy on making the best out of it. We can’t change what has happened but we still have the ability to change the future. Focus on that. Focus on what you can do. Get out there and do it. We’ve all heard the wake up call so now it’s time to sit up, put your feet on the ground, and make the Devil say “Oh shit, she’s up!”

So we ate Ethiopian food four weeks ago! Ethiopia was one of the weeks both James and I were really excited about. We were introduced to it a few years ago when we had dinner with some vegan friends. What we both remember from that first meal was the injera, which is a sourdough flatbread. Our friends warned us beforehand that we might not like it because a lot of people are put off by the bitter flavor but luckily James and I are both bitter people (I’m kidding, sort of). The injera was our favorite part of the entire meal and it has remained one of our favorite things to eat. Making injera isn’t fast. The batter has to ferment for at least three days but you can technically start using it after one day. Making my injera was delayed a day because I’m an idiot. When doing my grocery shopping, I grabbed a bag of teff seeds; teff flour is what is used to make injera. It is a a grain that is similar to millet and quinoa and is high in fiber and iron. The problem was I needed teff flour, not seeds. And even though I read “teff seed” on the package, it didn’t register. It registered after I poured the entire package of seeds in a bowl and mixed it with water. Finally the light bulb went off and I literally said to myself “Dummy. You need flour, not seeds!” and I smacked my forehead. So I had to go back the next day and buy flour. Watching it sit on my counter top was painful because I just wanted to cook with it right away and I am not a patient person. When it finally hit the 24 hour mark, I was so excited! The cooking technique was very similar to making the dosas and we all know how I aced that (brushes off shoulders) so I knew I had this!

I did not have this. I mean, it was fine but the flavor was not the same as what I’ve eaten. My injera wasn’t as spongy and it was kind of grainy. I was sad but I figured it wasn’t as great because it needed more time to ferment. So it goes. I moved on and prepared the rest of the meal.

Yeah the rest of the meal wasn’t much better. The kik alicha was good, even though I substituted white urad dal for the split peas. It was very creamy and buttery and it was similar to another dal we had during Nepal week. The timatim firfir was just onion, pepper, and tomato in olive oil and lemon juice. It really didn’t absorb any of the berbere seasoning and it was pretty acidic. And then the beet-potato salad…ugh. Like the timatim, it was just a sum of ingredients. There was nothing special about it, we just ate boiled potatoes and beets.

So obviously this meal was a fail but I had hopes for the next day’s meal. I can’t remember if the girls ate it or not but I want to say no. Because we didn’t even like it. So it goes.

Recipe, Recipe, Recipe

Grilled Chicken Shawarma, Mejadra, and Israeli Vegetable Salad

This meal, oh man, this meal was so good! *cue Penny from “Happy Endings”* suh guhd!

This wasn’t authentic shawarma because James won’t let me be great and buy a vertical spit to grill my meat but this was a close second. The recipe I used called for an outdoor grill but I decided to finally use the ceramic grill pan James gave me for Mother’s Day. My reason for not using the outdoor grill was purely selfish: I didn’t want to clean the grill and it was a billion degrees outside. Those ceramic pans live up to the hype in terms of clean up and my kitchen has a/c, it was basically a “Duh” decision.

I was a little worried that cooking it on the stove top would compromise the flavor but I still got great results. I think the key to making chicken shawarma in the non-traditional method is to use chicken thighs because you need that extra fat. Traditional shawarma is basted in its fat and juices so you need to replicate that any way you can, or at least the easiest way you can, and that means using a fattier cut of meat. If you’re really concerned about the greasiness of dark chicken meat, you can maybe do a mixture of both dark and white meat but just don’t use all white, it won’t turn out well.

I also got the veggie salad from the same site as the chicken. I didn’t dice my veggies as finely as needed but, oh well, what are you going to do? The baby really liked the salad but mostly enjoyed just picking the cucumbers out of it. The three year old didn’t touch it.

She did, however, touch the mejadra. I’ve actually made mejadra before but not this specific recipe. I didn’t realize I’d made it before until I was cooking it and honestly, I’ve made it a few times. I believe it’s in my Greek cookbook, the one that turned out to be less Greek and more Mediterranean, and it’s a pretty easy and straight forward dish. Themost time consuming part of this dish was frying the onions. Frying onions take for-e-ver! I recently made caramelized onions and was soooo bored. What is it that takes those suckers so long to turn brown???

Anyway, this meal made up for the frytastic meal before it. It definitely felt a lot healthier! One of the many good things about this meal is that I can make it over and over again and that each dish would compliment others as well; I wouldn’t have to always make all three together.

Actually, I think I’ll make the salad tonight. I’ll work on my dicing skills.

Fish Pilaki and Mercimek Koftesi

I’ve noticed that it’s more difficult for me to get motivated to post when the food is less that awesome. Like I know I need to post but I just can’t gather the energy to get my stuff together, login, and do the thing. It almost feels like a chore and no one likes chores. Last week, when the food was spectacular, I was anxious to post and couldn’t wait to share the experience. There were a couple of nights where I wrote the post right after dinner because I wanted to get my thoughts down that quickly. This week? Meh, not so much. I made this meal on Tuesday night and it’s Thursday. Take from that what you will.

That’s not to say the food is bad because it’s far from bad; it’s just not fantastic. I guess this means I can’t expect everything to be life changing, which is something I’ve mentioned before but I guess I keep forgetting to remind myself. I will admit that’s a problem I have in general: expectations. I often times expect too much from people or from situations and end up disappointed. It’s something I’m constantly working on but I guess I need to work harder. Maybe work smarter, not harder? Isn’t that a saying?

The fish was good but it seemed familiar. Tilapia is a versatile fish and easily picks up whatever seasoning you give it so I don’t think the type of fish was the problem. The problem was the preparation. Carrots, potatoes, garlic, and onions aren’t anything special. I think I’ve actually made a slight variation of this meal before so this was just another fish dish to me. The 21 month old LOVED the fish so much she asked for thirds. The 3 year old was less than interested. 

The real surprise was the mercimek koftesi. Like I said before, there’s a reason they are so popular! The 3 year old liked them, although she did say they were spicy. They were a little spicy but nothing overpowering. It definitely livened up the bulgur and lentils because, let’s be honest, on their own, bulgur and lentils are a little boring. They were bean patties but you know how much I love beans so of course I was going to enjoy this! The dip of pomegranate molasses and olive oil was TO DIE FOR! Pomegranate molasses basically taste like thickened pomegranate juice but I love pomegranate juice. I’m glad I bought this condiment because I’m going to find other ways to incorporate it into meals. 

So while the fish was fine, I did honestly love the kofte. They were really easy to make and I think would make a great appetizer. And the American in me just wondered “What if I fried them????”

Recipe

German Lentil Soup and Sausage with Onions

I proposed to my wife that I make one dish every week and do some research ahead of time, but we sort of ran out of time last week (now several weeks! – sorry about the late post) and she suggested this dish because it is “easy”. My cooking skills fall somewhere between horrible and non-existent with the exception of spaghetti (it’s damn good!) so this was not “easy”.  Also, I’m neurotic and get stressed out easily so I ending up pacing around the kitchen muttering a bunch of expletives to myself.  Honestly, I probably looked and sounded like a crazy person half way through the preparation.  In the future, my focus will be on quick meals – about a half hour or less- since honestly I don’t like spending this much time preparing dinner.

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By the way that’s not me above- way too calm.

The second part of my dish was Sausage with Onions.  However, due to anxiety with all the ingredients in the above dish, I somehow mixed up hot dogs which were supposed to be used for the German Lentil Soup for sausage and ending up frying them out of order.  Not a big deal to fix, but the wife was not happy because she said she told me this but I wasn’t paying attention – story of our lives.  This was actually super easy if the selective listening hadn’t kicked in.  

Eventually, the lentils finished steaming and the sausage with onions baked and we had a happy household dinner – minus the 3 year old who doesn’t eat anything but 4th of July food.  My wife even said it was “pretty good.”  Personally, I thought it was a pretty solid meal too!

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Recipe

Green Lentil Soup

This week we are visiting Greece!

Home of feta cheese, super cool mythology, and, um, that village with the blue tiled roofs…I clearly do not know much about Greece. Gosh Melissa, learn a book! Oh wait! I know something else: Melissa is Greek for honeybee.

So anyway, we are visiting Greece. Why did I choose Greece? Because it was the first cookbook I pulled out of my cookbook drawer. Actually, it was the second but the first one I pulled out was about New Orleans and last time I checked, New Orleans is not a country. Sorry NOLA. The cookbook I’m using this week is 

“Taste of Greece: Irresistible Dishes of the Sun-Soaked Eastern Mediterranean” by Joanna Farrow and Jacqueline Clarke

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<img src="http://static1.squarespace.com/static/56ca481801dbae727e4f992a/t/56e1a89e74e8d64aef8a4fa2/1457629744912//img.jpg for it at Half Price Books so it's definitely legit. I've had this book for years and have made a few things from it but this week I'm trying recipes I haven't made before.

Which is why we are making Green Lentil Soup. I was going to make a chicken pie but I forgot to thaw out the chicken and the pastry. Also, I took my kids to Chuck e Cheese (where a kid can be a kid! And parents wonder why they thought procreating was a good idea!) for two hours and I was tired and wanted something easy.

Recipe