#41: Somalia

Welcome one and all to the Federal Republic of Somalia!

It was nice to steal away to a country that was a whole lot warmer than our own this week. We got a really good hit from Jack Frost and we are now gearing up to break a long standing snow record for February (like 1912, guys…). This means tomorrow’s storm will make Colorado history books. It’s any wonder what our snowiest month of March will bring along. I, for one, plan on stock piling oreos and coco for the impending promise of a snow in. At least a girl can dream…

THE DINNER: This trip to the country of Somalia was a lot of fun. We took a page from when we traveled to Saudi Arabia in week #15 and made a drink the center of our meal. We picked this lovely hot tea, Shaah (though looking back we could have had it cold and it would have tasted just as delightful). Now, don’t confuse this tea, Shaah, with the landlord and ruler, Shah. It is it’s own beast. When doing research for this week, it became clear that Somalians drink quite a lot of this spiced tea with milk. Though recipes vary from household to household, the basic Shaah is cardamon, cinnamon and cloves. Occasionally, I have run across a recipe that includes spicy components like black pepper or Cheyenne even. Talk about a kick on a cold day!

We paired our spiced tea with Fried Sweet Breads which were utterly perfect for the weather and with the tea. These are akin to fried pastries or doughnuts and though eaten primarily at tea time like crumpets, they can also be seen gracing breakfast tables and dessert bars. It’s not uncommon to find them served with fruit compote, though typically they are consumed plain. It’s a throw back to the beignet that so often is part of French and neo French cultures (like New Orleans cooking). This makes a whole lot of sense as the french did have control over that region for a while.

Shaah Spiced Tea Recipe: http://tammyssomalihome.blogspot.com/
Fried Sweet Breads Recipe:
http://www.mysomalifood.com/sweet-fried-bread/

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: THREE STARS out of five this Dessert!
This one was pretty simple as far as ingredients. Ginger, cinnamon, flour, sugar… it was almost all in our pantry already! But as far as the execution, it was sort of difficult. It seems to be that way when you deep fry things. I mean, that stuff is seriously dangerous, so if you feel like a kitchen badass you’re good to go, but for the remainder of us mere mortals, this is handled with care. Attention was paid to the sweet breads because they fried quickly, which was also really great. My mom is a culinary adrenaline junkie so she had no problem frying them all at once, putting to use her mad Leftsa flipping skills over the years. That woman doesn’t flinch in the face of hot oil. For all the rest of us, it’s a three star undertaking…for her she made it look like an easy two. I split the difference and made it a three star difficulty for good measure.

Best dish of all time scale: FOUR STARS out of five for Dessert!
Alright, if you really want the truth it was just under four stars. We gave it a 3.75 with a smile as it was very tasty but seemed to narrowly miss the mark somehow. Whether it been the lack of frosting or sweetness in the sweet breads or the aromatic power of the tea, it just seemed to barely miss that four star podium. I for one love strong tea and coffee, but this was quite strong– in retrospect, I should have added more cream. It’s very similar to chai in that it’s a spiced tea with milk, but it was different in someway than chai. It seemed to me that this was a whole lot easier and more “everyday” than many of the countries that pride themselves on complex and multi-ingredient chai teas. It was quick and simple and for that I loved it. It was also lovely with the sweet breads. Overall, delightful and satisfying. What more can you really ask for?

Week #42 is going to be a trip to Greenland! That’s right, we’re hanging with the Vikings next weekend!
It’s going to be an adventure as always… though I really would like to try whale at some point, it’s probably not in the cards yet for this Colorado family 😉 Who knows what other things will pop up though, as there never seems to be a shortage of surprises in those Nordic countries…

Hope you’re not buried under the fresh podwer!
– L & K

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#40: Spain

Feliz Día del Amor y la Amistad!

This weekend was the celebration of our most adored “f” words: family, friends, food! I also should be quick to point out, there are few things that the Spanish do better than food, family and friends. They’re known for their charismatic and hospitable nature, as well as their attention to food and a good party. It was any wonder we picked Spain to play a part in our weekend brovskyland adventure.

THE DINNER: The meals in many European countries are long and drawn out. Here in the states we tend to eat and run, work and run, party and run. So much running and it doesn’t get us much of anywhere fast. Other countries, Spain leading the pack here with the Italians and French, savory life and take their time doing just about everything. It’s not a rumba but a slow tango.

Their lunches and dinners last hours and hours and generally many of their dishes are slow cooked. When you think of Spain, you most certainly think of Paella. We definitely wanted to make sure to cover this dish on our trip around the world. The paella is traditionally served with meat, but I did run across a few vegetarian renditions that made me happy as a clam. Speaking of clams, we went the uber traditional route and made our paella with seafood and pork. The Iberian peninsula is known for their pork, by the way—world renowned in fact. Marrying this with the seafood (clams, mussels, squid, prawns…). Let’s talk about saffron too, friends… this Valentine’s day, this foodie fell head over heels for saffron. We are planning a fall wedding if you’re curious 😉

Paella Recipe: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/seafood-recipes/my-favourite-paella/

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: TWO STARS out of five this Dinner!
All things considered, this was really easy. I have always wanted to make paella. It’s pretty much to holy grail of Spanish cooking. Beyond that, I’ve never met a paella that I didn’t like. So this week was something I’ve looked forward to when we started this project. The two stars was actually pretty liberal- this meal was very easy, and stress free. The reason we gave it two stars was that as previously noted during our trip to Italy (week #31), cooking shellfish gets a bit tricky if you’re not familiar with mussels and clams it’s certainly intimidating. We were unable to locate squid, which was a bummer, but that’s Colorado in February for you! This would also add to the difficulty as squid is temperamental and if you cook it wrong you’ll most likely end up eating a rubber balloon. Yikes! But really this only took max 45 min to cook from start to finish and that probably included a good ten minutes of metric to standard translations…

Best dish of all time scale: FIVE STARS out of five for Dinner!
This was pretty much a resounding FIVE STAR across the board, even my dad, who typically is the hold out judge with that last half star, finally gave in during helping no. 2 and awarded Spain five stars. It was everything it should be. I was amazed that there were very little spices in this meal apart from the salt, pepper and garlic—there was not an additional spice, and yet it was so flavorful! There was, however, the addition of saffron. It melt when it comes to this herb paired with seafood. Amazing. Overall, this was lovely. Pork and shellfish played well together and on a snowy Rocky Mountain Sunday afternoon this was just the ticket. Please know, that there were no leftovers to be found.

Where are we off to on our proverbial jet set next weekend?? Well, we are regretfully leaving our Spanish holiday and heading to Africa to Somalia for week #41!!! Also, we have a special quest judge joining us from South Carolina for Sunday!
🙂 Stay tuned!

Till, next week, Dear Valentines, please eat your heart out!
– L & K

#39: Nepal

Namaste!

This week as we ventured to Tibet, I knew I wanted to do my best to channel my inner Dali Lama. The advice that this great man provides stuck with me best in the form of:

“Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.”

That’s actually really profound when you stop for a second to consider it. Sometimes we want things we think we need but like one of my mom’s favorite bands, The Rolling Stone’s, is so keen to follow up: “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try—sometimes you find you get what you need.” And for many of us, what we think we need isn’t what we really need. I, for one, am incredibly lucky that I do not always get what I deserve. We did absolutely deserve to have an excellent meal, which is what we were hoping to find on our trip to Nepal.

THE DINNER: Dal, chutney, lentils, curry’s and pickled things all grace the landscape of Nepalese cuisine. Unlike so many of the cultures we have explored over the past thirty-nine weeks, Nepal bases their food profile mostly on climate and resources as opposed to cultural influence. It’s interesting the dichotomy though found in the food, as it borders both Chinese, Middle Eastern and Indian flavor silhouettes. The food is definitely meant to be hearty and sustainable since it is a tough climate to live in and their people are very much a working class. There is also a strong emphasis on vegetarian cooking since their home to Tibetan monks and a strong Hindu/Buddhist municipality. That’s not to say that their cuisine doesn’t feature its share of chicken and pork, because it does—it is to say that red meat is hardly eaten and vegetarian food is the staple (mostly due to availability as opposed to religion).

We went the route of dal (soup) for this week. It’s been super cold and blustery which is nothing, if not perfect, soup eating weather. Plus we couldn’t resist the complexity of flavor we found in the their soups. It’s so well rounded and robust. We had to see what it was all about after reading through the ingredient list. Absolutely intriguing. Ladakhi Chicken Thukpa was the soup we pulled for this week’s trip abroad. This is a traditional Tibetan soup and is basically the Nepalese take on the Western “Chicken Noodle Soup”. How utterly fitting for the time of year…. plus mom was under the weather this week, which makes this country a feast for your soul and your body.
Ladakhi Chicken Thukpa Recipe: http://food.ndtv.com/recipe-ladakhi-chicken-thukpa-441337?desktop=true

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: ONE STAR out of five this Dinner!
All things aside, soups are generally one of the easiest things you can cook. Seriously, you add ingredients and liquid and let it simmer till it gets all happy and all the flavors become best friends. It’s simple. People have been making them since the beginning of time. So it comes as no surprise that this was a piece of cake. One star covers all the components. I would consider giving it a half more star based on the fact that we has to convert the ingredients from metric and double them to accommodate serving size for three people. Even that wasn’t very challenging.

Best dish of all time scale: FIVE STARS out of five for Dinner!
We ARE IN LOVE WITH NEPAL! Seriously. We basically were ready to up and move to the majestic Himalayans, adopt a llama, stay forever and eat nothing but Nepalese food. That would be perfect. We all agreed that this was the best chicken noodle rehash we have ever had (and let me tell you, my mom literally makes some kickass chicken noodle, yo). This was made better by adding chiles to it. I mean it was brilliant to add a little bit of heat to the broth– what better to clear out stuffy sinuses!? And then there was the coriander, which was brilliant. I, a lover of onions, was even a little taken aback by the sheer volume of onion in this recipe. I mean, white and green!? The maddness! The Anarchy! But, friends, this was the magic of it! The onions were subdued by the spicy peppers and everything was happy with the mellow chicken meat and the tame egg noodles. It was definitely something we want to keep on hand in our cookbook for the future.

As we venture into Valentine’s day weekend we will travel to one of the most romantic nations we could think of, Spain! Week #40 will find us taking Spanish lovers, music and food by storm! Let us not forget the Spanish soccer stars… 😉

 

Nada puede ser mejor que estar contigo!
(Translated from Spanish: Nothing could be better than being with you!)

– L & K

#38: Madagascar

Greetings pals!

This week was beautiful spring weather: both sunny and warm and delightful; while also having days of snow and cold and icky weather. It was literally Colorado springtime. With the Bronocos out of the Superbowl, we weren’t keen on watching the puppybowl (because Kodiak is the only dog in our lives), so this left us a lot of time to explore our country, Madagascar!

THE DINNER: From the island country of Bahrain to the island country of Madagascar, we ventured to the south this week in search of good eats. Madagascar immediately conjures the words “vanilla” to flash in neon across my brain. The nation is known best for their perfect, incandescent and exotic Vanilla beans and extract. In part, this is Madagascar’s highest grossing export. Thank the Lord for that.

The country’s food is influenced by all of its inhabitants rulers over the course of its history: particularly Portuguese and French cuisine and culture. We love, love, LOVE French and Portuguese food around the Brovsky house, so this one was highly anticipated. Something we love more than that is dessert—and since Madagascar is known for its vanilla, we planned on going that route for our meal.

We picked a French recipe, that had to be translated both into English AND THEN from Metric to standard, for a cake that is called Gâteau magique à la vanille (Magic Cream Cake). Upon first glance it seems like a standard cake, but once we were elbow deep in the custard we realized this is very much like a flan or cheesecake. It contains hardly any flour and is basically custard that is baked till barely set and still wiggly (much like a flan) and then refrigerated overnight and served cold (much like a cheesecake). You can top this bad boy with fruit compote or with chocolate gauche… I for one will never pass up the trip to chocolate heaven, so that was my personal preference. Good thing my family share that notion. We pulled a basic gauche recipe from the always-on-point Mrs. Martha Stewart.

Gâteau magique à la vanille (Magic Cream Cake) Recipe: http://www.recetteshanane.com/article-gateau-magique-a-la-vanille-118615627.html
Chocolate Gauche Recipe: http://www.marthastewart.com/865175/ganache

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: THREE STARS out of five this Dessert!
Baking is something that we have an affinity for in Brovskyland. Both my mom and I happen to really enjoy baking, so I had to adjust for bias on this country. We realize that not everyone will find this recipe as easy to tackle as we did. There’s the element of metric to standard conversions (which I already noted) as well as the French to English translation which leaves quite a lot to be desired. Baking is hard enough for some people, let alone when the recipe isn’t completely clear—which happens a lot when you translate. So, all things considered, we thought it was about a one star and in reality we realize it’s more like a two or three for most people. Don’t be scared, just take your time and enjoy it. All baking (like French cooking in general) is about patience.

Best dish of all time scale: FOUR and a HALF STARS out of five for Dessert.
We went with the chocolate gauche, but rest assured, it would taste amazing with any sort of fruit compote also… we were tossing around the idea that raspberry would be delightful. It’s hard not to get all misty eyed about cake. Everyone likes cake. It’s equally hard to not get caught up in the love of all things vanilla and custard and cream pie/cake. I would love nothing more than to curl up and eat my weight in this cake. Forever. Previously, for those that know me, it’s no surprise that my preferred way to leave this world would be death by chocolate… but now we have serious contender for that prize. I would gladly endure death by Magic Cream Cake with a smile on my face. It was everything it should have been: delicate, fluffy, velvety, vanilla laced slice of heaven. Please forgive me if I don’t share.

When we arise from our sugar comas, we will find ourselves in week #39, which brings us to the mountain nation of Nepal. We joke that Kodiak will need to be our llama for the trek through the culinary world of the mystics.

 

Qu’ils mangent de la brioche, mes chéris!
(Let them eat cake, my dears!….as long as it’s Gâteau magique à la vanille, that is…)

– L & K