#69: Belarus

2015 Denver Susan G. Komen Race for The Cure weekend is upon us!!

I hope you guys were able to wear pink and support an amazing cause that effects not only women worldwide of all ages but also men. It’s something that has touched all our lives in one way or another, and I’m grateful for the tradition that my mom and I have had for 17 years now. Every year (except one where I was in college in Portland) for the past 17 years we have run the Race for the Cure here in Denver. It’s one of the nationals largest races for breast cancer and research and it’s something I love doing with my mom. It’s gorgeous weather to boot, so it’s not to shabby. So whether you sleep-in-for-the-cure, walk or run — thank you for taking time to care for others. In other news, this weekend was also a nationally big one for our state as we hosted the Great American Beer Festival (GABF for all you cool kids). Not to mention, it was the Blood Super Moon as well as a Broncos victory against Detroit. It was a busy and wonderful Mile High weekend indeed.

THE DINNER: We were honestly craving some Eastern European/Nordic cuisine this week, so we picked Belarus as our culinary stopping place on AW195S! It’s a country and region that we are pretty comfortable with (Read: Brovsky Comfort Food Zone) so we didn’t have to worry too much about “exotic” food this week. As with so many Eastern European countries and Russia itself, these nations focus on root veggies and cabbage and pork. That’s pretty much the long and short of it. Beets, cabbage, potatoes round out the top veggies and then you have dumpling/pierogi and rye rounding out the top carbs. You transition into pork as their main protein followed closely by fish (but mainly seen in soups) and occasionally beef or poultry. Their all about those earthy flavor palates and then you also don’t see very much in the way of spices. It’s au-natural for these no-nonsense bunch.

For the meal we picked potato latkes that are filled with pork… and fried. You can hear the hallelujah chorus, believe me. Draniki is what this lovely concoction is called.

Draniki Recipe: https://arousingappetites.com/draniki-belarusian-sausage-stuffed-potato-pancakes/

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: FOUR STAR out of five this meal!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we have a potato flipping guru in our midst. My mother is like a potato whisperer. She can take potato batter and make it bend to her will… and even she had some snags in this recipe. That makes people like me, who are potato novices take a second’s pause before venturing further. The potato batter was a handful. It’s finicky, watery and the idea of getting it the right thickness to get crispy and brown while also getting the inside cooked is a nightmare of sorts. So this one is a tough recipe (as have many of our Eastern European meals thus far, now that I’m thinking about it). Apart from that, this meal called for a handful of common core ingredients and was a sound 30 minutes from start to finish. So that’s not too shabby at all.

Best dish of all time scale: THREE STARS out of five for Meal!!
We all really wanted to like this one. It has everything you want– potatoes, fried potatoes. sausage. onion. It was a good idea. I think what the problem was, for us, the texture of the pancakes. The Eastern Europeans do tend to enjoy a certain texture to their food. The best way i can describe this is “squishy”. They like doughy things. Their perogies are like this, as are their dumplings as we saw from our visit to the Ukraine week #2! I think it’s just a signature of their taste palate. That being said, this was a home run for those reasons. The pancakes were crispy but the potatoes were like mashed potato constancy. The meat and the flavors was spot on though, for that they get a five. It was  tasty, just not very edible in the texture arena. So close, Belarus… but just not quite.

Heading into the BIG 7-0 next weekend we will also be transitioning into my favorite month, October! It’s all pumpkin spice and sweaters and cute boots from here, guys! My dad picked the country out for this go around, so will see you in India for country #70! 

Good tidings of great meals for you all!
– L & K

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#68: Belize

Rocky Mountain Showdown 2015!

This weekend we geared up for a little in state football rivalry. Our hometown heroes CU vs CSU duked it out in their annual grudge match. As a Buffalo household, and being an alumna myself, I bleed gold and black. It’s safe to say though that some of the Brovsky Tribe attended State and therefore we are a land divided. In all fun and games though, good football is good football and a little healthy rivalry is just what the doctor ordered for a lazy weekend.

THE DINNER: Belizean food consists of mostly rice and beans paired with poultry and seafood. Red meat and pork are consumed but are not common. Coconut milk is a mainstay in sauces, rices and stews bringing together the general sense of the cuisine to be lighter fare. They don’t eat very heavy foods in this Central American country. Local fruits are quite common, but raw vegetables from the markets less so. Mealtime is a communion for families and schools and some businesses close at midday for lunch, reopening later in the afternoon. Which I find absolutely darling for a fairly large nation. When researching meals and recipes for this week’s country meal, I came across these things call Conch Fritters which are something of a national snack food and appetizer… and they look just about as sinful as one can get. But due to the Rocky Mountain state having a marked lack of conch meat, it was decided on poultry.

We settled on Belizean Jerk Chicken (which made me laugh at the ingredient list). I mean 3 whole chickens is how this story starts out… and for the three of us that means one who chicken a piece and the story ends with 6lbs of potatoes which is the weight of a baby human. So needles to say we will probably be quartering that recipe. Apart from the ingredients, jerk chicken is a huge cultural dish in the Caribbean and Latin America. It’s what BBQ is to the Southern US. So, it’s a thing of much debate, pride and enjoyment.

Belizean Jerk Chicken Recipe:http://ambergriscaye.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/433336/Belizean_Jerk_Chicken.html

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: TWO STAR out of five this meal!
So this one had a lot of ingredients. Beyond that, it seems simple, but as I’ve said before grilling chicken is an art. You over cook it and it’s dry, you under cook it and it’s still clucking. So there’s a middle ground that’s a lovely, tender, succulent middle ground of perfectly cooked grilled chicken. Lucky for me, my mom is the BBQ queen so she makes this look easy. But for the rest of us, it’s a two on the scale for difficulty.  Apart from that, none of the ingredients required conversion from metric or a trip to a specialty store. So that’s always good news.

Best dish of all time scale: FOUR STARS out of five for Meal!!
As a lover of spicy things, I wanted this to set m hair on fire. I’m not sure why I wanted that, but I did. So when this was spicy but more on the tangy side, I was a little disappointed. It was zippy. It also had a very complex flavor. So much going on with this recipe marinade. I loved the idea of jerk chicken but we sort of wanted more “sauce” to it so that the rice could soak up the wonderfully complex spice palate. It was just below the mark for us. Definitely yummy, but just a little off of center. We wanted so much more from it. Very good though. My favorite part was the rum, because let’s be real here, alcohol and chicken have always played well together. It was sweet when the liquor burned off which counter acted the spice of the habanero.

As we head into the Denver Race for the Cure weekend next week, we will see you in Eastern Europe for Belarus for country #69! 

Running our paws off next weekend!
– L & K

 

 

#67: Malawi

Welcome to Fall?

Well, it’s the week following Labor Day, which in technical terms marks the entrance into fall. No more white shoes, if you observe that fashion mandate. No more “summer” because everyone is back to school now. I grew up on a traditional school year, so every year my classes would start the Tuesday after Labor Day. So for me, this is always “Indian summer”. Warm, but you feel like you can still wear capris and the days are getting shorter but you still can rush home after school (and work) to find you still could ride your bike for a few hours before it got dark. It’s like Pre-Fall. And I love it all.

THE DINNER:This week, L & A are tackling Malawi. I say that my parents are tackling it, but really it’s more my mom flying solo while I’m out of town and my dad enjoying the fruits of the labor; but you get the drift. When I was pulling recipes for her to pick from this week, I noticed two things about this African Nation: tea and fish are the two most popular Malawian foods… it was fitting then that we hold “tea time”. L decided to make traditional Malawian tea cakes of sorts called Mtedza which are like peanut cookies. They aren’t called “peanuts” in Africa though, they are instead called “Groundnuts” for obvious reasons– but it’s still a little amusing to call them that. Think about it: Groundnut butter? Yeah, it’s a little bizarre to Americans. To be completely fair, it’s hard not to call the Mtedza “tea cakes” because that’s precisely what they remind me of, Russian Tea Cakes. In fact, the recipe is almost identical to the recipe we make every Christmas of my favorite cookies save only the Russian version has ground almonds instead of peanuts (and also almond extract instead of vanilla, but you get the picture). Everything else is literally the same here, from the ingredient list to the prep to the baking. Which should bode well to speak of the ease of the recipe if they are synonyms. It also gives me the warm and fuzzies inside to think about Christmas and Russian Tea Cookies… 🙂

Mtedza Recipe: http://globaltableadventure.com/recipe/recipe-malawi-peanut-balls-mtedza/

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: ONE STAR out of five this meal!
Okay, okay, okay. It’s cheating of sorts. My mom has made the aforementioned Russian Tea Cookie ancestors of these Mtedza for double digit years now… so this one ran like a well oiled machine from her end. She can make (and probably has made) those things in her sleep. I know I can at this point too. So it’s hard to assign a level of difficulty. I tried to remember back to when I very first encountered making these types of Tea Cakes and i recall that it has some tricky parts, mainly the dough is not malleable like you typically think of cookie dough being. It’s not doughy. It’s actually crumbly as hell and this can cause a novice some problems. Apart from that, they really are easy and delightful.

Best dish of all time scale: FOUR STARS out of five for Meal!!
As much as I can compare them to Russian Tea Cookies…they just aren’t. Peanuts are strange to encounter in these familiar cakes— and it just seemed off. They were however still cookies and that’s always a win. Served with coffee or probably tea, they are solid sweet tooth fare. I think we have to give them a four and still have a soft spot for the almond version that are traditional in our house. L commented, “I enjoyed mine with a cup of black loose leaf tea.  They are great served warm or at room temperature; you can even freeze some for another time. They were soft and scrumptious. A nice lite dessert or midday treat with coffee or tea.  You could even eat them in the morning with your coffee.  All around you cannot go wrong with these tasty little morsels!”

All that being said, the peanuts were unable to obtain the fine chop that the almonds can and that significantly effects the texture. Cookies be cookies though. Amen to that.

Next week we will be traveling to Central America, one place we haven’t been in quite a long time! See you in Belize for country #68! 

See you later, Gators!
– L & K

#66: Iran

Happy Labor Day, Friends!

I hope that this long weekend has been treating you well. It’s been absolutely gorgeous here and as Labor Day always does, it starts me thinking about fall and school starting and homecoming. It’s football and number two pencils. We spent the weekend hanging out with the family unit. I for one needed a moment to recharge my batteries after a jam packed week. Thank the good lord for three day weekends. More three day weekend, I say!!

THE DINNER: Iran was fascinating to me on a food level and historically. They are one of the first civilizations to have a written cookbook! Around 927AD a book of recipes were scribed by Ḥājī Moḥammad-ʿAlī Bāvaṛčī Baḡdādī for an aristocratic patron of the then Iranian ruler. It was documented as recipes that were for special occasions and celebrations and mourning and holidays but left out the day to day meals and habits of the common people. This book contained 26 chapters!! That makes the holy grail of The Joy of Cooking look like a light read, guys! And it had extravagant usage of very expensive spices like saffron and peppers, which to the average joe were (and sort of still are) hard to swing on the daily budget.

The food culture in Iran and many other Arab nations is just that– very ceremonious. It takes a meal and elevates it. It’s not something that is merely to sustain, but to bring together the family unit and reconnect. Eating with the hands and with the use of bread often outweighs using utensils, making this a more grounded eating experience. We picked Dolemeh-ye Bademjan which are Persian Stuffed Eggplant. The eggplant is stuffed with lamb meat and then cooked. I don’t know about you– but i’m already a huge fan of eggplant, so this one intrigued me. It should also be noted that my dad’s favorite baked veggie is, in fact, eggplant. So this one has all the makings of a good time in Brovskyville.

Dolemeh-ye Bademjan Recipe:http://heneedsfood.com/2010/06/dolmeh-ye-bademjan-stuffed-eggplant/

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: FOUR STARS out of five this meal!
Stuffing things. That’s always a tricky business. Stuffing eggplant was a real two person job. It’s simple- the stuffing making, the act of stuffing it was the trick bit. You don’t want to under stuff, but also you can’t stuff too much lamb mixture into it because it would split the pocket you had made and then it’s not stuffed eggplant so much as filled eggplant boats. So that was tricky. The other degree of difficulty on this one was making Baharat spice— it’s an added step, but it was my favorite flavor profile thus far! So this one snuck up on us for difficulty. You also have to semi babysit this one in the oven because it requires basting… so it’s hardly a “set it an forget it” type of meal.

Best dish of all time scale: FOUR STARS out of five for Meal!!
It was hard to assign a star rating to this meal, because it was delicious. It was filling too, i mean that eggplant and rice was really a good call- it would have fed to entire Brovsky Tribe twice over. The seasoning was perfect. That baharat seasoning (included in the recipe link above) was spot on everything you smell and taste for when you eat Middle Eastern cuisine. Cumin, paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. It was lovely and aromatic. The lamb was good too. Altogether it was a lot like Middle Eastern meatloaf. You even basted in tomatoes… but it was just that, meatloaf. It was hearty, delicious and rib-sticking, but hardly something to write home about. It was solid and that’s why it earned a four.

For next weekend, I am off to Palisade to drink some wine with the galpals, but mom and dad are heading to Malawi for country #67! 

khoda hafez!
(Goodbye in Farsi, the language of the Iran)
– L & K