#82: United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Brrrr!!!

I’m a little jealous of my Charleston and Washington DC friends this past week. It’s been seasonal and festive with the snow, but holy mother of toast it’s been freezing! I mean, painfully cold. Whereas, the eastern seaboard has decided to not participate in winter leaving me to get all these snapchats of 85degree beaches from them… while I return them with 5degree heat wave snaps. It’s making this bird wanna fly south for the winter for sure!

THE DINNER: We had a wonderful food filled week in Brovskyland. We celebrate Christmas right with our meals here: Christmas eve is spent with warm bowls of Caribbean Clam Chowder at my grandma’s house, Christmas cookies abound all week (Russian tea cookies, homemade peanut brittle, fudge and Italian pizzelle cookies), Christmas day sees homemade cinnamon rolls and juicy slices of prime rib. So to top all that off was going to be a challenge.

We picked someplace warm and exotic: U.A.E seemed to fit that bill. As a tradition for New Years, we eat seafood. So in that vein, we decided to head that direction. Since the UAE is situated on a long coastline of the Arabian Peninsula, they have a large component of seafood that pays homage to all it’s variable surroundings like Middle Eastern, African and Indian seasonings. This was spectacular to see the dichotomy of the ingredients for our Emirati Prawns. Everything from sumac/tamarind to ketchup was covered in this one…

Emirati Grilled Prawns Recipe: http://www.saveur.com/article/recipes/rubyan-meshwi-emirati-grilled-prawns

 

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: TWO STARS out of five this meal!
This one was a little tricky because we couldn’t find tamarind concentrate! But after googling the substitution for this, Jamie Oliver gallantly came to the rescue! He stated that sumac and lime juice would provide a good replacement for the tamarind, so we were able to accommodate that. I have to say, we were all a little nervous to try the sumac. My parents have 6 or 7 sumac trees in their backyard and they’re just gorgeous. We love their fire red leaves in the fall— but they’re poisonous to eat or so we always thought…and then they tell me to use it as a sub and bam! it’s in the spice aisle at kings. But holy strange ingredients, batman!? Ketchup, soy sauce, sugar, sumac, MALT VINEGAR!? We just kept adding strange ingredient after the next. It wasn’t hard per se, but two stars for grilling prawns in sub zero weather and the pealing of said prawns once done was insanely hard. So I put eating difficulty in here too.

Best dish of all time scale: FOUR and a HALF STARS out of five for Meal!!
This one is hard to give under 5 stars. It was delectable! Truly one of the best grilled meat marinades I’ve tried ever. Where I had to deduct was for the shells. Now, typically, I’m a big fan of working for the meat. I like bone in chicken wings and steak. I like lamb shanks and pork chops with the bone. I’m all about lobster shells and shrimp tails. But this one really messed up the wonderful element of this recipe: That marinade. It was lost on the shell! Not to mention they became cemented on the meat making it ridiculously hard to remove the shell at all. I will say, the charring that occurred was sublime. I think that strange mix of ingredients was the most brilliant combination– it was like adult cocktail sauce that was so layered with flavors that it was complex but subtle. BIG HIT. Can’t wait to remake that one.

We will be closing out the year and starting 2016 for AW195S with A Surprise Country for #83!! Stay tuned for the New Year and new fun in the kitchen!

Aud Lang Syne, my dear!
– L & K

#83: Paraguay

Happy New Year, friends!

Hope that 2016 finds you and yours happy, healthy and incandescently full of wonderful food and company.  You should celebrate what you want to see more of this year. You should enjoy all the little things while you explore that big picture. I am reminded of my favorite New Years quote from Holiday Inn: “Five minutes to midnight, five minutes to go. Five minutes to say goodbye, before we say hello.” We say goodbye while also saying hello to more adventures and the same things that made us joyful in the previous year. I hope that those things carry over and that their counterparts are left behind.

THE DINNER: We picked another warm destination for our first country of the New Year— PARAGUAY! Paraguay cuisine is a kin to British food in a lot of ways because they settled the surrounding Falkland Islands and Uruguay. Things like meat, vegetables, manioc, maize, and fruits are common in Paraguayan cuisine. Lots of corn base in their breads and side dishes also. We also see so much concentration on beverages in this country too from matte teas and a range of fruit juices from alcohol and non alcoholic alike.

For the “meal” we made a drink actually. It’s sort of meal when you get down to it though because it has a whole fruit salad in the midst of it. It’s called Clerico which is really close to what we know as Sangria. It’s the national beverage of the country so we figured, when in Rome…

Clerico Recipe: http://www.tembiuparaguay.com/2010/10/clerico.html

 

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: HALF a STAR out of five this meal!
This one is a piece of layer cake frosted in lovely cream cheese frosting… okay, my sweet tooth ran away with that metaphor a little, apologies. But it was definitely easy as you can get. You slice up fruit as you would for a fruit salad. You put sugar in like you would a fruit salad… but then something wonderful happens: you in all your adulthood glory add two bottles of wine to this mixture. It gets put in the fridge to get down with it’s bad self and then you drink it. It’s not hard. I will say we had some trouble running into red grapes this time of year, but substituted green in their place. No harm, no foul.

Best dish of all time scale: THREE STARS out of five for Meal!!
This one is sort of tricky because while it was lovely to have a refreshing alcoholic drink, and it by no means was not lovely. It was! The three stars is more of just a measuring stick against all the other really memorable food we’ve had. As far as drinks go, in the grand scheme of things, it was not a bad “sangria” but it also wasn’t “knock-you-soccer-socks-off-memorable”. For me, personally, the Torrontes wine was a little on the dry side and we all agreed that it felt like it needed to be a sweeter tasting drink. The wine also made the fruit “drunken” which was delightful, obviously. Our favorite fruits were the strawberries and the apple. Unusual additions traditional sangria drinks stateside, these were yummy and I will remember to add them in future adventures with wine. (Side Bar here: the orange, while uber traditional in sangria was really bitter with this recommended wine. Not yummy)

We decided to play over a continent away in Niger for #84!! Another warm nation to pass the cold January time!!

Cheers!
– L & K

#80: Azerbaijan

What’s the haps, food friends!

Here we have had birthday fun in Brovskyland. For me, I love birthdays, as long as they are not my own. I love celebrating such a unique thing– it’s not a promotion, holiday or happening– birthdays just are. They’re a time to reflect on what that individual means to you and what your life could and would be like if they hadn’t been born. Birthdays are humbling human moments. I love that.

I also just love giving presents. Letting someone know you care enough about them to mindfully find something that both is meaningful to them and thoughtful. It’s like giving someone a really good hug and letting them know you notice all those uniquely-you traits.

THE DINNER: We picked Azerbaijan for our nation in food this week. I learned some pretty interesting things about this Middle Eastern nation this go around, while doing my weekly research:

  • Out of 11 climate zones known in the world, this nation has nine!
  • It is famous for an abundance of vegetables/greens used seasonally in the dishes, not to mention fresh herbs galore!
  • Black tea is the national beverage! (and is drunk after food is eaten so that it gets to have the center attentions of the taste buds)
  • SAFFRON!
  • Plov is one of the most widespread dishes in Azerbaijan, with more than 40 different recipes. What is Plov, you ask?!! Azerbaijani plov consists of three components on separate platters: rice (warm, never hot),  fried meat or fish, and herbs

We settled on kələm salati which is cabbage salad! This was appropriate because in Azerbaijan salads based on white cabbage are enjoyed all year round, but are especially popular in winter…which we happen to be in the dead of currently state side. Not to mention, as a vegetarian, I’m all about the salad variations, homie!

kələm salati Recipe: http://news.az/recipes/29242

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: HALF STAR out of five this meal!
As far as salads go, there’s not a whole hell of a lot that will make these extreme in the difficulty avenue. I mean, it’s a salad. This was no exception. The recipe was clear and assembly was a snap!

Best dish of all time scale: FOUR STARS out of five for Meal!!
I’m not going to lie… I’m one tough salad critic. It’s because I eat a lot of salads: hot, cold, noodle, rice, quinoa, farro– you name it! So I won’t sugar coat it. The  kələm salati started out strong with it’s main ingredient being cabbage. This is one of the most delicious and under utilized leafy green in American cooking to my opinion. It’s not only nutrient rich, it’s so versatile! You can steam, fry or have it raw and it’s so delicious. Red, nappa, white, savoy, green (so many choices!). WE loved this one, so don’t let the low star count fool you. It was delicious, just not a show stopper. We already plan on adding some onion or salad shrimp and putting this one in place of coleslaw on our weekly summer menu. It’s really yummy.

To round off our even number on the next country we will be taking a culinary vacation to Estonia for #81!!

Catch you later, Gators!
– L & K

#81: Estonia

Welcome to a White, Winter Wonderland!

Woof, this week was snowy and cold, in the Metro D! I mean, apart from the horrible traffic, I absolutely can’t get enough of the white powder! I love the cold and the snow makes this time of year so incredibly romantic and magical. Christmas lights, holiday parties, baking cookies– I’ve been up to my ears in dough every night the past month and I can’t get enough. It’s my favorite time of the year. It’s a wonderful life that I have.

THE DINNER: Apart from all the festivities, we took a culinary vacation to the warm and sunny country of Estonia… okay. So, that’s not 100% true. At all in fact. Eastern Europe is hardly a trip to the tropics. In fact it, I’m positive that it’s more of a polar vortex than it is here in the 5280. But luckily, I can pretend from the warmth of my kitchen.

We wanted to snuggle up with a cup of joe and bake something sticky sweet. So we picked a traditional pastry from the area to supplement our Christmas movie watching and copious amounts of coffee guzzling. Kringler is not be any means health food, but it’s akin to the French Croissant and the American doughnut.  I felt like it was going to be more of a toaster strudel sort of cousin, so Gretchen Wieners should be over soon to help us eat this 😉

Kringler Recipe: http://rabbitfoodrocks.blogspot.com/2011/10/scandinavian-kringler.html?m=1

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: THREE STAR out of five this meal!
This recipe was not necessarily hard, it was actually pretty easy when we got down to brass tacks….but this particular recipe was ridiculously unhelpful.  There was no mention of how long to refrigerate this dough. No mention of how thick it needed to be rolled. No mention of how long things were to stand to cool or what thickness the custard was to be spread… it was tough for only that reason! It was easy enough for two seasoned bakers to muddle our way through. I’m not sure the outcome would have been the same if that weren’t the case.

Best dish of all time scale: FIVE STARS out of five for Meal!!
I’m not going to mince words on this one. It’s butter and flour and more butter and eggs. It’s gonna taste like velvety buttery flaky goodness— and it totally was! It wasn’t too sweet either– actually it was just right. The incredible thing was that the only sugar to be seen was in the frosting (which was in fact optional…) so if you’re not one for a sweet treat but need a treat none the less– this one is for you! It’s lovely.

For the Holiday weekend, we will make a Christmas stop off in United Arab Emirates (UAE) for #82!!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!
– L & K

#79: Laos

“I think careful cooking is love, don’t you? The loveliest thing you can do is cook for someone close to you. That’s about the nicest Valentine as you can give.” -Julia Child

I really take that one to heart, foodie friends. We are coming up on my second most favorite weekend of my entire year and that is the unofficial holiday of Friendsgiving. I have been blessed, for God only knows how I managed to deserve the most dear and perfect friends. They are truly loved and appreciated. This is our 8th or 9th go at Friendsgiving–and for those not in the know, that’s second Thanksgiving, but with the family you choose which are your friends. I always have the best time and memories with these guys and for over 20 years and countless weddings, parties, events and gatherings we’ve been through together, all of us agree that cooking for one another means love.

My mom has taught me this, because growing up with my family meant always knowing the warm hug that a home-cooked meal will give you. Even now, when I cook for myself on a random Wednesday night, I feel like my mom is there. I can try as I might, but my spaghetti sauce will never taste like hers even if I literally follow her recipe to the T. It’s more than the recipe, it’s the TLC that makes it oh-so-good. Food is more than just something that sustains your body, it really will sustain your soul.

THE DINNER: This week we have been tucking away at our Christmas gifting , but too a detour to visit Laos this Sunday. For us, it’s a great distraction because my mother and I love, love, LOVE Asian food. Particularly we love the light and fresh take the southern Pacific nations seem to bring to their dishes. We choose a spicy recipe (shocker. I know) called yam woonsen which is a Spicy Glass Noodle Salad. For those not aware, and shame on you if you’re not because you are MISSING OUT, “glass noodles” are also called Chinese vermicelli, bean threads, bean thread noodles, crystal noodles or sometimes cellophane noodles. They’re made from starch (not rice) and are transparent when you cook them. The texture of these babies is just my favorite. It’s al’dente but noodle-y. They are actually the one noodle I profess is just as yummy cold as hot.

As is typical with this area of the world, Laotian food features spice and seafood as the major components– but also lots and lots of fresh veggies like bean sprouts and tomatoes and onions and herbs. It’s usually featured with mint, cilantro or line juice also as accompaniments like their Thai and Vietnamese counterparts. Lovely.

Yam Woonsen Recipe: http://hubpages.com/food/Yum-Woonsen-Thai-spicy-Glass-Noodle-Salad-Recipe

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: ONE STAR out of five this meal!
As per usual with our Asian based adventures, we have noticed that these recipes are very straightforward, offer lots of room for personalization of taste and also are easy to complete even for novice chefs. All that being said, this one was no different. It was definitely just prep and assembly. Obviously harder than last week’s trip to Africa, but it’s hard not to be 😉

Best dish of all time scale: FIVE STARS out of five for Meal!!
I’m reminded of my favorite Bill Hader SNL skit at moments like this— where his character Stefan says, “Spicy!!” in the way only he could pretty much sums up how I feel about good, hot food. I hear Bill Hader in my tastebuds. It was one of those moments on Sunday for this meal.
It wasn’t super intensely spicy, but it was tasty spicy. You’re gonna love this one. Something wonderful about the mint also that couples with the fish sauce and the shrimp/pork of the Yam Woosen. This was quick and easy and really yummy. We have already plotted the variations we would make for this one on the weeknight rotation. Not to mention it’s incredibly healthy as all the meat is steamed and the noodles are made of beans shoots more or less.

To round off our even number on the next country we will be taking a culinary vacation to Azerbaijan for #80!! It’s going to be a fun weekend of birthdays and family crafts…and maybe a little guest appearance by “spring cleaning” even though it’s December next weekend. Should be fun to venture off to some foreign food. 

Cheers!
– L & K