#146: Timor

If April showers bring May flowers what do June showers bring…??

If I were a betting woman my answer based on this weekend would be: Baby showers and bridal showers! We were even sprinkled with some rain showers to cool off from this crazy heat. While socializing can be exhausting, it was nice to get to celebrate with family and friends– and see faces I haven’t gotten to see in a long time. If you weren’t aware, this weekend was also Sand in The City here in Arvada. This festival brought about a playful family debate over what might make the best sculpture. It also found me trying some amazing beer while learning how to properly pour one. The weekend was full of mermaids, sand castles, high heels and mini rubber duckies. It was strange and awesome, as always.

THE DINNER: We have been hanging out in the Pacific the past few weeks. This Sunday funday we cooked up some Ikan Pepes from Timor (which, for those who have no idea where that is, you’re in good company. This was a google job for me too). This island nation situates itself between Indonesia and Australia. Since it’s an island nation, seafood is prevalent as is local veg. The spice profile is every similar to Indonesia and parts of coastal India with layers upon layers of depth.

Ikan Pepes is a whole fish cooked in a spicy curry and tamarind sauce, much like curry found in surrounding island nations. The Timor people have half a year of plenty followed by half a year of what they call “Hunger Season” which is marked by extreme food insecurity. The climate of the island can be so severe that it will pretty much wipe out all of their plants and crops for that period. The dichotomy of their food supply means that this dish is probably one of many dishes that can be made year around and is not effected by the Hunger Season. This is because there is little to no vegetation in this dish and the rice served with it is optional (read: when available).

Ikan Pepes Recipe: http://www.internationalcuisine.com/east-timor-ikan-pepes/

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Ease of prep and cooking: THREE and a HALF STARS out of five this meal!
Alright, we had to go to a special market this week (H Mart) but that’s not entirely why it earned a 3.5 for difficulty. In fact, the special market trip was excellent because the fish monger gutted, cleaned and descaled the fish for us– which saved A LOT of work. No, this one was just a matter of so many moving parts. You’re steaming in banana leaves, you’re doing some chopping and you’re definitely baby sitting. And then you have the rice. It was just complex but not unreasonably challenging for a Sunday. I wouldn’t call this one a weekday meal though. (NOTE: we also did not use the Macadamia nuts due to the listeria recall)

Best dish of all time scale: FOUR and a HALF STARS out of five for Meal!!
It was not as spicy as we wanted… though to be completely fair, we’re not exactly your average bears when it comes to judging that. We are aware of this fact and never mark down for things related. But we did want more depth of flavor from the peppers and the tamarind. I mean, we used 10 chilies for goodness sake! There should be some kick back, jack. The lime was really good. The fish was firm but flaky; and, while the basil rice sounds fabulous, upon execution, it just didn’t seem to offer a good pairing for our taste buds. Overall, a solid white fish dish and we were not disappointed, nor were we left hungry. Plus the culinary artistry of smoking a fish over indirect heat in banana leaves in the middle of Colorado, is pretty much too delightful for words when you’re a foodie.

We are ringing in Independence Day next weekend here in the states and while we will no doubt be doing some serious grilling-out, we also will be hopping own south to tackle Jamaica for #147! 

Three cheers for long weekends!
– L & K

 

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#145: Vanuatu

“And the king of all wild things, was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.”

When I think of Vanuatu, I immediately conjure images that this– THIS must be where Max ran away to when he went to live Where the Wild Things Are. That book was and still probably is one of my most favorite children’s books. But to be fair, I have a different spin on it as an adult. Let me lay it on you: as a child I loved the illustrations and as an adult I love the plot. This kiddo has everything and yet he feels so put upon. He runs away to an island where there are all manner of monsters and beasts and they make him king and truly adore him and yet, he realizes he wants to be back with those he loved most because they loved him best. It’s like adulthood, guys. Every. Damn. Day. We wish for what’s on the other side of “this project at work” or “this relationship hurdle” or “this financial hiccup” all the while missing those milestones for what they are: LIFE. It’s the journey. And when we finally get to the destination, we realize we missed all the fun stuff. The fun stuff sometimes looks like struggle.

Mehhh, it’s a food blog… so call that some “food for thought”.

THE DINNER: Vanuatu is an island nation in the South Pacific… and if I’m being totally honest, it’s hard to not break out in to show tunes when I say that. Real hard. The food on an island is typically going to consist of two staples: veg and seafood. This doesn’t deviate from that game plan. The country does have so much in common with Filipino food it’s ridiculous, but makes sense geographically.

We decided to make Ginataang Tahong which is a South Pacific recipe for mussels steeped in coconut milk. Since mussels are cheap in coastal areas, this dish is a weeknight staple for the islands in the area.

Ginataang Tahong Recipe: http://panlasangpinoy.com/2013/03/01/ginataang-tahong-recipe/

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Ease of prep and cooking: ONE STAR out of five this meal!
Super easy, guys. There are a handful of readily available ingredients and it took no more than 20 min from start to finish. The one “tricky” thing is inspecting the mussels for cracks or being open prior to cooking, but that’s not even that hard. It’s quick and dirty, but not messy 😉

Best dish of all time scale: FIVEEEE STARS out of five for Meal!!
We all sort of wanted to give this one six stars. In the words of Rob Lowe in one of my favorite 80’s movies: It was outta hand. The coconut milk and the onions were just the best part. I loved the spinach. It literally didn’t want for any substitutes or additions. We always gauge a 5 star by whether we would want to add anything or change or modify anything to make it better and we just couldn’t find a damn thing. We literally didn’t add salt or sriracha. We ate it all. We gobbled and slurped and it was perfect. We can’t wait to make it again… and I might have dreamed about it’s creamy goodness.

Up next for Around the World in 195 Sundays?? We will be headed for #146 by way of Timor-Leste! Yes, that’s a country. No, I’m not 100% sure of where it is yet; but that is part of the fun of this project. I learn something new every week. 

Oh, please don’t go—we’ll eat you up—we love you so!
– L & K

#144: Albania

“I’m melting, I’m melting– oh what a world, what a world…”

This week has been a scorcher in the Mile High City. We have been camping out in the 90’s and it’s been getting all of us a little on edge. In addition to the short fuses you’ll see around town, it’s also been getting us thinking about what good things from the 90’s decade we loved. The NKOTB and BSB phenom has been hitting a resurgence. Both boy bands have released new hits and are touring. Though to be fair, BSB is singing country now with FGL. Who saw that one coming? I found that a great way to beat the heat is a cold drink on a warm patio with lovely people who are more family than friends. I will try to recall those lovely people when I turn into the Wicked Witch of the West Coast with these temps. Try. I said “TRY”.

THE DINNER: I’m not going to lie to you– it’s hard to spend a day over a hot stove or oven when it’s hot out. We picked another Balkan nation to munch on this week: Albania. There’s a whole lot of familiar territory here as far as flavors: Mediterranean and simple. There’s not a whole lot of spices happening like curries. There’s not a lot of fluffy. The meal we chose is called burek. It’s a cheese pie that’s made in filo dough and can sometimes contain meat like lamb, though traditionally is seen as a vegetarian meal with leeks or spinach rounding out the cheese. We chose a feta/Leek version for our journey. Leeks are so often under appreciated– and it always reminds me of that pun from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: “There’s a leek in the boat!?” hahaha. Sorry, not sorry guys– had to go there. You’re welcome for the smile on a Monday.

Albanian Burek Recipe: http://globaltableadventure.com/recipe/recipe-byrek-ose-lakror-leek-pie/

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Ease of prep and cooking: THREE and a HALF STARS out of five this meal!
So the dough is store bought… and you might be wondering, “Kris, what gives? 3.5 for difficulty, come on!” But listen, guys, you weren’t there. In the trenches. In the heat of it. It was sort of ugly. Not at the time– but definitely once we were out of it. It was labor intensive and messy. And for all the work, it did not fare well on the taste meter. (See below…)

Best dish of all time scale: TWO STARS out of five for Meal!!
In the moment, we all hemmed-and-hawed about what score to give. I think we felt guilty that we wanted to give it a poor score… but a day removed from eating it– I’ve come to the conclusion, it was just terrible. It was edible. It was just not good. It wanted to be quiche. It wanted to be pot pie. It was neither of those things. It also lacked a lot of flavor. Thyme excluded, there was not much in the way of spices and while the leeks contributed in all their glory; not even they pulled this back from the brink. I’m sad to report this one was just sad. Glad it’s over.

Up next for Around the World in 195 Sundays?? We will be headed for #145 by way of Vanuatu!

Stay cool, Denver!
– L & K

#143: Kosovo

This was such a whirl wind week!!

Bolder Boulder fun with three wonderful ladies and then in traditional fashion BBQ and drinks and game time to follow all colored by some country music on play in the background. For being a “short week” it definitely was LONG! From the holiday, it was work work work and then more work as I headed to The Windy City for a quick conference. Back in the 303, there was family breakfast dates, snuggles with puppies, dinner with the iridescent Bethany and then beers at one of my favorite places with a guy who is quickly becoming my favorite guys. It was full to the brim. It was lovely and perfect in all the chaos. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need a nap to recover. Pass the puppies.

THE DINNER: I feel really dumb when I mention Kosovo, because my brain automatically wants to go to “Sarajevo” which is the capital of Bosnia. Now to be fair, the two countries are both in the Balkans and furthermore, the two countries are similar in geography and social customs. But for some strange reason, my brain has a tough time separating these two. All that aside, we were happy to hit up Kosovo for some grub this weekend. 

I was out of town once again for work (shocking, I know)– so we made a quick and easy. It came down to making what is called “Serbian Caviar”… it’s technically called Ajvar (which does translate to “caviar”) and is basically a pepper-based condiment made principally from red bell peppers and can be both mild and spicy. You roast the peppers and eggplant with some other stuff and throw it in a food processor. It’s sort of the Balkan version of a tapenade. Evidently this is so loved that the country of Kosovo actually produces 640 TONS of it annually. Woof.

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Ease of prep and cooking: ONE and a HALF STARS out of five this meal!
This one was tricky to assign a difficulty level to… the ingredient list is a piece of cake. The execution was where it got sticky. So, the peppers and the eggplant had to roast for 3+ hours. That’s not ideal, but it’s also not labor intensive so to speak. So, honestly, it’s a toss up. It’s sort of one star and change.

Best dish of all time scale: FOUR and a HALF STARS out of five for Meal!!
Well, it’s not like it’s a “Meal” per se; but it was like tapas. All that technicality aside, it was so yummy! I could have eaten this straight up without bread– and then come to find out that it’s actually eaten by itself often. It would have tasted delicious on a shoe, but we chose bread. The smokiness of the peppers/eggplant was worth the wait. It wouldn’t have had the depth of flavor without that attention to detail. I am happy to report I took home the leftovers and they will make a great spread on wraps, chicken and whatever else I can find to pile it on.

We will be traveling to the food world of Albania for #144! Call it a Balkan-kick we are on or call it a fixation with the food from over this way. Either case, we are not about to pull away from this race without one more lap around the track.

Happy Wedding, Mike and Jordan! ❤
– L & K