Beyond Ramen: Students Abroad Seeking Inspiration!

Ramen

You’re far from home, renting a room and dealing with limited resources and unfamiliar ingredients.  It’s the middle of winter and the schedule is busy but you’ve got to eat and stay healthy.  You can’t eat out every day but don’t want to eat leftovers all week.  What’s a student to do?

Here’s the challenge!  Find a few recipes that are:

  • quick and fairly easy – prep shortcuts welcome
  • nutritious, including several food groups and some variety
  • inexpensive, with limited ingredients and waste
  • made with readily-available ingredients (anywhere in the world)
  • vegetarian or fish
  • made on the stove (no oven available)

I’ve been cooking for the multitudes since I was 15 and have a walk-in pantry and more than enough gear – so cooking for one on a hotplate is a distant memory.  Daughter and I are both doing some research, but I know that all of you are a great resource!  Please comment with your best tips.

Around the World #7: Moroccan-Inspired Vegetable Stew & Couscous

Moroccan Market

Creative Commons: Adam Greig

I dream of someday exploring the markets or souks of Marrakesh.  I see a clash of colors, with slippers of every hue piled high, stacks of pottery, piles of beads and textiles draped across the ceilings.  The sounds of music playing, vendors shouting and people talking are overwhelming and spicy scents fill the air…

Wait – that is just the lingering aroma of our Moroccan-inspired dinner!

This post is dedicated to my father-in-law, a Spaniard born in Morocco, and my daughter, a student and explorer of North African cultures.

Moroccan Vegetables

Moroccan-Spiced Sweet Potato Medley

Serves 6

(this recipe was borrowed and adapated from Good Housekeeping’s Simply Vegan!)

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped fine

3 garlic cloves, pressed

1½ teaspoons curry powder

1½ teaspoons ground cumin

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

1 can (14½ oz.) diced or crushed tomatoes

1 cup vegetable broth

1 cup garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 large sweet potato, cut into ¾” cubes

2 small zucchini, cut into ¾” pieces

¼ cup frozen peas

1 cup couscous (prepare as directed)

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot.  Add onion and cook until tender and golden, 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in garlic and spices and cook 30 seconds.

Add tomatoes, garbanzos and sweet potato; cover and heat to boiling over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in zucchini and peas, cover and cook until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare couscous according to package directions.

Serve stew over couscous.

Good with warm naan or pita bread and a salad.

Around the World #6: Tunisia, Shakshuka and Salad

Tunisia

House on the Mediterranean (photo credit:  Valerie Montes)

The smallest country in North Africa, Tunisia is bordered by Algeria, Libya and the Mediterranean Sea.  Tunisian culture is mixed due to a long established history of conquerors such as Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Turks, Spaniards, and the French who all left their mark on the country.  In January, 2011, Tunisia made headlines around the world when a campaign of civil resistance led to the removal of longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and eventually to protests throughout the Middle East known as the Arab Spring.

This post is dedicated to my eldest daughter, a courageous world traveler who spent some time in Tunisia and came to love its beauty, food and blend of French, Berber and Arab culture.  Her stories have made me want to visit this little-known place so full of natural beauty and history.

Tunisian Market

Tunisian Market (photo credit:  Valerie Montes)

Shakshuka is a flavorful egg dish that can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Perfect meal with a salad and bread.  I accompanied this with a cheap and cheerful German Gewürztraminer – the fruity sweetness of the wine was a nice contrast to the spicy salad.

Shakshuka

¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil
1/2 onion peeled and chopped

1 clove garlic, pressed
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 yellow bell peppers, seeded and chopped
2 tsp brown sugar
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
2 tablespoons fresh coriander, minced
3 ripe roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
¼ teaspoon saffron strands (optional)
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
¾  cup water
4 eggs

2 green onions, sliced

In a skillet, dry-roast the cumin on medium-high heat for about two minutes, until fragrant and golden brown.  Add the oil and sauté the onions for two minutes.  Add the garlic, peppers, sugar, bay leaf, thyme, parsley and coriander, and cook on medium-high heat until vegetables are tender. Add the tomatoes, saffron, cayenne, salt and pepper. Cook on low heat for 15 minutes, adding just enough water to keep it the consistency of a pasta sauce.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  You can prepare the sauce in advance.

Make 4 wells in the tomato mixture and break one egg into each well.  Cover the skillet and cook gently for about 8 minutes, until the eggs are set.  Top with green onion and serve with pita bread or French baguette.

Tunisian Shakshuka

Tunisian Salad
3 large roma tomatoes, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, choppedPeppers and Tomatoes
2 small serrano peppers
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
3 eggs, hard-boiled and quartered lengthwise
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 small can light chunk tuna or albacore, drained
10 olives (black or green)
Romaine lettuce leaves

Place eggs in cold water in a saucepan, bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Drain hot water and fill with ice water.  Peel and quarter hard-boiled eggs.

Preheat oven broiler and place serrano peppers on a broiler pan.  Broil peppers for 4 minutes, turn over and broil another 4 minutes until skin is charred.  When cool, peel charred skin off carefully. ( **Use latex gloves or similar when handling peppers, if possible and be sure not to touch your eyes).  Once peeled, cut in half lengthwise, remove seeds with a knife or small spoon, and chop peppers finely.
In medium bowl, combine tomatoes, bell peppers, roasted serrano peppers, onion and garlic.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and allow to sit for 15 minutes.   In a small bowl, mix coriander, red pepper flakes, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Pour over vegetables and toss.  Chill for 30 minutes.  On a serving platter, arrange romaine lettuce leaves.  Mound vegetable mixture on the leaves, then top with tuna chunks.  Arrange eggs and olives around edges.  Drizzle with additional olive oil and sprinkle with paprika if desired.  Serve with a French baguette or loaf of sourdough bread.  Serves 3 – 4.

Tunisian Salad

Tunisian Salad

Around the World #4: To England with Bangers and Mash

Scarsdale Tavern – Edwardes Square, London

This one is dedicated to my youngest daughter – born in London and an Anglophile through and through.

Bangers and Mash is a traditional English dish (aka sausage and mashed potatoes).  It can be served with onion gravy and I topped with fried onions.  You’ll find bangers and mash on pub menus and it’s a simple and hearty meal.  According to legend, the term “bangers” came about during WWII, when sausages were made with water and were likely to explode if not cooked carefully.  Today’s upscale chefs often create exotic variations on this simple fare, but my version is pretty plain jane.  I did use a vegetarian Tofurkey sausage in addition to fresh Italian sausages from Whole Foods and admit that my first impression of the veggie version is “just ok.”  Maybe I’ll get used to them.

Here’s to pub grub for autumn weather!

 

Bangers and Mash

Sausages:

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced

4 Italian Sausages (or vegetarian sausages)

Beer (if desired – I used Guiness)

Ingredients

Mash:

4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

1/4 sweet onion, diced

2-4 tablespoons half and half

1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Dash of salt

In a saute pan, heat olive oil on medium heat.  Add sliced onion and brown slowly for about 5 minutes.  Move to the side of the pan to continue cooking.  Add sausage and brown on all sides, turning at regular intervals.  Add beer to cover bottom of pan, turn down heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring salted water to a boil for potatoes.  Add potato cubes and diced onions, turn heat down and simmer for 20 minutes.  When cooked through (you can test with a fork), drain and put into a large mixing bowl.  Add half and half, cheese and butter and mash potatoes until smooth (a staff mixer works well, or use a potato masher).  Add parsley and mix well.

 

Serve mashed potatoes and sausages on a plate and top with onions and some sauce from the sausage pan if desired.  Bangers and mash are also good with coleslaw on the side.

 

Around the World #3: South Korea and Dolsot Bibimbap

This week’s dish is dedicated to two special family members:  my sister Lori, who was born in South Korea, and my cousin Jake, who will compete in Alpine Skiing at the 2013 World Winter Special Olympics in South Korea!

Dolsot Bibimbap is a Korean dish consisting of steamed rice, vegetables and meat (bibimbap) and served in a hot stone bowl or pot (dolsot).  We have eaten at a nice place called Seoul House, where the bowls are heated over a fire and the hot stone coated with oil gives the rice a sizzling, crispy bottom.   This is a vegetarian version, but I’ve also tried the dish with barbeque beef (bulgogi) and enjoyed it.  I don’t have a Korean “dolsot“, so I used a small cast iron skillet instead.

Dolsot Bibimbap takes some prep work, but if you can enlist a volunteer or two, it’s fun and well worth the effort!

Vegetarian Dolsot Bibimbap

serves 3-4

Dolsot Bibimbap ingredients

 3-4 cups cooked rice (jasmine is great)

1 baby cucumber, cut into matchsticks

Salt

8 oz. firm tofu

Soy sauce

Toasted sesame oil

1 carrot, or several baby carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks

1 cup bean sprouts

3-4 cups baby spinach (fresh)

Toasted sesame seeds

Small sheet Nori seaweed, cut into thin strips (I use kitchen shears)

1 egg

Korean barbeque sauce

Sprinkle cucumber with salt, leave to drain in a colander while you prepare the remaining ingredients.  Gently squeeze to remove excess water and set aside.

Rinse and drain tofu and cut into 1/2″ slices.  Place some paper towel on a plate, arrange tofu slices, top with more paper towel and another plate, and place a skillet on top to press the tofu.  After about 15 minutes, heat 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in a skillet.  Sprinkle tofu lightly with some soy sauce and then fry the tofu, turning once, until golden.  Remove from pan, let cool and cut into thick strips.

While cucumber and tofu are draining, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in skillet.  Add matchstick carrots and stir fry until tender-crisp.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Bring about 2 cups of water to boil in a pot.  Add salt and blanch sprouts briefly, just until slightly wilted.  Remove sprouts with a slotted spoon (reserving hot water) and plunge into ice water to stop cooking.  Squeeze out excess water and set aside.

Bring water to a boil again and slightly blanch fresh spinach until slightly wilted and still bright green.  Plunge into ice water, drain and squeeze gently. to remove excess water and set aside.

Now that everything is ready, it’s time to assemble the masterpiece.  Place a small cast iron skillet over medium high heat.  When hot, add 1 tablespoon sesame oil and swirl or use a paper towel to coat surface.  Add cooked rice and pack gently.  The rice will sizzle in the oil.  Arrange vegetables in sections on top of the rice.  Cook egg over easy in a separate skillet.  Place on top of vegetables and top with seaweed strips and a sprinkling of toasted sesame.  Cook for an additional 4-5 minutes until heated through.  Serve directly in skillet placed on a trivet on the table.  Each serving can be topped with a little Korean barbeque sauce (or a lot, if you like it hot!) and mixed into the rice and vegetables.

Enjoy this beautiful and healthy dish!

Around the World in 50 Plates: An International Culinary Challenge!

Inspired by a suggestion from my brother-in-law Alejandro as well as a significant upcoming birthday, I am setting out to discover world cuisine one recipe at a time and invite you to come along!  More than willing to get out of my comfort zone, I’m featuring new discoveries along with old favorites.  And I’m challenging you to inspire and help shape the journey!

A fond memory also helped to inspire this project.  Our wedding took place at a friend’s converted one-room schoolhouse and a simple ceremony was followed by a big party.  Instead of requesting the usual expensive gifts, we asked our international friends and family to bring a dish from their homeland.  The result was a truly  memorable meal, prepared and shared with love.

International Food Festival

Vegetarian Food Festival

Twenty four years later, I’m inviting you to join a similar international feast.  Each week I will post a recipe or two from one country and would welcome any suggestions for countries to visit and/or recipes to try.  I’ll also feature guest bloggers to share a recipe or tell a story of a special time, dish or place.  Although it’s easier to stick to readily-available ingredients, your suggestions may prompt a culinary treasure hunt to track down something exotic.  That’s ok, too!  An active collaborator, I look forward to exploring your suggestions and requests and sharing inspiration.

At this point, we’re planning the itinerary, with a list of 50 countries.  The places may be special spots already visited, somewhere on the list of future destinations, your home country or a place that is close to your heart.  Next will come the menu for this memorable, many-course celebration.

Here are the rules:

  • 50 distinct countries
  • 1 recipe or meal from each country
  • Preferably vegetarian
  • Can be a food or beverage
  • Open to all!

Join this international culinary blogfest!  Where shall I go?  What shall I cook?  Feel free to leave your suggestions below.

From My Bookshelf: Cooking Classics

Some weeks I use a meal planning program to map out every night’s menu and develop a shopping list and life is easy.  Other times I let spontaneity take over and I’ll buy something from the farmers market and figure out how to use it later or look in my fridge, Google a few ingredients and see what recipes come up in the search.  In either case, getting to the point where I can confidently whip up something on the fly came years of knowledge stemming from a handful of cooking classics that are still on my shelf.  The following are more than books – they have guided me and shaped my cooking style over the years and their recipes have become a part of the fabric of our family memories.  Online blogs, websites and databases are definitely a great development and some may argue that books have become obsolete, but don’t forget the well-loved classics that have helped many lifetime cooks like me.  Call me old school, but inscriptions,  flour and torn pages are all part of the experience and stains are like clues on a treasure map.  The more you find, the better the recipe in most cases.

Joy of Cooking

Even Julia loved it! Well-worn copies from the library of Julia Child

Joy of Cooking (1985 edition by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker)

I am constantly surprised by the breadth and depth of this all-inclusive volume.  With hundreds of recipes, thorough and simple-to-understand instructions and many favorite basics, the Joy of Cooking is a must have.  My copy is falling apart at the seams and its pages carry the stains of many haphazardly joyful cooking experiences.  I’ve often thought that the only thing missing was nice photographs, so a recent series of JOC books that focus on a particular area (breakfast, soups, vegetarian, etc.) and feature full-color photography might be worth checking out.

American Wholefoods Cuisine (by Nikki Goldbeck and David Goldbeck)

I discovered this cookbook when working at a natural foods cooperative and authors Nikki and David taught me use new and unfamiliar ingredients to build a new repertoire of favorites.  Life has come full circle and I find myself referring to this cookbook again to support a whole foods lifestyle.

Sunset Easy Basics for Good Cooking (1982 edition by Janet Johnson Nix)

This book was a gift from my grandmother, and the front page bears the inscription “To my dear granddaughter, hoping this book will help a bit in your ‘domestic’ interests”.  Well, it did and this book is still a good reference for dishes such as basic bread, quiche, pancakes, crepes, apple crisp, soups, salad dressings  and many others.  The 1987 edition by Jerry Anne Di Vecchio was updated to include more low-fat recipes and this book features “how-to” photos illustrating technique for those new to a recipe or cooking in general.

Eater’s Choice (1987 edition by Dr. Ron Goor and Nancy Goor)

Unfortunately, high cholesterol seems to run in our families.  This book was helpful when I became aware of this health issue and my ability to control it to some extent and lose weight by making healthier food choices.  Good basics and simple ingredients form the basis of the Goors’ recipes and I appreciate the simple, clear directions.  I haven’t looked into the newer editions but would recommend their books for those interested in a lifetime of health.

Previous Older Entries