Browsing: Food & Travel

Yearning again-South Africa this time

February18
B painting a home

B painting a home

My youngest daughter is currently on the west coast of South Africa with a program called Outtatown.   Of the many worries that a Mom has when her 18 year old baby girl decides to do mission work for a year-what is she going to eat way over there?  Daughter #2 is a lot like I was when I was her age.  She thinks that she is food wise because she eats sushi but she doesn’t care for anything spicy and her comfort zone is in the boneless chicken breast area.

Turquoise in my honour

Turquoise in my honour

And so it is that I was surprized when she told me that the Afrikan family that she was staying with was going to prepare lamb for her.  She said that it was a cute little chop and she loved it!

I can’t fault her for not trying lamb sooner when in fact I too was a late food bloomer.  But there is a very good reason for this and here it is:  My Dad was a cattle man.  He worked as a marketer for livestock and every morning he had to listen to the market report before work.  The transistor radio would be on in the bathroom and he would be listening and shaving.  He would not be alone.  I so cherished the time with my Dad (I was one of six kids)  that I would sit in the bathroom and watch him shave everything morning and that also meant that every morning I listened to the Stock Market Report as well.  Our routine was this:  we would listen for the number of cattle and hogs with little reaction and then when they announced how many sheep and lamb-we would cheer if the number was low!  With this sweet memory in tact, I do not crave the taste of a cute lamb chop.

African Peanut Soup

African Peanut Soup

So in tribute to my sweet baby I include this recipe for African Peanut Soup that I intend to make tonight.  Saute 1 large chopped onion, a medium diced sweet potato and 2 cloves of chopped garlic  in 1 T of olive oil until soft about 5 mins.  Add 8 c chicken broth , 1 t thyme, 1/2 t cumin and 1 c uncooked rice.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered until rice is cooked and vegetables are tender about 20 mins.  Add 3 c thick chunky salsa (as spicy as you like it) and 1 c of diced zucchini.  Cook another 10 mins until zucchini is tender.  Add 2/3 c smooth peanut butter and stir until completely blended.  I choose not to add the 2 c of garbanzo beans that the recipe calls for but if you do, drain them first.  This recipe comes from a gorgeous cookbook entitled:  Focus on Africa which was a fund-raiser for women and children affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa.

B & her "kids" on a previous trip to el Salvador

B & her "kids" on a previous trip to el Salvador

I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.

Reflections of Greece-Part Two

February17

My favourite summer pastime is sitting on the beach and reading books set in warm places.  Last year I read a book called “Summer of My Greek Taverna” by Tom Stone.  I loved the memoir because the writer so captured the excitement and frustration of living his dream.  The recipes that he included made my mouth water on the beach.

Greek Taverna

Greek Taverna

Here’s my version of his Chicken Retsina:  Rinse 6 whole chicken breasts and pat dry. In a large bowl, combine 1/2 c Retsina wine  , 1/2 c olive oil, 1/4 c freshly squeezed lemon juice, 2 T oregano, 1 t thyme, 1 t basil and salt &  pepper to taste. Add chicken breasts, cover and marinate overnight. Cook on an outdoor grill, basting occasionally with remaining marinade. This can also be baked in a 350 F. oven for one hour, basting several times.  Retsina is a white wine treated with pine resin, following an ancient Greek tradition.  It kind of reminds me of the smell of Pine-sol and it is an acquired taste that frankly I’ve never acquired.  Ouzo-now that’s another story.

Olympia

Olympia

While goofing around in the town of Olympia, Greece,  I decided to lie down on a flokati rug in front of a shop for a photo op.  When I knelt down to get back up, a rusty nail appeared through the rug and punctured the flesh just below my knee.  The shop owner was frantic-concerned that I would report the incident to the group that I was traveling with.  The only doctor in town was at a wedding and so the shop owner tried to tend to me while the doctor was summoned.  He sat me down and cleaned the wound and then poured the same antiseptic into my glass.  You guessed it-my first taste of ouzo.  Anyway, I had to have a tetanus shot but I didn’t seem to mind with that lovely nectar warming my insides.  Later in the evening-I found myself dancing!Greek_Dancing_in_Taverna

If you have a craving for Greek food and choose not to cook-  The Greek Market on Corydon Ave. has many heat and eat meals.  My favourite is their Chicken breast stuffed with spinach and feta and wrapped in filo pastry.

Spinach and Feta Chicken in Filo and Stuffed Zucchini

Spinach and Feta Chicken in Filo and Stuffed Zucchini

Greek Food Lament

February17

0905p50e-greek-islands-mI have only travelled to Greece once.  It was a University graduation gift to myself.  I was not a foodie then-okay I’ll admit it:  I was a spoiled brat as far as food went.  I would not eat tomatoes unless they were in a spaghetti sauce.  I would not eat cheese unless it was mozarella or mild cheddar and melted on something.  Feta?  Yuck-not on your life.  Olives? No way.  What is the wierd stuff in my lasagna?  It’s not lasagna-it’s mousakka?  Eggplant?  Gross.  I would pick through a Greek Salad and only eat the cucumbers.  OMGoodness-why was I such an idiot?

Danforth Ave.

I went with two girlfiends (and one gf’s Mom).  Both friends now live in Toronto but sadly I only keep in touch with one of them.  Very often when I visit her in TO we head to the Danforth where the Greek restauants are plentiful and fabulous.  There is nothing that I won’t taste now. Octopus and squid?  Bring it on!

I don’t know why we don’t go out for Greek fook more often in Winnipeg because there are many wonderful choices here as well.  It seems that the most of my Greek dining was in yesteryears.

I once worked at the Winnipeg Art Gallery when the Swiss Inn (now defunct) had the foodservice contract.  Manny was the Chef, and no he was not Swiss-he was Greek.  Ah I can still taste his Avgolemono (Greek lemon soup) now. Avgolemono I traced Manny to a restauant on Sherbrook called the Acropolis.  But I believe that is too defunct.  There was once a beautiful restauant on Grant called Matheos-gone.  I also loved Dionysis on Nairn-gone.

The owners of Dal’s Restauant used to be our neighbours and I have never been to their Transcona location.  I have been to Homer’s on Ellice and Niko’s on Corydon but it has been years.  I’va also been to the Pembina Village Restaurant and the Garwood Grill but only for breakfast and never sampled their reputed Greek menus.  Why, why why?

Greek Potatoes

Greek Potatoes

This weekend I cooked Greek Food for Valentine’s Day dinner.  I had never cooked Greek potatoes before and they were fabulous. Here’s the recipe that I used:  In a small bowl mix 1/3 c olive oil, 1 1/2 c water, 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1/4 c fresh lemon juice, 1 t thyme, 1 t rosemary, 2 t dried chicken stock and black pepper to taste.  Arrange 6-8 peeled and quartered potatoes in a baking dish.  Pour the oil mixture over top.  Bake 1 1/2- 2 hours at 375 degrees, stirring every once in a while.

Chicken

Chicken

My husband got out the barbeque for chicken.  Marinated in Carver’s greek dressing, grilled and then served with sliced and grilled tomatoes, sliced black olives and a crumbling of feta-yum.

Italian Memories Dinner Party

February15

There were three couples assembled to relive the details of our separate trips to Italy.  One couple had kept a similar itinerary to ours and the other had spent extensive time in Tuscany.  The host served Mario Bateli’s Osco Bucco (recipes in link)–a regional Italian dish that I have never attempted.  She made her decision from five different recipes-an indication of the care that she puts into her cooking.  It was perfection-“fall off the bone” and yet did not tasted “stewed”.  She also prepared his Risotto Milanese (with Saffron)  but admitted that it tuckered her out and decided to forgo her dessert course of poached pears and Carmel sauce.  We had a delicious tiramisu instead.

The wines were beautifully paired and we took over limoncello for after dinner sipping.

Our hosts in Amalfi-who served their own Limencello in their cozy bar

Our hosts in Amalfi-who served their own Limencello in their cozy bar

Limoncello

  • 750 ml bottle of grain alcohol
  • 7 or 8 large lemons (make sure they’re organic and not sprayed, you’re using the peel!)
  • 5 cups water
  • 3 cups sugar

Directions:

  • Wash the lemons thoroughly – scrub them clean of all residue.
  • Using a peeler, take off the skins being careful not to get any of the white lemon “pith” onto your peelings or it will add bitterness to your limoncello.
  • Put the peels into a large, open-mouth jar with the alcohol and seal the lid tightly. Put the date on the bottle.
  • Put the jar in a cool, dry place for one week – once a day, shake the contents well to remix everything. You’ll notice the color of the liquid changing to yellow and the color of the lemon peels fading.
  • One week later, dissolve the sugar completely in water by heating it on the stove. Then cool the sugar-water mixture to room temperature.
  • Strain the lemon peels out of the alcohol and then mix the alcohol with the sugar-water. Usually the color of the alcohol changes from clear yellow to cloudy yellow when it’s combined with the sugar-water.
  • Pour the mixture into bottles which can be sealed tightly and store them in the freezer. If the limoncello is kept “frozen” until serving it becomes thick and syrupy.

These make great gifts; just get some small, pretty bottles and label them yourself and you’ve got a great taste of Italy to hand out to friends and family.  I’ve not tried this yet, but this same recipe can be used with any citrus fruit – orange, lime, grapefruit, etc.

DSCF1036We also took over the antipasto.  It was a recreation of our favourite one while travelling.  Antipasti are very regional depending upon the local ingredients available.  Our favourite was in Ravello and it was primarily a selection of vegetables that had been cooked, marinated and served cold.

The restaurant was called Cumpa Cossismo and it has been run by the same family for decades.  All the dishes served were Netta’s recipes and she still supervises the cooking, greets all the guests and then it appeared that her most important role is collecting everybody’s euros before departing.

DSCF1037_edited

Netta has hosted the likes of Jacqueline Onassis and Mariah Carey.  Having been caught in the rain on this morning-I don’t feel much like a diva in this pic.

City of New Orleans

February11

I’ve got New Orleans stuck in my head.  Likely for a number of reasons: 1)  I just finished reading a book that I loved called “The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Calder” (written by Rebecca Wells of Ya Ya Sisterhood fame) which was partially set in New Orleans 2) we were rooting for The Saints in the Superbowl this past weekend and 3) because just this morning, a reader requested our jambalaya recipe.

My husband and I have always dreamed of seeing three US cities: New York, manhattan2New Orleans and San Francisco.  Only the latter remains on our “to see” list.  We were blessed to travel to New Orleans the winter before Hurricane Katrina and saw the city in all of her beauty.  We only spent 24 hours there but it was jam-packed with eating and merriment. 1stPlaceSanFranciscoCableCarsWe stayed right in the French Quarter at the Hotel St. Marie where we started the evening when our group met up in their cozy lounge.  We soon spilled onto Bourbon Street where we just had to stop for “Huge Ass Beers To Go”.  We had dinner in the outside patio at Tujague’s on Decatur St. – a restaurant established in 1856, where we had a delicious feed of fried catfish.  Next stop was at another restaurant for Jack Daniels and just shucked Oysters.  We continued onto “The House of Blues” for amazing music and ended the evening at Pat O’Brien’s for a cocktail aptly named “The Hurricane”.

The next morning we shopped the Riverwalk Marketplace for Louisiana Hot Sauce and continued to the French Market to watch pralines being made and then to sample Po-Boy and Muffeletta sandwiches.  Just this weekend, we picked up De Luca’s Alba brand’s Muffeletta-Olive Salad Mix to bring back the taste of New Orleans.

We cooked a pre-trip dinner party to get us all in the New Orleans mood.  This was the first time that my husband made his now famous Jambalaya recipe.  It was so popular that a year or so after the trip the group reassembled for a Fat Tuesday party and we served it again.  Now it is a favourite “make ahead” dinner when the guys are heading out to the lake for a cross-country ski weekend.neworleans

The recipe was originally located on a New Orleans website but has been modified to include local kubasa sausage: Doug’s Jambalaya:  Heat a liberal amount of oil in a deep & heavy pan.  Sautee 1 diced onion and 1 minced garlic clove and then add 1 lb. peeled and diced kubasa sausages (or substitute an equal amount of diced ham).  Add 1 small can of tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce to taste, Creole seasoning to taste (can substitute Tabasco to taste).  Add  ½ each, diced green, red and yellow peppers and 10 small banana peppers (with ends cut off).  Let simmer until the onions and peppers soften.  Add 2 cans of diced tomatoes and 1-2 cans of water.  Let it come to a slow boil and then add 2 cans of red beans, 1 can niblets corn and 1 T parsley flakes.  Boil again and adjust seasonings.  When sausages rise to the top, add 15-20 whole, peeled jumbo shrimp (approx. 1 lb.) and simmer for 20-30 minutes more. Serve over rice.  Note: diced chicken breast can substitute for the shrimp or we like it with shrimp, chicken AND ham and kubasa.

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