Edna Lewis, America’s Culinary Queen

A cookbook that should be in every American home is Edna Lewis’ The Taste of Country Cooking, one of the veritable bibles of Southern cuisine. Lewis was an influential cook, author and trailblazer, as one of the first African-American women who published a cookbook without hiding her gender or race. By the time she died in 2006 she had been rightly recognized in the pantheon of great American chefs. However, she was still not as much of a household name as some of her peers.

Edna Lewis was born in Freetown, Virginia in 1916, the granddaughter of an emancipated slave. She grew up cooking traditional Southern dishes with her family, using techniques that did not require modern appliances and ingredients that were local to the area. She later moved to Washington DC and eventually New York City where she became a fashion designer. She first worked as a chef at Café Nicholson in 1949, where she brought her southern cuisine to a broader audience. She worked later in catering and even as a docent in the Hall of African Peoples in the American Museum of Natural History. She wrote her first cookbook The Edna Lewis Cookbook in 1972. Her stature continued to grow with each subsequent cookbook, especially with The Taste of Country Cooking in 1976 (edited by Julia Child’s editor Judith Jones), where Lewis incorporated her own personal stories and recollections with recipes. She followed this with In Pursuit of Flavor in 1988 and The Gift of Southern Cooking in 2003 (with Scott Peacock).

Throughout her life, Edna Lewis remained a tireless proponent of Southern cooking, increasing its esteem in the US, and bringing southern recipes to a wider audience. In the 1990s Lewis was honored with a James Beard Living Legend Award and was named “Grande Dame” by Les Dames d’Escoffier International. Two years after her death in 2006, Gourmet published Lewis’ essay “What is Southern Cooking?,” an elegant distillation of her philosophy. In 2015, Francis Lam penned a great piece for the New York Times about Lewis’ enduring legacy, “Edna Lewis and the Black Roots of American Cooking.” In more recent years, a new generation of chefs became familiar with Lewis’ work, and her cookbooks received a publicity boost after a “Top Chef” tribute.

Another great way to honor Lewis’ memory is to cook some of her recipes. There are almost too many delectable recipes to decide among, but here is a smattering: Busy Day Cake, Shrimp Grits, Baked Tomatoes, Biscuits, Fried Chicken, Greens and Cornmeal Dumplings, Stove top Asparagus, and Oven Brisket. If you are looking for more Lewis recipes, please get one of her cookbooks, and if you can, buy from a Black-owned bookstore (we often shop at Semicolon in Chicago).

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How to support Black-owned restaurants in your city

Many people in America are looking to diversify the way they understand the world (and eat!) at this moment in time, and rightly so. Where you spend your money matters, and the experiences you choose matter, now more than ever. A great place to start is by increasing your support of the Black-owned restaurants in your area, which are being disproportionately impacted by economic disparities and other crises like COVID-19. Anela Malik explains exactly why it is so important to support Black-owned restaurants now, and all the time, better than I could. A valuable resource to easily find Black-owned restaurants in your area is the EatOkra App (for Android and iPhone), and Korsha Wilson lists several other resources at Food & Wine. Hungry Hungry Hooker has a great compilation of city-by-city resources, many found on Instagram. For another city-by-city view, Eileen W. Cho has compiled a growing list of databases and articles of Black-owned restaurants throughout the US. Included among these is the list of Cleveland-area Black-owned food businesses I compiled this week. This list is a work in progress and I am looking forward to patronizing many more of these restaurants in the near future.

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Celebrating Eid al-Fitr at Home with Sweets

Since the start of quarantine, many in America have been far away from their families, but paradoxically, many have also returned home and are closer to their families than ever. This includes photographer Eslah Attar, who moved home during quarantine to her parents’ house in Ohio. While there, she has learned a score of family recipes from her Syrian mother, which is especially significant during the celebration of Ramadan. The end of Ramadan, Eid-al-Fitr is this weekend, and is marked with an especially large feast to mark the end of a month of fasting. This NPR article features Attar’s photographs of some of the many delicious, fast-breaking sweets her mother has taught her to prepare including Baklava, knafeh, and maamoul (as seen below).

Eslah Attar for NPR

Baklava (layered phyllo sweets with syrup and nuts), Knafeh and Maamoul (date cookies) are popular throughout the Middle East, and anywhere with a Middle Eastern diaspora, and every country and family has a slight variation. Baklava is definitely common in the US, and maamoul date cookies are not unfamiliar to the American palate, but Knafe gives and entirely different taste experience. We grew to like knafe (also spelled knafeh, kunafeh, and kanafeh) when we were in Egypt. This surprisingly hearty dessert is composed of crunchy, shredded Phyllo (semolina is also used in Egypt) with a cheesy center (typically Akawi cheese, though Mozzarella can be substituted), topped with a rosewater or orange blossom-tinged sugar syrup, and pistachios. I know this description is not doing knafe justice, but it really is delicious. Here are some Levantine knafe recipes from: Cook for Syria, Food 52, The Cooking Foodie, and Chef Tariq. Eid Mubarak!

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How to make Haitian fudge: Dous Makos

Haitian flagToday is Haitian Flag Day, commemorating the official adoption of the Haitian Flag on May 18, 1803, just before the country’s declaration of independence from France on January 1, 1804. Haitian Flag Day is celebrated throughout Haiti and the Haitian Diaspora, and remains a potent symbol of unity and identity. This festive holiday is the perfect occasion to dig in and try some Haitian recipes. And while not particular to Flag Day, this is a great time to try a Haitian dessert classic, Dous Makos (aka Haitian Fudge).

Dous_Makos_(Haitian_Fudge)

Dous Makos is a spiced fudge composed of different flavored layers arranged in stripes of tan, brown and red (which is somewhat reminiscent of a flag, though that was not the original intention). The major flavors in Dous Makos are vanilla, anise, nutmeg, cinnamon and cocoa, though you may see other combinations.  Fernand Macos, a Belgian entrepreneur, created Dous Makos in 1939 in the town of Petit-Goâve, and has spread in popularity since then. It is not hard to make on your own, and utilizes ingredients you may already have in your pantry including condensed milk. You can find recipes from versions from Haitian Cooking, L’Union Suite and Manje Ayisyen. Island Vibe Cooking, below, has a video on how to make mini Dous Makos in muffin tins. If you need a quick fix, you can even buy some Dous Makos pre-made from Bonbon Lacay in Brooklyn!

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What is Cheese Rolling?

united_kingdomOne of the more bizarre food-related competitions we have heard about in the recent past is the Cooper’s Hill Cheese-rolling competition in Gloucester, UK. The event, which was supposed to be held on May 25, 2020, was unfortunately cancelled because of Covid-19. So what exactly is going on? A 7-9 lb. round of Double Gloucester cheese is rolled down the hill (in 2013 only a stunt cheese was used) and many, many people go rolling along after it! The first person to the bottom of the hill wins the wheel of cheese. The Double Gloucester cheese used for rolling has been produced in Gloucestershire for centuries and is worth seeking out in its own right. The true origins of this competition are shrouded in mystery, and range from celebrating pagan roots to obtaining grazing rights. In any case, the competition has been held in some form since at least 1826 (when the first written record emerged)! Hopefully this video of the event in action will bring you a few laughs today. If you want to partake at home we suggest buying some Double Gloucester from your favorite cheesemonger, and it is commonly available at most grocery stores. You can even buy a 5-lb wheel for $97 online!

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Trying Australian Damper and Vegemite in the Outback

AustraliaWhen we were in Australia last summer, we spent 4 days camping with a group tour in the Australian Outback en route to Uluru, eating well on a menu of camping cuisine. It was on this trip that we were introduced to the iconic Australian Damper. Damper is a type of soda bread, that is typically baked in a camping stove in the coals of a campfire (as below), and has long been associated with outback lore and camping cuisine in Australia. Now that we are in quarantine times, some people are turning to bread-baking as an activity – evidenced by the fact that flour and yeast are nowhere to be found – and this bread couldn’t be any simpler.

Damper just out of the fire by Matthew Klein

The Hook and the Cook has a nice video (below) on how to make damper in a camp oven over coals, which is how we experienced it. Adventure Dining Guide has a hack on how to cook damper in coals in aluminum foil if you don’t have a cast iron pot. You don’t even have to cook the damper over coals, an oven will do, as in this recipe from Taste, though of course it won’t have the same outdoorsy charm.  You can add anything into damper as a filling or flavoring, as in the Blueberry Damper from Dirty Drifters.

While we were on our Outback adventure, we also had our first taste of Vegemite, slathered on our damper bread. Vegemite is a salty, savory spread made from brewer’s yeast that is iconic, but quite divisive, even among Australians. Our Australian guides instructed us on the proper way to consume Vegemite, in a very thin layer, mixed with a healthy dose of butter. Tom Hanks recently drew some playful criticism for layering his on too thick. So what did we think? The Eaters were split down the middle, one for an one against. To me (pro Vegemite), the Vegemite had a very strong umami flavor, and kind of smelled like anchovies!

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New Orleans’ Secret Noodle Dish: Yaka Mein

The New Orleans Jazz Festival, one of the biggest music events of the year, which was supposed to be happening right now, was cancelled this year due to Coronavirus. The cancellation of JazzFest really drives home how out-of-the-ordinary everything is…. Along with the amazing music, you could get some of the best New Orleans cooking at JazzFest every year, ranging from Creole to Cajun to Vietnamese and back again. You could also get Yaka Mein soup, a hybrid dish that originated in New Orleans. Yaka Mein (also known as Ya-Ka-Mein or simply “Yock”) is a simple dish of beef, noodles, green onions, hard boiled eggs and soy sauce (plus some secret seasonings). Its actual origins are shrouded in mystery, though a likely theory points to roots in New Orleans’ old Chinatown, and similar dishes under the name yat/yet gaw mein are sold in Chinese-American restaurants in New Orleans and throughout the US.

Yakamein

Ms. Linda’s Ya-Ka-Mein in San Francisco by Gary Stevens

This hearty and filling dish has become associated with second line parades, and Jazzfest in particular, due to the presence of “Ya-ka-mein Lady” Ms. Linda Green. When Anthony Bourdain visited New Orleans he paid a visit to Ms. Green, and you can check out another interview with her by Zagat below. But even if you are not going to these events, you can get yakamein soup all over New Orleans from convenience stores to high-end restaurants to bars where it is touted as a great hangover cure (it is sometimes called “old sober”).  If you are not lucky enough to sample Ms. Linda’s creations while in New Orleans, you can make Yaka Mein from just a handful of ingredients, using recipes from Just a Pinch, Epicurious and Deep South Dish.

 

 

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Chebakia: Moroccan Sesame Cookies for Ramadan

Flag_of_MoroccoYesterday at sunset marked the start of 2020’s Ramadan, which will be quite a different celebration given that large gathering are not allowed in many countries. One of the most important parts of Ramadan is usually communal, the nightly breaking of the fast with a special meal known as Iftar. Even though we are not able to gather together, we can still make some pretty tasty treats for fast-breaking celebrations. One cookie reserved for special occasions like Ramadan is the flower-shaped Moroccan chebakia (also spelled shebakia or known alternatively as mkharka) that is deep fried, and glazed with honey and sesame seeds. The preparations for chebakia start in the weeks before Ramadan because it is so labor-intensive, and large quantities are required for Iftar celebrations. In French, the name for these cookies is la rose des sable, which translates to “rose made out of cookie.” The shape of the cookie is pretty intricate, so we found it helpful to watch Cooking with Alia’s video demo. You can find recipes for Chebakia from Spruce Eats, Cooking with Alia and My Moroccan Food. Maroc Mama even has a gluten-free recipe. At Iftar, chebakia is traditionally served with harira, a tomato soup, giving a really interesting sweet/savory twist.

Chebakia

Chebakia piled high in Rabat, Morocco by Gerald Stolk

 

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How to make your own salted cream cheese foam for milk tea

Back when we lived in Chicago we were introduced to the idea of “Cheese Foam” as a topping on milk and bubble teas. This trend originated in Taiwan, working its way through Asia, and to the US and beyond. When we first heard the term “cheese tea” we were a little bit taken aback. How could that be good? But it turns out, the cheese in question is cream cheese, and it tastes great a topping for milky teas. This same topping goes under a myriad of names at different tea shops: Milk Cap, Cheese Cap, Milk Foam, Milk Mustache, Cheese foam, etc. Now in lockdown, we are unable to obtain this tasty treat, so we have resorted to making our own. We scored the internet for recipes, and used this recipe from 3than Wong as a starting point, but with our own modifications. It really isn’t hard! We especially like this for topping chilled black milk tea, earl gray tea or matcha.

Cheese Foam (makes enough for 4 modest toppings or 2 giant servings)

  • 4 oz cream cheese (Plain only! Do not get flavored or light varieties)
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup 2% milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar (more or less to taste)
  • Pinch of sea salt (to taste)

Cut cream cheese into pieces and whip with sugar in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Once this is blended add in the whipping cream and beat until medium peaks form. Next, add the milk in to thin the mixture a bit, and continue to whip. You may want to add more milk at this stage, depending on the consistency. Finish by adding the sea salt to the mixture and gently folding it in with a spatula. The consistency should be like a pourable Cool Whip/whipped cream. Add as much as you would like to the top of your filled tea cup/glass, and there you go! This can be served over hot or iced drinks, though we prefer iced, since the foam tends to “melt” quickly in hot drinks.

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Madagascar’s Street Candy: Koba

640px-Flag_of_Madagascar.svgThis marks our first post on Malagasy food! When we were watching a video about street food in Madagascar, from The Best Ever Food Review Show, we were struck by the mysterious, ubiquitous food wrapped in banana leaves. Other street food dishes of rice, noodles and sausage were easier to identify, but this banana leaf-shrouded mystery was something completely different. Of course, we had to wait to the end of the video to find out that this was Koba, an emblematic Malagasy sweet made primarily of glutinous rice flour and peanuts steamed in banana leaves. This simpler version of Koba is known as Koba Ravina (or kobindravina), and is often the one sold by street vendors in giant portions. There is also a version called Koba Akondro, with other mix-ins like banana and honey. After steaming the banana leaves, the sliceable cake has a chewy, mochi-like texture with a molasses-colored center. Though on the streets of Antananarivo, koba is sold in giant banana-leaf-wrapped logs, you can make a smaller portion for yourself at home, provided you have banana leaves. Mada Magazine has a recipe on how to make koba akondro at home, as does Afro Tourism.

Koba

Koba Ravina sold in Antananarivo, Madagascar

 

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How to Celebrate Easter – Fasika – in Ethiopia

ethiopianOne of the national cuisines we are really missing in quarantine is Ethiopian, and it is one we have never tried to make at home (sounds like we should though!) A major food holiday is coming up in Ethiopian cuisines: Easter (Fasika), which is celebrated on the Orthodox calendar, and falls on April 19th in 2020. During Lent (tsom in Ethiopia), many Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia abstain from eggs, meat, and all dairy. This makes the Easter feast all the more special, with a wonderful feast set out for all including meats, sweets and home-made honey wine, tej, and beer, tella. Saveur has a great photo essay with Fasika-worthy recipes served over injera bread (pictured below), which would be great at any time of the year:   Spiced Clarified Butter (Niter Kibbeh)Collard Greens with Onions and Fresh Ginger (Gomen)Slow-Cooked Spicy Chicken with Hard-Boiled Eggs (Doro Wat)Sizzling Spiced Beef (Siga Tibs), and Beef Tartare with Spiced Clarified Butter (Kitfo). One dish that is unique to Easter Time is Defo Dabo, a honey-tinged bread, and here is a fennel and orange version from The Guardian.

Injera

Photo by Jasmine Halki

 

 

 

 

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A Mexican-Jewish Passover

When you think of Mexico, it is unlikely that you think of its rich Jewish food tradition. However, there have been Mexican-Jewish communities for centuries, starting with those who fled the Spanish Inquisition, to more recent immigrant communities from the Middle East and Europe. Mexican-Jewish cuisine was first brought to our attention when we learned about Masa Madre, a bakery combining it’s owners’ Jewish and Mexican roots in Chicago. America is now home to many with Jewish-Mexican heritage, and home cooks and restaurants across the country have developed Seder menus to celebrate the first night of Passover with a Mexican flair. Jewish influence in Mexico comes from both Sephardic (Iberian and Mediterranean) and Ashkenazi (Central and Eastern European) traditions, providing a wide range of culinary traditions and hybrids. If you are looking for some inspiration, Chef Julian Medina shares his recipes for Matzah Tostada Yucatan Style, Chipotle Brisket and Matzoh Ball Soup. Roberto Santibañez brings recipes for Lamb and Guajillo tamales, along with tropical charoset, and chocolate-covered poached pears. Santibañez’ Rosa Mexicano restaurants even offer a dedicated Mexican Passover menu. Paty Jinich, a Mexican-American with Eastern European roots has long been cooking crossover Jewish-Mexican fare. Here is Jinich’s recipe for Nana José’s Chocolate Pecan Cake (flourless for Passover). Masa Madre also has a special offering for Passover in 2020, Flourless Café de Olla Cake (seen below), which you can get delivered nationwide for a limited time!

 

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The Mysterious Origins of the Ohio Lemon Shaker Pie

M’s request for the pie of the month was a Lemon Shaker Pie (aka Ohio Shaker Pie). We live in Ohio now and this custard pie with slices of whole lemons is something of a regional specialty. However, once we added a picture of our pie to our Instagram we got a lot of bewildered comments. Turns out, most people had never heard of this type of pie! One unusual part of this recipe is that it is attributed to the near-extinct fringe religious sect, The Shakers. Another is that it uses whole lemons – rinds and all. According to legend, the Shakers were prolific pie-makers and gardeners, and could make almost any kind of fruit grow in Ohio, except lemons, which were the first fruit they had to purchase. Being famously frugal, the Shakers then made sure to use literally the entire lemon for their pies. That still doesn’t really answer why this version, above all of the Shakers’ pies, now persists, but indeed it does. Cut to 2020, when this old-fashioned pie is now only really found in Ohio, or in home cooks’ kitchens.

LemonPie

We enjoyed the version we made, using the Joy of Cooking’s recipe for filling, and Smitten Kitchen’s Ultra flaky all-butter crust. We sliced organic lemons extra-thin on a mandolin for the pie and let them sit with sugar for over 24 hours to remove some of the bitterness. According to the Joy of Cooking, the longer, the better. This still produced a super-tangy pie (which we like), so if that is not your cup of tea, we imagine that this pie would also be great with Meyer lemons, as some more modern recipes call for. Or if you want to go old school, check out this vintage recipe from a former Shaker community in Kentucky.

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Quarantine Kitchen: What can you do with chicken backs?

vietnamJamaican_FlagWhat can you do with a bag of chicken backs? We received this intriguing question from our friend, who had mistakenly picked up a bag of chicken backs at the grocery story when he was intending to get chicken thighs. We are all getting desperate when we see the grocery shelves completely picked over, so we understand the feeling. Chicken backs are what is left of the chicken after the breasts, thighs and legs have been removed, containing a good amount of both bones and meat. The most obvious answer is to perhaps utilize these to make stock or bone broth, which you can then use for a myriad of other recipes including matzoh ball soup. Homemade stock is delicious, but we were looking for something a bit more creative. Fortunately, in many other cultures, it is common to use the chicken back for any number of savory dishes. We were particularly intrigued by this Vietnamese chicken and rice recipe, Com Ga from Viet World Kitchen (pictured below). You can also use the chicken backs to make the broth for Chicken Pho (Phở Ga). Chicken backs are a popular staple in Jamaica, so they find themselves into a variety of dishes including this Jamaican curry and can be substituted into the classic Jamaican dish, Brown Stew. Even the humble chicken back can shine!

ComGa

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How to Make Your Own Taiyaki

JapanInadvertently, this is an appropriate post for Poisson D’Avril / April Fool’s Day, but the recipe is no joke! Cartoon-fish-shaped Taiyaki may be the cutest dessert there is. Originating in Japan, Taiyaki has a waffle-like base, and is traditionally filled with red bean paste. The hand-held snack has a centuries-long history and the fish shape, tai, symbolically conveys wealth. We first experienced Taiyaki at Japanese restaurants in the US, and in frozen packets at the Mitsuwa grocery store.  Fortunately, in the past few years more restaurants in the US are taking cues from the Taiyaki’s homeland of Japan, and are making these fish waffles fresh to order (we have had them recently at Taiyaki NYC and Mini Mott). However, my sister gave us a Taiyaki iron for Christmas, so we have been able to recreate Taiyaki at home for the first time. Though the fish shape is intricate, Taiyaki are really no harder to make than waffles (albeit with a hand-held iron instead of an automatic one).Taiyaki3b

There are many Taiyaki recipes out there, and we started with one from Just One Cookbook. This recipe called for cake flour, which was easier to come by pre-pandemic. If you don’t have it, here is way to substitute All-Purpose Flour + Corn Starch. You may be able to find canned or jarred red bean / azuki paste in a local Asian supermarket. If not, you make your own red bean paste with some of your pantry reserves. Or for even more variety, you can fill these with custard or even Nutella! The only tricky part is the timing of cooking the Taiyaki, we have a gas oven, and it took us a while to find the right cook time, which may also vary for your oven. If you make extra Taiyaki, you can freeze them and then reheat in a 350 oven for a few minutes. Enjoy!

How to make your own Taiyaki (recipe adapted from Just One Cookbook).

Ingredients
Makes 5 Taiyaki
  • 1¼ cup cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 5 Tbsp red bean paste (about 1 Tbsp per Taiyaki, or substitute with Nutella, Cream, etc.)
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable / canola oil

Taiyaki

Instructions
1. Sift the cake flour, baking powder and baking soda into a large bowl.
2. Whisk in sugar.
3. In a second bowl, whisk the egg, add the milk and whisk together.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk well. Let batter rest in refrigerator for one hour (there should be roughly 1.25 cups of batter).
5. When your batter is done resting, preheat your Taiyaki pan over a low heat (taking care to keep the plastic handle away from heat source).
6. When you are ready to make the Taiyaki, brush vegetable oil into the Taiyaki depressions
7. Raise heat to medium and fill the Taiyaki depression just over halfway with batter.
8. Spoon in one tablespoon of Azuki paste
9. Pour batter over the top to cover the paste, but do not overfill.
10. Close the two halves of the pan and turn to flip.
11. Cook each side 2-3 minutes, depending on the heat of your stove-top, until the Taiyaki is golden brown on each side.
12. Cool on a baking rack and serve warm!
Taiyaki2

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What are Carinderias?

philippinesWe have been focusing a bit on the Philippines this week during our online food explorations, and have become enthralled by its diverse food culture. We are already itching to visit in person some day and try all the street food! One of the major restaurant types in the Philippines is the Carinderia, which is a combination of a street food stall and a buffet restaurant. The origin of the name is tied to the word kari, which means spice/curry. At a Carinderia, which is often open air and found street-side or in a market, you can select from maybe a dozen or more rotating local Filipino home-style dishes. Options vary by restaurant and region, and may include chicken adobo, lechon (roast pork), sisig (chopped pork and onions), Tinolang manok (chicken soup), pancit (fried noodles) and more. You can find Carinderia restaurants throughout the Filipino diaspora, from the US, to Australia to Bahrain. Mark Weins has a blog post and video a Carinderia he visited in Manila, giving insight into the various dishes. We also love the Carinderia crawl videos from the Filipino channel Coconuts.tv. Each video follows a different person visiting their favorite Carinderia and it is awesome to see the variety in both setup and food!

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Enjoying Agege Bread in Nigeria

nigeriaOur ETW Armchair Travel destination today is: Nigeria! We have eaten our share of Nigerian food in the states, but we have never tasted one of the iconic foods of Lagos, Nigeria: Agege Bread! Brought to Nigeria by a Jamaican immigrant, and named after the Lagos suburb of Agege, Agege bread is now a completely ingrained and revered part of Nigerian food culture. This slightly-stretchy and chewy bread is made with few ingredients, and baked into a perfectly rectangular shape in special pans, and then fired in a clay oven. We really enjoyed this short documentary on the history of Agege bread, directed and produced by filmmaker Chika Okoli and featuring culinary historian and researcher Ozoz Sokoh aka Kitchen Butterfly [Instagram]. Ozoz does a great job describing Nigerian Food culture and the winding history of Agege bread. Making your own Agege bread seems to be somewhat difficult, but there are recipes out there, check out these options from K’s Cuisine, My Active Kitchen, and Africaparent. In the US, you can even get Agege bread baked fresh in Brooklyn.

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ETW is back with Armchair Travel!

You may have noticed that I have been back to posting on ETW more frequently recently. I will admit that things had been busy in the past 6 months with a cross-country move, purchasing a house and starting a new job, and ETW has fallen by the wayside. Just as things were starting to settle down, Coronavirus hit the US, and now it looks like all of our traveling will be curtailed for the foreseeable future. As you may have guessed from this blog, some of our favorite things are traveling, dining out at restaurants, and planning future trips, none which are possible or safe in this current environment. Thank goodness for the internet, where there is a wealth of information, videos, etc., which allow you travel virtually (and at a safe social distance!). So, at least a few times a week I will be highlighting some of my favorite videos, recipes, and other resources in a new series, “ETW Armchair Travel” so we can all be armchair travelers for a while.

Our first ETW Armchair Travel link comes directly from my sister, and is a mesmerizing video of Portuguese Custard Tarts – Pasteis de Nata – being prepared at Pastéis de Belém in Lisbon, Portugal, which we visited several times when we lived in Lisbon. We must admit that Belém does not have our favorite pastel de nata, but you can’t argue with their scope of production or longevity! Hope you enjoy the video, and stay safe inside!

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Reginelle / Biscotti Regina for St. Joseph’s Day

March 19th marks St. Joseph’s Day (check out this previous link to find all of our previous St. Joseph’s day posts), a traditional feast day in Italy honoring St. Joseph and his sparing of Sicily from famine. The tradition has now spread widely throughout Italian diaspora communities, especially those with many Sicilian origins. This St. Joseph’s Day is bittersweet since we are unable to go to New Orleans this year, and are celebrating at home, alone. Typically, New Orleans has some of the most elaborate and ornate St. Joseph’s altars and homes, churches and community groups go all out (though not this year of course). Since we have nowhere to go, we are making a small altar of our own this year, including baking some St. Joseph’s Day treats.

SJAltar2

St. Joseph’s Day in New Orleans 2019

Traditionally, on a St. Joseph’s Day Table altar there are copious citrus fruits, cakes, lucky fava beans and other offerings, as you can see above. You also usually sit down for a vegetarian meal, typically including pasta con sarde (which we are making for dinner tonight). After visiting an altar you also usually get a bag of cookies and some lucky fava beans to take home. The types of cookies vary, but you will traditionally get some cucidati and some reginelle / Biscotti Regina (sesame seed cookies). This year we decided to make reginelle, as you can see below, since they are one of our favorite cookies any time of year, and are super easy to make. We used the recipe from Southern Italian Desserts by Rosetta Costantino. I can’t find that recipe online, so there are dozens of other versions to try: Ciao Italia, Marisa’s Italian Kitchen, or A Sicilian Peasant’s Table. Buon Appetito!reginelle2a.jpg

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Dinner with the Pasta Grannies

My last post was almost a month ago, about Carnevale of all things, and now it seems like the world has completely changed…. No more traveling or going out to restaurants for the foreseeable future, so I am turning my attention to recipes and virtual resources for all of us cooped up at home. Stay safe everyone!

The latest YouTube channel I have been obsessed with is that of the Pasta Grannies. Pasta Grannies, the brainchild of British filmmaker Vicky Bennison, posts short videos of Italian and Italian-American grandmas making traditional recipes in their own kitchen. It is so comforting to watch, and really inspiring me to make some pastas. Giovanna’s (who reminds me of my grandma) sweet Sicilian Ravioli sounds pretty good right about now. Or how about some chocolate bunet from Ida in Piemonte for dessert?

There is also a Pasta Grannies Cookbook that has just been released last year with some of the favorite granny recipes. It looks great! If you are interested in the cookbook, please consider buying it from a local bookstore instead of Amazon, especially since Amazon is de-prioritizing book orders. You can also check out the latest pasta granny updates from Facebook.

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