My Global Food Challenge

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Vatican City (Holy See)

Ok, so it’s not a real country.  I cheated a bit because it is my husband’s birthday.   I wanted to make something Italian, and I am not yet up to “I”.   Being Italian, and cooking Italian since I was 12, it was a no-brainer to reach into my bag of tricks, but I wanted to cook something that he’s never had before.  I’ve never made or ever ordered Chicken Vesuvio, but it sounded wonderful and looked straightforward, except for the disclaimer note from the Food Network Kitchen chefs.  I didn’t worry too much about the scaled down recipe, because I do much of my cooking to taste.  And I definitely tweaked it a little. 

Additions/Omissions:  used only chicken thighs, added a little extra wine, salt pepper and granulated garlic when seasoning chicken and potatoes in skillet, substituted dried parsley

Taste Test:  Needed a little more liquid, most of the chicken was “fall off the bone” juicy there were some few dry pieces (could have been the chicken).   All in all, buonissimo!

Zip Facts about Vatican City:

  • Variations of Vatican City:  State of the Vatican City, Santa Sede, and Stato della Citta del Vaticano
  • The gilt ball originally on the top of the Egyptian obelisk in the middle of St. Peter’s Square was said to contain the ashes of Julius Caesar
  • There is no income tax, Italians can donate 8% of their yearly taxes to the Vatican
  • Latin still can be used for transactions in the Vatican Bank
  • It is the only city within a city

Vatican CodognottoFerdinando Codognotto

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Peeling tomatoes?

If there is more than one way to skin a cat, then there must be many ways to peel a tomato.  I never peeled a tomato before this, so my first instinct was to “google” it. 

Pick firm, medium tomatoes.  Microwave on high for 30 seconds (a little more for larger ones) .  Having a good vegetable peeler helps and I found that if I peeled in continuous motion around the tomato from bottom, it was better than individual peels along the vertical paths.  I didn’t try to peel over any soft spots, but used a paring knife there instead.  

Another way:

Slightly score across the base of the tomato in a cross fashion. Then drop one tomato at a time in the boiling water. Leave for about 20 seconds.

Cool each tomato in a bowl of ice water.

Use a knife to make a cut around the “equator” of the tomato. The “northern hemisphere” and “southern hemisphere” of the tomato will now slide off intact.

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Taste Test:  

Zip Facts about Uganda: 

  • “For God and My Country” is the official motto
  • Does not have daylight savings time.  Time zone is EAT (East Africa Time), three hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) and WET (Western Europe Time)
  • The grey crowned crane is the national symbol
  • The black, yellow, red stripes of the national flag represent people, sunshine, brotherhood
  • If you need to use the restroom, you are either making a “short call” or a “long call”

Uganda - Bride

Bride – Sylvia Katende

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Meatballs, meatballs, meatballs


Made my traditional Italian sauce with meatballs and hot sausage.  We don’t usually have the sauce the same day I make it, I cook enough to freeze for a month or two so I let it thicken up in the refrigerator for a day before I use it.  But I really had a craving for cheese stuffed meatballs.  It was all Paula Deen’s fault, I saw her recipe with mozzarella, so I just substituted my meatball recipe and used a different cheese.  I  cooked some of the freshly-made sauce on medium high and added the meatballs. These were twice the size as my normal ones, because they were stuffed with shredded Italian five cheese mix (Asiago, Parmesan, Romano, Mozzarella, and Provolone).  Served over some rigatoni (or gluten-free penne).  Buonissimo!

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I wanted to use something other than beef for a change, so, in trying to buy lamb for this, there were only baby lamb chops and lamb bones available locally.  I chose the latter, hoping there was enough meat on the bones.

Additions/Omissions:  The spices I used were cumin and cayenne pepper to taste.  I also added more tomato paste (8 oz can) with a little water.  

Taste Test:  The taste was great, but it probably would have been just as good with a marbled cut of beef.

Zip Facts about Uzbekistan:

  • Uzbekistan shares one of the largest deserts in the world, Kyzylkum, with Kazakhstan
  • Bread (lipioshka) is never found upside down or placed on the ground, no matter what the container
  • There are two doubly landlocked countries in the world, Uzbekistan and Liechtenstein, which are surrounded by countries that are landlocked.  You would need to cross the borders of two countries to get to an ocean
  • There is a ban on all religions not approved by the state
  • Palov, a dish of rice and meat, and green tea are the national favorite foods

Uzbekistan - sittingonstone

Sitting on Stone – Timur Tsaku

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I prefer my meals to be savory and my desserts to be sweet and almost never the twain shall meet.  My son is not fond of desserts, so he also prefers savory over sweet for his meals.  My daughter and husband have no problems with mixing sweet, savory, etc.  This dish is nicely spiced, and a good mix of sweet and sour.

Additions/Omissions: Used dried dates, left out almonds, served over white rice.

Taste Test:  I really liked the combination of spices and and although I didn’t eat the fruit, it was  still a bit too sweet for me.  The rest of the family liked the balance of sweet and savory.

Zip Facts about Vietnam:

  • Annual love market, “Khau Vai”, is a place to find love, one night stands, or soul mates.  These tribes are considered the first “swingers”
  • “Ruou ran”, Vietnam’s Snake Wine, is rice wine with a floating dead snake.  It is used as an aphrodiasic, and for curing impotence
  • Although there is no official religion, there is a freedom to practice
  • There are many famous restaurants lining the Red River in Hanoi
  • Vietnam has an impressive film industry

Vietnam - lady

To Ngoc Van, 1906-1954
A Girl by Lilies, 1943
Oil on Canvas

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Taste Test:  

Zip Facts about Venezuela:

  • Angel Falls (Kerepakupai-Meru), the world’s largest uninterrupted waterfall is located on the Rio Churun in Venezuela.  They were named not by the explorer who found the falls but by an American pilot, Jimmy Angel, who landed his plane at the top
  • Venezuela may have come from the name Veneziela given by Amerigo Vespucci and crew who thought the stilt villages reminded them of Venezia in Italy
  • Caracas, the largest city and the capital, is also considered the witch capital of the world
  • “The Simpsons”, a very popular TV series in the US,  had been removed from stations in Venezuela as being unsuitable for children
  • The largest rodent in the world, Capybara, inhabits the llanos (grassy plains) of Venezuela

Venezuela Jacobo Borges - Sala con ventana al mar

Room with Window to the Sea – Jacobo Borges

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