My Global Food Challenge

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brazil-flagInspired by the ingredients in Brazilian salads, my dislike of mayonnaise, and my fondness for German potato salad, I decided to make a Brazilian potato salad, using a German hot salad as a base.  Because green olives were an important component, I thought I would substitute olive brine for the vinegar in the dressing.  I regularly use olive brine in my cold tuna salads, and tend to use vinegars very sparingly.  I really got excited about the idea and was anticipating the unique flavors but, unfortunately, I did not have a bottle of olives on hand for this recipe.  I had to forgo the olives and the olive brine and resort to white wine vinegar.

Additions/Omissions:  I made the full 2 cups of marinade, but used about 1 1/2 cups.  If using the marinade for this recipe only, you could half the ingredients.  It could be used for leg of lamb or lamb shanks, I used the marinade for cooking only, as I described in my recipe for lamb shanks.

Taste Test:  The marinade was excellent, and the salad was good, but I am looking forward to trying it again with brine.

Zip Facts about Brazil:

  • Formerly known as Ilha de Vera Cruz (Island of the Real Cross) and Terra de Santa Cruz (Land of the Holy Cross), Brazil gets its current name from the Pau Brasil tree or Brazilwood
  • Brazil is the longest and the fifth largest country in the world (by area), and it is the largest country in South America. Sao Paulo is the largest Japanese city outside of Japan
  • The Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro is one of the seven wonders of the modern world along with the Great Wall of China, Petra in Jordan, the Pyramid at Chichen Itza, Machu Picchu in Peru, the Taj Mahal in Agra India, and the Roman Colosseum in Rome Italy
  • Brazil is definitely soccer crazy, winner the World Cup more than any other nation and a soccer stadium can be found in every Brazilian city
  • In Brazilian society, gender differences are clearly delineated, female beauty is highly prized and male machismo is expected

Brazil volpiAlfredo Volpi (1896-1988) – “Fachada”

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Bosnia and Herzegovina

bosnia-flagI have learned a few things about cooking with wine and other alcohols by exploring these global recipes and by watching some of my favorite chefs on the Food Network, the Cooking Channel, or Create.   I have known for many years that the first rule in cooking with wine is to choose one that you like to drink and not a “cooking wine,” although I have to admit that I do have a bottle or two of “good” cooking wines in my pantry for “emergency” situations.   You need to consider the extra salts and additives, if you elect to use them and certainly do so sparingly.  A few more tips:  use wine for marinating vegetables and meats (or use at room temperature to tenderize), use for basting with melted butter or oil, and make sure to reduce wine slowly over low heat in pan or pot to evaporate alcohol (1/2 cup of wine down to 2 tablespoons reduction).

Additions/Omissions: used beef and veal and a really good Sauvignon Blanc for stew.  I did change the cooking method, as I sometimes do, either using a crock pot or Dutch oven for soups and stews.  For this stew, which requires layering of flavors, I used a Dutch oven which I started on medium heat on the stovetop and finished in a preheated 350oC oven for about an hour.

Taste Test: very good

Zip Facts about Bosnia and Herzegovina:

  • When the XIV Olympic Winter Games were held in 1984 in Sarajevo, the capital city, it was the first Winter Olympics to be held in a communist country, then Yugoslavia. Bosnia and Herzegovina gained their independence from Yugoslavia in 1992
  • The official currency, the Bosnian Convertible Mark (BAM), cannot be bought or exchanged outside of the country
  • The difference between a Bosnian and a Herzegovinian is not an ethnic distinction, but a regional one
  • “Celebratory gunfire” is still shot into the air before and after big events such as weddings and birth receptions
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina boasts the world’s tenth highest coffee consumption per capital. Rakija, Bosnian plum brandy, generally thought to have “health” benefits, is consumed and offered to guests with abandon

Bosnia MicaMica Todorović (1900-1984) – called “the first lady of Bosnian and Herzegovinian painting”

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cyprus-flagThere are many things to consider when exploring the world’s cuisine, especially the conversions of ingredient quantities and oven temperatures, as well as the vocabularies of many different languages.  Despite my years of French, I still had to look up courgettes (zucchini), but recognized aubergines (eggplant) from a previous recipe.

Additions/Omissions: used eggplant but left out zucchini, would have been wonderful with both; used bay leaf and ground lamb.  Once all of the ingredients were cooked, the assembly was quite simple and fun to do.

Taste Test:  the moussaka was very good, but I don’t think the bechamel worked out as well as it should have.  I would definitely check out other bechamel recipes in the future and adjust for the change.  The salad was excellent.

Zip Facts about Cyprus:

  • Cyprus is the home of Mount Olympus and the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, who rose from the sea at Petra tou Romiou in Pafo
  • Cyprus once belonged to Cleopatra as a gift from Mark Antony
  • Perfume most probably originated in Cyprus, alabaster bottles with traces of perfume scented with aromatics such as coriander, rosemary, bay, and lavender were discovered in a large underground cave in Pyrgos
  • The Cyprus Mufflon is a wild sheep that roams the mountainsides only in Cyprus
  • It is believed that Cyprus produced the oldest wine in the world, Commandaria, a sweet red wine

cyprus ruzen1Ruzen Atakan – “Silent”

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djibouti-flagI am not sure why bananas and plantains give me such a hard time. I do eat bananas occasionally, but I really don’t care for plantains.  Either way, with the exception of peeling plantains, they should be easy to work with in both savory and sweet dishes.  I did not make the Banana Fritters from Djibouti, but left the recipe here anyway.  The only bananas available were still quite green. Being curious to see if they still could be used for this dish,  I peeled one and tasted it.  I was surprised to find it was more like peeling a plantain than an unripened banana.  And the taste..

Additions/Omissions:   used red chili paste for fresh chilis

Taste Test: the rice dish was very good, but I do want to discourage anyone from tasting a really green banana, although I don’t think I could put the flavor into words.  Chalk comes to mind, and definitely not sweet chalk, it is probably one of the worst things I have tasted in a long time.  Which is surely a good thing, since I am very far into this challenge.

Zip Facts about Djibouti:

  • At 52 feet below sea level, Lac (Lake) Assal is the lowest point in Djibouti and the lowest point in Africa. The heavy salinity of the lake (greater than the Dead Sea) allows for salt mining used personally and commercially
  • Djibouti, from the word “gabouti” (a palm fiber doormat), was named after the bottom of the Gulf of Tadjoura
  • Djibouti is the third smallest country in Africa (after Gambia and Swaziland) with the least number of inhabitants
  • A favorite national pastime is qat chewing, a medicinal plant with mildly narcotic properties
  • Young Djibouti poets follow the long tradition of composing and memorizing 100 line Somali forms of epic poetry called gabay

djibouti arts21-300x239Abdul-Wahab Youssouf

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Zip Facts about Egypt:

  • The current Egyptian landscape is 95% desert, the average annual rainfall is about one inch. Prior to 8000 B.C., however, the Sahara Desert was mainly lush fertile grassland and savannah
  • The Egyptian pyramids are the oldest of the seven wonders of ancient times (after the Colossus of Rhodes, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, and the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus), and are the only ones still standing
  • All Egyptians enjoy free internet access due to their Free Internet Initiative. Google is working with Egypt to enhance online Arabic content, Egypt has the most Facebook users in Africa, and thirty percent of the world’s Arab bloggers are from Egypt
  • In Egypt, education is free through the university level, females make up more than half of the secondary students
  • The feminist movement in the Arab world was born in Egypt, women own 20% of all Egyptian business firms

Egypt h2_2009.166Gazbia Sirry, “The Kite” (1960)

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Zip Facts about Iceland:

  • There are no military forces in Iceland. The unemployment rate is very low, and crime here is minimal
  • Iceland exhibits better gender equality than many other countries, women are welcomed into the workforce, politics, and the clergy
  • There is long-standing support for the arts with several artists attaining “state artist” status with government funded studios, which will eventually revert to public museums
  • Iceland has full 24 hours of sunlight during June and July and many Icelanders enjoy midnight sun outdoor activities
  • One of the most popular foods in Iceland is Skyr, a very soft cheese with the consistency of yogurt, high in protein with almost no fat

Iceland Matthiasdottir_Woman_in_Street2

Louisa Matthíasdóttir, “Woman in Street” (c. 1980)

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Zip Facts about Iraq:

  • Arabs in Iraq have names which start with their first name, followed by their father’s name, their paternal grandfather’s name, and lastly their family name. Women normally do not take their husband’s name
  • “The Thousand and One Nights”, a collection of Arab folk tales from Iraq which includes the famous stories of “The Voyage of Sinbad the Sailor”, “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”, and Aladdin and the Magic Lamp”. tells of Scheherazade who marries a king who had disposed of his previous wives. To stay alive, she tells him a story each night for 1001 nights, leaving the ends as cliffhangers
  • The meat in an Iraqi meal is commonly sheep or goat, and includes organ meat, along with the feet, eyes, and ears.   The main meal may start with an appetizer, such as kebabs, and end with a salad and khubaz (a buttered flat wheat bread)
  • Iraq is the purported birthplace of Abraham and Isaac’s wife Rebekah and the site of the biblical Garden of Eden
  • Traditional marriages are still arranged, although urban couples prefer to find their own spouse. In about half of the cases, preference is given to first and second cousins

Iraq wasimaWasima Al-Agha (a thought-provoking depiction of Iraqi women)

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