My Global Food Challenge

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andorra-flagThis is one of the first times I have even thought to mix veal with chicken, I have mixed veal with beef many times before.  I do like to “marry” pastas on occasion, mixing sizes and textures, although I usually stick to the “rigati” (or lined) pastas.  I also don’t mix pasta and rice often, except to make a pilaf.  All in all, it was comfort food, lots of meat and vegetables for a two pot meal.

Additions/Omissions: no ham or pork

Taste Test: The stew was very good without the background of pork, but I am certain it would have been better with it.

Zip Facts about Andorra:

  • Andorra, bordered by France and Spain, is located in the Pyrenees Mountains. Because of this, its inhabitants have adapted a mountain society from its sociopolitical and economic movements to its urban rule, where 30% of all facades are to be constructed of stone masonry
  • The cultures of both countries have provided dualistic influences in many of the traditions and activities of the Andorran people, such as in language, public education, and currency (see French and Spanish Andorran stamps below). However, political and civil societies are trying to consolidate an Andorran national identity
  • The Andorran diet consists mainly of meat, fish and vegetables with popular winter dishes such as escudella (a stew of chicken and veal) and trinxat (potatoes and cabbage). The cuisine is predominantly Catalan
  • Andorra is one of the few countries in the world which boasts a 100% literacy rate
  • Andorra is a duty free zone, but without an airport. You can travel by plane to Barcelona, which is the nearest one

Andorra 97-ciutat flotan4Helena Guàrdia – “Proof of the existence of the floating city”  structure with photograph (2011)

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angola-flagRed palm oil is not very prevalent in U.S. cooking, but it is probably second to soybean oil worldwide. It is not harvested from the coconut palm, but from the palm (Elaeis guineensis), endemic to the tropical areas of Africa.

Red Palm oil is very good for you because of its natural nutrients, carotenes (vitamin A precursors) and the super antioxidant tocotrienols (vitamin E isomers). The high concentration of these antioxidants also produce its red coloration. It has no trans fatty acids and has a stable shelf life.   The only contraindications are when using medications that slow blood-clotting such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or Coumadin.   I have only used red palm oil twice during this adventure, but I will certainly consider its addition in my meals in the future.

Additions/Omissions: None

Taste Test: With the squash and the potatoes, the apple flavor (“for an apple soup”) does become overpowered. If you are really hankering for an “apple soup”. adjust the amounts of these three ingredients to taste.

Zip Facts about Angola:

  • While there is no single national identity, Angola has ties to Portugal and other Portuguese-speaking countries
  • Most Angolans drink affordable local beverages, such as palm wine and maize beer, although traditional celebrations, much fewer than in the past, call for soft drinks and bottled beer
  • Discovered a few years ago, the giant sable antelope, thought to be extinct, makes its home only in Angola
  • Its long civil war, from 1975 to 2002, affected all aspects of everyday life in Angola, from increasing the number of widows and incidences of polygamy to widening the age and gender gaps
  • Luanda, Angola’s capital city, is one of the world’s most expensive cities to live in with a meal or two that could cost $300US

Angola rtygP1015227Paulo Kussy

“What’s Angolan about my work is that I’m Angolan. I’m contributing to the development of my country. 
There should not be a preconceived idea of what is Angolan or African or black or white art. Art is all about the individual.”

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bahamas-flagI chose this recipe because of the lime, despite my slight allergy to some citrus.  I used the suggested amount, but I am sure a little less would have been just as good.  Because of the evening time constraints I sometimes have, I changed the method of cooking, although I did marinate the chicken as described.  I preheated the oven to 375oC and added all of the ingredients to a roasting pan.  After 30 minutes in the oven, I raised the temperature to 425oC and brought the chicken over the top of the veggies, broiling for another 30 minutes.

Additions/Omissions: used boneless skinless whole chicken thighs instead of wings, because I had them on hand and needed to use them.

Taste Test: Quite delicious, especially if you like lime

Zip Facts about the Bahamas:

  • Bahamas comes from the Spanish “baja mar” meaning “shallow water”. It is an archipelago of about 700 islands, about 30 are inhabited.  Nassau, the capital and largest city, is found on the main island of New Providence
  • The Bahamas has no income or corporate taxes
  • According to Bahamian folklore, “chickcharnies”, three-toed sprites with red eyes, hand upside down from trees on Andros island, were known to spin men’s heads around backwards
  • Junkanoo is a carnival-like celebration held on Christmas and New Year’s, where costumed merrymakers parade to the drumming from goatskin “goombays”
  • Seafood and peas with rice are the most important staples of the Bahamian diet with the conch shellfish a national favorite

bahamas STAN-BURNSIDE-ART2Stan Burnside

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belgium-flagBooyah Chicken! This particular recipe came from a military base in Belgium and seems to be a fitting name for the dish.  However, the name Booyah does not come from the military.  The dish originated in Belgium and was brought to the northeastern part of Wisconsin in 1853 by Belgian immigrants.  It is a very hearty soup/stew made primarily with chicken but may include other meats, and has been referred to fondly as “Belgian Penicillin.”  There is some discussion about the origin of the name, some say it comes from the word “bouillon” or the French word “bouillir”, others insist that it comes from “bouyu” in the Belgian Walloon language.

Additions/Omissions: For usual reasons in this challenge, I did not use the pork and left out the rosemary.  Since the dinner fell during Passover, I had to leave out the peas (legumes) and the green beans (different groups say that green beans are OK for Passover since they do not soak up water and swell like other beans).  But when in doubt, leave it out.  I also cut the chicken and beef, before boiling, into small bite-size pieces.

Taste Test: very good, the smaller chunks of chicken and beef kept them very tender

Zip Facts about Belgium:

  • Belgium, considered one of the “low countries” with land at or below sea level, is populated by two major groups, the Flemish and the Walloons
  • Stamp collecting and model trains are popular pastimes for Belgians, who are known traditionally for crafts such as lacemaking, tapestry, pottery, hand puppets and marionettes
  • On Shrove Tuesday in Binche, the “March of the Gilles” parades men in padded costumes and white hats with ostrich plumes who pelt spectators with oranges and bags of water
  • The Cat Festival of Ypres celebrates the medieval overpopulation of cats that were brought into town to “fix” the rat infestation. Revelers toss stuffed toy cats off the rooftops to mimic the “fixing” of the cat problem
  • Among the very popular dishes in Belgium are the carbonades of beef stewed in Belgian beer. In addition to over 300 varieties of beer, Belgian specialties include chocolate and wafflesBelgium 3311_o_alfred_stevens

Alfred Stevens (1823-1906) – A Japanese from Paris (1872)

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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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belarus-flagIts been a great opportunity this year for holiday celebrations to look for a global recipe that might fit or enhance the festive meal. Well, Belarus coincided with Passover and I found one for a Byelorussian Kolduny Potato Pancake stuffed with ground meat. I did have some ground beef in the fridge

I followed the directions for the pancakes exactly, using a grinder to make the potato “batter” and, although it was smooth, I could not “form” the batter into pancakes with the amount of flour recommended. I was hesitant to add that much more flour so I altered the cooking method, finishing all the pancakes in the pan on one side, flipping them, and added the meat patties. I covered the patty with the cooked side of the second pancake, then flipped the whole stuffed pancake. They were finished off in the oven and kept in the warming drawer until the meal.

Additions/Omissions: did not use the ground chicken so doubled the beef, chicken would have added more moisture to the patty

Taste Test: I obviously had some difficulty with this recipe, using ground chicken might have helped with the juiciness of the patty, but the recipe was scaled down so it is possible that the consistency issues of the pancakes resulted from this adjustment. I do not think that the ratio of flour to potato batter worked well here. All in all, the overall taste wasn’t bad, but I would probably look for a different recipe, if I ever made this again.

Zip Facts about Belarus:

  • Called Belarus since the 12th C, Belarus has fought hard for its independence, from its Russian takeover in the 18th C, its 1918 independent Belarusan Democratic Republic declaration, overthrown again to become the Belarussian Soviet Socialist Republic, which joined the Soviet Union in 1922 and seceded in 1991
  • In Belarus, rites of passage into adulthood include graduations from high school and from college and entry into military service and are grandly celebrated
  • Many popular Belarusan dishes are made with potatoes, which are plentiful and can be prepared in a great variety of ways. Hot borscht (originally from Ukraine) which is a traditional soup of beetroot and cabbage, is served as a first course in the winter months, and a cold dish in warmer weather
  • Both Christmas and Easter are very important holidays in Belarus and are celebrated traditionally with food, performances, and religious services. Christmas (Kolady) starts with a special meal on Christmas Eve (Kootia) with a dozen or more Lenten dishes served in order, a portion of which is set aside for familial ancestors
  • Belarusian straw weaving, an art form from the 17th and 18th C which created intricate figures and traditional animals presumably for nature worship, was revived in the mid 20th C by contemporary artists for more abstract expressions

belarus - savitskyMikhail Savitsky ‘Partisan Madonna (of Minsk)’. 1978. Oil on canvas. National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus

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bahrain-flagBahārāt, the plural of bahār (meaning spice in Arabic), is a great spice blend usually found in Middle Eastern cuisine, the components of which differ regionally and culturally. I have used this mix before, for both Iraq and Syria (click on Syria for my take on the spice blend recipe, which moves more toward the savory than the sweet), and I have come to appreciate the aromas and flavors of these various global seasonings (see Spice Blends).

Additions/Omissions: I only used baharat spice blend and omitted the khaliji mixed spice (Gulf Spices – Ibzar).

Taste Test: As you probably can tell, I really like the baharat spice blends.

Zip Facts about Bahrain:

  • In 2002, a new Constitution was created which stipulated an elected Parliament and gave women the right to vote for the first time in Bahrain
  • “Bahrain” in Arabic means two sources of water (the dual form of “bahr” or sea), salt water from the seas and sweet water from the springs
  • Standing alone in the Desert of Bahrain is the “Tree of Life”, a 400 year-old Mesquite tree, the water source of which is unknown
  • According to some scholars, the area surrounding Bahrain was the ancient land of Dilmun, which bears some semblance to the “Garden of Eden”
  • Generally, greetings are lengthy and everyone stands when someone enters the room. After shaking hands, touching one’s hand to the heart is a sign of affection.  Men and women may shake hands but only if initiated by the woman

Bahrain Yousif A4-221Nasser Al-Yousif (1940 – 2006), “Hope” 1978

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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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bhutan-flagKewa Datshi (potatoes with chillies and cheese) is a favorite Bhutanese dish, made with sun dried red and green chillies and local semi-dry cottage cheese.  The recipe I chose called for chili powder, which I used, but I am sure it would even be better with red and green chillies. There are other “Datshi” dishes you might also like to try: Ema Datshi, which are just the chilies with cheese, or add mushrooms to the basic recipe for Shamu Datshi.

Additions/Omissions:   I used equal parts of swiss and gruyere for the Kewa Datshi.

Taste Test: The chicken and cucumber dishes were also good.

Zip Facts about Bhutan:

  • Bhutan is a landlocked country and is considered one of the most isolated nations in the world, not only because of its geography but also intentionally to preserve its identity, traditional culture, and its environment
  • Business Week named Bhutan the happiest country in Asia and eight on the list of the happiest nations in the world
  • Bhutan is the only country in the world where tobacco sales are banned. Television and internet access were also banned until 1999
  • Colors denote social class and status in Bhutan’s mandatory dress code, traditional dress is knee-length for men and ankle-length for women
  • Polygamy is legal in Bhutan, but not very common. Marrying foreigners is not permissible

Bhutan IMG_1483Phurba Namgay, “Dragon Has Nice Tail”

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botswana-flagThis recipe reminds me of how much I don’t know about making pastry, even the savory kind.  I did have some issues with rolling and folding the dough.  I could tell that my pastry was a bit too thick when I cut out the 6-inch circles.  I tried to roll it thinner, but the pastry did not hold up to the filling.

Additions/Omissions:   I followed this recipe exactly, no modifications.

Taste Test:  The filling by itself was incredibly moist and flavorful.

Zip Facts about Botswana:

  • Botswana is one of the “Four Corners of Africa”, the only place in the world where four countries meet, joining Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe
  • It probably does not rain money in Botswana, but the national currency is “Pula”, which means “rain”
  • Batswana (the plural form of people from Botswana) sometimes refer to foreigners as “lekgoa”, which could be translated as “spat out by the sea”
  • Botswana is the world’s largest producer of valued diamonds
  • Despite the fact that Botswana has the largest elephant population in Africa, the national animal is the zebra

Botswana - GolliferAnn Gollifer, “What am I Doing Here? Ke Dirang Ha?” exhibition

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Burkina Faso

burkina faso-flagGinger confit? Not having any formal training and learning as I go, I have heard about, but never made, duck confit. But ginger confit, was this a condiment or a method of cooking?

Confit comes from the French “confire” (to preserve), and was originally a way to slow cook foods like meats, fruits, and vegetables, and store in the sugary or fatty liquid to to form a barrier to bacterial growth. I recently learned that there is a big difference between barbecue and grilling (I probably watch a little too much “Chopped” on Food Network), and I believe the same analogy had been made between confit and deep frying, a matter of time and temperature. Low and slow, with the fat temperature between 190 and 200 degrees F.

So maybe it is just semantics, preparing a ginger “confit” to confit the chicken.

Additions/Omissions:  Always on the lookout for good substitutions for fish sauce (see link below for recipe)

Taste Test:  Very good

Zip Facts about Burkina Faso:

  • Formerly Upper Volta, named for the headwaters of three waterways, the Black, White, and Red Volta Rivers, Burkina Faso gained independence from France in 1960
  • Burkina Faso is second to South Africa in its production of GMO crops. As a landlocked country south of the Sahara Desert, drought is a major concern
  • In the Moore language, the country’s name means “Land of Incorruptible (or Honorable Men”)
  • Fertility rates in Burkina Faso are very high, Burkinake women average six children which has increased the population drastically in the last century
  • Africa’s most prominent film festival, the biennial Fespaco is held in Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso HarounaHarouna Ouédraogo

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benin-flagI found recipes for chicken, with peanuts and red palm oil.  This is the first time I have come across red palm oil in cooking, despite the fact that I have done scientific research on isolated and purified vitamin constituents, particularly vitamin E tocotrienols, like those found in red palm oil.  I wasn’t sure of the taste, but the health benefits are well documented.

I wanted to translate those ingredients and flavors into a pretty tasty meatball.  I generally come up with a meatball recipe whenever I am craving a pasta dinner, especially when I am searching for recipes from a country that does not normally cook or eat pasta.  The trick is to balance the taste and texture when adding different ingredients.   Sometimes with ground chicken it is a little more difficult than ground beef, pork, or lamb to maintain the proper consistency as meatballs.

Additions/Omissions:  My recipe

Taste Test:  Good flavor and texture

Zip Facts about Benin:

  • From 1960 to 1975, the Republic of Benin was known as Dahomey. The name Benin comes from the Bight of Benin, a bay in the Gulf of Guinea
  • The magical religion Voodoo, still practiced in parts of Benin, derives its name from the word “vodun” which, in the Fon language of the Beninese, means “god” or “spirit”
  • ‘A rose by any other name…’ the capital city of Benin is known as the “City with Three Names”: Porto-Novo, Adjatche, and Hogbonou
  • When greeting, men shake with their right hands, and deference is given to the eldest person
  • For the Beninese, the main economic activity was farming and because many hands were needed on the family farms, the incidences of polygamy increased

Benin RafiyRafiy Okefolahan, “Children At Play”

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Taste Test:                                                                                                    

Zip Facts about Chile:

  • Chile boasts the driest place, the Atacama Desert; the highest lake, the crater lake (Lake Chungara) of Ojos del Salado; and the highest historically active volcano, the Ojos del Salado volcano, on Earth
  • The Chinchorro mummies, considered the oldest mummies in the world, were discovered in Chile
  • Chile may have the lowest divorce rates in the world, possibly because divorce was not legalized there until 2005
  • It is also referred to as país de poetas (country of poets) by the people of Chile, mainly for their two Nobel Prize Laureates, Gabriela Mistral (1945) and Pablo Neruda (1971)
  • Easter Island, a Polynesian island and Chilean territory far off the west coast, is famous for its 887 giant moai figures carved from volcanic stone

Chile roberto-matta-bringing-the-light-without-painRoberto Matta – “Bringing Light without Pain” (1955)

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Taste Test:                                                                                                    

Zip Facts about Colombia:

  • Colombia is not only known for its coffee, but also for its emeralds, and produces over 90% of the world’s supply. It is the second largest exporter of fresh cut flowers, and the third largest producer of women’s lingerie
  • The national tree of Colombia is the Quindio Wax palm, which is the tallest palm tree on Earth
  • The right to vote was given to the women of Colombia in 1975
  • Colombia is second only to Brazil in its mega biodiversity, and has more endemic species than any other country
  • Colombia is also known for its infamous son, Pablo Escobar, whose Medellín Cartel drug empire reigned supreme during the 80s and 90s

Colombia omar2_fullOmar Rayo Reyes (1928–2010) – geometric optic art

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Taste Test:                                                                                                  

Zip Facts about Croatia:

  • The island of Brac supplied the Croatian stone that built the White House in Washington, DC
  • The Croats of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina say “Bog” for both hello and good-bye, the literal translation of which is “God”
  • The necktie, or cravat (which is derived from the word “Croat”, was invented in Croatia
  • Dalmatians, also known as the Dubrovnik hunter dog, originally came from the Dalmatian coast in Croatia
  • The voting age in Croatia is 16 for the employed and 18 for those without a job

Croatia 0449Milivoj Uzelac, “The Girl in the Boat” (1926/1927)

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Here it is again, bitter orange juice (Naranja agria), a sour citrus fruit used as a meat marinade and a great flavor addition to many Caribbean dishes.  The last time a recipe called for naranja agria, I used a 1:1 orange/lime juice mix and the flavors were definitely there.  But this time I was fortunate to find it in a local supermarket

Additions/Omissions:  For the steaks, I used rib-eye and used tam-tam onion crackers that I had on hand for the crust.  While it was more coarsely ground and had a bit of a sticking issue, it had a great mouth feel and taste on the steak.  For the potatoes, I wasn’t sure if the skin needed to be on or off, so I left them on as very good way to change up a baked potato.  Fifteen minutes did not seem like enough time to adequately crush the potatoes, so into the microwave it went.

Taste Test:  Steak and potatoes excellent

Zip Facts about the Cuba:

  • In the indigenous Taino, Cuba’s capital “Havana” is translated as “great place” which seems fitting for the largest city, not only in Cuba, but in the entire Caribbean
  • Cuba is known for its music. Son, the main musical form, combines upbeat rhythms with classical guitar.  Fidel Castro unveiled a John Lennon Statue in John Lennon Park in 2000
  • Baseball and dominoes are extremely popular in Cuba
  • Education, food and healthcare are free and readily available in Cuba. Students need to pass three core exams (Math, Spanish, and the history of Cuba) to enter their university of choice.  The highest doctor-to-population ratio in the world exists here
  • Cuba is home to the world’s smallest bird, the Bee Hummingbird, the adult only growing to approximately 2 inches in length. Cuba boasts the smallest frog as well

cuba Amelia-Pelaez-Las-Hermanas-1943Amelia Pelaez – “Las Hermanas” (1943)

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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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Czech Republic

czech republic-flagWhile I really haven’t taken many short cuts so far, there are some days when I have more time constraints than others.  I wanted to make the pierogis, but hesitated because of the homemade pastry aspect, until I found this “Cheater Pierogi” recipe from Chef John using wonton wrappers.

Additions/Omissions: For the stuffed peppers, I left out the sour cream as usual and for the pierogis, I used beef bacon and different cheese blends, but did not use the sour cream and chives.

Taste Test: While the sauce was obviously redder and less creamy, it still worked out well, and was wonderful with the stuffed peppers.  

Zip Facts about Czech Republic:

  • Austrians Gregor Mendel, the Father of Genetics, and Sigmund Freud, the Father of Psychoanalysis, were both born in the Czech Republic
  • According to Czech etiquette on entering a building, a man is required to let his female companion enter first unless it is a restaurant
  • On St. Václav Day, during the last weekend of September, Czech families participate in the national passion of competitive mushroom hunting
  • The Czech Republic boasts the world’s largest per capita beer drinkers
  • After Slovenia, Czech Republic is the second richest country in Eastern Europe

Czech Andre Dluhos Tutt'Art@ (50)Andre Dluhos

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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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denmark-flagThis is one of the most ambitious dinners to date, I kept finding recipes that I wanted to try, and I am always looking to do a meatball version inspired by a meat recipe or a spice palette.

Additions/Omissions:  no additions, substitutions, or deletions

Taste Test:  The main entree was the steak and champagne, it was a very straightforward prep and quite delicious.  The meatballs were excellent as well.  I don’t normally like the consistency or texture of grated potatoes, unless I am frying them into flattened crispy potato pancakes, but the taste was actually OK. The pickles were similar in taste to the ones I have made in the past and were very good, especially if you like quick pickling techniques.  The biggest surprise was the danish pretzel.  Although I knew they would not have the familiar texture or taste of either the typical soft or hard pretzels, they turned out to be much more like surprisingly good scones.

Zip Facts about Denmark:

  • The Faroe Islands are now part of Denmark, the King of Norway lost the islands to the King of Denmark in a drunken poker game
  • The Tivoli amusement park in Copenhagen, the capital city, is one of the oldest in the world, and the largest and most popular one in Europe. Walt Disney was inspired to create Disney Land after visiting the park
  • There are many Danish contributions to the global market, including Carlsberg and Tuborg (beers), Royal Copenhagen (porcelain), Bang & Olufsen (audio), Lurpak butter, and LEGOs. LEGO is an abbreviation of “leg godt” meaning “play well”
  • Dannebrog, the flag of Denmark adopted in 1219, is the oldest independent nation flag still used today
  • “Hygge”, a Danish state of mind, means a coming together and enjoying the good company of others, a cozy way to get through the long winter months

Denmark anna-ancherAnna Ancher  (1859-1935) “On the Garden Bench”

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dominica-flagChicken and fruit? What could be bad about that? A prepared mango chutney was listed in the ingredients, but I had the time to make one from scratch (see the Caribbean chutney recipe). In one of my Food Network marathons, I watched Geoffrey Zakarian, one of my all-time favorite chefs, easily cut a mango from its pit, close to the pit on the flat sides and trim to the pit on the other sides. Obvious, until you are working with a slippery mango.

Additions/Omissions:   Considering my family’s palates, I tend to go easy on the peppers, so half of a Habañero pepper was plenty for the chutney, and I omitted the mustard seed. I also used ripe ginger, since I had it on hand.

Taste Test: The chicken and mango salad were excellent, and despite the substitutions and omissions, so was the chutney.

Zip Facts about the Dominica:

  • Major scenes from both “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” and “POTC: At World’s End” were filmed in Dominica
  • The economy of Dominica relies heavily on banana production and exportation. Tourism serves as a needed boost when banana values drop.  Watch out for the many inhabitants that carry cutlasses (machetes) around town
  • Dominica comes from the Latin word meaning “Sunday”, the country’s original name is Wai’tukubuli, which translates as “tall is her body”
  • Since 1978, Ross University (associated with DeVry USA) has been successfully educating the world’s doctors
  • “Boiling Lake”, in Dominica, is the world’s second largest hot spring

Dominica MarcellePauline Marcelle, “Bend Down Boutique 61” (2012)

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Dominican Republic

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Taste Test:                                                                                                  

Zip Facts about the Dominican Republic:

  • Dominican Republic (DR) is considered the oldest country of the Americas, reached first in 1492 by Christopher Columbus. It is the second largest Caribbean island (after Cuba)
  • The Amber Museum in Puerto Plata holds the amber with the trapped mosquito that appeared in the movie, “Jurassic Park”
  • Baseball, golf, and big game fishing are very popular in the Dominican Republic which sport some of the best golf courses in the world and has nurtured some of the best baseball players
  • Because DR grows, farms, or catches almost all foods served for meals there, it is considered the “breadbasket of the Caribbean”
  • Mamajuana, a DR drink similar to port wine and considered an aphrodisiac, contains rum, red wine, tree bark, herbs, and honey

Domican Rep Olivia Peguero Life SeasonsOlivia Peguero – “Life Seasons” (2003)

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Taste Test:                                                                                                  

Zip Facts about Ethiopia:

  • Ethiopia is the only country in Africa with its own alphabet which consists of 209 symbols and 25 letter variants
  • Ethiopia is Africa’s oldest independent country. Its capital, Addis Ababa, means “new flower” in Amharic
  • Ethiopians mark time in a slightly different way than most of the world, they are the only country that follow the Julian calendar, 12 months of 30 days and a 13th month of 5 or 6 days, and roughly 7.5 years behind the Gregorian calendar. Time is measured from when the sun rises, so 6 am would be 12 o’clock, and noon and midnight are 6:00 in Ethiopia
  • Only two nations in the world have never been colonized, Russia and Ethiopia. Ethiopia was briefly occupied by Italy from 1936 to 1941
  • Coffee was discovered in the Kaffa region of Ethiopia

Ethiopia desta2

Desta Hagos, the first Ethiopian woman to have a solo art exhibition

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Taste Test:                                                                                                  

Zip Facts about England:

  • Despite the saying “for all the tea in China”, the English consume more tea per capita than anywhere else in the world. They also produce and consume more cider than any other country
  • Big Ben is actually the name of the bell inside the clock tower, which is called the Elizabeth Tower. Windsor Castle, the world’s oldest and largest royal residence still used today,
  • The jury is out on England’s food choices, although it is clear the English love their food, especially the popular dishes with the unusual names, such as toad in the hole, bangers and mash, and spotted dick
  • It is considered a “no-no” (or treason) to place a postage stamp with the visages of the King or Queen upside down on a post
  • The flag of England is called the Union Flag on land and the Union Jack on the water because it must be flown on the jack mast of the ship

England Snow_Storm1842JMW Turner (1775-1851), “Steamboat off a Harbor’s Mouth” during a snowstorm

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Equatorial Guinea

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Zip Facts about Equatorial Guinea:

  • Equatorial Guinea is the smallest country in Africa that is also a member of the United Nations, the country actually straddles the equator with the mainland to the north
  • The national symbol is the silk cotton tree, featured on the coat of arms of Equatorial Guinea, under which Spanish settlers and a native leader signed the first treaty
  • The coat of arms also contains six stars which represent the six major land areas, including Río Muni (or Mbini) on the mainland, and five islands: Bioko, Corisco, Great Elobey, Little Elobey, and Annobón.
  • To cleanse the community of evil, Bubi farmers still celebrate the ancient tradition of the abira, which includes music and dance, a pot of water at the entrance to the village and amulets placed outside the village for protection
  • The bride becomes part of the husband’s family after marriage, and a dowry is still given to the family of the bride

EG Leandro Mbomio Nsue - Oeuvre 1Don Leandro Mbomio Nsue (1938-2010), “Elat Ayong (Union del Pueblo)”

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