Cajun Jambalaya

Courtesy of Lynn, our Louisiana native, comes this family recipe that we make every year for Mardi Gras.

Ingredients

  • 2 boxes Zatarain’s Jambalaya Mix (rice and spices)
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • Hot sauce
  • Worchester sauce
  • 3.5 cups water
  • 1.5 pounds sausage (I recommend Uli’s Cajun Chicken Andouille)
  • 1 pound shelled jumbo shrimp
  • 1 pound boneless chicken
  • 3 bell peppers
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • Italian seasoning
  • Lemon pepper

Directions

  1. Marinade the chicken in apple cider vinegar and sriracha for a few hours.
  2. Grill the peppers, sausages and chicken until they have nice scorch marks
  3. Slice the sausages into thick pieces
  4. Cut the peppers and chicken into thick cubes
  5. Boil the water in a dutch oven
  6. Add tomatoes and their juice, Zatarain’s rice and seasoning packs, garlic, Italian seasoning, and bell peppers. Stir, return to a boil, cover pot, reduce heat and simmer until rice is at the desired texture. The water should almost completely cook out and leave the rice moist but not wet
  7. Add shrimp, stir well and simmer until the shrimp turn white (should just take a few minutes).

Eggless Waffles

We recently learned that our Globug is allergic to eggs. We don’t know for certain that she has any particular reaction, but it’s certainly possible that her eczema is triggered by her allergy. So starting about a week ago I cut eggs from my diet, and we’ll be waiting on introducing eggs to hers once she starts solids.

In the meantime, I’ve been researching egg substitutes for various baked goods, and more importantly, breakfast items like pancakes and waffles. The substitution depends on the recipe, but I found recommendations like applesauce, mashed banana, or adding a bit of baking powder and oil.

This morning, Kenny whipped up a new eggless waffle recipe, devised by synthesizing a few recipes he found on the web. The waffles were delicious and unbelievably light and fluffy, thanks in large part to one secret ingredient: sparkling water (thanks mom, for the Sodastream you got us for Chanukah – it’s proving to be even more useful than anticipated!) It’s good to know that my favorite trick for producing light, fluffy matzo balls can be applied to other recipes as well.

I assume one could substitute more oil for the butter and soy milk for the cow variety to make vegan waffles.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup corn meal
  • 1/2 cup white flour
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp sparkling water
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Pinch of salt

Optional: add 1/4 cup granola and/or 2-3 tbsp coconut

Directions

Mix wet ingredients, mix dry ingredients, combine. Follow waffle iron manufacturer’s instructions.

Fresh out of the waffle iron

Interpretive Dining

Last night we had some friends over and made pizza for dinner. While the first and third pies came out perfectly round, we had a little mishap with pizza #2. I must have been too conservative with the cornmeal on our pizza peel; the dough stuck to the middle of the peel and I had to perform some intense spatula work inside of a 550 degree oven.

The result was non-standard, but quite tasty and a geographical conversation piece. I think that piece of asparagus on the right represents our apartment in Kampala, Uganda.

Africa pizza
Do you see what I see?

Vanilla Extract

When Kenny and I were in Zanzibar last August, we enjoyed a spice tour and made a trip to the market the following day to purchase fresh spices, including vanilla beans. Since then, we’ve enjoyed using the vanilla beans in cooking projects at home, my favorite of which has been our homemade cinnamon vanilla bean ice cream (to die for – good thing we ditched the leftovers of our last batch at a friend’s house, otherwise I’d probably be gorging on it right now).

But the beans won’t last forever, so we decided that it would be a good idea to use a few of our remaining beans for homemade vanilla extract. Recipes and instructional videos abound on the interwebs; I ended up choosing this one because I liked the easy-to-follow steps with illustrative photos.                 

Of course, Kenny and I can’t do anything without creating photo documentation of our own, so here are my versions of the instructional photos – strikingly similar to those in the recipe, but featuring my kitchen!

Materials
Step 1 – Collect ingredients: vodka, vanilla beans, and a jar to store them in

Cutting the beans lengthwise
Step 2 – Cut the beans lengthwise, leaving them attached by an inch at one end

Vodka
Step 3 – Measure 1 cup of vodka into the jar

Adding the beans
Step 4 – Submerge the beans as well as possible – I wasn’t able to get them fully covered immediately because they were a bit firm

Ready for storage
Step 5 – Cover

Two weeks later
Step 6 – Wait. Here’s my concoction after 2 weeks of rest time. Supposedly 8 weeks of infusion is best, so ours should be ready by mid-May.

Warm Lentil Salad

When I met Lauren, she exposed me to her Trader Joe’s obsession. Over the years I’ve also become hooked. Familiar with our ways, Shawn and Jessica brought us a gift on their last visit: the Trader Joe’s Cookbook.

Inside you can find over 150 recipes consisting entirely of ingredients from TJ’s. However, you will find none that include black beluga lentils. Perhaps this is because of TJ’s predilection to constantly discontinuing and then replacing their product line (about 10% monthly or so I hear). Nonetheless, tonight we made a mostly TJ’s salad. From the Trader:

  • Organic arugula
  • Black beluga lentils
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Lemon

Can be acquired from Mr. Joe, but mine were not:

  • Olive oil (I’m a sucker for the Greek olive oil we get at Vios)
  • Sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes)
  • Kosher salt

Chop the sunchokes, toss with arugula, olive oil, salt, and lemon. Follow the lentil instructions on the bag, and then add them to the salad while still warm. Shave parmesan to taste. Now I’m getting hungry again, but it’s time for bed!

warm lentil salad
Warm lentil salad

Lauren showing off our cookbook
Lauren loves Trader Joe’s

Vanilla-Cinnamon Ice Cream

How to make delicious ice cream:

  1. Go to Zanzibar and purchase fresh spices, including vanilla bean and cinnamon sticks
  2. Return to Seattle and unpack your ice cream maker
  3. Simmer 3/4 cup milk mixed with one farmer’s market egg, a little sugar, a cinnamon stick, and a vanilla bean (spliced and scraped)
  4. Chill, add 3/4 cup cream
  5. Put in ice cream maker, and grate part of the cinnamon stick

cinnamon-vanilla ice cream
Dairy hangover: we finished all of this ice cream tonight (since of course it’s best fresh :) )

Tasty Pancakes

Last week we synthesized a number of pancake recipes on the web to a simple formula using even proportions (1 to 1 to 1 to 1) of:

  • cup whole wheat flour
  • tsp baking powder
  • egg
  • cup milk
  • Tbsp butter/oil

Add more baking powder for fluffier pancakes (today we used close to a tablespoon). You can also use alternative flours (e.g. millet, atta, all-purpose) for some/all of the wheat flour, or mix in some wheat germ or oatmeal to satisfy the health nuts.

Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients, then combine and stir. Ladle onto a hot griddle. Flip. Done. Delicious, especially when topped with African bananas, pineapple, or mangoes, and a bit of shredded coconut. Or even better when Lauren mixed some of the bananas and coconut into the batter for the last few pancakes this morning.

Atta pancake with mangoes and bananas

This recipe can also be used as a savory base, similar to the ragi waffles we made in Bangalore. On Saturday we mixed onions and coriander into a ragi-based batter that we consumed with marmalade and dahi.

Savory ragi pancakes
100% ragi (a.k.a. African millet) pancakes; ragi tends to cause rougher edges unless mixed with wheat flour

Kampala Confidential

As loyal readers of our rice cooker mishaps may have anticipated, one of the most exciting aspects of having a real apartment here in Kampala is having a real kitchen. Making oatmeal using our plug-in kettle and gorging on raw fruits and vegetables worked out well enough in Thailand, especially as we were living in the land of delicious tropical fruits. But it’s also nice to be able to fire up the stove (even if it is an electric one) from time to time and cook something, even if that something is absurdly simple, like an egg.

We haven’t been experimenting with the local cuisine much here, as we did in India; I suppose I’m a bit less inspired by matooke and rice than I was by channa, dal, garam masala, and the mystical powers of the pressure cooker. But our huge Kenya-based grocery chain has locally-source versions of most of the Western-style conveniences we’re accustomed to, and a respectable array of Indian ingredients, thanks to the healthy Desi community here (although no channa to be found yet, oddly enough). Which means we’ve started revisiting many of our favorite recipes, most of which emphasize fresh vegetables, whole grains, and beans (with special thanks to Mark Bittman, who got us on into an almost-vegan-until-dinnertime routine late last summer). And our Indian kitchen experiences taught us a few special tricks, like making chapattis to use as tortillas for Mexican dishes.

We’ve also started baking bread again, using the same recipe we taught P Nik in Mae Hong Son. It’s easy to get whole wheat atta, semolina, and other fun flours here, so we’ll probably branch out and try a few different experiments next week.

Tomato and Coriander Chutneys

When Kenny and I go to Delhi, we like to stay at Saubhag Bed and Breakfast, run by our own adopted Indian auntie, Meera. During our visit last month, I complimented Meera on her delicious tomato chutney, and she promised to send me the recipe. Here it is, with a bonus recipe below for coriander chutney. I haven’t tried either yet (the second will be difficult, as I am mixie-less here in Kampala), but I am hoping to try my hand at the tomato soon.

Meera’s Sweet Tomato Chutney

Ingredients

  • 2 kg tomatoes
  • 1 kg sugar
  • 1 large onion (80 gm)
  • 7 flakes garlic
  • 1 large piece ginger (30 gm)
  • 5 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp chili powder (10 gm)
  • Garam Masala (2 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp pepper, 4 small pieces cinnamon, 5  cloves)
  • 3 tsp acetic acid (concentrated vinegar)

Instructions

  1. Blanche and peel ripe red tomatoes. Cut into small pieces (I put them into the blender for a few minutes).
  2. Cut onion and garlic very fine, grind ginger
  3. Add sugar to tomatoes. Put in onion, garlic and ginger. Cook on fire.
  4. When chutney turns a little thick, add salt, chili powder, cumin, pepper, cinnamon and cloves.
  5. Cook for a few minutes more. Turn off fire and add acetic acid.
  6. Cool chutney and enjoy!

Meera’s Green Coriander Chutney
Ingredients
 

  • 1 medium bunch coriander leaves
  • 1 small onion
  • 5-6 flakes garlic
  • ¾ tsp freshly ground cumin
  • 3-4 green chilies
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ½ lemon squeezed
  • Salt to taste

Instructions 

  1. Grind all above
  2. Add one heaped teaspoon plain yogurt if desired

A Thai Seder

Last night Lauren, Daniel, and I had a small seder for the second night of Passover. We had to improvise most of the logistics, from a downloaded Haggadah to various ingredient substitutions. We used bitter gourd as our maror, and a fried chicken leg from the night market as our pesach.  I made a charoset of green mangoes, chilies, sugar, and peanuts, continuing my recent tradition of holiday cooking prep at P Nik’s.

Hard-boiled eggs, salt water, and leafy greens were easy enough to come by, and Daniel completed our menu with some supplies he picked up from the Chiang Mai Chabad:

  • 3 bottles of kosher wine
  • A monster box of matzot, imported from Russia

After finishing the pre-dinner ceremonies with a spiced up Hillel sandwich (awesome with the mango charoset), we had our main course: a big salad using our bounty from the Sunday market. As the youngest seder attendee, Daniel not only had to read the four questions, but he also had to hunt for the afikoman in our 100 square foot apartment!

For dessert we prepared a tropical fruit salad of yellow and green mangoes, oranges, and bananas. We also had some of Nik’s strawberry jam on top of the afikoman matzah. While not your typical Maxwell House seder, we covered all the Passover classics, and swapped family traditions and songs. It was a very enjoyable second night of our rice-free week.

Seder plate
Seder plate with chicken leg Pesach, bitter gourd Maror, Thai charoset, local spring onion karpas, and hard boiled egg

Daniel with matzah
Daniel showing off the huge box of Russian matzah he acquired in Chiang Mai

Lauren, Kenny, and Little Vid
Little Vid helped us prepare the seder plate

Passover party
Our seder – Haggadah on the Kindle, food, wine, and reclining on the floor