Patatas Bravas (Spice Mix)

Patatas Bravas (Spice Mix)

Challenge me: What type of cuisine or food should I try next?

This is an A to Z challenge review…but first—food: Continue reading


Baked Ziti

A to Z Challenge (Letter Z): Ziti

When I knew last year that I would be doing this challenge for my food blog, I was not going to be cooking baked Ziti. I wanted to cook Zopf, a Swiss holiday bread, which look almost identical to Challah bread. But, then my grandfather passed away and I couldn’t work up the motivation to try something new so I cooked something old instead.

You can style Baked Ziti like lasagna, and layer it with all the goodies, but my Ziti is more just to shovel sauce in my mouth on a carb caravan of noodles. If you’re looking for the best spaghetti sauce ever, click here to try out my grandma Maggio’s sauce, hands down, the best.

This particular Ziti I’m sharing is a lazy Ziti. Ziti is the noodle’s name, it’s a smooth pasta tube cut at about 2 inches long. However, I am not a fan of ziti noodles and prefer rigatoni, which are ziti noodles with ridges. Rigatoni style noodles are more popular in Sicily anyhow and that is where my [some] of my ancestors hail from. So, Baked Ziti is more the style of the dish because no one calls it Baked Rigatoni.

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Ethiopian Collard Greens (Ye’abesha Gomen)

Yeabesha GomenA to Z Challenge (Letter Y): Ye’abesha Gomen

Also pictured: Doro Wat and Key Wat

Ethiopian Collard Greens, Ye’abesha Gomen, reminds me of a more flavorful version of the southern collard greens. Even though there is a substantial amount of the nit’ir qibe (spiced clarified butter), I feel comfortable calling this dish a “healthy side.” 🙂

This dish is very easy to make and comes together in about 20 minutes. It goes great with the traditional injera (a sourdough crepe), but I also like it with rice mixed with plain yogurt or on its own.

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Chocolate Bars (3-Ingredients!)

Chocolate Bars
A to Z Challenge (Letter X): Xocolata (Catalan for “Chocolate”)

In fifth grade we were required to “tour the world” (aka Europe, as those were the only books available) and write a report on three countries (books… I’m dating myself…with books! We didn’t have computers in 5th grade 😥 ).

I picked Ireland, Liechtenstein, and Andorra. Catalan is the national language of Andorra, and so I was planning to cook something from Catalan cuisine.

While I’m not a big sweets fan, I was originally going to make Xuixos, a pastry filled with crema catalana, which is then deep fried and covered with sugar (like a creme-filled elephant ear croissant…take that, State Fair!). But, while I was researching I saw the Catalan word for chocolate was “xocolata.” Shut. the. front. door. Sorry xuixos, I’ll make you some other time. Continue reading

Whipped Coconut Frosting (Dairy-Free)

A to Z Challenge (Letter W): Whipped

I recently made some vegan cupcakes and couldn’t rightfully stick buttercream frosting on them. Luckily… a member of my family is lactose intolerant (maybe not for them) and every year at Thanksgiving we’re kindly requested to forgo dairy.

And then I offer to make dessert. Oi.

I have so far FAILED miserably at making whipped coconut cream, and every site I read says “just add tapioca flour” or “you just got a dud can.” No, you’re coconut witches…who keeps tapioca flour on hand? I’ve since ditched efforts on the coconut whipped cream and just opt for coconut whipped frosting instead.

As with many products that try to emulate the “real deal” it’s not quite the same. However, if you take it for itself, it’s fine. Its final texture is similar to whipped butter.

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Vintage Vegan Cupcakes

Vegan Cupcakes
A to Z Challenge (Letter V): Vegan

While most Vegan Americana is not closely paired with economic collapse, this one is. The other name for this cake is “Depression Cake” …as in The Great Depression, when the inability to afford/find egg and dairy overlapped with a special occasion. While this contrasts dramatically with the modern edible ideology, I think it’s still a great recipe! What’s your favorite animal-product-free dessert?

Depression cake is a pretty standard recipe. I up-cycled it a bit with a different flavor profile to create this vintage vegan cupcake. Click here for the dairy-free coconut whipped frosting recipe.

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Upma (Savory Semolina Breakfast)

A to Z Challenge (Letter U): Upma

Also pictured: Onion Chutney

Pronounced “oop-mah,” upma is a breakfast dish popular in south India. It’s eaten in a similar fashion as idli and served with sambhar or chutneys (such as onion, coconut, or tomato). It is made with rava/sooji flour, more commonly known in the US as semolina flour. I don’t really have much more to say on Upma, it’s like a mix between a savory pancake and mashed potatos. Delish!
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Tamarind Soda

Tamarind Soda
A to Z Challenge (Letter T): Tamarind

I cook with tamarind a lot, it shows up in my okra curry, onion chutney, and eggplant fry, and many others I’ve yet to post. It’s a common ingredient in Indian cuisine in general, and my favorite form of tamarind is the concentrate. You can pick up a small container at most Indian grocery stores. Tamicon is my favorite brand because of its bold tamarind flavor.

This drink reminds me of the Tamarindo soda that Jarritos makes, but I am not a fan of soda or sweets, so I make my sodas less sweet. However, for those who enjoy the that sweet soda taste, I’ve made notes on how much to increase the recipe to achieve that nice sweet kick.
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Strawberry Pie

Strawberry PieA to Z Challenge (Letter S): Strawberry

My favorite food blogger, The Traveler’s Lunchbox, really knows how to pick good recipes. I’ve made a huge portion of the ones she’s posted, but she hasn’t posted anything new since 2012, and the link to the version she adapted no longer exists! I’m a little worried this recipe was going to float away.

Sometimes in the middle of a hot summer, the thought of kicking on the oven makes me queasy, so sometimes I’ll just make this pie’s filling. It is akin to making fresh strawberry jello, and just cramming a bowl with this lightly sweetened concoction, paired with a little whipped cream is just what the doctor (Dr. Thought on a Roll) ordered.

Fair warning. This pie takes about 4-6 hours to make, mostly due to it needing to be chilled. This is basically the only way I now prepare strawberries aside from gelato, so … it’s worth it.

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Garlic Shrimp Fried Rice

Garlic Shrimp Fried RiceA to Z Challenge (Letter R): Rice

Shrimp is one of my favorite sea critters to consume. As the FDA is planning to poo-poo the idea that dietary cholesterol effects body cholesterol content, and as shrimp purportedly contains two known antioxidants, I’m going to go ahead and call it super healthy. And now I’ll go and fry it…. with carbs and an egg (but…gluten free carbs…so bonus 😉 ). Yum! This is a tasty way to use up old rice that didn’t get eaten with the previous meal. Continue reading

Chicken Quinoa Salad in Basil-Lemon Dressing

Chicken Quinoa Salad with Basil-Lemon Dressing
A to Z Challenge (Letter Q): Quinoa

Yes, quinoa, the kale of the grain world. It found its way into your cupboard because you heard somewhere it was healthy, and then you cooked it. Goodbye, quinoa. The trick to cooking quinoa is that is should be extremely well-rinsed. Quinoa is also a staple grain in south american countries such as bolivia and peru (though this dish is not south american). Continue reading

Ridge Gourd Fry (Peerkangai Poriyal)

Ridge Gourd Fry
A to Z Challenge (Letter P): Peerkangai (Tamil for “Ridge Gourd”)

Also pictured: Chettinad Crab Curry

If you are currently a vegetarian and have so far lacked an introduction to Indian food… I feel every kind of edible sorrow for you. To put further emphasis India’s place on the world vegetarian hot plate, the food is categorized as “Veg” or “Non-Veg.” Which, if you think about an American menu, is a fundamentally different way of prioritizing your dishes.

I love going into grocery stores when I travel and I love hunting out in the Asian, Indian, middle eastern, central american, and European markets which seem to be in good supply near my new place in California. Mostly because I’m kinda a boring person, but also because spices and vegetables I don’t usually see at Safeway get my panties in a twist. Let’s just say, if you were to look at my phone, pictures of my baby and my dog are separated by semi-blurry photos of bags of long pepper and other spices.

On that note…
Enter: ridge gourd.

Ridge gourd looks like a comically long cucumber with, of course, ridges. The skin tastes like a less-bitter cucumber skin, and it has a similar texture to eggplant. I forgot to google it I shouldn’t be eating the thing raw before I did, but I have once-again survived with no excitement, and will learn my lesson eventually.

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Onion Chutney (Vengayam Chutney)

Onion Chutney
A to Z Challenge (Letter O): Onion

We’re a species who loves to dip our food into more food. Who can blame us? It’s delicious. So it’s no surprise that every cuisine around the world includes condiments of some sort: pesto, dressing, plum sauce, salsa, gravy…chutney.

Chutneys are used mostly as a dip for dishes like idli, dosai (sourdough rice crepe), or fried foods like vadai or pakora.

I know, I had me at “fried” too.

I’ve already posted my coconut chutney and tomato chutney to Thought on a Roll; but, I’ve yet to post any chutneys during this challenge. Both C and M slide past my cilantro-mint chutney, and B was never bothered with beet chutney. Though, as Letter O is slides onto our A to Z plates, I thought this would be the opportunity to post a chutney.

This recipe doubles easily, and only uses 1 large red onion (or, to be more authentic, 2-3 shallots).

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Chettinad Crab Curry

Chettinad Crab Curry
A to Z Challenge (Letter N): Nandu (Tamil for “Crab”)

Also pictured: Ridge Gourd Fry (Peerkangi Poriyal)

Chettinad is a region of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu near the city Trichy. Its cuisine is characterized as spicy, aromatic, and (more importantly) non-veg. Personally, I feel chettinad-style food is one of the better non-veg cuisines in India as it always manages to keep a home-cooked taste, no matter how hotel-style you make it.

I’ve made crab curry a lot, almost exclusively in the chettinad style, and I’ve eaten a lot of chettinad style crab curry at homes and in Tamil restaurants. I’m of the opinion that you really need your crab whole and shell-on. Though, I have made this with those little tubs of claw meat you can buy in the store.

Also, I’m from the PNW…so… dungeness crab all the way. Sorry Maine, not in my neighborhood.

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South African Melktert (Milk Tart)

Melk Tart
A to Z Challenge (Letter M): Milk

Thought I should break up the constant stream of south Indian dishes, and head back over to Africa. Since I seem to be a culinary fan of the southern portions of most continents/countries, this is a South African melktert (milk tart).

I make this tart a lot. It’s actually the only tart I make. It’s my, “I bought a bunch of milk thinking I would eat all this bran cereal…and I totally gave up on that by Tuesday, now what am I going to do with all this milk?” tart. On that note, happy Wednesday!

Sorry, Grape Nuts.

If you’ve ever made “magic cake” this tart is the same concept. You throw everything into one bowl, and the first time you make it you beat it for an eternity. Near-delirious you yell, “why in *#$&@ heck won’t this blend?!?!” and angrily cook it anyways because you don’t have a backup plan. Then… Kazoom! Magic. Crust, center, nice topping. This tart is EXACTLY like magic cake.

So, like your high-school health teacher advised that guy Cory who sat next to you… stop beating your melktert!

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Lemon Pickle

Spicy Lemon Pickles
A to Z Challenge (Letter L): Lemon

When life hands you lemons… discard their skin, discard their pulp, water them down, and add copious amounts of sugar. No, mr/mrs. wasteful pants. When Life hands you lemons, you thank Life for the freebies and go make lemon pickle! 

Embrace the lemon. Love the lemon.

Lemon pickle is eaten with very simple “curd rice”(e.g. white rice mixed with plain yogurt). It’s sorta your lazy mid-day meal kinda a dish, travels well, and makes honey take a second look for its longevity. It also takes very little pickle to spice a plate of curd rice, so it’s an economical dish as well. Thanks, Life!

This takes a long time to make (5-10+ days), but only gets better with time. The other plus side to this long wait is that it is mostly just waiting.

Use the ripest lemons with the thinnest skins for the best results. The thinner the skin, the tastier the pickle. You could even choose to keep the seeds in the pickle, but I discard them.

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Eggplant Fry (Kathirakai Poriyal)

A to Z Challenge (Letter K): Kathirakai (Tamil for ‘Eggplant’)

Also pictured: Ye’abesha Gomen

This dish grew out of my attempts to create my own Rasam powder mix, and I later realized my powder was better used in a “fry.”

When I’m at a friend’s house and they are setting a dish down, I am often told, “This dish is [Tamil veg name] poriyal, um…er… [American veg name] fry” then they smile and place it on the table.

“Fry” (in my opinion) almost exclusively translates to “dry curry” (e.g. no gravy) and this kathirakai poriyal, um, err… eggplant fry… 🙂 is similar in that regard. It’s really more of a dry curry dish.

It (and the ye’abesha gomen) find their way onto our table once a week or so. I like quick dishes that pair nicely with rice and plain yogurt, and this is one of my many such dishes. With prep, this comes together in about 30 minutes.

I always snag Chinese eggplants (the long and skinny eggplants) when I make this dish because they cook the best and fastest. The other varieties have their place, but I don’t think this is the dish for them.

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Pulled Jackfruit BBQ

Pulled Jackfruit BBQ (Vegan/Vegetarian)
A to Z Challenge (Letter J): Jackfruit

Okay, so I always have jack fruit on hand. I know maybe that is weird, but you can pick up a bag of frozen tender jack fruit from most Indian/Asian grocery stores. I used a 900 gram (14 oz) frozen package for this recipe (I’ve never tried the canned stuff).

I was originally going to make Jackfruit Sambhar, but I have already posted my sambhar recipe. Then I thought I might make jackfruit-stuffed samosas. But…homemade fried food is just a huge cleanup—pass.

Then I got in the mood for pulled pork sandwiches, naturally. It’s the only logical jump after thinking about a veg dish for too long.

My brain kept hovering on samosas and bbq pork, and then I thought about char siu bao, a bbq pork steam bun I make during the Chinese New Year. So… aha! Char Siu Jackfruit, or Pulled Jackfruit BBQ.

This turned out absolutely amazing. I’ll be doing this for any BBQ where I know vegetarians are coming (which is frequent, we have a lot of Hindu friends).

You can choose to use your favorite BBQ recipe, but most American BBQ sauces are sweetened which turns extra sweet when combined with the jackfruit. If you’re using a homemade BBQ sauce, then turn down the sweetness and let the jackfruit add it for you. I personally recommend a Char Siu sauce (a Chinese BBQ sauce) I included one below, it’s intended for bao, but goes excellent in this application.

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Irish Soda Bread

A to Z Challenge (Letter I): Irish

One day, five years ago (*sniff*), I got my federal tax return money. I also saw a round-trip flight to Ireland for 400$. Being on the west coast of the US, this is a damn good price for Europe. So I bought it.

No one wanted to join me.

So I traveled to Ireland on my first international flight ever. Got my rental car, hopped on the side that I’m not used to driving on, and proceeded to get terribly lost around Dublin (because I didn’t have the extra funds for GPS, and my cell didn’t work internationally). I eventually found my hotel, and then spent the rest of the week driving around that great country. I loved every minute of it [even the minutes I spent mostly lost in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, and Galway].

I also ate a lot of bread and butter because I sorta spent all my money on the flight, hotels, and the rental car. Bonus: I’m now a bit of an expert on Irish bread.

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Honey Peanut Butter Squares

A to Z Challenge (Letter H): Honey

I’m pulling the infant card. Whoops! Now I’m on A to Z challenge backlog, but… my Irish soda bread is currently doing it’s thang, so I am hoping that I’ll be back on track soon (after I eat some).

This recipe could also be called “wannabe healthy candy bars” so… you choose. They remind me of those peanut butter eggs you get this time of year for Easter.

This recipe is also (technically) NO BAKE; however, you’re not getting away without using pots and pans. You’ll need to heat up the sticky stuff…and the chocolate, of course.

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