Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bolivia Night

Earth Day was Thursday. This week there was a conference in Bolivia seeking to address global climate change. This conference highlights one of the things that I find most inspiring about the environmental movement: it’s global nature. Present at this conference were all sorts of people: scientists, politicians, and native campancinos from all over the world. There are few movements that include so many different people, from so many places, of course there are few movements that effect so many different people. All of these people, Bolivian farmers, and Panamanian fisherman; they don’t take out time to come to these conferences because they have been convinced by scientific arguments, or because politicians tell them its important. They attend these conferences because their lives are effected by global climate change on a daily basis. The Bolivian conference highlights the sad reality of this crisis: climate change effects first and most acutely the poorest and most vulnerable in this world not those who have the greatest power to effect climate change.

So, to honor the Bolivians and their conference Scott and I had Bolivian Night tonight. It was fabulous...and spicy. Now I do not recall having the dish I made tonight when I was in Bolivia. I really only remember eating a lot of roasted or grilled chicken with yucca, potato or rice and beans. Well, I also remember having homemade water buffalo cheese bought off the side of the road. While all of this was very good, I decided that the first meal was not really typically Bolivian, but could be found in any number of countries (roasted chicken and rice is a staple almost everywhere) and the second...well, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Finally, I considered making Saltenas, which I also enjoyed in Bolivia, but are really breakfast fair and would not feel like a proper dinner (though good appetizer perhaps). So I searched online and found the following recipe for Pollo Picante. It was very good, I recommend it highly. As the name suggests however, it is spicy. While we enjoyed the chicken, the sauce and peas were just too hot for Scott or I to enjoy. Due to the spiciness, the boiled potatoes I served with it worked well.

Picante de Pollo
Spicy chicken


3 pounds chicken, divided into parts
¼ cup ground cayenne pepper
2 cups of white onion, cut into small strips
1 cup tomato, peeled and finely chopped
½ cup fresh
locoto or chili pepper, finely chopped
1 cup green peas, peeled
½ cup parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon crumbled oregano
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon salt
3 garlic cloves, peeled, chopped and roasted
3 cups broth or water
2 spoonfuls oil


In a large casserole put the chicken pieces with all the other ingredients. Pour the broth or water until covering the ingredients completely.

Set to cook over high heat until it boils, and later over low heat for at least an hour and a half or until the chicken is soft. Stir occasionally.

If while cooking the broth diminished much, add a little bit more of broth or water so that when serving there is enough liquid.

In a deep plate serve one piece of spicy chicken with one boiled potato, cooked aside, chuño phuti and uncooked sauce on top.

Finally, sprinkle the chopped parsley on top of the spicy chicken.

Recipe found at:

For more information on the Bolivian Conference visit:

Saturday, April 17, 2010

DR Congo

I decided that this week we would have dinner featuring the cuisine of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Now, usually I try to use recipes from specific regions in the country such as the Northern Indian food we had last week; or featuring the food of a specific ethnic group such as the malay food we had on Malaysian night. However I could only find recipes that were broadly labeled “Congolese”...which of course does not specifically locate the recipe in the DR Congo. As the DR Congo is geographically larger than the Louisiana Purchase and as the UN estimated that there are over 250 different ethnic groups living in DR Congo, I know there is more variety in cuisine than I realize, and I am somewhat disappointed that I wasn’t able to be more accurate in my recipe choice but you can only do what you can do.
As I was driving back from field ed Thursday I stopped at a Jamaican/ Caribbean/ African Market on Broadway. I was hoping to get cassava root to make fufu. Fufu is a staple in West and Central Africa, it can be made from a number of root vegetables which are then mashed. It is served thick enough that it can be shaped into balls, from which you can tear of little bits to shape and scoop-up stew. So I was looking for cassava (which is the same plan used for tapioca) when I was shopping I was seduced by instant fufu. I admit that this was a cheap move but I as worried about all that I have to do this week and decided to go ahead and get it. The instant did work fine, but I must hypothesize that this instant variety was really to real fufu as instant mash potatoes are to real mash potatoes. Also, a few words to the wise: just as one should slowly add instant mash potatoes to the water so they don’t clump, so too should the instant fufu be slowly added to the boiling water. Also, I tried to eat the fufu warm, but it was really sticky and messy. The next morning after being in the fridge all night, the fufu worked just as I think its supposed to; so be advised and make it in advance and let it cool in the fridge.

To accompany this I made “Poulet Moambe” which is a chicken stew made with Palm Butter. I was however also unable to find palm butter and read that peanut butter could be substituted. The stew really turned out pretty good, I will admit to being a little skeptical about a chicken, onion, okra peanut butter stew, but Scott and I both liked it a lot. It was savory, sweet, peanut butter and spicy all at the same time. I didn’t however find that the fufu added much...but again if it were homemade I’m sure that it would have been much better.

For the Poulet Moambe, I used the following recipe:
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 boneless/ skinless chicken breasts, cube
pinch hot pepper
Salt and pepper
1 C peanut butter
1/2 lg yellow onion, diced
1 lg tomato, diced
2 handfuls okra, chopped
1 cloves garlic, diced
1 handful fresh italian parsley, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, diced

Season chicken with salt and pepper and brown in hot oil. When the chicken is well browned, add hot pepper to taste. Then add 1 c peanut butter and 1-2 cups water along with the rest of the ingredients. Let boil until thick, being sure to constantly watch and stir so as to prevent the peanut butter from sticking to the bottom and burning.

Adapted from:


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Indian Dinner

Scott and I began some time ago experimenting with having international themed nights; I thought this would be fun way to try cooking new things, and to learn about different places. We began with a Malaysian Night, then we had a Yemeni Night. Then we got busy and stopped.

Tonight we invited over Benjamin-David and revived the tradition with a India themed night with chicken tandoori and okra curry. I understand that both recipes are of Northern Indian origin.

I set the chicken to marinate this morning, and Scott grilled this evening. If you've never had it, it's super easy to make and the yogurt it's marinaded in makes the chicken very tender. I got this particular recipe from online, and made some substitutions (instead of using marsala tandoori, I took the lazy way out and just used the garam marsala that I already had.)

To accompany this we had curried okra, which was also very tasty. The okra was stuffed with the curry paste and lightly fried in vegetable oil and onion. I was a little worried that it would come out greasy, but it really didn't at all. The okra was bright green and flavorful. As I was making the okra however, I was unable to find the mango powder that the recipe called for and instead chopped-up dried mango. I don't know what difference this but the mango certainly added a nice sweetness.In the past I've only really had boiled okra (which is pretty bland, slimy and gross) and fried okra (which is amazing because its fried, but on the downside- its fried). I felt as this was a nice alternative to both these options- one that I will certainly do again.

Benjamin-David then brought with him nan for dinner...the perfect final touch. We celebrated the weather, eating on the back porch and then moved inside to Watch Monsoon Wedding. The recipes we used are below.

Chicken Tandori
2 lbs skinless chicken
3 Tbsp garam marsala
1 c yogurt
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 c vegetable oil

Prick chicken all over with fork. In a separate bowl, mix garam marsala, yoghurt, oil and salt into a paste. Cover the chicken well in this marinade, and refrigerate for 12-18 hours.

Grill chicken over medium heat, being careful not to over cook.
adapted from Petrina Verma Sarkar:

Bharwan bhindi
1.5 lbs okra
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp cumin powder
Salt to taste
2 Tbsp coriander powder
3 Tbsp finely diced dried mango
1 tsp Turmeric powder
2 Tbsp oil
half an onion, diced

Wash, dry and clean okra, removing the caps and the tips. Slit down the side. In a separate bowl, mix chili, coriander, mango, turmeric and salt. Stuff the okra with the past. Heat oil in a large skillet, add onions and cook until the onion begins to soften (1-2 min). Add stuffed okra and cook stirring occasionally. Add any left -over seasoning and continue cooking until tender (5-10 min).
adapted from Chef Sonali: