Global Cuisine

Spanish-Style-Quinoa-the-perfect-addition-to-any-mealLast weekend I found myself alone in the house for like a day, something that never happens. I immediately turned the television to HGTV so I could watch hours upon hours of House Hunters episodes. Then I made myself a big batch of quinoa! My husband does not consider quinoa a meal or a favorite, but it was just me and HGTV and this dish. Total bliss.

I love Spanish flavors, it reminds me of being in Spain and driving around the countryside. If you’ve ever driven through the heart of Spain then you know it is filled with olive trees. They have something like 700 million olive trees planted there, the scenery is an endless blur of them. 

The olive influence is apparent in Spanish cuisine with all the olive oil produced there. But saffron and figs also make a big appearance in many Spanish dishes. I have had some of the best and some of the strangest food in my travels through Spain, but the big, bold flavors have always stuck with me.

The olives give this dish a savory and salty taste, but the saffron is apparent in every bite. One would think the figs would play a larger role in sweetness, but they are just a nice background flavor. I would serve this with fish or grilled chicken for a light summer meal.

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sandiegoskyline.jpgMy love affair with food began in the dim dark ages of the glorious 1990’s, when neon was king and it was cool to rock a mullet while listening to Marky Mark and his Funky Bunch.  Born in San Diego and being brought up by a Hawaiian family from beautiful Kaneohe, greatly impacted my palate, and brought me to the culinary forefront well before my time.

The Hawaiian family unit is a large extended conglomeration made up of relatives and friends of the family, which basically makes dinnertime feel like riding ‘It’s a Small World’ at Disneyland, where everyone I’m not related to is either an ‘aunt,’ ‘uncle,’ or a ‘cousin.’ So in other words, it made finding a prom date that wasn’t a cousin, quite difficult. (That’s my excuse)

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tamalesWhen it comes to cooking the food from another culture, the ingredients and techniques can be unfamiliar. Going to a foreign country and taking a cooking class is great, but not a readily accessible opportunity for most. Fortunately there are local cooking classes and cooking kits.

Recently launched Global Grub offers cooking kits with extremely well written instructions that will help you succeed in making things like sushi, or jerk chicken with coconut rice and beans. I used the tamales kit and was very impressed with the quality of the ingredients, the clear instructions and the wonderful results. My dad said the tamales were the best he'd ever eaten!

Kits include the dry and hard to find ingredients, and range in price from $13.99 up to $19.99 and for every kit purchased, Global Grub donates a meal to someone in need through their local food bank. Global Grub offers tutorial videos on their site, and the instructions with each kit are easily folded into a stand for easy reference as you cook.

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tacoseasoningI grew up loving “taco night”. It was one my favorite nights of the week. I love a crispy shell (a tortilla, lightly fried in oil), filled with seasoned meat, homemade salsa, good-organic cheese, and fresh lettuce. Yum!!

I wanted to make a childhood favorite for my kids. The seasoning that I grew up on, sadly, was not something I was going to feed to my kids. Instead, for years, I made soft, chicken tacos. The chicken, slightly sauteed in a combo of onions, tomatoes, a small teaspoon of chopped jalapenos, chicken stock, and some seasonings. They are super tasty, but nothing can beat a crispy taco.

I read Cook’s Illustrated religiously and own every issue since 1993 (and a selection from 1981-1992). They are my “go-to” and a place that I find lots of inspiration. Many of our favorite dishes are adapted from CI so when I found a recipe for homemade taco seasoning, I earmarked the page and headed to the kitchen.

Using the original recipe as a jumping off point, I changed it up a bit to make it my own. Keeping a mix of the dry ingredients, stored in a glass jar, helps make taco (or tostada) night, any night of the week.

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curry2.jpgNothing is more satisfying than farmers' market fresh vegetables. Usually I'm completely happy relying on olive oil, sea salt, and pepper when I saute, grill, or roast the great bounty of summer vegetables.

Do carrots, broccoli, asparagus, fennel, peas, string beans, tomatoes, squash, and potatoes really need elaborate sauces to bring out their flavors?

The Italians get it right, in my opinion. Buy the best ingredients and get out of the way.

And yet, there are times when a little more spice or a variety of flavors is needed to reinvigorate the palate. A few drops of fresh citrus juice, a dusting of cayenne, a sprig of fresh rosemary, or a drizzle of nam pla can transform the familiar into the exciting.
Authentic Indian curries are complex combinations of a dozen spices and herbs. An easy-to-make version for every day use can be made with a packaged curry powder or pulled together with five basic elements: fresh garlic, turmeric, cumin, coriander, and coconut milk.  
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