Global Cuisine

porkdumplingsI love the custom of Chinese dim sum because it brings friends and family together at the table. This style of food is enjoyed with small plates, which allows the diner the opportunity to enjoy many different dishes in small quantities. For me it's a way to find a favorite and stick with it. In every Chinatown in the United States you would be hard pressed not to find a restaurant offering dim sum or what I like to call Chinese brunch. I remember my first time at a dim sum place in New York with a group of Asian friends. I was lucky to have help in deciphering the menus and communicating with the waitresses, who brought out the food on trolleys and took orders by stamping slips of paper. It's truly an experience that transports the nonnative eater to China.

It's been many years since I've had good traditional dim sum and my longing for dumplings has increasingly grown since. With the arrival of Chinese New Year, there is no better reason to make my dim sum favorite, shu mai, at home. These dumplings are typically made of shrimp and pork, but they can also be made of pork and mushroom, and even mutton, depending on the regional cuisine. No matter the filling, shu mai always retain a characteristic look: they sort of resemble little volcanoes with filling erupting from their tops. They only need limited skill to form the shape and the best shortcut of all is using wonton wrappers instead of making the dough. It takes just minutes to bring together this easy dim sum, which also makes a fun party appetizer.

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mushypeasMushy peas are a traditional side dish to the British classic - Fish & Chips. I was recently in London for the Queen’s Jubilee and stayed at the incredibly beautiful Corinthia Hotel.

It is truly one of London’s best properties. The hotel’s restaurant, The Northall, features "traditional British fare focusing on seasonal produce supplied by artisanal producers from around the British Isles."

Without hesitation, I chose the Deep Fried Haddock in Beer Batter, chips and “proper mushy peas”. My version of mushy peas may not be “proper”, but they are delicious.

Bright, vibrant green with just a hint of mint, they’re great with fish or chicken. Use caution when pulsing with the food processor, you want them coarsely mashed, not pureed.

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ImageWhile I was staring aimlessly into the cupboard the other night, looking for my daily dinner inspiration, I came across four jars of peanut butter. I had crunchy, creamy, smooth and natural. The point was I needed to do something with them. Peanut butter and jelly wasn’t going to cut it, unless I wanted a mutiny on my hands. Since I love a good peanut sauce, I figured that was the direction I was heading. Before I knew it, Fragrant Peanut-Lime Noodles graced my dinner table. I decided not to make them spicy since it was a family meal but a few red pepper flakes could definitely give you the heat, if so desired.

The sauce is creamy and clings nicely to the linguini. With added broccoli, you have your vegetables covered and the peanuts add a nice crunchy texture. Mealtime was a smashing success and everyone walked away from the table content. The best part, this dinner comes together easily for a quick, weeknight meal while packing a weekend punch.

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moussake.jpg "It's all Greek to me" were practically the words that came out of my mouth when I first saw this dish listed on a restaurant menu. I didn't know what I was getting in to, but ever since that initial sumptuous taste, I have been in love and obsessed with this classic Greek casserole. Moussaka at first may appear to be a wintry meal, but late summer with its abundance of dark purple eggplants or aubergines is truly the perfect opportunity for making this dish. For me the sight of an eggplant around this time of year automatically equals moussaka. And truth be told, I love it so much that I usually end up eating the entire casserole all by myself.

This love, however, doesn't come so easy. The recipe takes real time and preparation, but it's wholeheartedly worth it. Many components can be made ahead, in particular the meat filling. The day before I plan to make this meal, perhaps for a summer dinner party, I prepare the simple ground-meat filling. Late the next morning of the dinner, I'll fry the eggplant slices for the layers. Then about an hour before guests begin to arrive, I'll make the béchamel sauce, start the assembly, and bake. After the casserole has a chance to cool for easier slicing and serving, it's ready to be enjoyed with a chilled glass of Greek white wine.

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japeggplant2.jpgEggplants are some of the most unique and interesting vegetables. Many of us in the States are only familiar with the large and bulbous globe variety. But there are many more to be found elsewhere in the world. Eggplants, also called aubergines, are native to Asia with many different varieties found throughout the continent. Asian eggplants come in many different shapes, colors, and sizes. Some berries—as they are botanically referred to—are thin and long, others short and spherical. Colors range from white and green to purple and almost black with some even striped. A thinner skin and milder flesh make the Asian varieties much more prized than the oftentimes bitter globe.

You don't have to go all the way to Asia to find some amazing specimens. Many are available in Asian markets, farmers' markets, and even as plants in garden nurseries. I've found many in my local international market, such as the small Indian variety, which I used in this green curry. For this stir-fry recipe I use the long Japanese variety. I quickly toss chunks of eggplant in a hot wok and add a sweet-tart sauce, chile pepper, and Thai basil. The dish makes a wonderful appetizer or vegetarian main course when served with rice. A fast meal with fresh vegetables is the best way to enjoy the bounties of summer.

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