Global Cuisine

altSoups and stews are my favorite dishes during the cold-weather months. Now that the weather has turned chilly and much of the past few weeks have been marked by rain, I am ready to jump into my repertoire of soups and stews. I love meals of chicken soup or beef stew, but I also enjoy vegetarian dishes that are just as filling, nutritious, and comforting. Something with a bit of heat and spice is right up there with the best of soups and stews. That dish for me is Indian dal, a cross between a soup and stew.

Made of legumes (specifically lentils, split peas, or chickpeas), dal is simply put a very earthy dish, often served as part of a thali, a selection of different dishes that can include poultry or meats, vegetables, chutney, raita, and breads. But even when served with rice and/or the flatbread chapati, dal can make a complete meal. The Indian spice blend, garam masala brings warmth and deep flavor and a combination of turmeric and paprika creates a glowing orange color. When you desire something comforting and thoroughly warming, this favorite Indian comfort food is the dish to make.

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currantsconesOn the quest to bake the perfect scone, I've baked batch after batch of flat, hard, and dry scones. But as the saying goes, the third time's the charm. On my third try I created the fluffiest, most tender, high-rise scone. I have a great love for scones. Some of my best memories have been made while eating scones over tea with friends. I love them spread with clotted cream and jam. I remember the first time I had a scone was at the Orangery in Kensington Gardens in London. A group of us had the full English afternoon tea treatment with cucumber sandwiches, pots of the best tea from India, scones, and other tea cakes.

Typically scones are made plain or with sultanas, which are what the British call raisins. But any dried berry or chopped dried fruit works well. I especially love currants, cranberries, golden raisins, or chopped apricots. Chopped nuts also work well. Spices such as ground cinnamon, ginger, or cardamom lend a festive touch. Lemon or orange zest in the batter adds a nice citrus fragrance. Whatever combination you choose, scones are always well received around the holiday time. They make an ideal offering for whenever family or friends stop by to visit. Best of all they can be whipped together in minutes.

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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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limesaltchips.jpgCorn tortillas come in such huge bags, I don't know how can you possibly use them all. Buying one of those packages, though they are cheap, is a major commitment in my house. It means weeks of enchiladas, tacos, chilaquiles and when I run out of ideas, tortilla chips or totopos as they are known in Mexico. I love the word totopos, even though it sounds a bit too much like the Italian name of a certain well-known cartoon mouse.

Traditionally totopos are tortillas cut into triangular wedges that are deep fried in oil. If there is one thing I just can't bring myself to do, it's deep fry anything in oil. I just can't. Don't ask me. So here is what I do instead, I bake the tortillas. Baking doesn't make them as light, crispy and decadent as frying, but they are still yummy and as a bonus you can enjoy them with very little guilt.

If you look for tortilla chips in the store, you'll find they come in all kinds of flavors. With a little experimenting I found you can make great lime and salt flavored chips with--you guessed it, lime and salt! Eat them plain, with salsa or with toppings like guacamole, refried beans and crumbly Mexican cheese. Are you getting hungry yet? Because I sure am.

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Spicy Pumpkin Seeds – Great with beer

Classic Margarita – Blending is not allowed.

Lila’s Guacamole – The best way to eat green.

Huevos alla Amy – A breakfast treat.

Tortilla Soup - In case it's still cold in your neck of the woods.

Topopo Salad – A salad of volcanic proportions.

Ceviche – Cool and refreshing.

Enchiladas Suizas – Simply delicious.

Mexican Chicken – Spicing it up.

Goat Cheese and Poblano Quesadillas with Pineapple-Habanero Salsa - For those who like it HOT!

Grilled Steak Tacos with Watermelon-Mango-Jicama Salsa - It's not a celebration without tacos & salsa.