Friday, July 17, 2009

I Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Ethnic Food.

Things are moving right along. I suppose we'll be buying the signal booster any day now. We did get a landline. It has helped. I want to continue using my old calling card from Sam's Club (we used it faithfully the first four years of marriage instead of long distance b/c it was only 2-3 cents/minute--and we didn't have cell phones). We're planning a trip to Little Rock in about a week, so Sam's Club better "Look OUT!". I will have NO mercy.

Living out in the sticks has made me a better cook. Our eating out options are limited, and what we do have is fairly American (with the exception of the local Mexican restaurant). If you know me, you know I love ethnic foods. So, I've been trying to cook them at home--mostly Indian food. They're never as good as they are when a native of that country cooks them, but they sure do help. I've had several friends bragging on Ethiopian food lately, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.

Kristen, a former student of mine and a friend (hope I can call her that without it being weird), is a fabulous cook and a great art and food blogger. She's also vegetarian and recently posted a great Vegan website with tons of recipes. I am not a vegetarian, and will never be vegan (I know...never say never), but I love to incorporate vegetable-only meals into our weekly menu for our health and to save money. I have a TON of lentils that I bought from various Indian grocers, and I wanted to find more lentil stew recipes. I love lentils. You should too--they are superfood. Not kidding--tons of fiber and protein. I found an Ethiopian lentil dish called "Mesir W'et." It has several spices and vegetables in it along with the lentils and you typically serve it with a flatbread (injera). Well, we're low-carbing it around here, so it'll just be the stew.

[And just a note for those of you already thinking, "Oh, she's such a wonderful cook and how adventurous of her!"--the only thing that makes me a good cook is that I can read and follow directions (most of the time). Seriously, if you can read, you can cook, in my opinion.]

BUT, it called for an Ethiopian spice paste called "berbere". I knew no one in our county would have this stuff, especially since I couldn't even find PESTO! (And they didn't know what "pesto" was. "Is it in the Mexican aisle, do you think?" Seriously...I had this conversation.) So, I knew I'd have to either a) make my own berbere or b)wait until I get to Little Rock to find it in an ethnic grocery or at Whole Foods. I opted to make it. How hard could it be?

Really not that hard. There was a LONG list of spices. I had most of them. Except for ground fenugreek. I knew I might not be able to find that anywhere but Whole Foods. So, I thought, "Well, I'll just look at our local herb store and see if they have it, but if not, I may have to order it online or wait until we go to LR." I stopped at the herb store the other day. The only fenugreek they had was in supplement form. Dave happened to be in Conway yesterday, though, and he stopped at a health food store and found fenugreek seeds--just need to be ground. They are really small and hard like little pebbles. My food processor wasn't doing the job, so I cleaned out the coffee grinder, and it worked like magic. I was halfway through the berbere recipe when I realized it called for 2 CUPS of paprika. CUPS. Insane. Of course, I needed one more cup, so I had to run to Walmart last night and get more paprika. I should have known how involved this would be. I finally finished making the spice paste--which made 3 cups!!!!

I checked my recipe. It only calls for a tablespoon.

So, Kristen, if you or any of your friends (or anyone else, for that matter!) want some homemade berbere paste, let me know.


  1. That's amazing! I can't help but laugh at these situations. My dad was jokingly asking for a beer in C-Town one time. He sait to the waitress, "Can I get a Heineken?" She turned beet red, blushed her sweet face off, and said, "Um, what's that?" I think she thought he was talking about her hind end. :) Also, the Mexican restaurant isn't that bad as those types go...and open your eyes to gas station and greasy spoon as a type of ethnic cuisine! Is Chip's still open "downtown?"

  2. We use Total Call International
    if you are interested. For a while I had NO long distance on the phone at all, so if in a pinch I couldn't make a call even if I needed to. I hardly EVER use it, I got it just b/c there is NO monthly fee and if I NEED to use my land line for a long distance phone call... I have the option.
    We use our cell phones for long distance.
    And on the "if you can read, you can cook..." Amen. You can say you don't have time or don't have the desire but to say you CAN'T IMO means you are calling yourself stupid. Bugs me when I hear women (in particular) say that as their excuse to ALWAYS go out or the dad grills. Come on, its not hard. I don't cook anything like I used to ... and David being on the Atkin's diet (and not liking chicken) REALLY messes with my desire to cook anything beyond grilling (though I should look into these vegan recipes...those might be atkins approved)

  3. the crisco... I found out after posting that that crisco does make it w/o trans fat now... but of course I didn't by CRISCO, I just called it that... I bought store brand crisco... and it has trans fat. Had I paid attention to the label I would not have saved the few cents... I would have gotten the non trans fat version :)

  4. Yes! I have been waiting for a landline. What is the number. I can call you and save you the minutes. Do you need a recipe for pesto?

  5. You crack me up. I so agree about reading=cooking. I haven't ventured into Indian fare though. May need to try that. :)

  6. I am a little (a lot?) behind on my comment-leaving! My apologies!

    I'm so glad you liked that website! It's one of my favorites and I love how people write in their comments about what could make the recipes better. That's really awesome that you made Ethiopian food. I want to try to start cooking Ethiopian and Indian food myself so if you find any other recipes you love, please let me know! The lentil stew sounds really good. I'm really impressed that you went to such great lengths to make berbere! That's really neat. Did you take any pictures while cooking? :)

    Also, I totally agree with you about being able to cook if you can read! I never really understand when people say they can't cook at all. But I grew up in the kitchen alongside my mom so I guess it's in my blood. Have you heard of the Lee Brothers? They are from South Carolina and are food writers as well as running a catalog business where they sell hard-to-find Southern foods to people who have moved away from the South. Well, I've been reading about them lately and they say they believe learning to cook is like learning language, and that the earlier you start, the easier it is for you the rest of your life. Makes sense! Anyway, they have a cookbook out that's really amazing...they do new twists on Southern traditions.


Let me know you stopped by! I love reading your comments!