Thank you for being so patient while I was gone on my roadtrip to Seattle and Portland...and would you believe that we did so much in the span of one week that I came home and needed a week vacation from that vacation?! I'm sure you know how that feels.
I still haven't uploaded my photos yet (but I will!), but I wanted to mention a cute little Ethiopian restaurant in Portland called Queen of Sheba (recommended by the nice man at Powell's City of Books) that literally saved us from starving as we got into the city late and didn't know where to go to fill up our empty bellies...If you aren't familiar with Ethiopian food, remember that it tends to be quite spicy (lots of jalapenos and other peppers are used)...order the vegetarian sampler platter and you will get a huge platter with 8 or 9 dollops of their various vegetarian dishes over layers of that distinctively sour Inerja crepe-like bread (no utensils are on the table so you roll up your sleeves and use the inerja to scoop up the food!). Do a google image search for ethiopian food and you will see some awesome stuff! The food and presentation really is lovely and the flavors vary from restaurant to restaurant so it's always fun to try new places. For the record, Portland's Queen of Sheba was DELICIOUS (the Inerja was outstanding!) and I highly recommend it if you get the chance!
I live right across the street from Axum in San Francisco and I adore their vegetarian platter. I have gone with a big group of 6 friends and we can get a HUGE platter of food to feed us all for $45!!
Most Ethiopian dishes are made with a traditional spice blend called Berbere. Since I am generally not a fan of spicy food, I've decided to take up cooking some Ethiopian dishes at home (and then just run across to Axum and buy some Inerja) so that I can control the amount of spice! Berbere blends can be either a dry mix or a wet paste and vary greatly from region to region (or restaurant to restaurant), but here is one that I use:
BERBERE SPICE BLEND:
* 2 tsp ground cumin
* 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
* 1/4 tsp turmeric
* 1 tsp ground fenugreek
* 1 Tbsp paprika
* 1/2 tsp dried thyme
* 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
* 1/8 tsp cloves
* 1/4 tsp ground coriander
* 1/8 tsp allspice
* 1/8 tsp cinnamon
* 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (omit if you don't like it spicy!)
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
So, with all this talk of Ethiopian food, I thought I would leave you with a very special recipe I created for Ethiopian Mushroom Lentil Stew. It's the least I can do. I walked right across the street to Axum and bought some Inerja for this meal (because from what I can tell by reading recipes, it is not very easy to make).
Clockwise: Mushroom Lentil Stew (recipe below), Shiro Alitcha (slow cooked split peas cooked with turmeric and onions) and Okra Tomato Stew served with Inerja and some salad and a scoop of plain yogurt:
ETHIOPIAN MUSHROOM LENTIL STEW
* 2 Tbsp. canola oil
* 1 large yellow onion, diced finely
* 2 cups diced mushrooms (baby bella or cremini have great texture for this dish)
* 1 cup cooked lentils (brown or green)
* Berbere spice mix (see above)
* 4 or 5 cloves garlic, minced
* 2 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated finely
* 1 can tomato paste
* 1.5 cups vegetable stock
* Heat oil in a deep pan on medium-high heat.
* Sautee onions for 5-7 minutes until they become slightly transluscent.
* Add in diced mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes
* Mix in the minced garlic, grated ginger and spice mix and stir well.
* Add in the lentils and mix together.
* Add tomato paste and stock and stir thoroughly.
* Allow to simmer for 25-35 minutes or until most of the liquid has reduced down (should have the texture of a fairly thick stew).
Assembling a platter of ethiopian food is so much fun! I put a big round piece of Inerja on the biggest plate or platter I can find, scoop the stew or various dishes onto the inerja. Then I like to do something a little less traditional--I put a small heap of lettuce leaves tossed with fresh lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper and then a little dollop of plain yogurt thinned out with fresh lemon juice just to cool things down a bit....
I still don't know much about Ethiopian food and cooking preparations, but do know one thing--it is best when shared with a group of friends. Dive in and get your hands messy!
Friday, October 10, 2008