Ethiopian Night

I really enjoy trying out new foods. You learn a lot about people just by the way in which they eat their food and by what type of foods are found in their recipes. My first taste of Ethiopian food was in Washington D.C. with my friend Andrea 10 years ago. She’d taken me to a quaint little spot for an early dinner before my train back home. My most fond memory was the cacophony of smells and flavors I’d never experienced before. Since I didn’t know what to order, I left that to Andrea to order us up a really nice meal. She’s told me about how they’d serve it and some of the ingredients that would be on our plate.

The communal style of sharing the meal was refreshing. I love to share food!! Just ask my Huzzband! The meal was brought out on a large dish with several entrees served up on this spongy flat bread. As the waitress explained the meal, I tried to picture what each dish reminded me of and wondered if it would taste even remotely close. Nothing was as I expected. Bright flavors, wonderful spices, and vividly colored foods really took my breathe away.

As I tore off the injera and tasted each dish, I immediately became a fan of this delectable cuisine. Each bite complementing the other with spicy, flavorful goodness. I knew this wouldn’t be my last taste of Ethiopian fare.

As the years passed, I frequented a few Ethiopian restaurant in my hometown and one day decided to try my hand at some of my favorite dishes. The lentils were my favorite, followed by cabbage and collard greens. I really loved the chicken & beef also, but I stopped eating meat years ago, so I’m not making any of that stuff!

There is an international grocery store that carries flavor-packed berbere¬† seasoning and iron-rich injera in West Philly. With a quick trip there and to the market for common veggies, dinner was easy.¬† I’d settled on misir wat (lentils), tikil gomen (cabbage) and beets. added some brown basmati rice (just because) to the meal and we were set. I used these recipes (from the links)as guides to creating my own renditions. I added jalapenos, fresh ginger, fresh garlic, tomato paste, etc to jazz them up a bit.

 

Ethiopian Fare- Misir Wat, Tikil Gomen, Yeqey Sir Qiqqil, Injira
Sunday Dinner

When life gives you tomatoes, make creamy tomato basil soup

I had an awesome haul at the Italian Market on 9th street in Philadelphia last Saturday before my birthday party. I stocked up on meats for the BBQ (for all the carnivores in attendance), fruit for the sangria, herbs for marinades, drinks and guacamole, and tons of veggies for the kabobs, greens, veggie trays, burger toppings, etc. I had such lofty goals, but when you’re at crunch time, some things just don’t go as planned. I bought a ton of beautiful tomatoes to be used for the burgers but I never sliced them. After I assessed the ‘damage’, I had a ton left.

During the week, I tossed some in to my post-workout smoothie of the day (SOTD), ate some on a baguette with mozzarella and basil, but there were still so many left. I wasn’t in the pizza mood and making pizza dough on a work night and waiting for it to rise is a drag, so the only thing left to do was to make soup! I am in love with a great hearty bowl of soup no matter the time of year. I found a great little recipe on Cooking Classy‘s web site and just tweaked it to what I had in my fridge and pantry.

Here is what I did:

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

  • 2 1/2 lbs of large tomatoes (not sure of the kind)
  • 1/2 lb of Roma tomatoes
  • 2 garlic bulbs
  • 3 1/2 tsp of EVOO
  • 1 yellow onion ( 1 to 1.5 cups chopped)
  • (1) 16 oz can of petite diced tomato (I didn’t have crushed)
  • (1) 14 oz can of vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup of fresh basil, chopped. More for garnish
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 2 tbsp cream cheese
  • Shredded Mozzarella cheese, for a cheesy topping
  • Baguette (out of my freezer & reheated)

Once I gathered all my goodies, I pretty much followed the recipe from Cooking Classy.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put on a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Chop the tops of each bulb of garlic, place on a square of foil and drizzle EVOO on top. Close up the foil to make a little steam packet and place on oven proof pan. I used an old pie tin. Bake for 30 minutes. Set the garlic aside to cool. When the water boils, carefully add the tomatoes. I used a slotted spoon to get them into the pot to lessen the ‘plop’ and the ensuing scalding hot water splash that usually follows. Fill a large bowl with ice and water to prepare and ice bath for the tomatoes when they’re done. When the skin on the tomatoes begin to burst (3-4 minutes) remove them from the pot and place them into the ice bath until cool enough to handle. Peel tomatoes carefully then dice. Set them aside along with the juice.

Pour remaining EVOO into large pot until hot. Add onions and saute for 4-6 minutes until soft. Add peeled and diced tomatoes with the juice to the pot. Add canned tomatoes, vegetable broth salt, pepper, sugar, red pepper flakes and basil to the pot and stir. Time to peel and mince the garlic! Once the aroma has been thoroughly enjoyed, add it to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45-50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use an immersion blender * and puree until you’ve reached your desired consistency. I had a few chunky tomato bits here and there and that’s just fine. Add the cream cheese and half and half, stir until melted and mixed.

Serve topped with shredded cheese, chopped basil and grind some fresh black pepper on top & serve with your warm baguette.

*If you don’t have an immersion blender, use your blender and blend in small batches using care so as not to splash or burn yourself.

**Also, to lighten it up, omit the half & half and use almond milk or skim and use fat-free cream cheese. Or, to remove the ‘creamy’ leave both out and enjoy!

Simmering
Simmering
Soup
Creamy Tomato Basil Soup is ready

Reheat Frozen Baguette

We have all done it, settled on a fresh baguette from the bakery section of the market, grabbed a bottle of wine and some good cheese before heading home after a long day. Sometimes you don’t get to eat it or the hubby has plans for dinner out. Well, instead of letting that crusty goodness go south, cut it up into 3 sections and put it in a freeze bag. Squeeze out the air and toss it in the freezer.

When you’re ready to use it, just take out what you need, preheat the oven to 325 degrees, spray the baguette with water and bake on a cookie sheet for 6-10 minutes until warmed through. You can also leave it out on the counter and let it thaw. Depending on how thick it is, it may take some time.

Enjoy!

Frozen Baguette
Cut into equal portions & freeze.