The joke goes that an astronaut getting out of the space shuttle and setting foot on the newly discovered planet gets greeted with chai and samosa by the friendly Indian chaiwallah (tea shopkeeper) who wonders what took the rest of humanity so long to get there. As with most jokes, there’s a kernel of truth there. Setting aside fast-food chains of the kind that offer pizzas or burgers, Indian cuisine is one of the few cuisines that are available no matter which part of the globe you travel to (or universe, apparently). Details
This month’s dish is samp and beans, which comes from Zimbabwe, a central African country. Zimbabwe is bordered by two rivers which supply fish to eat and water to grow crops in the summer. Most of the crops and fish are dried to last through the dry winters. Common to every culture is a stew started from dried beans and vegetables – what sets them apart are the spices used to flavor them. This dish uses a unique blend of warm African spices that elevate the dried beans and samp into a hearty stew. Details
This month’s recipes are from Bangladesh and were supplied by Sabita Rakshit, a friend of mine who grew up in the southern region close to the coast. With fish being readily available, she said most meals would include a fish and rice dish accompanied by various daals (lentil stew) and vegetables. Breakfast was usually Luchi aloo dum. Luchi is deep fried flat bread and aloo is potato – basically, thick gravy made with potatoes and some green peas added. Details
This month we are visiting the cuisine of Kenya, an African country whose border touches both Lake Victoria and the Indian Ocean. While researching foods common to the area, I came across pepper soup, which is served across Africa in many forms. It can be as basic as a broth or stock flavored with ground black pepper and served over stewed fish or chicken, or it can be a more flavorful soup made with a variety of peppers, both dried and fresh, with a combination of meat and fish. Details
Cambodian cuisine, also known as Khmer cuisine, often gets conflated with Thai or Vietnamese cuisine. While it does share similarities with the cuisine of its neighbors, the flavors are different. If one had to choose two ingredients that were definitive of Cambodian cuisine, they would be rice and fish. Rice is so integral to the concept of a meal that the phrase “Niam Bay” which means “eating” actually literally translates to “eating rice” and Cambodians are known to greet one another with “Nyam bai howie nov?” which translates to “Have you eaten rice yet?” Our Cambodian recipe today is Chha Trob (grilled eggplant with stir fried pork) to be served with rice. Details
Rice cooked with meat and vegetables is eaten all around the world. Pilaf, or rice cooked in broth, is believed to have originated in Persia around 500 BC. By the time it reached Africa, it had become a blend of rice, warm African spices with various meats mixed in. In Kenya it became Pilau, a rice and meat dish with a familiar spice blend. Details
Fun fact: a large number of small Indian restaurants in the United States of America are actually run by Nepali immigrant chefs. Several serve Indian food along with (if one were to look at the fine print on the menu) some dishes that are of Nepali or Himalayan origin. But, repeat after me and loudly: Nepali cuisine is not Indian cuisine (our Nepali friends will appreciate us remembering this). Nepal, through its geographical and historical association with India and Tibet, has influences of both in its cuisine. However, the flavor profile is different. Nepali dishes use fewer spices and aromatics and less heat. Also, Nepali cuisine has a preponderance of vegetarian dishes. Second fun fact: “vegetarian” in Nepal can mean different things. It could mean “not meat and eggs” (dairy products such as milk and cheese are consumed, however) but it could also mean “not beef” (but include poultry and mutton). The latter is tied to the sanctity of cows in the Hindu faith. Details
A recurring theme I find as I research cuisine from different parts of the world is one of interconnectedness and of the different ways in which we are similar. The history of human settlement is a story of migration, a movement not just of people, but also of their food, culture, and customs. It is a story of assimilation and amalgamation and nowhere is this more evident than in the food we eat. Details
“Mucho gusto!” (Nice to meet you!) from a familiar voice in a new setting. This is Vinola, your writer of “Customs and Cuisines” bringing you the Proven Platter for March 2020. And as the greeting hinted, this month we dine to benefit women and children in the Spanish-speaking country, Guatemala. Details
This month we are celebrating Malawi which is in southeastern Africa. Although Malawi is landlocked, a third of its territory is covered by Lake Malawi. Lake Malawi National park is a UNESCO World Heritage site for being of “global importance for biodiversity conservation due particularly to its fish diversity.” The cuisine of Malawi is reflective of the abundance of fish in the area as well as the fruit and vegetables grown there. Details
While working on the recipe for this month’s Featured Grantee’s country, I took a moment to reflect on how much I have enjoyed being on the recipe team at Dining for Women. It has sparked the return of a world map to the wall of my kitchen, so I know where each country is geographically. It has also deepened my appreciation for the women of the world who manage to prepare delicious, nutritious meals for their loved ones no matter how scarce the resources at hand. Details
We travel back to the eastern part of Africa this month – to Kenya, the country of origin of December’s featured grantee. Jacaranda Health offers Kenya’s first nurse mentor training center, which trains top nurses from Kenya’s public hospitals to mentor hundreds of peer nurses and sustainably improve maternal outcomes for mothers and babies. That sounds like a cause to celebrate! So, this month I tried to think of a recipe that could accompany celebrations of all kinds, including the holidays. Guess what it is? Details
In doing research about Swaziland, the country of origin of Young Heroes Foundation, November’s featured grantee, I learned about a dish called sidvudvu. It’s a thick, nutritious porridge made of mashed cornmeal and pumpkin. In other words, corn and winter squash. That particular combination of ingredients seems not unlike something that could be served at a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner. So I had those ideas in mind as I tried to come up with a recipe for this month’s Proven Platter. Details
September’s featured grantee, Edu-Girls, Inc., is located in India, a vast country with so many distinct culinary regions. If I spent the rest of my life cooking only the foods of India, I’d still have a lot to learn about the foods of India. One thing I definitely know is that cooking and eating the flavorful vegan and vegetarian dishes of India have a positive impact on my taste buds, my food budget, and my health. Details
The country of Uganda is where this month’s featured grantee, Brick by Brick Partners, is located. There are lots of fabulous Ugandan recipes on the Dining for Women website. A peek there will yield all kinds of mouthwatering dishes that represent the wonderful cuisine of East Africa. I highly recommend making some of them. Yum! Details
Pakistan is the home to this month’s featured grantee, Irqa Fund. Just imagine the culinary possibilities of a country that’s bordered by China, Iran, Afghanistan, and India. Wow! From a cooking perspective, the recipe options seem so exciting, so full of creative possibilities. Truthfully, it would be entirely possible for me to go totally overboard. Details
“Meat ‘n’ three.” That’s the colloquial expression used to describe a particular type of restaurant in the South. The concept is easy enough: choose a meat from what’s available on a particular day, and then load up on all the sides – a couple of vegetables, some rice or potatoes, a biscuit or corn muffin, etc. Details
It is impossible to think of Afghanistan and not think of war – multiple decades of war. It’s also impossible to think of the shape-shifting role the United States has played during the last 40 years of Afghanistan’s continuous conflict and not consider how impossibly complex the world is. What’s painfully easy to understand? That such protracted political and economic instability has drastically impacted the lives of Afghanistan’s women and girls. Thank goodness for Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation, May’s featured grantee. Details
We travel back to the western part of Africa this month: to Mauritania, south of Algeria and Morocco, with miles of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean.
I absolutely love the name of April’s featured grantee: Mindleaps! It makes me think of exactly what my mind was doing – all while developing a recipe that was inspired by thieboudienne, the national dish of Mauritania. Here’s what I mean: Lots of sources indicate thieboudienne is a “coastal dish of fish and rice, usually made with tomatoes.” Seems easy enough. But, even a simple-sounding, tomato-based dish of seafood and rice can send my thoughts bouncing around like they’re in a sort of competitive-recipe ping-pong match. Details
It’s such wonderful serendipity that the countries of origin for March’s featured grantee (Her Future Coalition, in India) and sustained grantee (African People and Wildlife, in Tanzania) are inexorably linked by geography and ancient trade routes—and, by extension, food. Details
It just dawned on me: The very first thing I consult when I think about the cuisine of a country other than the one I’m from isn’t a cookbook – it’s a map! The country of origin of this month’s featured grantee is Tanzania. One brief peek at the tattered world atlas that’s taped to the back of a door in my home office is all it took to set my culinary imagination about this East African country on fire. The mouthwatering geographical cues? The mainland of Tanzania has miles of coastline along the Indian Ocean and is home to Zanzibar – the entry point to East Africa used by spice traders and merchants as early as the 8th century. Not surprisingly, the flavors of India and the Arabian Peninsula are especially prominent in the dishes of this part of Africa. Details
Happy New Year!
Starting this month, we’ll not only share recipes from the country of origin of our featured grantee, but also from our designated sustained grantee. The potential culinary mashups in 2019 at Dining for Women meetings are certainly very exciting! Details
I can’t believe it’s December already! We’re taking on India this month!
Usually, I like to do an “Around the World Appetizer Party” for my last post in December. I think we need to keep things simple in December since we’re all so busy. It feels right for appetizers instead of a full meal. I’ve got some ideas for you, but I also think it’s a great time for you to try out any new appetizer ideas on your friends and get great feedback before the holidays. Details
This month we are traveling to Afghanistan. Naan, a type of flatbread, is the most widely consumed bread in Afghanistan. But for something more interesting I discovered the Afghan “bolani,” or filled turnover. The most common filling includes mashed potatoes and lots and lots of green onions. For a very earthy flavor, try a Swiss chard filling. Fried or baked, cut into wedges, they make a delicious appetizer. Details
This month our good works take us to Malawi. I think we’ve been there a few times before! I picked up one of my go-to African cookbooks, “Zainabu’s African Cookbook,” for inspiration this month. I found a recipe for Beef with Butternut Squash that sounded promising. When I read the recipe, I realized it is very similar to something I’ve made in the past that I’ve really enjoyed. Details
This month we are arm chair traveling to El Salvador. Right off the bat I knew what I wanted to make—Pupusas! I’ve had them many times from the local pupuseria, but I’ve never made them myself. I got busy doing some research on how to make them and also found a great tutorial on YouTube to share with you. Details
It’s July, and we’re visiting Kenya this month! Usually when I think of Kenyan food, it’s some kind of stew, but it is summertime and I wanted something to serve that is light and refreshing. I came up with a twist on a traditional Kenyan corn and bean stew called “Githeri” by turning it into a salad. Details
We’re going to Haiti this month. Can you say “pork griot” (gree-oh)? It is one of the most popular dishes you will find there. Chunks of pork are marinated, then simmered until tender and succulent, then fried until caramelized and crispy. You’ll always find it accompanied by “pikliz” (pik-lees), a spicy, vinegared cabbage and carrot relish. The spicy relish makes the perfect complement to the rich and fatty pork. Details
This month we are traveling to Benin (Beh-NEEN). It is just a tiny slip of a country in West Africa. It runs the long way south to north, and it is surrounded by Togo, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria. The official language is French; however, many indigenous languages are still spoken.
Peanut- and tomato-based sauces are commonly prepared and served over couscous, rice and beans. Yams are a main staple in the north; meats such as beef and pork are used sparingly. In the south, the most common ingredient used is corn, with fish and chicken being the most commonly consumed meats. Details
My choice for the Proven Platter recipe this month has a very fancy name: Rolex – but it’s not what you think. Although it’s called a “rolex” we know we wouldn’t eat a watch. Of course not! In Uganda, a rolex refers to a rolled breakfast omelet. 🙂 Details
I am pretty excited about what I’ve got planned for you this month. The country of Guatemala is on the docket. We’ll start out with some guacamole and chips, Guatemalan style, just to whet our appetites. Then it’s on to the main course, Fiambre Rojo. Think of an enormous Italian antipasto platter and you’ll get the idea of what fiambre is all about. And for dessert, how about some dark chocolate crepes filled with a dreamy dulce de leche filling? Yes, please! Details
We’re visiting India this month. We’ve been there many times and sampled the cuisine of many different areas of India. This time we’ll be focused on Uttar Pradesh in the northern part of India. Details
It’s that time of year again. Everyone is busy with the holidays, and hoping they’ll be able to fit everything in that needs to be accomplished and stay sane. Let’s hope you will find the time to attend your chapter meeting of Dining for Women this month! Details
This month we are traveling to a place we haven’t visited yet, The Gambia. You might wonder, why I’ve referred to it as The Gambia, instead of just Gambia. Well, the official name is the Republic of The Gambia, and it is referred to as The Gambia for short. It is just a tiny slip of a country, completely surrounded by Senegal, except for the coastline on the Atlantic Ocean at the western end. Details
Afghanistan is the faraway land calling to us to come visit this month!
I’m really excited about the menu I’ve prepared and tested for you. We’ll start with Afghan “Nachos,” for a quick and easy appetizer, followed by the most delicious lamb dish ever, Lamb Kebab with Cinnamon, accompanied by Afghan Flat Bread. Ridiculously easy Afghan Butter Cookies round out the meal. Details
We’re visiting Myanmar this month, formerly known as Burma, and I’ve got a delicious curry for you to try. Details
Wow, we are visiting a totally new country this month: Bhutan. Did you know that Bhutan was recently named the happiest country on earth? Their government actually measures the happiness quotient of their people using a metric called the Gross National Happiness (GNH). I’d love to know what the questions are! Details
Our armchair travels take us to Kenya this month! If you stopped in unexpectedly to visit your Kenyan neighbor just as they were sitting down to lunch, they would insist that you stay and partake of the meal with them. This is a fine example of an everyday Kenyan dish that they might be serving.
Our dining destination this month is the country of Guatemala. I always get pretty excited when we are visiting Latin American countries, as their cuisine is one of my favorites, a close second to Italian! Details
We are traveling to Mali this month. I think we were just there! For this month’s Proven Platter recipe, I decided to see what was already on the site, and choose a recipe to put through my testing process. The result is that I’ve revamped and replaced the recipe for West African Peanut Soup (Tigua Dege Ne). Details
We’re off to Bolivia this month, seems like we were just there, enjoying massive platters of Pique Macho! Well, I guess that was last year (September of 2016), but I’m happy to go back, because there were a few recipes that I didn’t get to try out the first time around. Details
The Republic of Chad, located in northern Central Africa, is the subject of our focus and our dining destination this month.
Okra is one of the most commonly consumed vegetables there. It is used both to thicken sauces and as a vegetable used in preparation of soups and stews. I suppose you either love okra or hate it, but as it happens, I love it! And since I’ve yet to post a recipe calling for okra, I think okra’s time in the spotlight has come. Details
I’ve got lots of good recipes coming your way this month. I thought I’d share with you a tradition that we have started with my group. Every year in either November or December, depending on what month we are meeting, we plan what we call our “holiday appetizer party.” Initially the idea was to bring a favorite appetizer, or bring an appetizer that you were thinking of trying out for the holidays. There is no better audience for feedback than our enthusiastic DFW members!
It has proved to be really successful and fun. There’s less emphasis on planning a meal and the meeting is a little more casual. We pretty much snack and talk and discuss the whole evening.
Of course, you can bring any type of appetizer you like. But I thought it would be fun, and in keeping with our world mission to plan an “Around the World Appetizer Party!” Details
We are off to Mali this month, located in West Africa, in support of the Tandana Foundation. Their Women LEAP program provides literacy and numeracy training, as well as democratic governance and leadership skills.
Often, the program we are supporting will send us recipes that are rooted in their culture. This month we received a very detailed recipe called “Recipe for Toh, (Oro Dja), Traditional Food of the Dogon People,” by Jemima Tembiné. She started learning to cook when she was about 10 years old and has been preparing Toh since she was 15 years old. Near as I can tell, Toh is a dish of millet dough that has been pounded, and served along with different sauces made out of various leaves, dried fish and dried vegetables. Details
With our featured program in Rwanda this month, recipe maven Linda McElroy decided to go old school and pull some different entries from our own Dining for Women Cookbook. The Better-Than-Sex Cake is actually the only one of the collection that Linda didn’t make. So you could call this an un-Proven Platter. You tell us how it works out! Details
Don’t fritter away your time in the kitchen, knock out this scrumptious Banana Nut Strudel made with a Malawi staple. Details
Recipe Curator Linda McElroy whips up a Rwandan menu that reflects the simplicity of the cuisine but is tasty and textured. Details
This month’s Proven Platter recipe is authentic Ugandan – chicken steamed in banana leaves (with a simple substitution if you can’t find the leaves).
This month’s Proven Platter recipe is a mash-up of traditional Rwandan ingredients – cornmeal and pineapple – that creates a decidedly non-traditional dessert. Details
The October 2014 Proven Platter recipe is Chicken and Green Bean Salad (Lawar) – one of Bali’s most famous dishes. It’s also a major effort so be prepared for a lot of work. But it’s worth the effort! Details
This month’s Proven Platter recipe is a mash-up of sweet potatoes, beans, and peanuts that Ugandans call ‘Bufuke’.”
This month’s Proven Platter recipe is a Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Kebab. Recruit friends to bring along the rest of the recipes for a complete meal. Details
This month’s Proven Platter recipe is a Tomato and White Bean Stew, called Togola in Niger. Try it with bread baked in a Dutch oven! Details
Each month, recipe curator Linda McElroy will take a recipe from the featured program’s country and put it through its paces in her own kitchen. She will test it, tweak it and fine-tune it and you will benefit from her insights. This month it is a Mango and Coconut Tart, adapted from a traditional Tanzanian recipe. Mmmmmmm. Details