Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day 16 - Belarus! Mushroom Stroganoff - Click on link for full blog and recipe. Up Next, Belgium

It's a long Memorial Day weekend, so I had time to cook in a second country tonight. Once again, I knew very little about this country, much less anything about the cuisine, but boy was I pleasantly surprised. Off we go, then, beginning with a little background history!

Belarus (Minsk) (EU): Belarus is currently a nation of approximately ten and a half million people wedged into a tiny region between Russia and Poland. Formerly called Byelorussians or White Russians, the people of Belarus now call themselves Belorussian. They are members of the Eastern Slav nations which include Greater Russia and Ukraine.

Subjected to forcible Russification, the historic name of Litva was changed to White Russia and its language, traditions, and customs were suppressed. During the Russian Revolution in the 1800's, hopes to gain independence were dashed once again by the Bolsheviks, who claimed the land as a Soviet Republic in January 1919.

During Polish-Russian War of 1919-1920, about 5 million Belorussians fell to Polish rule and 4 million to Russian rule. Following the Second World War, the entire country of about 10 million again ceded to total Russian domination.Suffering devastating population losses under Soviet leader Josif Stalin and the German Nazi occupation, including mass executions of 800,000 Jews, Belarus was retaken by the Soviets in 1944. It declared its sovereignty on July 27, 1990, and independence from the Soviet Union on August 25, 1991. It has been run by authoritarian Alyaksander Lukashenka since 1994. We here in the USA absolutely have no idea how good we've got it.

Belorussian cuisine most resembles that of Lithuania but also has strong elements of Polish and Russian traditions. To that end, I looked for a recipe that would be traditional to the country, but easy to make. I picked a Mushroom Stroganoff which I made using white mushrooms, baby Bella, dried porcini and and shitake mushrooms. The result was a rich, aromatic dish that didn't miss the beef at all, so all my vegetarian friends (Gwyneth and Troy) can rock this dish!

White, Baby Bella, Porcini & Shitake Mushrooms
  After reconstituting the dried Shitake and Porcini mushrooms, strain the liquid to remove any debris

Saute mushrooms in butter and onions - oh yeah...

Pick some dill and thyme from the garden

Combine sour cream & mushroom broth and add to sauteed mushrooms along with sherry

Add poppy seeds and butter to egg noodles (bowl given to us by Betty C. as a wedding gift in 1991), top with Stroganoff  & serve with a crisp, green salad

My sous chef, Ian 

Not just ANY salad bowl - this is our  treasured "Hass Bowl", made by long time family friend, fellow Cantabridgian and Vineyarder and immensely gifted potter, Terry Hass (the date on the bottom of the bowl is 1990!)

A huge thank you to Liam for his creative photographic contribution to this project and for supporting me in this endeavor! 

Final Assessment: We loved this meal and will make it again!

Belarusian Mushroom Stroganoff

2 oz. dried dark mushrooms
1 qt. hot water
1 lb. fresh, firm mushrooms
1/2 medium-sized onion, minced
4 Tbs. butter
Pinch of thyme
fresh-ground black pepper
1 generous cup sour cream
2 Tbs. brandy
2 Tbs. dry sherry
1 lb. wide egg noodles
3 to 4 Tbs. butter, melted
2 to 3 tsp. poppy seeds

Soak the dried mushrooms in a quart of hot water for several hours. Drain them, reserving the liquid. Wash the mushrooms thoroughly under running water, one by one, and trim off the hard stems. Cut the mushrooms in wide strips. Strain the liquid through several layers of
cheesecloth or through a paper coffee filter; there should be about 2 cups of it now. Transfer the liquid to a saucepan and simmer it until it is reduced by slightly more than half.
Meanwhile, wash, trim, and thickly slice the fresh mushrooms. SautГ©´ the minced onions in the butter until they are transparent, then add the sliced fresh mushrooms and toss over high heat until they have released their excess water and it is starting to evaporate. Season with a pinch of thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Add the soaked mushroom strips and reduce the heat to medium-low.
Gradually whisk the reduced mushroom liquid into the sour cream, and add this mixture to the mushrooms. Simmer gently, stirring often, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the sour cream sauce is slightly thickened and the mushrooms are tender. Stir in the brandy and sherry, taste, and correct the seasoning if necessary.
Boil the noodles in a large amount of vigorously boiling salted water until they are just tender but not yet soft. Drain them immediately and toss them with the melted butter and poppy seeds in a heated bowl.
Serve with the poppy seed noodles, and follow it with a tart, crisp salad.
Serves 6.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Day 15 - Barbados! Fried Grouper with Cou Cou, Plantains & Coconut Bread - click on the link for recipes

Barbados: So this is a true story about how this meal couldn't have been made without the help of numerous old and virtual friends - proof positive that despite their sketchy reputations, social networking sites can truly bring people together in some pretty amazing ways - here goes, follow along if you can...

It all started with our family friend, Jack, whose son Sean plays hockey with my son Tim. He knew about this project and suggested I "friend" his colleague and friend, Gary, a Massachusetts transplant from Trinidad. Next, my old (not literally, hon) elementary school friend, Mary from Cambridge suggested I "friend" her friend, Laura, whose husband is from Barbados. Amazingly, both Gary and Laura accepted my "friend request" and we've been talking food  (and Celtics) ever since.  And here's the weird thing, Mary's friend Laura is from Cambridge AND it turns out, Gary's wife is also a Cambridge girl ....The People's Republic ....what a big, small world.

Oh, and did I mention that Paul "The Truth" Pierce ran over for dinner tonight? Here he is leaving the Garden in a hurry after winning Game 6 so as not to be late for the meal.


Anyway..........Laura was kind enough to send me recipes from her husband's cookbook, complete with editorial comments. Some of the recipes included Oxtail Stew, Mango Chutney and Coconut Bread. Gary gave me good counsel about authentic Caribbean cooking, Flying Fish, in his opinion being the pinnacle of Caribbean seafood. This sounded like a fun challenge to take on!

With recipes and advice in hand, I set out to find Flying Fish. Whole Foods didn't carry it, and neither did Captain Marden's Seafoods in Wellesley, MA: www.captainmardens.comBut a very knowledgeable person at Captain Marden's suggested I might try Grouper, a close second to Flying Fish and less "fishy" than Red Snapper which he assured me could be ordered that day, so I went for it, and what a meal we had!


Next I set out to plan the menu, but before doing so, I had to do some research:

Barbados is the only Caribbean island that was governed by only one colonial power. The British first landed on Barbados in 1625 and soon began growing sugar cane and brought in African slaves to work on plantations. Even after slavery was abolished in the British Empire in 1834, things changed very little. The black workers stayed on the plantations while a small group of white landowners held on to economic and political power. This seems to have been a disproportionately historical trend, to this day, shamefully downplayed in our Euro-centric history books.

In 1966, Barbados became an independent nation within the British Commonwealth. Barbados belongs to the group of islands known as the Lesser Antilles and is the easternmost Caribbean island. English is the official language of Barbados, although the Barbadian dialect has strong West African influences.

AND, the national dish of Barbados is....wait for it....Cou Cou paired with Flying Fish. 
Following is the meal I prepared:

  • Cou Cou (kind of a cross between Polenta and Grits, cooked with Okra)
  • Fried Grouper Fish (absolutely delicious, but not cheap)
  • Plantains (yellow, not green) with a Mango Sauce
  • Sliced tomatoes and cucumbers
  • Coconut Bread

Cou Cou 

Flour, Egg, Bread Crumb Coating for the Grouper

Fryin' up the Grouper in a heavy copper pan & Cou Cou

Beautiful Golden Plantains

Coconut Bread



Cou Cou
  • 6-8 okras sliced
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 cups corn meal
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp butter
  1. Boil 4 cups water in a medium-size pot then add the thinly slice okra.. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes or until soft and lower the heat.
  2. While the okra is cooking, mix the corn meal with 2 cups of cold water in a bowl.
  3. Add the corn meal mixture to the pot with okra. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and cook on low, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.
  4. The cou-cou is done when it's stiff and separates away from the sides of the pot.
  5. Serve on a dish with butter on top with flying fish (or Grouper)

Fried Grouper (Flying Fish)

  • 1 lb fillet flying fish
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • Lime or lemon juice
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • bread crumbs
  • flour
  • Salt, black pepper, and hot pepper to taste
  1. Clean fish with lemon or lime juice then rinse with water.
  2. Season the fish with thyme, onion and garlic powder, salt, black and hot pepper. Set aside for at least an hour in the fridge.
  3. Coat the fish in flour then dip in beaten egg and coat with bread crumbs.
  4. Fry in hot oil for about 3-5 minutes on each side then drain on a paper towel.
  5. Serve with cou cou. 


  • 2 yellow plantains
  • oil for frying

  1. Slice plantain in 1/2 thick slices
  2. Fry in oil till golden brown
  3. Drain on paper towels
  4. Serve with Mango sauce

Coconut Bread
  • 6 ounces brown suga
  • 6 ounces shortening 
  • 1 large egg, beaten  
  • 3 cups grated coconut  
  • 1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon  
  • 1 teaspoon powdered nutmeg  
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract  
  • ¼ pound raisins or mixed fruit  
  • 1 cup milk  
  • 1¼ pounds flour, sifted  
  • ½ teaspoon salt  
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
    1. Preheat oven to 350° F .  
    2. Combine shortening and sugar.  
    3. Add the beaten egg, and mix thoroughly.  
    4. Mix in the spices, almond extract, fruit or raisins, grated coconut, and milk.  
    5. Add flour, salt, and baking powder and mix thoroughly.  
    6. Pour the batter into two greased loaf pans—a one-pound pan and a two-pound pan.  
    7. Bake loaves for one hour, or until browned. Cool on racks before serving.

      Final Assessment: We loved the entire meal - especially the Grouper and Cou Cou combination!

      Wednesday, May 26, 2010

      Day 15 - Bangladhesh! Up next, Barbados - click on the link for recipes

      Cooking in Bangladesh tonight was especially fun, because the recipe did not come from the internet. Instead, I was given the recipe by my friend and colleague, Sangeeta Dey - a brilliant Pediatric Neuropsychologist I first met while working on a very complex case, but who has since become a wonderful friend. Sangeeta's father, Gopal Deas, is Bengali, so she was kind enough to pass on a traditional  meal that is regularly eaten in households through out Bangladesh.

      Because Bangladesh has such a rich and complex political and religious history, I didn't feel I could do the country justice by condensing it's historical time line into a few sentences, so I've included a link which I think gives a fairly good overview for those who are interested: and a band to check out as well:

      The dish is called Mangsho'r Jhol - translated, Beef Curry. Now, I know what you're thinking...aren't cows sacred in India? Yes they are, but Sangeeta tells me that 80% of the population in Bangladesh is Muslim,  the remaining 20% are Hindu who do not eat beef for religious and spiritual reasons.

      Here are some of the wonderful ingredients I used to prepare this meal: potatoes, ginger, onions, garlic, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and cloves
       Turmeric, Coriander and Cumin

      It was well over 90 degrees today, and my kitchen must have been at least 100. As I was seriously sweating over the stove - okay, and I had really big hair too,  I imagined this is what a kitchen in Bangladesh during the summer would be like, so I suppose the sweltering temperature lent authenticity to preparing this meal. And, once again the smell of the rich spices filled up the house with such an exotic aroma, that in combination with the heat, I felt I could have been in Bangladesh, preparing an evening meal for my family. Bridging cultural divides, crossing oceans to distant continents without leaving my kitchen - what an adventure on so many levels.

      We ate the meal outside, because it really was too hot in the house. My family LOVED the dish - it had just the right amount of heat and spice, but was offset by the tomatoes and yogurt.  Final assessment - we'll mos' def' be having this again.
      Gopal Deas's Mangsho'r Jhol - Beef Curry

      • 1 lb. beef (any cut) cubed
      • 2 bay leaves
      • 1 cinnamon stick
      • a few cloves
      • 1 medium finely chopped onion

      Sautee onions in oil, add beef, bay leaves, cinnamon stick and cloves in a heavy pot.
      Cover with lid and simmer, adding a little water at a time for form a gravy.

      When beef is cooked about half way, add more water to make gravy then add:

      • 2 chopped potatoes
      • 1-2 tsp. sugar
      • 1 tsp. garlic paste or chopped garlic
      • 2 tsp. ginger paste of chopped fresh ginger
      • 1 tbsp Cumin
      • 1 tbsp Coriander
      • 1 tsp Turmeric
      • 1/2 tsp chili powder
      • 2 small chopped tomatoes or tomato paste
      • 3 tbsp. yogurt

      Serve with Basmati rice and enjoy!!!

      Monday, May 24, 2010

      Day 14-Bahrain - click on link below for recipe - Up Next, Bangladesh

      First off, how many can name Bahrain's geographic location, much less it's ancient history and culinary traditions? Once again, I'm totally humbled (and a little humiliated) by my lack of awareness of a country whose history dates back 5,000 years. Known as Dilmun to the Sumerians, Bahrain is considered by many to be the first great civilization of the Middle East.   The name Bahrain means "The Sacred Land" or "The Land of Life," possibly because it's a verdant island amidst many desserts. Some say this island was the inspiration for the Garden of Eden - how cool is that?!

      First of course, it's location, since I firmly believe that you can't know who you are you in relation to others until you know where you are:

      Over the centuries,  Bahrain was a vibrant trading and commercial center at times occupied by Babylonians, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Persians, Portuguese, and British. In 1971, Bahrain's full independence was proclaimed and in 1973 a new constitution was produced, making Bahrain it's own independent country. Yay!

      So now the food. As always, I like to try to find traditional food that best represents the true flavor (get it?) of the country. I decided to make Machbous, Spiced Fish with Rice. As in many of the countries in the Asian and Arabic countries, rice is the starch that binds the dish - in fact, in every country thus far, rice is a major staple. The spices in combination produce a heady, aromatic scent that is so different from Western spices and transports me via my olfactory senses to distant lands.

      But before I get into the recipe, I MUST give a MAJOR shout out to the Holliston Superette, my local butcher shop that has been an invaluable resource to me as I've embarked on this project. Hereto-with, "my" Superette:


      The Holliston Suprette - A Real Life, Full Service, Seriously Awesome Butcher Shop and Marktet

      Chris, who runs the show and makes the place fun

      Original Memorabilia on the walls

      Now for the exotic combination of spices
      Haddock (fresh off the truck) and Parsley

      A slightly over exposed photo of Machbous - delicious, light, aromatic and healthy!

      And now for the recipe, Machbous which is Bahrain's most traditional dish. It can be made with lamb or fish, served with rice.


      • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
      • 3/4 tsp. ground corriander
      • 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
      • 3/4 tsp. ground cloves
      • 1 tsp. ground cumin
      • 3 cardamon seeds
      • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
      • 1 1/2 tsp. paprika
      • 2 lbs. fish or lamb
      • salt
      • 2 Tbsp. oil
      • 2 onions, chopped
      • 1 can diced tomatoes
      • 2 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
      • 1/2 tsp. grated lime peel .....(people, anything with lime rocks)
      • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
      • 2 cups rice
      • 3 1/2 cups water

      Mix the black pepper, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, cardamon, nutmeg and paprika and set aside.

      Saute the onions in the oil, add the lamb or fish and cook till brown (if you're using fish, only cook for a 2-3 minutes). Add the spice mixture, the tomatoes, parsley, lime and turmeric. Mix well, bring to gentle boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered (15 minutes for lamb, 5 minutes for fish). 

      Serve over rice and enjoy! Final assessment - a delicious, simple, satisfying meal I highly recommend!

      Wednesday, May 19, 2010

      Day 13 - Bahamas!

      Every once in a while, my mood syncs perfectly with the country I'm cooking in - today was one of those days. The weather was cool and rainy, but I was feeling relaxed and mellow, so what better way to (legally) prolong that feeling than to cook up some delicious Bahamian food?

      First, the beautiful country whose rich history is so often overlooked for it's beaches and tourist attractions. One of the things about this venture that I find most gratifying is researching the countries. Aside from the culinary adventure, I have the privilege of talking to and meeting people I otherwise never would have from all over the world.  I feel my own horizons expanding in ways that bring a whole new perspective and appreciation for our diverse planet. Can you feel closer to people and places without ever leaving your house? I think I do. 

      Documented Bahamian history begins with the words, "Baja Mar," the name the Spanish bestowed on the islands. This term is misleading, however; it means "shallow sea," but the islands are really mountain plateaus that emerged from the Atlantic hundreds of thousands of years ago. As they grew, they hosted countless generations of coral, which today comprise the islands' limestone base.

      The "Lukku-cairi" or island people, as they called themselves, were the first settlers. Originally from South America, they meandered up through the Caribbean and finally arrived in The Bahamas around the Ninth Century AD. Known as Arawaks, they are also called "Lucayans" and "Indians"- a label bestowed by Columbus, who mistakenly thought he found the East Indies when he dropped anchor in San Salvador in 1492. Once again, that evil dude invaded and exploited the indigenous people.

      Next, English settlers who left Bermuda in 1647 searching for religious freedom formed the first British colony on the Island of Eleuthera, and began a prosperous agricultural economy that still thrives today. Britain then recognized them as a colony in 1718. During the Civil war and Prohibition, the Islands became popular for rum running and eventually served as an air and sea way-station in the Atlantic during WWII. When Cuba was closed to US tourists in the 1950's, The Bahamas forged ahead to become one of the world's most popar tourist destinations. 

      Now for the food: I LOVE curry, so decided to make Curry Goat and Pigeon Peas with Rice.

       Goat is tough, so I marinated it overnight in a mixture of scallions, onions, garlic, Scotch Bonnet peppers and curry.

      Brown the meat in a large pot, then add broth and coconut milk - that's what I'm talkin' about!

      And here are the ingredients for the Pigeon Peas and Rice: peppers, garlic, scallions and thyme sprigs

      My spice rack, which was already pretty full, is now completely packed

       Having way more fun than I ever could  have imagined

      Curry Goat

      5 pounds goat meat, cut into bite sized pieces
      1 bunch of scallions, chopped
      3 large onions, chopped
      3 Scotch bonnet peppers, minced. (For less heat, seed the peppers and remove the veins.)
      1 teaspoon allspice
      salt to taste
      black pepper to taste
      About 6 tablespoons curry powder (more or less to taste)
      2 tablespoons butter
      1/4 cup frying oil of your choice
      2 garlic cloves, minced
      4 cups chicken stock
      1 cup coconut milk
      Juice of 2 limes

      In a large bowl, combine the goat meat, scallions, half of the onions, 1-3 Scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, salt and pepper, and 4 tablespoons of curry powder. Mix the ingredients together, coating the pieces of goat well with the mixture. Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator to marinate overnight.

      The following day, remove the goat meat from the refrigerator and set aside. Place a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add 1/4 cup frying oil. When the oil is hot, add two tablespoons of curry powder to the pot and stir it into the oil. Cook the curry powder for a few minutes, stirring it constantly and taking care that it does not burn.
      Add the remaining onions and cook them until they are translucent. Add the garlic and the seasoned goat meat to the soup pot and mix well to combine all of the ingredients.

      Add the stock, the coconut milk and the lime juice.

      Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover the pot and simmer the goat meat for 2 or3 hours (or until the meat is very tender), adding water as needed.

      Curry Powder

      5 teaspoons ground turmeric
      4 teaspoons coriander seeds
      3 teaspoons cayenne
      3 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
      2 teaspoons cumin seeds
      2 teaspoons whole black pepper
      2 teaspoons star anise or aniseed
      2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
      1 whole clove, minced
      1 teaspoons ginger
      1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
      1 teaspoon whole allspice.
      Combine all ingredients and mix them together well. ( A mortar and pestle are great for blending the ingredients.) Store the curry powder in a tightly sealed jar away from heat and light.

      Pigeon Peas and Rice

      1 Cup peas (canned or dried)
      2 Cloves garlic
      5 Sprigs fresh thyme
      2 Cups rice
      4 Cups water
      1 Red or green bell pepper
      2 Scallions
      1/2 cup diced bacon
      1 TBSP tomato paste

      Cook the peas (if using dried)

      Fry bacon in medium pot
      Add scallions, garlic and peppers and cook for 3-5 minutes
      Add salt and pepper, thyme and tomato paste
      Add peas
      Add rice with 4 cups water
      Bring to a boil
      Reduce heat and cover till water absorbed and rice is cooked.

      Saturday, May 15, 2010

      Day 12-Azerbaijan! The last of the "A" countries. Up next, Bahamas, baby!

      Ahhhh, the last of the "A" countries...Azerbaijan. How many people (besides our brilliant Verizon Repair Technician, who not only knew that Andorra was a country but knew where it was), know anything about Azerbaijan? Embarrassingly, I didn't, but now I know a little about it's ancient history, culture and amazing food. First the location and a VERY brief history:
      About 5,000 years old, Azerbaijan was occupied by Iranian Sasanids and in the 7th century by Arabian Khalifat.  In the second half of the 18th century Azerbaijan broke up into smaller states - khanates and sultanates.By the end of the 18th century Iran was under the rule of Gadzhars, an Azerbaijani dynasty. Skipping way ahead, the modern history of Azerbaijan contains one more significant page - Armenia - Azerbaijan conflict over annexation of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Republic . Having declared itself  an independent democratic state in 1991, Azerbaijan lost its 6 areas, including Nagorno-Karabah Autonomous Region. In 1994 the countries signed the cease-fire treaty and on August 30th, 1991 Azerbaijan became an independent state.

      Traditional food in Azerbaijan includes bread, pancakes and thick soups. Pilaff (plov), both savoury and sweet, is a favourite in Azerbaijan. The savoury pilaff is prepared using rice with meat, or fish, and vegetables and spices; the sweet version often contains dried apricots and raisins (which are also used on occasions to flavour meat recipes). So that's what I made: Parcha-Dosheme Plov or, layered rice pilaf with dried fruits and chestnuts:

       The process for preparing the rice had many steps: rinse it, soak it, then steam it. It's cooked by layering chicken, onions, rice, fruit and more rice. Then the whole thing is steamed and saffron is added at the end.

       Chopping the onions

      Cakes and sweets include baklava and halva. Fruits available are apples, cherries, grapes, melons, raspberries, plums and peaches. I decided to go for the baklava, but a simplified recipe:

      Make the dough, roll it out, chop the walnuts, layer the dough with filling, bake - awesomeness
      Not in the recipe, but it's Saturday night , right? 

      The windowsill over my sink - not in the recipe either, but so what, I like the picture, it's my blog, so I put it.

      Here's the link to the recipes: 
      and for the baklava:

      The final analysis:  Everyone loved the rice pilaf and my kids asked me to make the baklava every night....and the best part? They now know some of Azerbaijan's history AND where it is on our beautiful world map...sure beats World History 101.