Dining in French Alphabet: North America and Northern Caribbean Islands Edition

About two years ago on this blog, I did a rhyming French food alphabet post for Bastille Day.

It was a lot of fun, and I knew I had to follow up with a “French Colonies” edition, with a focus on North America and surrounding islands: Haiti (H), Louisiana (L), and Quebec (Q). Each line is followed by the appropriate letter so you know which state, or country, created what food.

In Haiti, French foodways met African, Taíno, Spanish, and Middle Eastern ones.

In Louisiana, French foodways met West African, Spanish, Caribbean, Amerindian, German, Italian, and Irish.

In Quebec, French foodways met Irish, English, and Indigenous ones. Because Quebec has a cold climate, its signature foods have a ‘wintry’ personality: rich soups, smoked meats, and meat pies, all things you eat to stay satiated and warm in the snow when nothing is growing.

French has lots of B, C, D, G, L, and M words, and its relatives in North America and in the Caribbean are very similar. I was hard pressed to find K, N, U, W, and X food words, so I went with nearby foods or food regions for this alphabet.

A is for Andouille. It’s a spicy smoked pork sausage that’s chewy. (L)

B is for Beignets. They are fried dough squares. Once you’ve tried them, it’s hard to stay away. (L)

B is also for Bananes Foster. This sautéed banana, sugar and rum dessert gets lots of fanfare. (L)

C is for Cipalle. It’s a hearty meat pie. So try some, don’t be shy. (Q)

C is also for Callaloo. It’s a dark leafy vegetable used in side dishes for flavor, not frou frou. (H)

D is for  Dieu du Ciel. It’s a brewer known for distinctive beers. (Q)

D is also for DjonDjon. It’s a black mushroom lending color and flavor to rice–‘quite a phenomenon!  (H)

E is for Étouffée. It’s a seafood soup surrounding piled rice that’s great anyday. (L)

F is for Filé. It’s ground sassafras tree leaves used as an herb, without delay. (L)

G is for Gumbo. It’s an okra and seafood stew. It’s so tasty, order yours “jumbo.” (L)

G is for Gibelotte. It’s a fish and vegetable stew once tasted, cannot be forgot. (Q)

H is for Holy Trinity. It means a Cajun flavor base of green pepper, onion, and celery. What are roughly chopped flavor bases called in françoise? Why, “mirepoix!”  (L)

H is for Hoppin’ John. Legend has it, it’s corruption of “pois pigeon.” It’s Lowcountry* black eyed peas, bacon, and rice gobbled up before NYD is gone. (L; South)

I is for I. It means winter, a time for savoring cinnamon and anise spiced hot chocolate, or Chokola Peyi. (H)

J is for Jambalaya. It’s a spicy mixed meat, vegetable, and rice dish that can set your mouth on fire. (L)

J is for Joumou. It means pumpkin or squash, an excellent soup base, who knew? (H)

K is for Kelowna. It’s town amongst vineyards and orchards in western Canada. (C)

K is for Kenep***. It’s a green cousin of a lychee fruit, eaten sunset and sun-up. (H)

L is for Lagniappe. It’s something extra, given sans flap. (L)

L is also for Labrapen. It’s a seeded breadfruit to be enjoyed again and again. (H)

M is for Maque Chou. It’s corn kernels, tomatoes, and spices, isn’t that cool? (Q)

M is also for Mayi Moulen. It’s a cornmeal dish that isn’t fooling. (H)

N is for Natchitoches. It’s a handheld meat, vegetable and spice turnover for snacking, if you wish.  (L)

O is for Oysters. It’s fried shellfish in a po’ boy sandwich. Have  an Abita to quench your thirst.  (it’s “ersters” in L; Harry Connick Jr. showcased his NOLA roots in his version of “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off.”)

O is also for Oysters Bienville. These shellfish are cooked with shrimp, sherry, garlic, and bechamel sauce on top, if you will.

P is for Poutine. Eating too many french fries smothered in gravy and cheese won’t keep you lean.  (Q)

P is for Pistolettes. It’s a beignet stuffed with seafood casserole you won’t forget.  (L)

P is for Pickliz. They are fermented vegetables made ahead and served with ease.  (H)

Q is for Québécois. It means food of Quebec,  in all its je ne sais quoi.  (Q)

Q is also for Queues de Castor (“Beaver Tail”). It’s a flat wide pastry with cinnamon and sugar allure.   (Q) 

R is for Roux. It’s a fat and flour base for sauces, enhancing flavor right on cue.

R is for Remoulade**. It’s a spicy sauce offered for your applause. (Q)

R is for Riz DjonDjon. It’s a rice and black mushroom dish that doesn’t last long. (H)

S is for Soupe aux Pois. It’s a yellow pea soup flavored with ham hock. Vóila!  (Q)

T is for Tourtière. It’s a meat pie with spicy flair.  (Q)  

T is also for Tassot. It’s spicy fried strips of meat; it could be seasoned with cayenne sauce, like Tabasco. (H)

U is for the UGLI. It’s a large, teardrop citrus fruit from Jamaica, which neighbors Haiti. Could they grow these tangelos in Haiti? I would think so, but you might not agree. (H)

V is for Viande. It means smoked meats that blow expectations and beyond. (Q)

W is for Watercress. It’s a leafy vegetable fixture in salads and soups, that adds finesse. (H)

X is for Xavier. This consommé soup blends simple ingredients (stock, eggs, and herbs) with flair.

Y is for Yogout. It means yogurt, which is often blended with fruit.  (H)

Z is for Zaboca. It means avocado, a vegetable with fresh aroma. (H)

Z is also for Zeste, a Québécois food channel, if I may suggest. (Q) [To enjoy authentic Quebec cooks creating delicious dishes, check it out here.]

*Lowcountry means coastal South Carolina and Georgia in the USA, not to be confused with Europe’s “Low Countries” = Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg (Benelux) in Europe. “Hoppin’ John” has many interpretations around the South and the Caribbean, changing out the beans used to suit tastes or availability. Hoppin’ John is eaten with collards on New Years Day for luck and good fortune the rest of the year.

***=keneps are also called ginips and chennets around the world.

Sources:

Sugie Bee blogspot 

The Accidental Cajun  

Real Cajun Recipes

Linda’s Cooking Dictionary 

Haitian Food Dictionary 

Uncornered Market blog, From Pwason to Pikliz (a post on Haitian food)

Quebec City Winter Carnival Food 

Captain’s Logs blog 

Canadian Living: A Roadtrip of Quebec’s Must Taste, Must Sip and Must See 

Cooks Info 

The Holy Trinity of Cajun Cooking

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Exploring International Foods in “All Over the Map”

I just finished Laura Fraser’s “All Over the Map,” a followup to “An Italian Affair.” Like its predecessor, it is based on Fraser’s real life from 2005-2011. As she approaches age forty and beyond, her life is not looking like she had imagined as a younger woman. Finding a lasting love relationship is hard. But she has lots of friends from all over, and editors calling about the next assignment relating to women’s issues in the places all over the world and her relationship with herself.

Here are some of the foods and drinks mentioned in its pages:

Niçoise Pizza (also called pissaladière): Niçoise means “of Nice, France.” This French city was under a Italian rule for much of its past, though, and it shows in their cuisine. Its dishes are light, full of farm-fresh ingredients, with simple herb and olive oil bases. Niçoise pizza typically features oil-marinated tuna, green beans, olive oil, chopped tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and onion. The olive oil used matters a lot: extra virgin olive oil is used for salads and cold preparations, regular olive oil is used for cooking. For the Nicoise, farm to table is not a fad–it never went out of style to begin with.

Bandol wine: A wine made from Mourvèdre, Grenache & Cinsaut grapes. Mourvedres are grown on the Southern coast of France, not far from Cassis.

Feuilleté: Puff pastry or phyllo dough. Imagine a baked rectangle of phyllo dough stuffed with cheese and fresh vegetables, then baked, or baked, then topped with fresh berries and whipped cream.

Totano: Squid in Italian, specifically in Tuscany and surrounding areas. The totano is also called the European Flying squid, because this species is known for leaping from the water. In the States, calamari is usually the “catch-all” term for fried rings of squid, but higher-end Italian eateries would distinguish the type of squid. For instance, in Italy’s Aoelian Islands, Fraser was enjoying a whole totano stuffed with breadcrumbs baked in olive oil.

Criollo: Creole in Spanish. Food-wise, it means the overlap of Spanish background with the native foods of each island and colony they established, incorporating the traditions of indigenous peoples and Africans along the way. In the book, Fraser enjoys Peruvian criollo,which blends Spanish, AfricanAndeanAsian and indigenous traditions.

Picantería: Restaurants in Arequipa, Peru, noted for serving local cuisine. Arequipa is located in the South central portion of Peru, about 16 hours southwest of Lima. Ricotto Relleno (peppers stuffed with beef, raisins, olives, peanuts and spice, topped with cheese that bubbles over the pepper when baked.), adobo (pork chop soup with a rocotto pepper base), Chupe de Camarones (shrimp chowder), ocopa, and for the vegetarians, Soltado de Queso (diced vegetables, starch and legumes sprinkled with vinegar). According to Expat Chronicles, finding veggie cuisine is not an easy thing in Peru. Another fun fact, you can order combo platters of several things and one combo is called “Americanos.”

Tiradito: Raw filets of white fish sliced deli thin, seasoned with salt and pepper. Then lime juice and aji pepper paste, pepper flakes, grated garlic, grated ginger, or celery are added. As you may have guessed, this dish was created by Japanese immigrants on the coast of Peru. What’s interesting is that though the fish is untouched by heat, the acids in the lemon juice and other ingredients cook the fish in their own way;the same phenomenon happens in another dish, cebiche (ceviche).

Aji de Gallina: Shredded chicken spiced with a sauce made of evaporated milk, boiled potatoes, garlic, onion, and aji peppers typically served over rice, or stuffed into a folded pastry (empanada) and baked.

Causas: Layers of yellow potatoes stuffed with fish or avocado.

Lucuma: An upside-down teardrop-shaped fruit grown on trees in the valleys of Peru and Chile. It’s skin is dark green, its pulp is a saffron yellow and dry, not juicy, and it has a single pit instead of multiple seeds. It tastes maple and sweet potato. The fruit’s pulp can be dried and ground to make flour. Raw it can be used to make pulp cocktails or smoothies, or used in sauces. Like the sweet potato, the lucuma is packed with fiber and nutrients.

Pisco sours: Pisco is unaged brandy. In a sour, it is combined with lemon juice, egg white, simple syrup, and several dashes of bitters. The egg white foams and rises to the top. Egg white substitute can be used, but it will not be the same.

Chiles en nogada: A roasted poblano chile stuffed with fruits, spices and nuts, dipped in batter then fried. Once plated, it is drizzled in a milky white ground walnut sauce  containing ground walnuts, goat cheese, milk, and sherry. As a finishing touch, the pepper covered in sauce is sprinkled with parsley and pomegranate seeds.

SOURCES:

Nicholai Gallo

Peru Delights 

Expat-Chronicles.com

Delia Online

Cocktails.About.com

The Mija Chronicles

LauraFraser.com

 

Exploring Persian Food in “Together Tea”

I recently finished the novel “Together Tea” by Marjan Khamali. There were lots of delicious food terms I wanted to know more about.

These are some of the food terms in the book which may not be familiar to the American food palate. From what I am reading, if you like Greek and Indian, you will like Persian dishes, too. There are lots of delicious options that have plenty going on if you prefer meatless meals:

Balal: means “corn”. Specifically, it means grilled corn sold on the streets of Iran. It is seared in flame to release natural sugars, then immersed in salted water.

Barbari bread:  A yeast flatbread sprinkled in wheat bran and nigella seeds. Thinner than lavash, sold in long flattened sheets. I enjoyed the demos I watched on Youtube.

Dolmah: In Turkish, it means a vegetable stuffed with a mixture. For Persians, its grape leaves stuffed with rice and spices, then rolled with the ends tucked in.

Esfand: African rue seed, a plant successfully grown in the Southwest United States. Esfand seeds are burned to ward off the evil eye.

Fesejoon: A sweet and sour chicken, ground pomegranate, and walnut stew cooked slowly so all the flavors meld beautifully. Served with rice.

Ghormeh Sabzi Koresh: A green herb stew with spinach, spring onions, kidney beans, and cubed lamb or beef. Herbs include turmeric, parsley, coriander, garlic, and fenugreek.

Khoresh: It means stew. the fig&quince blog indicates this stew is more refined. So I think they’re saying its like elegant Spanish, Portuguese or Brazilian dishes served over rice. Not Dinty Moore, Anglo-Saxon meat n taters you find in a can and are eaten out of a bowl stews.

Kotelet: Spices, mashed potato, and ground beef formed into a ball, then a flattened almond shape, then breaded and pan-fried. Spices include turmeric, salt, pepper, and a blend called advieh: a teaspoon of cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground rose petals,cardamom, cumin

Lavash (lah-vahshh): A whole grain yeast bread flavored with honey and brown sugar. Served with kabobs.

Noon vayi: Noon is bread like Indian naan.

Olivieh: A cold dish with a creamy base. TurmericSaffron’s uses a sour cream and mayo base, but probably greek yogurt would work as well. This salad contains shredded carrots, potatoes, frozen peas, olives, boiled eggs, chopped dill pickle, chicken breast cubed, lemon juice and olive oil. During blazing hot southern summers, this sounds like a great idea for lunch or a work buffet contribution. I would suggest it for a cookout, but only if its kept on a fresh bed of ice the whole time.

Sangak:  Baked on small hot stones, it has a rippled, moon-like texture once baked, its shape has an arrow point at one end and rectangular at the other. It is put in the oven with a paddle.

Sabzi: Means “herbs”

Taftoon: Super-thin bread baked into oval sheets with rows of holes.

Tahdeeg: Means “bottom of the pot”, referring to crisy rice grains or sometimes vegetables that crisped while cooking. Usually served to guests since it is so delicious.

If you’d like to learn more about Persian cuisine, check out these blogs for recipes and videos:

 

 

Brazil part 2

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This is a sampling of the dishes at the first Brazilianuts gathering, Bahia and Its Spirits
 Caldo de Peixe, or Fish Consomme. Chives floated on top of the broth. It had a surprising hint of hot pepper taste at the end.
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Moqueca, a fish and shrimp stew with a coconut milk base. Poured over white rice, and served with collards on the side. If it weren’t for the Brazilians in attendance, I wouldn’t know how to enjoy these in authentic Brazilian style.

Cassava flour and a hot pepper vinaigrette were available for condiments.

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Quindin is a coconut, egg, and sugar custard dessert. Very rich. Brazilians who came to this dinner told us that it reflects the Portuguese influence in Brazil’s cuisine.

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Brazilian coffee, served in a small cup with a cinnamon stick and orange peel on the side. For flavor accent, you take a knife and shave the cinnamon into the cup. The coffee had a strong flavor, but it’s not stimulating, keeping me awake at all. Just a nice cup to accompany dessert.

Also served at the dinner was a pilsner, Palma Louca, and a delicious Guarana soda. The evening kicked off with Pao de Queijo, a cheese bread served in crunchy ball shape. You break them open to let the steam escape before taking a bite. They made me think of croquettes. The appetizer Acaraje com Vatapa, black eyed pea fritters and a cream paste made with shrimp, coconut milk, palm oil, ground peanuts. If I had to liken them to American foods, it would be a hush puppy, or fried cornbread balls often eaten alongside fried fish or shrimp. Lebanese and Egyptian food has the spicy falafel, made from chickpea flour.

The dinner was put on by chefs Teca Thompson and Nate Conkle. They take the food seriously, but they don’t take themselves too seriously. Really nice people that want to bring new culinary tastes to Charleston’s dining scene. Teca heads Brazilianuts with a partner. Nate owns Gathering Cafe in Orange Grove plaza.

I highly recommend checking out the dinners Brazilianuts is scheduling throughout the year, celebrating cultural events and foods of different regions. Next month is Rio and Carnivale theme. I heard there may be dancing! And if you know a restaurant that might want to collaborate for one of these dinners, I wiill gladly connect you. A portion of dinner proceeds support charities in the Charleston area.

Black eyed peas (in fritters not pictured), rice, fish and shrimp are key ingredients of Lowcountry (SC and Georgia) and Bahia’s cuisine. I had no idea of this common ground before covering this story for a local paper, then getting an invite to actually try the food.

It seems Charlestonians speak a similiar culinary language to Bahia when I consider the coastal way of life and West African influences of both places.

It’s a small world, and apparently an even smaller hemisphere. 🙂

For even more photos, see brazilianuts.com.

Brazil

Recently I interviewed 2 chefs for a local paper. They’re hosting a benefit dinner, the first of 4-5 to be held this year. Each dinner is five courses, and focuses on a different region of Brazil. Part of the proceeds go to a local charity.

Tonight’s dinner focuses on Bahia. Because they had a couple slots open after all the tickets were sold, they invited my spouse and I to join in the fun. So I plan on having a blast sampling this exotic food, and sharing everything I learn on this blog.

This is the first time that my writing has led to an amazing opportunity, so I am taking it as a good sign that this career move is a promising one, but also, in 2013, this blog could be spicier and bolder. Stay tuned!