Brighten up your dinner table with exotic flavors from around the world
By Susan Nye
In October and November, they were ever so warm and wonderful. Now as we head into the tail end of winter you and your family may be getting a little weary of some of those traditional New England comfort foods. It may be too early to haul out the barbecue grill, but it’s definitely time to shake things up.
If your late winter menus have begun to sink into a boring, culinary rut, think about looking far and wide for inspiration. It’s time to take your family on a culinary field trip to discover the wonderful and often inexpensive tastes of Latin America, Asia and Africa.
For generations, home cooks from India to Italy and Mozambique to Mexico have known that cooking with lots of vegetables and grains can keep food costs low. Starting a dish with a grain or grain-based product is a great way to stretch a dollar, peso or yen. And most kids love noodles, rice and couscous. It’s a win-win.
This month we travel to Tunisia for a hearty chicken, chickpea and vegetable stew. While the flavors may be a half a world away from traditional New England fare, all the ingredients are available in your neighborhood supermarket. But don’t stop with the North African main course; your culinary and cultural adventure can continue with dessert. Top off the meal with a frozen coffee concoction for a treat with south of the border flair. And best of all, you can bring these interesting new flavors to your dinner table for less than $14.
Tunisian Chicken Stew with couscous and warm pita bread
Wake up tired taste buds with this fragrant and delicious chicken stew. It is filled with familiar, easy- to -find ingredients and dressed up with colorful spices.
4 chicken legs
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 med. yellow onion, peeled, trimmed and cut in eighths lengthwise
3 carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
3 celery stalks, cut into bite-sized chunks
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. peeled, chopped, ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 c. chicken stock
1/3 c. raisins
2 zucchinis cut into bite-sized chunks
1 can (14-15 oz.) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 c. couscous
2 pieces pita bread, cut in quarters and warmed in the oven
Garnish: chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
Heat a little olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Season the chicken legs with salt and pepper, add them to the pan skin side down and brown on all sides. Remove the chicken and reserve.
Add a little more olive oil to the pan. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, ginger, cumin, paprika, cloves, cinnamon and thyme, season with pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Return the chicken to the pot; add the chicken stock and raisins. Bring to a boil over high heat; cover, reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender crisp, about 10 minutes.
Stir in the zucchini and chickpeas. Cover and simmer the stew until the vegetables are tender and the chicken is cooked through, about 10-15 more minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the couscous according to package directions.
To serve: Spoon the couscous into shallow bowls, top with chicken, vegetables and broth and sprinkle with a little chopped parsley or cilantro. Pass the warm pita bread.
For vegetarians, skip the chicken, substitute the chicken stock with vegetable stock and double the chickpeas.
Mexican Café Glacé
A lovely change from a traditional sundae, combining espresso with a little cocoa and cinnamon gives this frozen treat a sweet but sophisticated taste.
Put one scoop of ice cream each into 4 coffee cups or mugs. Add 1/2 Tbsp. Kalhua to each of the adult cups. Put in the cups in the freezer until ready to use.
Brew the coffee. (An Italian stovetop espresso maker works beautifully. You can pick one up at a discount store for about $5. Use it for your morning latte as well and you’ll save a both time and a fortune when you cut out those trips to the pricey coffee shops.)
In a large measuring cup combine the sugar, cocoa powder and cinnamon; whisk to combine. Pour the hot coffee over the sugar mixture and stir to dissolve the sugar. Pour the hot coffee mixture over the ice cream and serve immediately.
Susan Nye lives in New Hampshire and is a regular contributor to several New England magazines and newspapers. She writes about family, friendship and food and shares many of her favorite recipes in her weekly blog at www.susannye.wordpress.com.