Maybe cooking is

A taste of Ethiopia and Italy

Posted on: January 19, 2010

Breakfast and I have squared off for some time now.  Never my favorite meal, I usually ate it begrudgingly half-asleep in the early mornings before school.  Or neglected it entirely until weekend brunch, half in defiance of the mantra, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”  I put up my chin and said I was different.  And we agreed to disagree with each other.

But now I’m coming around.  Humility is the best way to approach cooking and eating, and gives off a kind of bad-ass, devil-may-care vibe.

So, I took the plunge.  I got the ingredients.  I had the tools.  And I made pancakes.  For the first time ever by myself.  (I didn’t say everything I make would be worthy of a five-star restaurant, but they were pretty darn good.)  The first cake was perfect, I burned the second, and the third didn’t flip right, but I had a delicious warm meal of pancakes made from scratch.

In my effort to embrace new cuisine in all aspects, I went on a guided breakfast-lunch U Street food tour of Ethiopian cuisine Saturday with my friend Greg (photo credit is his for this post).

We tried ful (cooked beans with tomato, onion, and pepper), kinche (crushed wheat with kibe butter), tibs (meat), a yogurt cheese, lentils, Greek salad, and – the national and my favorite dish – doro wat (a spicy chicken stew with hard-boiled eggs) and ate them all with injera (pancake-like flat bread made with teff flour).  We even had a fragrant coffee ceremony on top of a traditional mesob (woven straw table).

Ethiopian Lentil Fried Samosa

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

The dining setup

My tour ended with to-die-for tiramisu and biscotti at Yetenbi (formally known as Chez Hareg), which makes the dessert staples of Ethiopian culture, a generous leave behind from the Italian occupation roughly between 1936-1941.  I ignored caloric intake.

Tiramisu and almond biscotti

Overall, Ethiopians have developed a variety of vegetarian meal options due to religious prohibition of pork and fasting periods.  And in a weekend of meat-less meals and Italian foods, I attempted a TLC-required sauce on Sunday evening called salsa di pomodoro con funghi selvatici vino rosso (translation = tomato sauce with wild mushrooms and red wine).  Porcini mushrooms (known in Germany as Steinpilz and in France as Cepe) add a smoky, full-bodied flavor and meaty texture to the sauce.

I learned a thing or two about cooking a complex pasta sauce.  It involves lots of simmering.  It requires lots of ingredients.   It demands a lot of attention (the recipe planned for an hour and 43 minutes).  And I used real wine instead of cooking wine and conveniently had a glass while waiting.  Worth the time and effort?  You betcha.

Thought for the week: “Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” – Harriet van Horne

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1 Response to "A taste of Ethiopia and Italy"

Such beautiful pictures. Heh.

I want more of those sambosas.

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