The Sahel to Smash -- Africa!

ONLINE WINE WAREHOUSE SALE! Touring & Tasting is trying something new--a 4 hour online wine warehouse sale tomorrow, March 19th, from noon to 4 pm. Prices are unbelievably low--up to 70% off retail prices. You need to be an email subscriber (no obligation, get off the list any time) to be eligible--look at the details here.
This week's wine pairing recipe:
1 tuna steak 1 to 2 lb. (1/4 or 1/2 lb. per person depending on preference)
1/2 cup sake
1/2 cup Mirin (Japanese cooking wine)
1/2 cup dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp. grated ginger
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 cup fresh Chinese pea pods
Sesame dressing ingredients:
4 Tbsp. red miso
4 Tbsp. white sesame seeds
1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. Mirin
Mix the sake, 1/2 cup Mirin, soy sauce, ginger and lemon in a glass mixing bowl and add the tuna, turning to coat on all sides with the marinade. Cover and put in the refrigerator for half an hour, turning once in the middle of the marinating time.
Pull the string off the back of the pea pods and steam for just a few minutes, until they are bright green, softened but al dente. If you have a pea pod tendril to cook and use as garnish, steam this also. Rinse with cold water, drain, cover and put in the freezer to chill for a few minutes.
Spread the sesame seeds in a thin layer on an ungreased baking sheet and toast under the broiler, stirring, until they are golden brown. Remove to a spice grinder and grind them into a paste. Add the miso, sugar and Mirin and mix well. You can refrigerate this, or alternatively, warm it just before serving for a contrast with the cooled pea pods.
Put the tuna steak on the baking sheet and broil the tuna until the outside is browning and bubbly, then turn and cook the other side. Plate the tuna and the pea pods, pour the sesame sauce over the pea pods. Serve with Japanese white rice and a glass of the crisp 2007 Edward Sellers Blanc Du Rhone. Serves 4.
We took on the cuisine of the entire continent of Africa this week. Africa's 11,668,545 square miles makes it over 3 times the size of the US! The world’s largest desert, the Sahara, bisects the continent from east to west, cutting a wide swath across the top of the continent. It is fringed with the Sahel, a semi-arid savannah with a largely nomadic population, moving their cattle and goats as the growing season determines the availability of fodder. Central African food usually consists as of a stew or soup, cooked on a pot over a fire since cooking implements need to be simple for easy transport. There is some cultivation of crops despite poor growing conditions and corn is a staple food, with peanuts and beans added when possible.
    Northern Africa’s proximity to the Middle East and the Mediterranean fills their cuisine with aromatic herbs such as cumin, caraway, coriander, cinnamon, saffron, ginger, garlic and hot red pepper. North Africans like flower water, couscous, sweet tea and sweet deserts. Since many north Africans are Muslim, pork is avoided. Meals are lavish affairs with much care taken to provide numerous dishes with contrasting tastes, textures and aromas.
    East Africa is home to the largest tectonic plate rift system in the world, giving birth to both the Great Rift Valley and Mount Kilimanjaro. Though the base of the great mountains are still hot and dry, elevation brings a temperate climate and abundant rainfall. The conditions are much improved for agriculture, but sadly the politics of Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan and Tanzania have brought starvation to much of the population. During the time of English imperialism, the British presence was strongly felt, resulting in blander food. Many lakes and rivers, including the world’s longest, the Nile, provide fresh fish. When my father was in Africa one summer, he was served Nile perch from lake Victoria at every meal since they can grow to be larger than a VW bus and are not difficult to catch for such a large source of protein (much easier than bagging a rhino or gazelle!).
    The Dutch East India Company established a station at Cape Town, South Africa in 1652 and Malayasian slaves were brought in as laborers. In the 1820 Boers (Dutch, Flemish, German and French settlers) expanded the settlement. The discovery of diamonds and gold in the 19th century brought immigrants from around the globe, looking for mineral wealth. The international influences in South Africa is reflected in its national cuisine--see my blog post of March 4 10 for a South African recipe. Smash is not a crash, but a recipe made from tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar and mustard.
    Western Africa enjoys rain and humidity from moisture-laden clouds blowing in from the Atlantic, but unfortunately the soil is poor. Tropical fruits do thrive and the cuisine uses these amply, as well as chili pepper. Seafood is prevalent, both fresh and dried. Okra, yams and cassava are important ingredients in west African cuisine. The travesty of slavery brought many west Africans to the New World and the west African cuisine is reflected in the cuisines of former slave countries, including the US.
    My team won the gold medal this week! Jessica made scrumptious banana beignets beautifully plated with mounds of whipped cream and chips of brickle--yum. Kyle made a spicy fish stew and I made chicken and eggplant couscous with a crisp cucumber salad and dukka--a toasted nut, sesame seed and spice. I brought the remainder home and have been eating dukka with everything--on my eggs, with flatbread--just dip in olive oil, then in the dukka, and on a green salad--especially yummy on spinach and tomato with a Basalmic vinegrette. I didn't measure my ingredients, so the following dukka recipe is an approximation--but be creative! The local olive oil company il Fustino sells dukka made with roasted almonds, sesame seeds, sundried tomato, onion, garlic, salt and oregano.
1/2 cup white sesame seed
1/2 cup cashews
1 Tbsp. caraway seed
1 Tbsp. celery seed
1 Tbsp. coriander seed
1/2 tsp. hot chili pepper
Chop the cashews roughly into 1/4" across pieces. In a dry pan, add all the ingredients and toast over high heat, stirring continuously until the sesame is a toasty brown color. Easy!

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