onions

Colombian Chicken Soup

Sancocho de Gallina

As Leanor McGinn from Bogota, Colombia, taught Lindsay Sterling in Durham, Maine, June 2015

Note: Find culantro, plantains, and yuca at Latin or tropical international markets. If you can't find those ingredients, use cilantro to replace culantro and use extra potatoes and corn to replace the plantains and yuca (pronouced YOU-Kuh). 

Cooking time: 1 hour
Makes: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 green pepper
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 bunch culantro or cilantro
  • 1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces or 8 country style chicken pieces
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 2 green plantains, peeled (see how-to-video) and cut into 1 inch segments, then halved lengthwise
  • 48 oz. chicken broth
  • 1 lb. yuca, peeled, cut into 3 inch long segments, and quartered lengthwise (you can buy this already peeled and frozen), or buy it fresh and peel it yourself
  • 1/4 green cabbage, cut into 1-inch thick chunks
  • 2 stalks celery cut into 1/4" pieces
  • 2 carrots cut into 1/4" pieces
  • 3 Tbsp sofrito (see step 1 below)
  • 2 tsp season salt (or blend of sea salt, dehydrated onion and garlic, coriander, black pepper, celery seed, allspice, ginger, red pepper, oregano, basil, thyme, paprika)
  • 2 whole ears of corn, shucked and cut crosswise into four sections each
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 2 cups white rice (optional)

Instructions

1. Blend green pepper, onion, garlic and all but a small bunch of culantro or cilantro in blender. Try to add as little liquid as possible (if any) to get the blender moving. Reserve 3 Tbsp of the blended mixture, called sofrito, for making this batch of soup and freeze the remaining sofrito in 3 Tbsp portions for making soup (or rice dishes) in the future. You can fill ice tray cubes or make dollups on a sheet pan or plate. Once frozen, transfer frozen sofrito into Ziploc bag.

2. In a large pot cover chicken pieces with chicken stock and enough water so that liquid is at least 3 inches deep over the top of the chicken. Put pot on high heat. Add sofrito, yuca, plantains, carrots, celery, and season salt. Simmer until chicken is cooked or opaque throughout (about 30 minutes) and then remove the chicken pieces from soup. Add the potatoes. After about ten minutes, add the corn pieces. When the potatoes are soft, add chicken pieces back to pot.

3. Remove the large pieces of yuca from the pot, and place on a cutting board. Cut the yuca in half lengthwise. Remove and discard the hard fiber running through the center of the yuca root. Cut lengthwise again into smaller pieces and return to the pot.

4. Season the soup to taste. Garnish each bowl with pieces of avocado and fresh cilantro leaves.
 

Indian Creamy Spinach with Cheese Cubes

Palak Paneer

As Shweta Galway from Umreth, Gujarat State, India, taught Lindsay Sterling in Freeport, Maine.

Notes: Palak paneer is a spinach dish cooked with paneer cheese and spices. She served it with a kind of flatbread called roti. This is her quick weeknight recipe. For a more involved recipe, I enjoyed this one: www.vegrecipesofindia.com/palak-paneer. 

Click here to find Indian markets in your area. In Maine, I go to Masala Mahal, 798 Main St., South Portland, ME, 207-699-5555. 

Makes: 6 servings
Cooking time: 30 minutes (it's helpful to thaw the frozen spinach the night before) 

Ingredients

  • 8-10 oz. store bought or homemade paneer
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, medium dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 boxes frozen creamed spinach, thawed
  • 2 tsp garam masala powder
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder (optional)
  • 2 pounds frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 tomato (optional)
  • 1 inch ginger (optional), peeled
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • flatbread (for gluten-free meal, serve with rice)

Instructions

1. Cut paneer cheese into 1/2-inch cubes. Fry paneer pieces in 1 Tbsp oil on medium heat in a saute pan. Turn cubes every so often. You want them to turn golden brown on many sides of the cubes. Dry the fried cheese on paper towels.

2. Add another Tbsp oil to pan and fry onions and garlic until soft. Mix in creamed spinach and chopped spinach. Mix in garam masala, chili powder, and salt. If you like you can blend a tomato and the ginger in a blender and mix that into the spinach. Mix in the fried paneer pieces to the spinach and simmer for 10-20 minutes. 

3. Eat palak paneer by breaking off a piece of flatbread and scooping up a bite of spinach and cheese with it. Repeat.

Azerbaijani Beef With Chestnuts and Sour Plums

Turshu Kourma

As Zemfira and Tarlan Ahmadov from Baku, Azerbaijan, showed Lindsay Sterling in Portland, Maine. Photos by Tiffany Converse.

Cooking Time: 2 hours
Serves: 4-6
Note: Persian dried golden prunes, also known as sour plums, are can be found at Middle Eastern markets. They do have pits so warn your guests. Great substitutes that are pit-free and taste great are dried apricots sliced in half, dried cherries, or dried cranberries. The cherries are my favorite because their flavor is both sweet and sour like the original golden prunes.

Note: She served this with yellow rice, a fresh vegetable platter, and pickled vegetables. 

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cubed beef (stew meat)
  • 2 onions, sliced thinly
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp ghee 
  • 1 cup Persian sour plums (substitute dried cherries, apricots, or cranberries)
  • about 40 fresh chestnuts from produce department 
  • or 20 prepared (peeled and cooked) chestnuts from a jar or Cryovac-ed

Equipment

  • large pot
  • knife
  • cutting board
  • 2 large saute pans, at least one with lid 
  • medium saute pan
  • mixing spoon
  • medium bowl
  • large bowl
  • spoon
  • strainer and pot or slotted spoon
  • 1 tsp (or eyeball it)

Instructions

1. If using prepared chestnuts you can skip this step. If using fresh chestnuts, make an "x" with a knife in the base of each chestnut, and then boil for five-seven minutes. Preferably sit with a loved one as you two then peel off the hard shells and dark skins together.

2. Cook beef cubes covered in salted water for an hour and a half or 15 minutes in a pressure cooker.

3. Soak dried fruit in a dish of water (wash any salt off sour prunes if there is any). 

4. Remove beef from broth with a slotted spoon or strain beef, reserving the both.

5. In large saute pan (with lid) on medium heat, saute onions nearly covered in oil and sprinkled generously with turmeric, until they cook down to half their original size.

6. In another large saute pan, saute meat on high heat in a small amount of oil for about ten minutes to brown the sides. Remove meat and put the meat in with the onions on medium-low.

7. Strain the dried fruit. In the large saute pan you used to saute the meat, saute the dried fruit in a teaspoon of ghee for five minutes on medium, and then add the fruit to the with the meat and onions.

8. In the same pan you used to saute the dried fruit, add another teaspoon of ghee and sautee the chestnuts until they're golden. Add the chestnuts to the onions and beef.

9. Now continue to cook all the ingredients together on medium-low for about 45 minutes mostly with lid on, occasionally turning the contents gently, and adding spoonfulls of beef broth here and there to keep everything moist and together but not saucy.

The Ahmadovs (right and center) share their favorite dishes from Azerbaijan.

Serve beef and chestnuts with Azerbaijani yellow rice, fresh vegetable platter, and pickled vegetables if you wish. 

Recipe Feedback

Please help improve this recipe for others by sharing your suggestions in the comment box below. Thank you.

Afghani Lamb

Kourmet

(Pronounced like "gourmet" with a "K")

As a woman from Haret, Afghanistan, taught Lindsay Sterling in Maine. 

Serves: 6-8
Cooking time: 30min-1 hr
Active time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 yellow onions sliced into crescent moons
  • 3 pounds deboned lamb shoulder or leg, cut into 3" chunks
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp Doordooah spice mixture (equal parts black cardamon, turmeric, cloves, and cinnamon, blended in a spice grinder) 
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 6 oz. tomato paste
  • enough flexible flatbread, such as naan, chapati, or pita for everyone eating

Equipment

  • Pressure cooker or soup pot
  • cutting board
  • knife
  • coffee grinder dedicated to grinding spices  
  • can opener
  • small empty jar with lid to hold extra spice mixture 
  • measuring cups and spoons (or just eyeball it)
  • serving dish for stew
  • serving platter for bread
  • serving spoon

Instructions

Blend all Doordooah spices in a spice blender (a.k.a. a coffee grinder dedicated to grinding spices). You'll make more than you need for this dish. Store the extra in spice jar and this recipe will be even easier next time. 

Cut onions into crescent moons and put in a large soup pot or pressure cooker. 

Cut the lamb you have into 3" chunks (if the butcher hasn't done this already for you). Rinse lamb with cold water and put in pot. Wash cutting board, hands, and knife and anything else that touched raw meat with soapy water. 

Add oil, turmeric, Doordooah spice, salt, and one half cup water. Cover and cook on medium high until onions have disintegrated into a thick stew and the lamb is tender. If you are using a regular soup pot, add more water as necessary so that your lamb ends up tender with a sauce of disintegrated onions among it. This will take about an hour for lamb leg, longer for shoulder meat.  In a pressure cooker, this should take about 20 minutes under pressure. 

Shave tomato into thin wedges and add tomato pieces to pot. Stir in tomato paste, cover and cook another 5 minutes more. She said you can also add cooked chickpeas and potato chunks here if you like, but we both liked the dish just meat and sauce.

In Afghanistan the dish is served without silverware and guests use pieces of flatbread to scoop up bites. Flatbreads like Tandor, Nan and Iraqi bread would be closest to what's served in Afghanistan. If you'd rather use silverware, serve in a bowl as you would a stew with bread on the side.

 

 

 

Ghanaian Peanut Soup

Ebenezer's All-Powerful Peanut Soup

As Ebenezer Akakpo, from Ada, Ghana, taught Lindsay Sterling in Yarmouth, ME, April 2011. Photos by Stacey Cramp.

Serves: 8
Active time: 2.5 hours
Note: This soup stores wonderfully in the freezer. Great to have on hand. Natives eat this soup with fou fou. It would also be good with instant polenta or bread.

Ingredients

  • 5 habanero peppers
  • 31 peeled garlic cloves (about 2 1/2 heads!)
  • 1 red onion, cut into big wedges
  • handful fresh basil leaves
  • 4 inches peeled ginger root, cut into chunks
  • 9 beef bouillion cubes (he used Maggi brand, common in Africa)
  • any smoked product (he used pork hocks, but said he'd also use fish)
  • 2 lb chicken pieces, bone-in
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1/4 c tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened peanut butter
  • 1 yellow onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 pack mushrooms, cut in half

Instructions

1. Throw peppers, garlic, onion, basil, and ginger into a blender and fill the blender a couple inches from the top with water. Blend. Strain liquid puree into a large soup pot. Put strained mash back into blender, refill with water, blend and strain into soup pot again. Do this one more time so you have a big soup pot 3/4 full with flavored, strained water. You can squeeze out the strained mash for every drip of flavor goodness with your hands. Don't bother washing the blender, you'll use it again for the soup later.

2. Add bouillon, smoked pork or fish, and chicken.

3. Mark an x in the bottom of the three tomatoes, cover with water in a small pot, and boil for a couple minutes until the skins loosen. Remove from water, peel off skins, blend in the blender, and add to soup pot along with tomato paste.

4. Now blend in the blender: peanut butter, yellow onion, and water to fill the blender half-way. Pour mixture into a small pot on medium. Cook stirring for about 20 minutes until a spoon swiped on the bottom leaves a trail in the bottom of the pot and if you look closely the oils begin to separate. Add the peanut mixture the soup, along with mushrooms.

5. When mushrooms (and chicken of course!) are cooked, soup's done!

 

 

Congolese Stewed Goat

As Constance Kabaziga, from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, taught Lindsay Sterling in Freeport, ME.

Note: Bone-in goat meat is chewy and rich. This dish should come with encouragement to guests to pick up the meat pieces with their hands and gnaw the goodness right off the bone. Constance served this dish as part of a feast with rice and scallions, stewed green bananas, fried sweet plantains, an orange-ginger drink, fried ground beef packets, and beans in red sauce.

You can find goat meat at African and/or Halal markets. It's usually in the freezer. Sometimes the tradition is to ask for it at the counter, and an employee will cut it into chunks for you with a vertical band saw. It's best to get your meat at least the day before you want to cook so you have time to thaw it.

Cooking time: 1 hr
Makes: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds bone-in goat meat, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • water
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1/2-1 c. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 green pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 oz. tomato paste
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

1. Cover the goat meat in bowl of water, massage, pour water off. Repeat one more time to rinse meat. 

2. Put goat pieces into a large, lidded pot. Cover them with water by 2 inches. Add 1 Tbsp salt. Boil until meat pulls cleanly off of bone, about 40 minutes.

3. Take the goat pieces out of the broth and put them in a strainer over a large mixing bowl. Reserve the broth for making the sauce later.

4. Cover the bottom of a large, deep skillet generously with oil (vegetable or peanut). Turn heat on high. When oil is shimmering, sear batches of goat meat. Searing means that you allow the surfaces of the meat to turn dark brown and a little crusty, which amps up the meat flavor. Searing requires the pan to be super-hot so you don't want to stuff the meat into pan -- work in batches so you have space around the pieces. As the goat pieces are done searing, transfer them into a large lidded pot with a slotted spoon.

5. When you're done searing all the goat meat, turn the heat under the frying pan to medium (the same frying pan you used to sear the goat). Add the onions and peppers in the oil remaining in the frying pan. Once they’re soft, add tomato paste and cook stirring frequently for a couple minutes. Add as much reserved goat broth to the frying pan as will fit. Scrape the bottom of the pan to incorporating all the flavor that cooked on there so far. Pour the pepper-onion-tomato-broth over the goat meat in larger pot. Cover the pot and simmer until ready to eat.

Nicaraguan Beans and Rice

Gallo Pinto

As Jenny Sanchez, from Leon, Nicaragua, taught Lindsay Sterling in Freeport, Maine. Photo by Lindsay Sterling.

Note: "Gallo" means "rooster" in Spanish; "pinto" means "spotted." The rice and beans cooked this way look mottled like a rooster's feathers.
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Makes: 4-6 servings

Ingredients 

  • 1 can pinto beans, strained and rinsed
  • 1 cup medium or long grain white rice (preferably not parboiled)
  • 1/4 green pepper, medium dice
  • 1/4 red pepper, medium dice
  • ½ small yellow onion, medium dice
  • 1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp salt
  • about 16 cilantro leaves
  • 4 ripe bananas or plantains (yellow with black spots)
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 8 oz. salsa
  • 1/2 small cabbage
  • 2 tomatoes, large dice
  • 1 1/3 limes
  • 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, cut in ½ inch cubes (Jenny couldn’t find the Nicaraguan cheese in the States and found that cheddar tastes great here)

Instructions

1. In a small pot with a lid, bring 1 cup rice and 2 cups water to a boil. Turn heat to low, cover, and let cook for 20 minutes.

2. While the rice is cooking, in ¼ cup olive oil in large sauté pan, saute yellow onion, red and green peppers until soft. Mix in beans and let cook for 5 minutes on medium high so beans are sizzling in the oil and beginning to brown. Turn over sections of the beans gently with spatula to brown the other sides of the beans. Once beans are slightly browned, scoot the beans into a ring around the outer edge of the pan so the center of the pan is empty.

3. Pile the cooked rice into the center of the pan. Sprinkle 1/4 tsp salt onto the beans around the rice. Mix the beans and rice together so that the beans are evenly distributed in the rice. Add cilantro leaves, cover and turn off heat.

4. Peel bananas or plantains and slice each lengthwise, then across so that you have 2.5-inch long segments. In 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large sautee pan (preferably nonstick) on medium-low heat, saute bananas or plantains in a single layer until golden brown. (If not using non-stick pan you may use more oil). You may use two pans at once or fry the plantains batches. Because the fruit is so sweet, the natural sugars can burn easily, so keep an eye on your heat and if they’re getting too dark too fast, turn the heat down. Flip each piece so both sides become golden brown.

5. While the bananas are cooking, shave the cabbage on a large cutting board into lacy thin shavings with a paring knife. Cut limes in half and squeeze lime juice directly onto the cabbage. Sprinkle cabbage with ¼ tsp salt. Toss the cabbage so that the lime and salt are evenly distributed.  Sprinkle the diced tomato on top of the cabbage.

6. Get ready to assemble each person’s plate by putting all the components of the dish next to your stack of serving plates: the rice and beans, sour cream, salsa, fried plantains, and cabbage salad.

7. Now fill a cup-sized small bowl or measuring cup with rice and beans and press down as if packing sand into a mold for a sand castle. Flip over the cup of packed rice and beans onto the center of the first plate, releasing an unusually orderly mound of rice and beans. Now make an “X” out of two banana or plantain segments on one side of the beans and repeat with two more segments on the other side. Decorate the empty parts of the plate surrounding the beans and plantains with a generous dollop of sour cream, a couple spoonfuls of salsa, and the cabbage salad. Sprinkle cubes of cheese on top of the rice and beans. Continue assembling the rest of the plates. Enjoy this fine meal!