I am a food person – you know this – don't act surprised.
After a whole month of talking about “Food Security” related projects. I would like to this week talk about “Personal Food Happiness” aka a what's happening in Zoe's kitchen update. - Also I am currently on Safari – So I set this post up ahead of time for today (and it's an easy subject).
Before leaving Benin I joked about how long it would take me to change this into a food blog – I am doing my best here.. talking about food makes me happy. I promise no more food posts for at least a month :D
At home – as we all know – cooking and baking and decorating said items was one of my biggest hobbies (thank god exercising is the other one).. and an American kitchen was and still is the hardest thing for me to not have here.. but harder than not having a kitchen (I can make due) is not having people to cook for. The reason I love to cook is that I love watching other people enjoy the results.
When I first settled into my house – I had a lot of trouble cooking (and by trouble I mean zero motivation). Not because of the supplies, and not because my kitchen is smaller than most American closets.. but because I truly don't enjoy cooking for myself. I was perfectly capable of cooking, I just didn't feel like doing it. During college I would cook one or two meals for the week on Sunday – and that was that. I would only really cook a good meal if Erik was visiting or Laura and I were eating together. So while I already knew I didn't like cooking for myself, I never considered what this would really mean when I lived in a place with no refrigerator.
What this means is I HAVE to cook for myself everyday – even if it makes me sad. It also means I had to learn to cook in single portions. I spent my first few months eating pasta, lentils, beans, rice.. really boring stuff. Somewhere earlier on in this blog I even provided you with one of my incredibly boring (although rather tasty) lentil recipes – in case for some unknown reason you wanted to try eating what I was eating.
Here are some better recipes for things I have since come up with!
Homesick Potato and Carrot Hash
¼ kilo potatoes, chopped small
¼ kilo sweet potatoes, chopped small
3-4 carrots, chopped small (carrots are very tiny here)
as many cloves of garlic as you want, sliced
handful of green beans (if available), chopped small
red pepper, cumin, salt and black pepper to taste
Chop up all of the veggies. In a large frying pan add peanut oil and spices. Add potatoes and carrots and cook.. stirring fairly constantly. Once the potatoes and carrots look well cooked add the onions and garlic and some more oil if needed. Add the green Beans Last. Cook Until everything looks ready to eat. [You can add any veggies you want to this recipe just add them where you see fit based on cooking time] Eat with ketchup.
Peanut and Pineapple "Kinda Fried" Rice
2 cups water and citrus juice mixed (maybe 1/12cup h2o and the rest juice)
1 cups white rice
peanuts (as many as you like)
left over pineapple (from eating pineapple for lunch) diced
*all pineapples are different so you will really just have to guesstimate
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
1-2 onions, thinly sliced
Use citrus water to cook rice (like normal). Once rice is done cooking -- or almost done cooking. In a heated frying pan cook peanuts until they are warmed and slightly browned. Add oil and soy sauce. Saute onions and carrots with the peanuts. RIGHT BEFORE adding the rice add the pineapple to the frying pan just long enough to get it warm and allow some of the pineapple juice to mix with the soy sauce and oil. Add Cooked Rice. Stir and Heat until everything is cooked and well melanged.
Benin Style Tofu Scram aka Zoe's Happy Belly Nosh
*In Benin we have “soy fromage” which is similar to really really firm tofu
As much “soy fromage” as you think you can eat in one meal, crumbled
1/2-1 teaspoon Tumeric
Olive Oil as needed
1 cup of quick oats
ginger powder and red pepper and black pepper to taste
dried basil to taste
3-4 tomatoes (probably less in the states)
Your choice of leafy green – 3 or 4 handfulls
This is a tofu scram.. so it is pretty basic. First you need to crumble or chop the “tofu” into the size that you prefer. In a frying pan heat oil and tumeric (this is really just for color) add “tofu” and saute until well colored and heated through. Add oats, spices, and basil. Add Garlic and Onion. Once everything appears to be well cooked add the tomatoes. Once the tomatoes and leafy greens. You want to tomatoes warm and the greens wilted into the mixture. At this point adjust any spices as you see fit.
Zoe's Chickpea Smash
1 tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1 citron (this is like a lemon-lime) (probably a little less than 2 tbsp)
* In the US I would say use a VERY small lime and add a small amount of lemon
1-2 teaspoons dried thyme
pinch or red pepper powder
1-2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 small onion (onions are very small here), diced
black pepper to taste
In a bowl (big enough for the can of chickpeas) mix together olive oil and citron. Stir in spices, garlic, and onion. Add Chickpeas and stir until well coated. Drizzle in a small amount of sesame oil and smash chickpeas with a fork (for those of you who have had it this similar to when I make chickpea of the sea). You want the mixture to be mashed but chunky.. there should still be some recognizable chickpeas. Eat mixture on a fresh baguette, season with black pepper if you so choose. *Note: if you are not hungry enough to eat a whole can of chickpeas then this is not a one serving meal.
I still frequently make fried plantains because they are delicious.. I eat them as a snack or with rice and beans for dinner. My french fries have evolved to garlic fries on most days (the day I realized that I had been gifted some red vinegar was a happy one for my french fries – and it only went up hill from there). I wish I ate more eggplant, but I always end up wasting most of the eggplant due to its size – so I don't buy them all that often. I don't eat nearly as much pasta as I did when I first moved it – mostly because the woman I buy it from started picking up only spaghetti for me – not macaronis – and I really don't like spaghetti. However I have learned to make a decent enough tomato sauce out of a small can of tomato paste when my kitchen is feeling empty.
I hope you enjoy the recipes!