Monthly Archives: January 2012

Dongo-Dongo with Baton de Manioc {Gabon}

Last night was full of experiments for me!  I’d never eaten okra–not even good ol’ Southern fried okra–let along cooked with it.

I certainly had never steamed anything in banana leaves before either.  I like to think that I grew a lot throughout last night’s cooking adventure.  My biceps must have anyhow.

Let me back up, before you start thinking I was eating Popeye’s spinach.  The country of last night cuisine was Gabon.  Gabon is located in west, Sub-Saharan Africa.

Like many other countries nearby, yams, cassava (yucca), bananas, rice, plantains, and tomatoes are staples.  The Gabonese tend to make many stews and sauces, with a good deal of spice (the heat-packing spice berbere is common).  Often served with these sauces is Baton de Manioc.

Manioc is cassava is yucca.  Don’t let it confuse you.  That strange, brown, waxed over pickle-shaped thing to left is all three of them.  It’s a starchy tuber.  It can look quite intimidating.

I tried to conquer it yesterday to make Baton de Manioc.  To do so, you make a manioc mash and steam it for a long, long, long time.  A long time.

So, to conquer this strange tuber…First, you have to peel it.  Don’t be gentle or you’ll barley make it through the wax into a pink layer.  You need to reach the all white flesh.  And then grate that tough tuber like crazy.

(This is where I got my work out in.  Don’t practice your yoga side planks longer than usual before grating this.)

Eventually, you’ll have a funny-looking bowl of manioc pulp.


Using a fork, turn that pulp into a real mash.  Take out your aggression on it.  Now the real fun begins.  Out comes the banana leaves.  Something I recently learned–banana leaves are found in the frozen foods section.  I guess it makes sense that they wouldn’t keep them out by the spinach leaves, but I was still surprised when I found out.

Roll these leaves up around the manioc, so that all sides are closed (burrito roll style).  Bring out your steamer.  I’m really making good use of the steamer thus far.  A lovely purchase.

These have to be steamed for a good, long while. Recipes I found say that you should steam for six hours.  We steamed for four, because I have things to do and did not want to be in the apartment for six hours straight on a beautiful day.  (Loved our weekend weather in Knoxville, btw).

Be extra careful when removing the steamer from the stove top.  I learned the hard way.  And then I thought of my high school science teacher telling me a story about a man who had his arm cut off by steam.  Steam is hard core.

These were served as a side to the Dongo-Dongo.  I was really nervous that a) I would not enjoy this stew b) Jordan would enjoy it even less.  After all, the okra was slimy inside.  I actually Googled “okra + slimy” just to make sure this was not out of the ordinary.  Yes, you should be wowed with my librarian research skills on that one.

The only Dongo-Dongo recipes I found were meat-based.  Obviously, that wasn’t an option, so I thought about what sort of protein substitute I’d like to use.  TVP to the culinary rescue!  What’s that?  Oh, yeah, TVP stands for textured vegetable protein.  The texture is chewy and delicious, and it takes on the flavor of whatever dish you are making.

Dongo-Dongo (Vegan) Serves Six


  • 1 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 25 pieces of okra, sliced into 3/8 inch slices
  • 2 hot chiles
  • 2 vegan bouillon cubes
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup TVP (beef flavored would have been an extra bonus!)
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 T oil


  1. Heat oil in large pot/pan.  Add onions and cook for 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and chiles.  Cook for 2 more minutes.
  3. Add okra, bouillon cubes, and tomato paste.  Mix well so that the paste covers all of the onions and okra.
  4. Add the water.  Cover and simmer until okra becomes soft.
  5. Reduce heat.  Add TVP.  Stir into stew.  Let stand for 2 minutes or until TVP is not longer crunchy.

Serve with baton de manioc, naturally.

Honestly, I put in three chiles (though the recipe above says two).  This had a lot of heat.  Other than the heat index, I really enjoyed this dish.  The okra didn’t end up being slimy in the dish, and the TVP thickened it up well.

I received approval from the husband, as the leftovers will be taken for tomorrow’s work lunch.  Always a good sign!

The plain starch of the baton de manioc worked nicely to neutralize the heat in each spoonful.  It tasted good, or at least not bad, but it will not win any food photography contests…

Happy steaming to anyone who tries these recipes!

Categories: Food, Soups, Vegan, Vegetarian, West African Food | 3 Comments

Ugandan Breakfast Porridge and Matoke {Uganda}

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Categories: African Food, Breakfast, East African Food, Vegan, Vegetarian | 4 Comments

Bog In, Mate: Aussie Veggie Burgers and Pavlova {Australia, of course}

I was supposed to make some Costa Rican food Friday.  But then a group dinner at Ghengis Grill, one of those faux-Mongolian grills, was mentioned as a possibility.  It’d been a while seen I’d seen some of Jordan’s co-workers and their families and it sounded like a fun time.  While I am dedicated to the Pearl Project, I don’t want my blog project time to prevent me from real people time.  To the Ghengis Grill we went. Costa Rica had to wait.

But I did promise some Aussie food to celebrate Australia day (two days late).  And if I promise, I try to uphold.

It was a little rough trying to find a vegetarian Aussie meal, since many traditional recipes seemed to incorporate seafood or meat.  Sure, I could have made some damper, but we’ve made a lot of soda bread lately, and it didn’t seem like much of a stretch.  When I heard that Australian burgers are typically served with bacon and a fried egg, I knew I’d found my meal.

Meet the Aussie Black Bean Burger. (Complete with tempeh bacon and a medium egg)

Basic black bean burger recipe (Makes four patties):


  • 1 15 oz can black beans
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (ground to very coarse flour)
  • 1/2 medium onion chopped finely
  • 1/4 cup grated carrots
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce (if you’re trying to keep it strictly vegetarian, be sure your W. sauce is anchovy free!)
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1 t paprika


  1. Wash and drain beans.  Mash them with a fork or pastry cutter in a medium/large bowl.
  2. Mix all other ingredients in.
  3. Form into four patties.
  4. Heat oil in pan (or spray with cooking spray) and cook burgers for 6-8 minutes on each side.

These burgers hold together soooo much better than some of the goopy messes I have tried to pass as veggie burgers in the past.

I loved this burger.  (A fried egg helps, yeah?)  But even more than the burger, I loved dessert.

Now, if a Kiwi (New Zealander) ever reads the blog, he or she will probably disagree that pavlova is actually an Australian dessert.  But hey, the Aussies claim it, and I’ll gladly make it again when the time to make a meal from New Zealand comes around!

Pavlova is beautiful, just like it’s namesake: the ballerina Anna Pavlova.

The story goes: Anna Pavlova was visiting Australia and a dessert was made in her honor.  Naturally, it had to be light on its feet and airy…like meringue.  Pavlova is a meringue (mine used four egg whites and 3/4 cup white sugar), filled with vanilla whipping cream and fruit.

Every time I make meringue, I think of the first time I made it, which happened to be while I was in undergrad and had few kitchen tools.  No electric mixer.  I do not believe I know another person who has whipped egg white into meringue by hand.  It was a long, long night…  This time wasn’t so bad. 🙂

Often, pavlova is made with strawberries, but Jordan’s not a huge fan of them so we went with a different fruit combination.

Interesting to see the photos taken outside of the light box compared to inside of it, huh?  I love when meringue is cut, because I am always amazed at what a crumbly bit of goodness those eggs and that sugar have turned into.

I had a large slice for dessert.  And then I may or may not have had more while typing this post.  Meringue binge.  Don’t judge.  Everything is made healthier when there’s fruit on top, right?




Categories: Australasia, Desserts, Food, Vegetarian | Tags: | Leave a comment

Sunrise International Supermarket: Knoxville Grocery Scene I

Last night, I got home around 8 PM, and as much as I am dedicated to this project, I figured I’d better plan one day of a break from Pearl Project cooking per week.  Thus, Jordan and I supped at Tomato Head.  The 2.95 side salad is the only house side salad from a restaurant that I have ever craved.  I recommend mushroom sesame dressing.

Even though I did not cook last night, I still have a post I’d like to share with you.  In preparation for the Pearl Project, I’ve been expanding my horizons as far as grocery shopping is concerned.  Last week marks the second time I visited the Sunrise International Supermarket in west Knoxville (8905 Kingston Pike).

At this point, I’ve visited twice.  Honestly, the first time I shopped at this market, I felt thrilled and overwhelmed at the same time.  I was in the market for probably half and hour and only purchased rice starch and millet. Before you begin to judge, I want you to see that there is an entire aisle of soy sauce:

There’s also an entire aisle of candy, cookies, and crackers that I’ve never seen before.  (Aside from Pocky sticks which I am very familiar with thanks to my older sister–hey, Shannon!)

And naturally, there were noodles.  Soooo many noodles.  I was intrigued by the variations.

I found some pretty tapioca noodles that I need to find an excuse to buy:

The market also has large seafood and produce sections.  In fact, the seafood section seems to hit your nose as soon as you enter the market.  But it doesn’t take long before you’re forgetting the smell while searching for frozen banana leaves.  The produce has a number of items I cannot even tell you about.  And others I wouldn’t ordinarily think to use in my cooking.  Think aloe and fragrant pears.

One item I know I will never purchase, but was for some unknown reason still curious/intrigued to see was balut.  Not sure what it is?  Here’s a balut (egg) Wikipedia article for you.  Eewww.

Cannot say for sure if 12.99 is a good price for balut or not.

When I left after my first visit, I was overwhelmed, yes.  Still, I was excited to have been in a place that felt so bewildering.  Like doing a bit over travel without leaving Knox County.

The second time I visited, I had a more focused grocery list and was able to navigate around a bit better.  Like every grocery store, it takes a little while to find your way around efficiently.  Unlike every grocery store, you will be told “Happy New Year!” weeks after January 1st.  Truly got me in the spirit for the Pearl Project kick-off and the Year of the Dragon.

¡Voy a volver mañana con la comida de Costa Rica!

Categories: Food, Grocery Stores | 3 Comments

Happy Australia Day!

I’ll be here with Australian food this weekend…

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Zogorje Potato Soup and Ajvar {Croatia}

Wow, I would love to visit Croatia.  It’s becoming quite the tourist destination lately.  And why not?  Look at all that Mediterranean coastline!

Croatian cuisine, as dear Wikipedia can tell you now that it’s not protesting a poorly-conceived SOPA bill, is comprised of the cuisine of many regions, making it difficult to narrow down my menu options.  Still, since inland Croatia is known for hearty soups and stews (think Goulash) and winter is still upon us here (in theory anyhow…today’s weather was lovely), I thought a another hearty stew seemed to be in order.  But I didn’t want to ignore the Mediterranean aspect of Croation cuisine, so I added an interesting side dish as well.

Zogorje Potato Soup: Peasant meal, maybe.  Peasants know how to turn potatoes into something comforting.  The butter (Earth Balance), tempeh bacon, paprika, Greek yogurt (who needs sour cream?) and garnishes.  I know, two pureed soups in a row.  I promise the next meal will not be another pureed soup.  But I certainly have put that immersion blender to good use.

We also tried a bit of Eggplant Dip (Ajvar): This basically amounted to a stuffed eggplant, using bell peppers, oil olive, and lemon juice, and the guts of the eggplant to create the dip.

Jordan believes the soup probably took top prize for the night, but I might vote the other way.  (He doesn’t like eggplant, though, so his opinion was a bit biased).  I loved the light flavors of the eggplant dip as a contrast to the thick, winter-weather soup.

Happy Thursday, everyone.  Just an FYI, there’ll be no recipe post tomorrow, since I’m working later tonight.  There will still be a post coming your way, just no picture of my own culinary creations.  See you on Saturday!

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Call me Wy-CHEF Jean: Soup Joumou and Plantain Puree

Yes, my pun is absolutely horrible.  And yes, I’ve pretty much exhausted my hip-hop related puns.  Let’s see if I cannot work some Tupac Shakur into another food title somewhere, yeah?  In case you have not guessed by the title, last night’s meal was a food tribute to Haiti.

(Maps courtesy of the husband!)

Switching pop culture gears a bit, I thought of Cher (Alicia Silverstone) in Clueless while making this meal.  Glorious Clueless quote here (must read the word “Haitians” as “hate-ee-ans”):

So like, right now for example. The Haitians need to come to America. But some people are all, “What about the strain on our resources?” Well it’s like when I had this garden party for my father’s birthday, right? I put R.S.V.P. ’cause it was a sit-down dinner. But some people came that like did not R.S.V.P. I was like totally buggin’. I had to haul ass to the kitchen, redistribute the food, and squish in extra place settings. But by the end of the day it was, like, the more the merrier. And so if the government could just get to the kitchen, rearrange some things, we could certainly party with the Haitians. And in conclusion may I please remind you it does not say R.S.V.P. on the Statue of Liberty. Thank you very much.”

So maybe our government will not “just get to the kitchen…[and] certainly party with the Haitians,” but I certainly will.

Haitian food combines the food of the French colonists with the African food culture of the slaves brought to the island.  Many vegetables and fruits are used in their cuisine, and rice, beans, and corn are staples.  Thus, easy for a vegetarian to party in the kitchen! 

Enter: Soup Joumou.

Soup Joumou has an awesome story.  The French Government had actually forbidden slaves to eat pumpkin (too extravagant), making this a forbidden meal.  So now the Haitians eat it to celebrate their independence every New Years Day.  (I know, I’m off on my timing quite a bit, but the new year is still beginning, right?)

My version is vegan, and I like my soups with a lot of texture, so it’s not over-blended.

Soup Joumou Recipe Serves 6


  • 5 cups water
  • 1 package frozen cubes of pumpkin (was so thrilled to find this in the store!)
  • 1 turnip
  • 1 potato
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 3 sprigs parsley
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 T Earth Balance + 1 more later
  • 3/4 cup rice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg


  1. Melt 1 T Earth Balance in large saucepan.  Add pumpkin, turnips, celery, onion, potato, parsley, thyme, and garlic.
  2. Cover with water and simmer for 20 minutes or until tender.
  3. Discard your parsley and thyme if desired.  I actually took the stems out, but left the herbs in.
  4. Drain all but 1/4-1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.  Using an immersion blender (or transfer to traditional), puree vegetables to desired consistency.
  5. Add almond milk, nutmeg, 1 T E.B., and rice.  Cook until rice is tender.

Serve hot with hearty slices of buttered bread.  And then prepare yourself for dessert.

I enjoyed the soup, but I really loved the dessert last night. I ended up making another vegan dish out of it.

Plaintain Puree (Bouillie de Banane et Plantain) Serves 6


  • 1 plantain
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 2 star anise
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • extra banana slice for garnish


  1. Using an immersion blender (favorite tool of the night) or food processor, puree the banana and the plantain with the water.
  2. In saucepan, add puree, coconut milk, almond milk, brown sugar, and star anise.
  3. Bring mixture to a low boil, stirring often.  Cook for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla.
  5. Sprinkle with cinnamon and garnish with bananas.

Something about this tastes so delicious and buttery.  (But you’d have to like your coconut milk).  I had a bowl last night, but also had mixed it with oats and chia seeds this morning for breakfast.

Overall, I’d call Haiti night a success!  Jordan is still raving about the nasi goreng, though…

Next up, Croatia!


Categories: Caribbean Cooking, Desserts, Food, Soups, Vegan, Vegetarian | 2 Comments

Indonesian Fried Rice {Nasi Goreng}

Last night’s recipe needed to be a quick-assembly type recipe, because I was busy catching Jennifer Pharr speaking at River Sports in Knoxville.  She happens to hold the time record (for folks with xx and xy chromosomes) for thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail.  Very inspiring to listen to.  Maybe I’ll thru-hike the AT once I finish the Pearl Project.  But how would I get my Nasi Goreng on the trail?

In Indonesia, Nasi Goreng is ubiquitous.  Or so I have read (I’m still waiting for someone to send me to Bali to sample all the vegetarian delights).  Simple, fast, and still pretty much on the healthy side.  Not a bad combination at all.  Thank you, Indonesia, for a simple and delicious fried rice.

There are many, many variations on this dish.  But they all seem to have a few things in common: rice, aromatics (onion or shallots), and strips of omelet.

I was true to nasi goreng in all three of those areas.  It’s been a while since I’ve had an egg without it being in a baked good.  Tasted glorious. I rolled and sliced the omelet to make strips for the top of the fried rice.

The rice can be made with chicken, shrimp, etc., but we had some leftover tofu from Chinese Hot Pot the night before, so I went with the good old fashioned bean curd.  Our veggies consisted of cabbage, carrots, sharrots, and green onions.  The sauce did wonders for the dish.  I combined a sesame dressing, soy sauce, and a spicy Asian bbq sauce.  You’ll do well to top off your rice mixture with a few bites of traditional garnishes, such as cucumbers and fresh cilantro.  It’ll make for a happy husband.


Categories: Asian Food, Food, Vegetarian | Tags: | Leave a comment

Amaretto Red Adzuki Bean Cake

Let me be clear, this is my take on a traditional Chinese cake….meaning it’s lost a little bit of the traditional part.  Since tasting a delicious red bean ice cream at Knoxville’s Taste of Thai, I have been curious about the possibilities of the adzuki bean.  Then, in my research for the Chinese New Year, I discovered a steamed red bean cake.  Steaming cake takes more time, is stickier, and probably appeals less to the people I need to eat my food.  Thus, my version.

Amaretto Red Adzuki Bean CakeServes 12

Prep time: 10 minutes, Bake time: 45 minutes


  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 cups white rice flour
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 15 oz. can adzuki beans (azuki and aduki are the same thing)
  • 1 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • sliced almonds for garnish


  1. Preheat the over to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix eggs, applesauce, soda, flour, and sugars into a large bowl.  Beat with mixer until well-blended.
  3. Transfer just over half of the batter into an oiled 8×8 baking pan and put in oven.  Let bake for 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, drain and rinse the adzuki beans.  Mash them with a fork or pastry cutter.   Add the almond extract and mix into the mash.
  5. Pour the bean mixture onto the bottom layer of cake.
  6. Okay, yeah, my numbering system is now off with the above photo.  I struggle with formatting issues when I type posts at midnight…No. 7.  Cover the bean mixture up with the remaining batter.
  7. Bake for twenty more minutes.  When cake is almost completely set, garnish the top with sliced almonds. 
  8. Bake for ten more minutes, until toothpick, fork, or chopstick (your choice!) comes out clean.  Be advised that the beans will always be mushy, so that chopstick will most likely never be completely clean.

This cake has a very subtle sweet flavor, which lends itself to drizzles of honey and chocolate syrup.  It would also go well with a scoop of ice cream or almond ice cream, if you prefer.

Categories: Asian Food, Desserts, Food, Vegetarian | 1 Comment

Year of the Dragon Hot Pot (Hougou) and Steamed Potstickers {China}

One country down.  Just over 200 left to go.  You and I, reader, we are like Mitt Romney’s campaign.  We’ve got a long way to go together.

As promised, my challenge began for the Chinese New Year.  I’ve celebrated the Chinese New Year since 2006.  This year, I did a bit more research on my recipes and found out that the cashew meringue cake that I love so much is actually Filipino. Oops! (Now we’re looking forward to the day I prepare the food from the Philippines).  Still, even without the cashew meringue, lasts night’s meal was festive and relatively authentic.

I stopped at Sunshine International Market to buy some sweet treats–lychee gummy candies and peanut cakes–and some papers to decorate the table.  The lychee candies didn’t go over well with the Jordans (one Jordan being my husband, the other being our friend), but I still think they are tasty.

Before we actually got started with the food, I prepared a few cups of jasmine tea.  The container was just too alluring for me when I was shopping at the international foods market.  Thanks to my mother-in-law, I also have quite the tea infuser.


Post-tea, I started the meal with some steamed tofu potstickers.

There is no real recipe for these little guys.  I put about 1/5 of a block of firm tofu, carrot shreds, one garlic clove, a half inch piece of ginger, three chopped green onions, and soy sauce into the food processor and pulse to the desired consistency.  Once the filling is made, the fun begins!

I usually put about 1/2 teaspoon of filling in each wonton wrapper.  Moisten your fingers and run them along the outside of the wonton wrappers.  Fold corner to corner (into a triangle) and shape as desired.  From my photos, you might have guessed that I had no particular desired shape.  I certainly need to work on making these look more uniform.  Or maybe not…

And here is where I have a home-cook geek out.  I am finally the proud owner of a bamboo steamer!  It only takes 20 dollars and one trip to Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  I’ve been wanting one of these since 2007.  I deserved it, right?

Yes, it is probably true that half the reason I really, really wanted a bamboo steamer was to take a photo like the following…

I steamed the potstickers for about 10 minutes, before transferring them to a 200 degree oven to keep them warm.  These went over pretty well.  Jordan–of the husband variety–chooses the potstickers as his favorite part of the meal.  I’d almost have to agree.  But then again…I really enjoyed the Hot Pot.

Hot Pot is basically Chinese fondue.   Our sauces consisted of a mustard/soy sauce blend (my personal favorite), shitake sesame, pepper teriyaki, and a sweet and spicy Asian bbq sauce.

Ingredients are dipped into a communal pot (called a fire pot in China) of hot vegetable broth to cook.  Items are then dipped in a variety of sauces and/or transferred into an individual bowl of broth.  We had baby bok choy, carrots, green onions, tofu blocks,  and mushrooms.  The plan was to eat Hot Pot in the traditional manner.  But then all ingredients just seemed to make their way into my individual bowl without hitting the sauces, etc.

Honestly, that worked just fine for me.  I added some of the sauces to my broth to liven it up a bit.  Once I was certain I had my fill of this, I moved on to dessert.  And the dessert in question is none other than the Amaretto Red Bean (Adzuki) Cake in last night’s teaser photo.

I’m not going to talk too much about the cake here, since I plan on providing a recipe post for the cake.  Don’t be fooled, just because there are beans in your cake does NOT mean it is healthy or sugar-free by any means…

Happy New Year!  I’ll see you tomorrow with some Indonesian.

Categories: Asian Food, Desserts, Food, Holidays, Vegetarian | Tags: | 7 Comments

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