Ethiopian Food, Part 1: Injera and Berbere Spice Blend

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One benefit of having kids around who are adventurous eaters is it often means trying new foods. Two summers ago, we were in Berkeley, California and decided to go out for sit-down-style dinner. There was an Ethiopian restaurant down the street and both kids were eager to check it out. I was hesitant, as I didn’t even know what “Ethiopian food” meant as far as cuisine — would there be enough vegetarian options to make it worth the effort? I was pleasantly surprised.

When you enter an Ethiopian restaurant, there is no silverware involved. The entire meal is eaten with your hands. Likely, the dishes will be served on a platter lined with injera, a traditional Ethiopian bread made with teff flour. Injera looks like a big, spongy pancake, about the size of a pizza, but tastes like a mild sourdough bread. Essentially, it’s a large sourdough crepe. The food will be served in a ring of mounds on the injera like a painter’s palette, accompanied by more injera which you tear off into pieces, then use to pinch the different stews on the platter.

Injera is a source of protein and vitamins, but also your serving utensil. The flatbread made from teff is incredibly high in fiber, iron and calcium. It has all the amino acids required to be a complete protein, but it’s also gluten-free. When eating Ethiopian food, it’s expected that you’ll simply tear off a piece of injera, grab some food with it, roll it up, pop the whole thing into your mouth and repeat until finished.

Another quintessential part of Ethiopian cuisine is a spice blend referred to as berbere. Berbere is an integral spice blend in Ethiopian cuisine. Full of both flavor and fiery heat, this brightly colored, highly aromatic seasoning blend is a staple in any Ethiopian kitchen. It’s used as a rub for meats, poultry, or fish, as well as a seasoning for stews, soups, grains and vegetables.

Here are two recipes — one for a homemade berbere spice blend and another for homemade injera. Coming up shortly, I’ll share with you a few different Ethiopian dishes you can serve with the injera, which uses the berbere spice blend you can find here.

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Berbere Spice Blend

Yields about 1/2 cup spice blend.

Ingredients:
4 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
4 whole allspice berries
seeds from 8 whole cardamom pods
8 whole cloves
10 dried red chiles, seeds removed (Thai chiles work well)
6 tablespoons sweet paprika (NOT smoked)
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons turmeric

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Directions:

In a heavy bottomed skillet, toast the whole spices and chilies (the first 8 listed ingredients), over high heat, shaking the pan to prevent scorching. Toast until fragrant, 3 or so minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let the mixture cool completely.

Once the spices are cooled, grind them in a spice or coffee grinder. Add all remaining ground spices and salt, then grind everything together.

Store in an air-tight container until needed.

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Injera

Ingredients:
1/2 cup teff flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Put the teff flour in a large mixing bowl, then sift in the all-purpose flour. Slowly stir in the water, trying to avoid any lumps. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 3 days.

The mixture should become bubbly and frothy over the few days. If it doesn’t appear to ferment on its own, you can add a teaspoon of yeast after the first day.

After three days, stir the salt into the batter.

Heat a nonstick pan (make sure the surface of the pan is smooth) or lightly oiled cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, until a water drop will dance on the surface.

Spoon about 1/4-cup of batter into the center of the pan. Tilt the pan with a circular motion so that the batter coats the surface evenly. Injera should be thicker than a crêpe, but not as thick as a traditional pancake. Cover the pan and cook briefly, until holes form in the injera and the edges lift from the pan (2-3 minutes).

Remove the injera and let cool. Place plastic wrap or foil between successive pieces so they don’t stick together. Continue until all the batter has been cooked.

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Day to Day Life: Week Thirty-Four

Here’s a peek at the last week:

Blue skies.
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One trouble…
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And one trick…
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Mr. Silas Henry (#15) at football practice one afternoon.
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These teddy bear sunflowers showed up in the garden this year. They’re so fluffy!
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There are lots of eggplants in the garden, too. So… eggplant sammiches one night with caramelized onions, smoked gouda and garlic basil vegenaise.
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Silas’s sister Kenya celebrated a birthday recently. We had she, her mom, Silas, Vincent, and Nana over one night for pizza and birthday cake. This dark chocolate cake with fresh blueberry swiss meringue actually turned out okay!
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Dudes hanging out on the front porch one morning, eating some oatmeal.
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A quick dinner for five one night. Creamy polenta, marinara, mozzarella stuffed homemade sourdough rolls, grilled zucchini and grilled Trader Joe’s chicken-less sausage.
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I finally cooked one of the 5-pound Sasquashes from out of our garden. Half went to the above dinner and the remaining half got baked into a loaf of zucchini bread and a dozen chocolate zucchini muffins.
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A lunch picnic stop enroute to Redmond for an overnight trip to see Vincent and Kenya play water polo.
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Green and blue. My favorite color scheme.
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We stopped to check out the Natural Bridge along the Rogue River.
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Being in and near water is always my happy place.
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Vincent, just about to run around camp with that Ashland flag.
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And then Vincent, Ashland High School’s water polo goalie, completely submerging an opposing team member to keep him from scoring on Ashland’s goal…
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Kenya also kicked some serious ass all weekend and made more goals than I could keep up with.
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Pizza and beer. Pizza and beer. YES please.
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What happens when you don’t sleep well? Grumpy early morning selfies. (Apparently.)
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Two of my favorite things about taquerias: pickled carrots and homemade salsas.
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Heading-home-creek-stop.
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Who is that wrapping up the quarterback for the opposing team? #14 Silas Henry Wright. First games happened today and that little boy did wonderfully despite scorching temperatures and artificial turf radiating even more heat!
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Saturday Sites: Week Thirty-Four

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  1. I have never been a breakfast at breakfast time kind of girl. I’m not alone!

  2. Growing up, every single one of these foods were things I enjoyed… and would still happily enjoy!

  3. 10 confessions of being an INFJ (my Myers-Briggs personality type) in a relationship.

  4. How has public swearing changed over the course of my lifetime? P.S. I am totally guilty (without feeling guilty) for swearing all the goddamn time.

  5. And on that note, this made me laugh.

  6. I would like this for dessert food and breakfast food. Okay, thanks.

  7. This prank video made me literally LOL. (And cringe for typing “LOL.”)

  8. There is an epidemic occurring… I hope euthanasia isn’t the only solution!

  9. I love this photographer’s self-portrait project! (But do not aim to duplicate her process…)

  10. It’s good there isn’t a particular season for enjoying ice cream… ’tis good at all times in the year! I would like to make (and eat, or just eat) this kind.

  11. This 4-year-old’s restaurant review of the renown French Laundry is delightful.

  12. Being married to a musician, I know the infamous guitar-soloist-face… Does it sometimes look like the soloist in question is holding a giant slug? Absolutely!

  13. Here are some ways to maximize the benefits of drinking water, based on when you consume it throughout the day.

  14. I’ve always loved Mara Wilson. Her remembrance post for Robin Williams was a touching, worthy read.

  15. Last week my sister shared an image with me called “A Map of the Introvert’s Heart.” I found a similar image called “The Map of an Introvert’s Brain” and am certain this is indeed my brain!

  16. True, it’s only August, but the holidays will creep up on us as we know it… Here are some great non-toy gift ideas for kids!

  17. Ladies, hell yeah to this list.

  18. Yum, yum, yum, these sweet corn arepas sound delish!

Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Pepperoni Pizza Mac and Cheese

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My 15-year-old stepson has been a vegetarian his entire life, by his own choosing. The few exceptions around that came when he was really little… He and my husband used to enjoy garlic clam pizza at Golden Boy in San Francisco when Vincent was still a toddler. On another occasion, little Vincent ate fish sticks, only to find out they were actually fish. “No one told me fish sticks had fish in them!” he told my husband.

But one day when he was about 10 or so, Vincent came home from school and told us, “I tried meat today! I had pepperoni pizza and it was GOOD!” Of all the things he could’ve had as a first non-seafood meat experience, pepperoni had been the most enticing. As a vegetarian, it is one particular ingredient that doesn’t have a very good meatless alternative. Yves Veggie Cuisine does make a vegetarian pepperoni, but its never quite worked to replace the meat version, since it lacks the same spiciness and general greasiness.

Recently I figured out how to spice up these veggie pepperonis in a way that works for us. Of course adding oil, salt, and spice makes them slightly less healthy – but certainly they still remain healthier than “real” pepperoni! Its certainly a staple on pizza night, but the other day while laying in bed at 1AM I thought to myself, what the hell would pepperoni pizza macaroni and cheese be like?!  Aaaand the next day I decided to find out!

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Vegetarian Pepperoni Pizza Mac and Cheese

Serves 6-8 people.

Ingredients:

For the sauce:
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
10 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
7 ounces extra sharp white cheddar, shredded
4 ounces havarti cheese, shredded
3 ounces fontina cheese, shredded

2 packages Yves Meatless Pepperoni
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

1 cup marinara sauce
1 8 ounce ball fresh mozzarella, broken into bite size pieces
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 pound elbow macaroni

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Directions:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a large casserole dish (a deep 9×13-inch pan works, too).

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, melt the 8 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, until smooth. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Whisking constantly, add in the milk. Continue whisking until the sauce thickens (4 to 5 minutes). Stir in the salt, ground pepper, dried parsley, oregano, and granulated garlic.

Add the cheese in, about a half cup at a time, stirring to fully incorporate each new addition. Once all the shredded cheese has been added, and you have a smooth creamy sauce, reduce the heat to low.

Prepare the pepperonis: in a large skillet (you can work in batches if necessary, too), heat two tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Lay the pepperoni in a single layer. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon oil over the pepperoni, then sprinkle on the cayenne, salt, ground black pepper and granulated garlic. Cook until the pepperoni begins to crisp (3-4 minutes) then flip and cook until crisp on the second side, too (another 3 minutes or so). Place the pepperoni on a layer of paper towels to drain any excess oil.

Bring a large pot of well salted water to a rolling boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, until the noodles are just past al dente. Drain the pasta, but do not rinse. Pour the cheese sauce over the noodles, then stir to make sure every inch of pasta has been covered with sauce. Stir in a third of the pepperonis.

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Pour half of the macaroni mixture into the prepared baking dish. Layer on half of the marinara sauce, followed by half of the fresh mozzarella pieces, half of the parmesan, half of the basil and half of the remaining pepperoni. Add the remaining macaroni mixture, followed by another layer of sauce, mozzarella, parmesan, basil and pepperoni. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until slightly golden brown on top. Allow the mac and cheese to cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

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Day to Day Life: Week Thirty-Three

The last week looked something like this:

So many sunflowers all over the yard right now…!
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Water polo season is about to start… Vincent’s been working his ass off as goalie already this summer.
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Lots of magical skies this week.
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Saucy!
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Necessary for taco night…
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I like watching how the colors of these hills change with the seasons.
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After Chicken (who is in fact a pigeon, yes…) gets a bath, her favorite time is towel time.
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Taco leftovers means taco lunching!
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More Ashland hills.
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Vegetarian pepperoni pizza mac and cheese!
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Apples to Apples Junior with the whole fam-damly.
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Goodbye, sun.
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Chicken friend.
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I was so excited to find this dude! It means the beans are a-comin! : )
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Nothing but trouble!
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Boys being boys. Shooting things.
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I made vegetarian manapua! And they came out tasty!
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Late summer sunsets are the best.
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A post workout brunch featuring eggs, fresh spinach, chopped tomatoes from the garden and goat cheese.
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My husband was part of a literary event at Barking Moon Farm. The garlic hanging to dry in the barn was lovely!
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