Monday, January 31, 2011

Eat your Greens!

Hamli (Sauteed Greens) from Bsrat M. on Vimeo.

I grew up in a household where meat or chicken was never the star at the table – just a complement to the vegetable dishes that were more plentiful. And Eritrean cuisine in particular, features tons of vegetable and legume dishes.

However, as a youngster during summer trips to Eritrea, I used to have a hard time eating as a guest in people’s homes. Guests are traditionally honored with several courses of meat, meat, chicken, and more meat. And with each course that appeared, I would be hoping that someone would bring out something green.

Of course, for a traditional Eritrean host, serving meat is the highest compliment. However, I am going to make sure to serve up tons of vegetarian recipes in this blog. For the next two posts, I’ll present recipes on how to make Eritrean sautéed vegetables. This first post will present hamli, or sautéed greens, and the second will present alicha, or vegetables sautéed with turmeric.

Hamli is ridiculously easy to make. And as sautéed greens are really a universal dish, you don’t need any suggestions about how to serve it.

I’m a little picky about my greens. Some Eritreans use collard greens, but I find its flavor a bit strong. I also find spinach a bit too watery. I prefer swiss chard or kale, which holds up to cooking temperatures better than spinach, but has a more pleasant flavor than other greens. Of course, please feel free to use whatever you prefer.

Monday, January 24, 2011

And on the first day, you made tibsi...

Keyih (Red) Tibsi w Beef from Bsrat M. on Vimeo.

Tibsi is the most basic and common of Eritrean dishes. For Eritrean-Americans like myself, it’s the dish that you unabashedly lie about knowing how to make. And for non-Eris out there, if you have been to an Eritrean or Ethiopian restaurant - and ate meat – you likely ate it and loved it.

Tibsi refers to a quick and simple stew that can be red (keyih) and made with awaze, a spicy red pepper paste, or white (tsa'ada) and made without it. The word tibsi comes from the Tigrinya verb "tibis" which means to pan fry or sauté. In the clip, I present red tibsi with beef - but you can use chicken, lamb, fish, shrimp, etc. I'll show some of these dishes later, as well as more vegetarian and vegan-friendly options.

Tibsi is the lazy man's tsebhi - a long-simmered stew with many of the same ingredients. I'll endeavor to make the tsebhi in a later post, but for now this trusty tibsi recipe will do just fine. You can get it done in 20-30 minute tops and skip the wait at the restaurant. Additionally, the tibsi presented here is saucier than the traditional version. I prefer it this way, but if you like your tibsi drier, I note some modifications in the recipe below.

Some points about the ingredients - Tibsi is traditionally made with tesmi (clarified, spiced butter) and awaze. These two ingredients really make the dish, so they have to be of good quality. Check the page "about the food" for more info about how to find them. If you don't have tesmi, or prefer not to use it, you can use butter or vegetable oil (I don't recommend using olive oil). And if you don't have awaze, you can just use berbere.

Tibsi is traditionally eaten with injera, our flat spongy bread. But its your stomach, so be free. You can eat it with pita bread, naan, rice, couscous - whatever floats your boat. The fabulous chef in this clip was inspired when she showed me how to load a pita pocket with tibsi and give it a good dollop of sour cream. I didn't get a pretty shot, but it tasted so gooood!