Culture

Global flavors: Enjoy dinner out, crafted in your own kitchen

Photo courtesy of Angele J

It can be difficult to raise spirits during an Idaho winter, as temperatures plunge and the daylight dwindles, but a little creativity and a sense of adventure in the kitchen can brighten any evening. 

Preparing a meal that could be served over tables on the other side of the world can be one way to counter seasonal affective disorder (SAD). 

Research conducted by the Cleveland Clinic, a non-profit medical research center, suggests that some meals can help neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine to aid memory retention and improve your mood. 

Moroccan chicken is a fun and keto-friendly recipe that alludes to far-away lands and new flavors for many Idahoans. Several versions of this dish are available on the internet. I use a recipe from Divalicious Recipes that starts with a few chicken breasts, some minced onion, olives and artichoke hearts along with spices that will lend a delicious cinnamon and citrus aroma to your stovetop. 

The most difficult bit for me was learning how to zest a lemon, but after that, it’s just a matter of timing. Be quick with the spices and leave lots of time for the ingredients to simmer, and you’ll present a dish that might have your company licking their plates.

When the nights grow truly cold it can be a great opportunity to raise the heat. Doro Wat, an Ethiopian chicken stew, is a recipe with lots of room for adaptability to taste buds that might not be ready for the spoonful of berbere spice in each bite. Again, there are a variety of recipes to browse through, and I’ve found success with a few alterations to the directions at All Recipes.

Global flavors, cooking at home
[Photo of produce and spices]
Photo courtesy of Angele J

The trick with this dish is to adjust the amount of berbere to find the desired level of heat, and then countering that with the inclusion of palette-cooling hard-boiled eggs. Finding berbere on local store shelves can be difficult, but stores like World Market or online vendors are generally a good source.

For a quick gluten-free dish, one-skillet Thai chicken coconut curry is a colorful jumble of flavors that is low in carbohydrate and calories, but tastes like comfort food. Several recipes are available, and over the years I’ve begun mixing and matching to see which suits me best. 

I would recommend chilling the coconut milk for an hour before cooking, to separate the cream from the oil, and don’t stifle your creativity when choosing vegetables. A side serving of rice makes a fine bottom layer for the sauce to seep into for added texture. 

Dessert can be a crucial ingredient for a fun meal. One holiday favorite is homemade Tiramisù cake. It’s not so sweet that younger guests will be clamoring for a bite, and not nearly as complicated as you might suspect. 

Grocery shortages gave me an opportunity to learn how easy it is to make ladyfingers, even though my first batch of the sponge-like cookies might come out somewhat misshapen. I’ll drizzle cold coffee over each cookie to get that espresso flavor before layering them between sweetened egg-yolks, mascarpone and whipped cream topped with cocoa powder. 

Walking into your kitchen might seem daunting after a long day out in the chill, but pushing through seasonal malaise and putting together a fun meal can contribute to a sense of accomplishment, a fun group activity or a great first impression from new visitors. 

Instead of pulling up Grubhub or Doordash, consider giving the cooks and the delivery drivers a break and offer something that no food service can provide: your own taste of the world on a plate.

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