Idaho is no longer a "meat and potatoes" type of state: it is becoming a veritable culinary melting pot! New and interesting ethnic restaurants and grocery stores are opening up in cities around the Treasure Valley and a growing group of "new" Idahoans is introducing exciting unfamiliar ingredients, different approaches to old-fashioned foods and secret family recipes that have been handed down from one generation to the next.

This blog allows us a peek into the pots and pans of these travelers that have chosen to make Idaho their new home. It captures a compilation of stories and dishes from people who, far away from their country of birth, recreate familiar elements in the dishes they prepare. For many, food from their home country is a comfort to the soul: for some it's an important part of their cultural or religious celebrations and for others, it's just good eating!


Monday, November 15, 2010

Turkey

Name: Raci Erdem
Born in: Turkey
In Idaho since: 1996

"If you are not here to put your heart into the food, don't bother showing up," Raci says to the staff at the White House Grill, one of his restaurants in Post Falls. "People need to feel the heart, the love you put into the food. That's what they pay for, not for opening a jar of spaghetti sauce and throwing it over some pasta and charging $16 a plate."

Fourteen years ago, Raci opened his first restaurant, serving Mediterranean dishes with a strong Turkish influence. "We go through 200lbs of fresh garlic every week", he smiles. "I love fresh food. In Turkey you go to the store and buy whatever is fresh that day, regardless of whether it's beef or lamb. You buy whatever is freshest and that is what you cook with. And I love homemade food. Some dishes are not feasible to make in a restaurant setting, especially the ones that are made with fresh dough, like su borek and manti. Those are my two favorite dishes. My mom and my sister both are excellent cooks and when I fly home, I look forward to eating their food. It is so good that I feel like I gain fifteen pounds in a couple of days!"

Raci was unable to cook with us that day, since he's opening a new restaurant in Spokane. The following recipe is an example of one of his favorite foods.

Su Borek
For the dough:
2 1/2 cups of flour
3 eggs
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of water

For the filling:
1 cup of feta
1/2 cup of parsley, minced

1/4 stick of butter
1/4 cup of olive oil

Mix the flour with the eggs and the salt, adding a tablespoon of water at the time to make a kneadable but slightly stiff dough. Let it rest for a couple of minutes while you crumble the feta and mix it with the parsley.

Divide the dough in six equal parts. Roll each as thin as you can, slightly larger than the circumference of the springform you are going to bake this in. Bring a large pot with water to a boil. Now boil each "sheet" of dough for about 30 seconds. Take it out carefully and put it in a pot with ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Because the dough is boiled it will puff up, so rolling it as thin as possible is key to making this an edible dish.

Melt the butter and the olive oil and mix together. Brush a round springform with the oil and place your first boiled and drained sheet in the pan. If the dough tears, don't worry, it will all come together beautifully. Brush the dough with the butter/oil mixture. Boil another sheet, cool and drain in and place it on top of the first sheet. Brush with oil and repeat. After the third sheet, brush, cover the dough with the feta and parsley mixture, drizzling oil over the cheesey filling. Cover with a boiled sheet, brush and add another boiled sheet. Brush this one too and place the last sheet of dough, unboiled, on top. Brush lavishly with the remainder of the grease, then place in a 350F oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden.

Let rest for several minutes, then open the springform and take out your borek. Slice it in squares. Tastes great both warm and cold!

Tip:  you can make this borek with two layers of cheese by putting down two layers of dough, filling, two layers, filling and finish with the last two layers, top one unboiled.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

South Africa

Name: Estelle Bester
Born in: Zimbabwe
In Idaho since: October 2010

"Bobotie is a traditional South African dish. I was born in Zimbabwe but I moved to South Africa after I finished high school to be with my dad. I learned from my South African stepmother how to make bobotie. As with every national dish, there are many variations.Over the years I've changed my stepmom's recipe a little bit, as everybody has their own little additions to personalize the dish.  Before moving to America, I typed up all my recipes for my son who married earlier this year. Yesterday I received an email from him in which he told me he was making bobotie for his wife."

Bobotie, pronounced boh-buoy-tea, is considered the national dish for South Africa. Each family or region has its own slight variations on the theme. Some people will add vegetables such as peas and carrots to the dish, others will flavor it with lemon peel or bay leaves: it is a dish that lends itself beautifully to become a family favorite. A flavorful ground beef dish with a custard topping, it can be eaten with rice or the next day with a fried egg and some toast for breakfast. The dish has been known since the 17th century in the Cape of Good Hope, but it is said to have originated in Malaysia. The curry and ginger spices, the yellow rice colored with turmeric and the use of dried fruit in a meat dish clearly point to its Malay roots.

Bobotie
For the meat
5 heaping teaspoons of ground ginger
Pouring the egg and milk mixture
3 heaping teaspoons of soft brown sugar
3 heaping teaspoons of curry
3 heaping teaspoons of turmeric
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 stick of butter
2 medium onions, peeled and diced
1lb of ground beef
2 tablespoons of cranberry chutney
2 tablespoons of apricot jam
2 tablespoons of vinegar
3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 slices of white bread, crust removed
2 cups of milk
2 eggs

For the rice
2 cups of rice
4 cups of water
1 heaping teaspoon of turmeric
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons of golden raisins


Adding the soaked bread
Preheat the oven to 350F. Add the ginger, brown sugar, curry, turmeric, salt and butter to a pan. Stir on medium heat until the butter melts, then add the onions and saut√©. Make sure the spices don't burn. Add the beef and stir until the meat is no longer pink, then stir in the chutney, apricot jam, vinegar and tomato paste. Keep stirring until everything comes together and is hot. Soak the bread in the milk, squeeze milk out and add wet bread to meat mixture. Stir, taste and adjust the flavor according to your own liking. Transfer the meat mixture to an oven dish. Scramble the eggs with the rest of milk and pour it over the meat mixture. Bake at 350F for about 20 minutes or until the eggs are set.

In the meantime, wash the rice, add the water and the turmeric. Boil rice until done, stir in the raisins and let stand until you are ready to serve.

Place some rice in the middle of a plate and add one or two generous scoops of bobotie on top. Be prepared to serve seconds!