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!

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Name: Ansarul Haque
Born in: Dhaka, Bangladesh
In Idaho since: December 1999

"Butter chicken is one of my favorite dishes. It's a very rich dish so I only cook it once every two or three months. But it's the first thing I order when I go back to Bangladesh to visit my family! My friends and I used to cook this dish all the time, so one day we went to the store and bought a hundred packages of butter chicken mix, just to make sure we would not run out!"

Bengali cooking is not fast cooking. The spices (turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, chili, cumin, ginger and garlic) are key ingredients to its cuisine and it takes time to permeate the meat and the sauces. Ansarul frequently smells the food cooking on the stove and claims that the food will be ready when "it smells right".

"I spent more time learning how to cook all my favorite foods once I moved away from Bangladesh. When I was there, I didn't pay much attention because it was all around me but once I moved, I missed it. Living with my sister for a while was a great help because she is an awesome cook and I learned a lot from her. I love to grill so she calls me when she has a question on grilling and I call her to ask about everything else."

Basmati rice

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1/2 red onion
3 cups of basmati rice
5 1/2 cups of hot water
4 tablespoons of ginger paste*
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 kardamom pods
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven. Slice the onion in thin slivers and sauté until golden. Add the rice and stir, sautéeing for several minutes. Crush the cardamom pods with the flat side of a knife and add to the rice. Peel three matchstick size lengths of bark from the cinnamon stick and add those to the rice as well. Stir in the ginger paste. When the rice kernels are translucent, add hot water, stir everything together, add the salt, bring to a boil, cover and simmer on low for about twenty minutes or until the rice is done. Do not stir the rice after you've covered it and make sure it's on low enough heat so that it doesn't burn.

Butter chicken

4 tablespoons of vegetable oil, divided
1/2 stick of butter
1/2 red onion, peeled and sliced thin
2 lbs of chicken thighs or breast, skinless and cut in bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons of garlic paste*
4 tablespoons of red onion paste*
3 tablespoons of ginger paste*
1 teaspoon of dark chili powder
1 tablespoon of white vinegar
3 cardamom pods
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 package of Butter Chicken Mix**
1 cup of half-and-half milk
1/2 cup of sour cream

In one skillet, heat two tablespoons of olive and quickly brown the chicken on all sides, then turn the heat low and let it simmer. In the meantime, heat the rest of the oil in a Dutch oven with the butter. Add the onion and stir until the onions are translucent and start to caramelize. Add the garlic, red onion and ginger paste, stir in the chili powder and add the vinegar. Now add the contents of the butter chicken mix package. Stir everything together. Drain the chicken (you may want to keep the fat for other uses) and fold it into the sauce until all pieces are well covered. Turn down the heat and add the cup of half-and-half, stir it in. Now fold in the half cup of sour cream. Stir again, making sure the heat stays low so that the dairy products don't curdle and simmer for another ten to fifteen minutes.

Serve over Basmati rice.

* Ansarul makes his own garlic, onion and ginger paste. Peel and dice each vegetable, put it in a blender with one or two tablespoons of water and blend until fine. You can freeze the paste and use when needed. The pastes will add genuine flavor to the dishes and make for a creamy, consistent sauce without too many lumps

** The Butter Chicken mix can be found in Indian food markets, but it is also easy to make this dish from scratch. Check this link for a simple and easy to follow recipe, with video Most ingredients are available from your local Winco or the India store on Orchard in Boise. Methi leaves are better known as fenugreek leaves.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Name: Kamilla Gazieva
Born in: Pavlovsk, Russia
In Idaho since: August, 2009

"I might be the only Russian person that some people in Idaho will ever meet." Kamilla is explaining why she is excited about organizing the International Food, Dance and Song Festival at Boise State University this April where she is studying for her master's degree. "I want to make sure they know that there is more to Russia than bears, vodka and fur hats. There is more to it than great scientists and athletes: we also have great actors and writers. And we have really good cartoons!"

Another thing Russia is perhaps not so well-known for is its cuisine. During the previous regime, food was scarce and often basic but Russian food has a strong and diverse history. "I'm going to cook borsch. It is a traditional Russian and Ukrainian dish and probably it is the first dish you think about when you hear "Russian food". Every family cooks it and it is a must for Russian girls to know how to cook it, although I learned it just recently, when two friends came to visit. Of course the best borsch is the one cooked by my mom!".

Traditionally, borsch is prepared with meat, most often beef, although the areas closer to the ocean sometimes will use fish or herring instead of beef. Kamilla chose to prepare a non-meat variety, adding additional flavor by using a bouillon cube.

5 medium size potatoes
1/2 beef bouillon cube
4 medium size beets
2 carrots
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1/3 cup of warm water
1/2 green cabbage, cut in thin strips
1/2 cup of onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lemon
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley or dill

Peel the potatoes, quarter them and add enough water to cover them about an inch. Bring to a boil and add the bouillon cube. Peel the beets and the carrots and grate them into thin strips. In the meantime, sautée the onions in a tablespoon of oil until golden. Add the carrots and the beets to the onion and stir until soft, then stir in the tomato paste and the warm water. Squeeze the lemon and add the juice: this will brighten the colors of the carrots and beets. When the potatoes have boiled approximately ten minutes, add the cabbage. Stir in the beet/carrot mix, add the garlic and simmer until all the vegetables are done. Add chopped parsley and/or dill, taste and adjust.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and some chopped parsley and bread.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Name: Barbara Haines
Born in: Warsaw, Poland
In Idaho since: October 2nd, 1994

Barbara lived in Australia and London before settling in Idaho. She and her husband Tom, who's American, live in their Boise East End home. They share their backyard space with a skunk, several deer and the occasional cougar.

I met Barbara a couple of days before our interview and asked her what she would be cooking. "Lazy Kluski" she said, without really explaining what those were. "I'll make lazy kluski. Tom is excited because I have not made them in a while and he loves them, so that's what I'll be doing." I could see Tom in the background with a grin on his face and nodding his head. Almost as cryptical as the name of the dish itself, Barbara mentioned right before I left that she'll "be making the cheese this weekend, because we will not have time to make the cheese and make the kluski both in one evening." When she said "roll" she demonstratively made a rolling movement with both her hands, as if she was rolling a long piece of dough.

Okay, so now I knew that kluski were made with cheese and were rolled, but that's all. So when I finally arrived at Barbara's home last Monday evening, I was curious to see what this dish was all about: what are kluski and why are they lazy?

Turns out that kluski are a kind of dumpling and they are called "lazy" because you roll the filling right into the dough, saving you the trouble of filling them, like pierogi. "I used to live on this stuff as a young girl". Barbara is standing at the kitchen counter, crumbling up the cheese. Her kitchen is warm and inviting and her predilection for yellow makes the room seem extra bright. "Living in Warsaw, we would eat often at a bar mleczny in the city and I would always eat this." The bar mleczny is a traditional type of cafetaria that was instituted during the 1960s as an affordable way to provide meals to workers. Its name translates to "milk bar" and originates from the predominantly dairy-based items on the menu, although nowadays the selection of dishes is more varied. The concept of the bar mleczny could be considered fast-food, but most of the dishes are traditional Polish fare and require long, slow cooking methods.

Leniwe Kluski
For the cheese
1/2 gallon of buttermilk
Simmer the buttermilk on low for up to two hours. The cheese will curdle and separate from the whey. Pour off the whey and drain the cheese in a cheese cloth. Crumble the cheese into tiny curds.

For the kluski
1 cup of all-purpose flour, divided
1 egg
Sprinkle half a cup of flour over the cheese, add the egg and knead to a dough-like consistency. If the cheese is wet, add more flour. If it's too dry, you may want to add a tablespoon of water at a time until the mixture rolls like dough.

Cut the dough into three pieces and roll each one out on a lightly floured counter. Put a criss-cross pattern on top of the rolls with a knife, then cut into slices.

In the meantime, put a pan with water on the stove and bring to a rolling boil. When the water is boiling, drop two to three pieces at a time into the pan, making sure that the boil remains. The kluski will be ready in a couple of minutes and will start to float to the top. Take them out and place them on a warm plate.

For the topping
1/2 stick of butter
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs

Panko breadcrumbs work well as they are slightly sweeter than standard breadcrumbs. You can also consider making your own. Slowly melt the butter in a frying pan until lightly caramelized, make sure it doesn't burn. Choose a good quality unsalted butter: because of the simplicity of the dish, the quality of the ingredients will make all the difference. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the kluski, then cover with the melted butter. Sprinkle with sugar and serve. Another way to serve them is by omitting the butter and adding a dollop of sour cream instead.