Recipes from Marche, Italy

For this entry, I made two recipes. Neither of them were especially good, but I don't blame the people who posted the original recipes or any of the traditions they came from, I blame myself and my propensity for Googling things that might kill me.

Recipes from Marche, Italy: Brodetto

A seafood stew with mussels and clams, minus the Vibrio.

Recipes from Marche, Italy: Filone Casereccio

An Italian bread that will come out much better than mine did if you use fresh brewer's yeast and steam.

Recipes from Malta

This is actually the third time I’ve cooked a meal from Malta. The first time, I cooked the meal and then just did not write the blog post. Years went by.

Recipes from Malta: Imqarrun

Imquarrum (also called Imqarrun il-forn) is descended from a dish served in Sicily, but the Maltese have adopted it as a traditional staple. The key to making this dish is to be patient.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Recipes from Guinea

OK, I've got family coming for Thanksgiving and my house looks like a Target store got hit by a tornado. A sentient tornado that is also capable of scribbling on walls and getting fingerprints all over the windows. I really love my kids, but they create so much extra work.

If you have kids too you probably wish I'd shut up. I know, we're all scrambling this time of year. So I'll get on with this post.

This week we're in Guinea, which is a medium-sized nation on the coast of western Africa. Guinea is one of those places that looks like it should have a pretty thriving economy and a fairly well-off population but doesn't. It is the world's second largest producer of bauxite, which is the main source of aluminum. It also has rich deposits of diamonds and gold. And yet, because it was governed by a series of autocratic rulers up until fairly recently, it is one of the poorest nations in the world.

Rice fields in Benty, Forécariah, Guinea. Photo by Marta P.

Guinean cuisine is pretty typically west African, with lots of stews and sauces made from vegetables such as cassava, plantains, eggplant, okra and leafy greens. You know, stuff I don't usually like in stews. Yeah I know, my feelings about chunky stews full of a million different kinds of vegetables are in line with most small children's feelings about chunky stews full of a million different kinds of vegetables. What can I say, I just like a basic stew with meat and potatoes, and maybe some mushrooms and onions.

But I had to choose one of those chunky stews instead, because of those limited resources I'm always complaining about. So with that in mind, here's this week's menu:

Mangoé Rafalari (Spicy Mango Stew)

  • 12 medium ripe mangoes, peeled and sliced
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 1 cup palm oil
  • 6 smoked carp*
  • 2 large stock cubes
  • 2 chili peppers, chopped
  • Salt to taste
*You really can't get carp in this country, let alone smoked carp. Well maybe you can in a specialty market, but I've never seen it. I used sardines, which were the closest I could find to smoked anything. I honestly don't know if my solution really even compares to the authentic version of this stew. So there's my disclaimer.

Soupou Gertö (Chicken sauce with sweet potatoes)

  • One 3 lb chicken, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 bunch spring onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 large onions, roughly chopped
  • 3 to 4 fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 3-4 Maggi cubes
  • 6 gloves garlic
  • 3 tbsp tomatoes paste
  • 1 lb sweet potatoes, cubed
  • 2 eggplants, cubed
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 scotch bonnet pepper (optional)
  • Salt, black pepper and chili powder to taste
  • 1 cup peanut oil
Now, this is really two main courses but I served the mangoes as a side. I thought it worked just fine that way. Anyway it really doesn't matter what order you make these in. I think the chicken takes a bit longer, so I'll start there.

Place the chicken pieces in a bowl with the lemon juice, salt, pepper and chili powder. Let marinate for 15 minutes or more.

Heat the oil and cook the chicken pieces until browned on both sides.

Meanwhile, place the green onions, onions and garlic in a food processor with the tomatoes, Maggi cubes and some additional salt and pepper.

When the chicken is brown, pour this mixture over the pieces and simmer over a medium flame for 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the water and the bay leaf, and a little more salt and pepper and chili powder. Here's where you would also add the scotch bonnet pepper (habanero) if you don't mind watching your kids cry. I left that out, though I would have personally enjoyed it. The habanero, I mean, not watching my kids cry.
Once the eggplant and sweet potatoes are soft, serve with white rice.

Put the mangoes in a pot and add water until just covered. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, remove the bones from the fish and flake. In a large bowl, mix the fish and onions with the chili peppers.

Heat the palm oil. You can test readiness by adding a small piece of onion to the pan with the oil. When it starts to sizzle, add the fish and onion mix to the pan with a stock cube. Let cook over a low flame for 10 minutes or so.

Now add the mangoes and a little bit of water. Bring back to a boil, then cover and reduce heat. Cook for an additional 30 minutes.

So this meal was fine, which is how I feel about most west African meals. It had flavor but not a ton of it, and then there was those pesky eggplant pieces which I'm really not that fond of.

I liked the idea of the mango stew but I thought the palm oil flavor (which is really very distinct) didn't mesh that well with the mangoes. I would certainly try this again as it was a strange phenomenon: a savory stew containing a sweet ingredient that didn't actually impact the savoriness of the stew in any way. At least that's what I thought. But next time I'll probably use a less overwhelming oil when I make it.

So here we are on the eve of another Thanksgiving and now it's on to that distinctly non-exotic meal: roast turkey with cranberries! Happy Thanksgiving!

Next week: Guinea Bissau

For printable versions of this week's recipes:

      Thursday, November 21, 2013

      Recipes from Guernsey

      Wait, Thanksgiving is how far away? Dang, that came up fast.

      Well I suppose I should be grateful for the simplicity of this week's meal then, because I have a 22 pound turkey in my freezer and that's about all the prep work I've done so far. Of course, I'm not the one who makes the Thanksgiving roast (that's my husband's job!) but my house sure could use a deep clean and I've got groceries to buy and pies to bake, too.

      So thankfully (haha) this week is an easy meal, and tasty, too. It's from Guernsey, another one of those places that's not really a country but is on my list anyway. I like those places because they generally get left out of discussions of world cuisine, and sometimes they have great recipes to share. Guernsey is a good example of this.

      If you've heard the name "Guernsey" and are not sure where, it may be because of its primary claim to fame: the Guernsey Cow. Guernsey cattle are known for producing milk with a rich flavor, which is golden in color, has a lot of butterfat and is particularly high in beta carotene. But of course you can't just walk into a supermarket and buy it, because that would be too easy.

       Castle Cornet, Guernsey. Photo credit: neilalderney123.

      Anyway, besides having good milk and butter, Guernsey has a unique cultural identity, too. Guernsey is an island located in the English channel, about 27 miles from the coast of France. It isn't part of France, though, but is rather a dependency of the British Crown, and has been since the middle ages, when the island was also used as a base for pirates. Both English and French are spoken there, as well as several distinctly regional languages including Guernésiais and Sercquiais.

      I know I'm always going on about how small some of these places are, but Guernsey really is small. At 30 square miles it's roughly the same size as the Davenport, Iowa city bus route. As with all small places, sources for recipes are limited but I think I hit on a pretty good combo with the menu I ended up with. Here it is (all recipes come from

      Guernsey Bean Jar
      • 1 lb navy beans
      • 1 lb lima beans
      • 1 lb pork belly*
      • 1 lb onions
      • 1 stock cube (I used beef)
      • Salt and pepper for seasoning
      * Pork belly is not actually an easy cut to find in a typical supermarket. You might be able to get one at an Asian market, or ask your butcher for one. Since I'm really trying to avoid feeding my family a ton of fat (pork bellies are really fatty) I chose a moderately fatty pork loin instead.

      Guernsey Biscuits
      • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
      • 5 tsp active dry yeast
      • 2 1/2 tsp salt
      • 1 stick butter*
      • 1 cup warm milk*
      • 2 1/2 tsp sugar

      *Naturally, this recipe called for Guernsey milk and Guernsey butter. If you can find it, I'm sure these biscuits would be even more delicious than they were without using Guernsey dairy products. But my supermarket doesn't carry Guernsey milk and I'm pretty sure it would be expensive to order, so I had to settle for plain ole ordinary milk.

      Gâche Mélée
      (pronounced "gosh mel-are")
      • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
      • 2 sticks butter
      • 1 1/2 lb apples, peeled, cored and chopped
      • 1 cup demerara sugar
      • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
      • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
      • 1/4 tsp British mixed spice*
      • 1/2 cup water
      • 1 tsp salt
      • 1 egg
      * I have mixed spice in my pantry, 'cause duh, British husband. Fortunately there's really nothing weird in it, so you can whip up a batch pretty easily using spices you probably already have on hand.

      Fortunately this all comes together really quickly, provided you do a little planning ahead.

      First, you have to soak the beans in cold water overnight. Then switch out the water for fresh and boil for a half hour. Now add the pork, onions and stock cube.

      Keep boiling for another 20 minutes. Now spend the next 20 minutes picking all the black bits out of the pot because you didn't use enough water and everything burned.

      Transfer the whole lot to a slow cooker and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours, or simply add more water and cook over low heat for another three to four hours. The dish is finished when the beans are tender and the meat is falling apart.

      Now for the biscuits. These are yeast biscuits so you need to start them about 2 1/2 hours before dinner time.

      First sift the flour together with the salt. In a separate bowl, cream the butter with the sugar and, yes, with the yeast. That seemed a bit strange to me too but I got good results, so go with it. Add the warm milk and let stand for 10 minutes to give the yeast time to become active.

      Add the flour and knead. For me, this made a perfect dough. It was exactly the right consistency--not sticky at all but not crumbly, either.

      Let the dough rise in a warm place for about an hour and a half, then transfer to a floured surface and punch down. Separate into balls (you should get about a dozen and a half biscuits out of this recipe). I actually rolled the dough out and cut them with a biscuit cutter, but how you do it is up to you. When you're done, transfer to a greased baking sheet and let rise in a warm place for another 20 minutes or so.

      Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden.

      And now for the gâche mélée:

      Preheat your oven to 275 degrees. Mix the flour and the butter with your fingers like you would a pastry dough, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

      Add the rest of the dry ingredients and the apple. Mix until the apples are well-coated. Now stir in the egg and water.

      Transfer this mixture to a 7-inch square baking pan. Sprinkle with a little extra sugar and then bake for two hours or until golden.

      As simple as this meal may seem, it was really perfect in almost every way except for the occasional black bits that remained after my earlier blunder. Other than that, the beans were really delicious. I can't really even pinpoint why because there was nothing to them. I guess you can't go wrong with beans and a nice, marbled piece of pork.

      I really enjoyed the biscuits. In fact, 18 biscuits disappeared into the Robins family over a span of about 10 minutes, so we must have all liked them. They came out so perfectly that I will probably use this recipe the next time I decide to make yeast biscuits.

      Now what can I say about the gâche mélée. First of all the name makes me smile, because I think it's probably what Leave it to Beaver would call an apple pie of he were, you know, a pirate. "Gosh mel-ahrrrrrrrrr." I know. Sorry.

      Seriously though this was a good apple pie. I liked how the pastry was incorporated right into the apples, making it a lot simpler to create than a standard American apple pie. And of course I wasn't the only one who loved it--my kids did too, though they insisted on eating it with Cool Whip which I'm pretty sure isn't something they do in Guernsey, but shhh I won't tell if you don't.

      So yeah there were some keepers this week, too. I really am on a roll!

      Next week, Guinea.

      For printable versions of this week's recipes:

      Saturday, November 16, 2013

      How to Thaw a Turkey (a calculator)

      OK I'm veering just the tiniest bit off course here, because I've got this little tool that might be useful to you and I wanted to share it.

      I can't tell you how many times we've pulled our turkey out of the fridge thinking it's ready to cook, only to discover the damned thing is still frozen (OK twice). And just so you know it's actually really not very safe to thaw out a turkey by running hot tap water over it.

      Use this quick calculator to find out how long it will take to thaw your Thanksgiving turkey in the fridge or in cold water.
      Every year since that second occasion I have to Google "how long to thaw a turkey" because by the time Thanksgiving rolls around again, I've forgotten. So for your convenience (and mine) here's a calculator you can use to figure out (roughly) how long to thaw your turkey. (If you want to do the math yourself it's 1 day per 4 to 5 lbs in the fridge, and 30 minutes per pound in cold tap water.)

      Oh and here's the disclaimer: This calculator is designed to give you a rough estimate of about how long it will take to thaw your Thanksgiving turkey. Results may vary depending on how cold your fridge is or how cold your tapwater is. Please just use this as a guide and don't get mad if your turkey is still a bit frozen in the morning. It's your fridge's fault, not mine. :) Remember that submerging it in cold water should get the rest of that frost out.

      Anyway, here it is. Cool little calculator, huh?

      How long will it take to thaw your Thanksgiving turkey?

      Enter your turkey's weight: lbs

      Your turkey will take about days to thaw in the fridge.
      or about to thaw in cold water.

      Note: Values rounded up to nearest half day (fridge thawing) and nearest 15 minutes (cold water thawing). Your turkey may take a few hours/minutes less to thaw than indicated by this calculator. I figured it was better to have your turkey thawed a little too soon than still frozen on Thanksgiving morning. :)

      Thursday, November 14, 2013

      Recipes from Guatemala

      I'm on a roll!  After cooking some really outstanding food from Grenada and Guam I've hit on another winner: Guatemala. I don't know if I'm getting lucky or I'm just getting a whole lot better at choosing meals that I can a) reproduce correctly and b) tell in advance are going to be tasty. Probably a little of both.

      Guatemala is a Central American nation, in fact it's Mexico's closest neighbor to the south. At just over 42,000 square miles, it is roughly the size of the state of Tennessee, so not one of the largest nations on my list. It has a big history, though, since this is where the civilization of the Mayans rose and fell somewhere around the same millennia as the birth of Christ.

      Guatemala is one of those places that attracts passionate travelers. Its archaeological sites are, for some people, deeply spiritual places or at least endlessly fascinating. Like Egypt, Guatemala is full of ruins both big and small, from Tikal to Quirigua and Zaculeu. You only have to spend some time looking at photographs of these places before you start to wish you could visit them, too.

      Photo credit: Pedro Szekely

      Guatemalan cuisine is, as you might expect, similar to the sorts of dishes you find in Mexico. Actual Mexico, I mean, not the one that pretends to occupy your local taqueria. The food comes from Mayan traditions, since it's the descendants of those ancient Mayans who now occupy the area. Corn, beans and chilies are all on the typical Guatemalan menu. Sounds good to me!

      During my research there was one dish that kept popping up over and over again, and since it contained pretty much no ingredient that I don't find incredibly delicious I couldn't ignore it, even though it was kind of the obvious selection. Here it is:

      Pork Jocón
      • 1 pound pork*
      • 1 onion, roughly chopped
      • 1 tomato, roughly chopped
      • 3 cloves garlic
      • 2 tsp salt
      • 6 green onion stalks
      • 20 tomatillos
      • 4 sprigs of cilantro
      • 2 green chilies (if you want it spicy)
      • 1 oz margarine
      • 1/8 tsp pepper
      • 2 tbsp bread crumbs
      * I gather that this dish is typically made with chicken. The only reason I didn't make it with chicken was because a lot of my recent TbS meals have been poultry based, and I wanted to try something different. I did find several references to a pork alternative during my research, so I think this version is still authentic even though it may not be typical.

      On the side:

      Arroz Guatemalteco

      • 2 cups long grain rice
      • 2 tbsp oil
      • 1 cup mixed vegetables (carrots, celery, sweet red peppers, green peas), finely chopped
      • Salt and pepper to taste
      • 4 cups chicken stock
      Now I desperately wanted to find a recipe that did not include peas and carrots, because as you know I'm like a little kid when I encounter peas and carrots. I just want to hold my nose and go "Ew!!!" But this really is the only rice recipe I could find, so I went with it. See, I'm not inflexible.

      And finally:

      • 6 corn tortillas
      • 12 oz fresh Mexican cheese (I used queso fresco)
      • 3 eggs, separated
      • Salt and pepper to taste
      • About 4 tbsp vegetable oil
      Now I also had a dessert picked out, and even bought all the ingredients for it. Here's a link to it, in case you decide you want to make it. (Note: this is a Google Translate page, and the recipe is at the bottom after several others.) I forget what was going on that night, but by the time I finished making this meal I couldn't be bothered to do the bananas, too. But hey, it's not the first time I've done that.

      So here goes, starting with the pork:

      Place the pork in a pot with the onion, tomato and one of the garlic cloves. Add 1 tsp of the salt and cover everything with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the pork reads 145 degrees with an internal meat thermometer. Remove the meat from the pot, reserving the broth. Let cool and then cut up into bite sized pieces.

      Diced pork in very strange lighting.

      Place the green onions, tomatillos, cilantro, the remaining garlic cloves and the chili peppers into a food processor with about two cups of the broth. Blend well, then strain off some of the liquid.

      Melt the margarine in a large saucepan and then add the tomatillo mixture. Season with salt and pepper and then add the bread crumbs to thicken. Add the pork to the pot and then bring just to a boil.

      And now, the rice. Super easy, which would be great if it wasn't for those damned peas and carrots. Here's how:

      Heat the oil in a heavy pot and add the rice. Stir for a few minutes, until all the grains are coated but don't let them brown.

      Now add the (gag) vegetables, chicken stock and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 20 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed.

      And finally, the Chilaquilas. Spoiler alert: these are pretty danged tasty and also really simple, if you don't mind beating egg whites.

      First beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until you get some lovely stiff peaks.

      In a separate bowl, beat the yolks lightly, then gently fold them into the whites.

      Now put the tortillas in the microwave with a damp paper towel. Nuke them for 20 or 30 seconds to soften them up.

      Slice the cheese into quarter-inch thick slices and put them inside the tortillas, covering one half of each one. Then fold the tortillas in half.

      Heat the oil in a shallow pan and then dip each tortilla in the egg mixture, covering completely. Now place in the hot oil and fry on each side until golden. Keep warm while you finish the rest of them.
      OK so I will admit, I even liked the rice. I might have picked out some of the carrots. Possibly also some of the peas. But I really did like it. It was rather plain, really, but I don't need my rice to be particularly fancy.

      The pork was delicious, and went perfectly with the tomatillo sauce, which was not surprising since that's the basis for a chili verde recipe I sometimes make. But by far my favorite part of the meal was the chilaquilas. They were kind of like little tortilla-stuffed omelets. Now I know I'm a mean mom but I had to kind of tell Hailey a half-truth when she wanted to know what she was eating, because the chilaquilas contained her two arch nemeses, cheese and eggs. So I told her she was eating tortillas dipped in huevos and stuffed with queso, which meant nothing to her and which she evidently didn't think to question. So even she liked it. Now of course it was a heart-attack inducing mass of cholesterol-stuffed bad for youidness, so really, what's not to like. Hailey just hasn't figured out yet that she really does like cheese and eggs.

      Still picking through the alphabet and can finally see a light at the end of the "G" tunnel! Next week: Guernsey.

      For printable versions of this weeks recipes:

      Thursday, November 7, 2013

      Recipes from Guam

      Finally! A country that I actually know something about. Here's what I know: when he was in the Navy, my dad was stationed on Guam.

      OK so that third sentence is actually the sum total of my knowledge about Guam. Sorry. Because I was maybe one when he was over there and I really know nothing about it, except that he brought home this sort of Japanese-looking doll from there that I still have somewhere.

      When Travel by Stove landed on Guam I had to ask my dad if he knew anything about the food there, and he said he did, because one of the guys on his ship was a native of the island, and they were all invited to his wedding. The food served at the event was traditional style, "very spicy, marinated overnight and cooked in a pit." But he's pretty sure it was undercooked because some of the guys were sick the next day, or it might have been the beer.

      So that's the sum total of my dad's knowledge about the food in Guam, which is roughly equal to my own plus one actual meal. Now that was many years ago and I won't say how many because then you'll know how old I am. But he couldn't recall the names of the dishes or anything, so besides being an amusing anecdote my dad's lead was kind of a dead end.

      Anyway, in case you know about as little about Guam as I do, here's some background:

      Talofofo Falls, Guam. Photo credit: Douglas Sprott.

      Guam is an unincorporated territory of the United States. It is one of only five US territories that have a civilian government (Puerto Rico is another). And it has, of course, a long history of Europeans trying to settle there and take control over everything. And also the Japanese. In fact, during World War II Guam was captured by the Japanese on the same day as the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese occupied it for two and a half years, during which time the people were subjected to some brutal treatment which I won't describe here because I don't really like to use the word "torture" on my blog, unless I'm talking about shrimp paste or hakarl. Anyway, US troops recaptured Guam in 1944, and today there's still a strong military presence on the island. The military, in fact, is Guam's second largest source of income, just behind tourism.

      Most of Guam's traditional cuisine comes from its indigenous population, the Chamorros. The food is flavorful, relies on tropical ingredients such as coconut and is, as my dad described, often grilled, barbecued or cooked in a pit. It was actually surprisingly easy to find Chamorro recipes since Guam's indigenous people have a long tradition of preparing delicious food, and probably also because the tourism industry helps keep those old recipes alive. Here are the ones that I chose for this week's meal (all recipes come from 671 Guam Recipes):

      Chicken Kelaguen
      • 2 grilled chicken breasts
      • 1/2 onion
      • 3 green onions, sliced on the diagonal
      • 1 jalapeño
      • Salt and pepper to taste
      • Juice of 2 lemons
      • Flour tortillas
      Red Rice
      • 4 cups uncooked  rice
      • 2 packs Sazon Goya
      • 1 onion, chopped
      • 1 tsp vegetable oil
      • 1 or 2 tsp salt
      Mung Beans and Ham Hocks
      • 2 to 3 smoked ham hocks
      • 1 1/2 cup dried mung beans
      • 5 or 6 garlic cloves
      • 1 whole onion, quartered
      • Salt to taste
      • Black pepper to taste
      • Garlic powder to taste
      • 1 whole onion, diced
      • 3 cloves garlic, minced
      • 1 tbsp olive oil
      • 1 tsp salt
      • 1 tsp achiote powder mixed with 1/4 cup water
      • 1/2 cup coconut milk
      Manha Titiyas
      • 3 1/2 to 4 cups of flour
      • 1 cup sugar
      • 2 tbsp canola oil
      • 1/4 cup milk
      • 1 1/2 cups coconut water
      • 1 to 2 cups coconut meat, sliced thinly into 1-inch pieces
      You can make the chicken ahead of time since it's served chilled, so let's start there.

      I'm pretty sure you can cook the chicken any way you like, as long as you don't season it. The chicken should take most of its flavor from the lemon juice and the rest of the ingredients in the kelaguen itself. This particular recipe calls for a basic grilled chicken, but the author also says he often just steams his chicken breasts in foil like you would a piece of fish. I just used a rotisserie chicken from Safeway.

      So, break the chicken up into bite-sized pieces and then mix in the onions, green onions, jalapeno, salt and pepper and lemon juice. Transfer to the fridge and chill.

      Serve on flour tortillas (I served mine on the Manha Titiyas, more about that later).

      Meanwhile, make the mung beans:

      Boil the ham hocks with the garlic, onion, black pepper and garlic powder for about three hours. Drain and set aside, reserving the stock. Let cool, then cut the meat up into small pieces.

      Meanwhile, boil the mung beans until soft (mung beans cook pretty quickly, in about 45 minutes to an hour).

      Now saute the rest of the garlic and onions in olive oil until the onions are translucent. Add the mung beans and salt.

      Now add the chopped ham and a little more pepper and garlic powder to taste, then two or  three cups of the ham broth and the achiote water.

      Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. In the last couple of minutes, add the coconut milk. Serve at once.

      Now for the rice:

      Saute the onion in the vegetable oil until translucent. Add the rice, Sazon Goya and water, then bring to a boil.

      Reduce heat, cover and cook for 20 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.

      Now I get the feeling that this is kind of a dumbed-down version of Guam's red rice, which is generally made with a blend of seasonings and achiote paste (the achiote is what gives it its red color). Since Sazon Goya is also made with achiote paste and since this shortcut comes from a source in Guam, I felt justified in making things easy for myself. This time.
      Now for the titiyas (which means "tortillas").

      I originally made these as a dessert, because I looked at the amount of sugar in the recipe and thought, "dessert." Then as I was making them I decided to do some extra Googling just to be sure, and found several references to them being used with savory dishes. So at the last minute I served them with the kelaguen instead of using the plain flour tortillas I bought for the occasion. Anyway first here's how to make them:

      Mix together all of the ingredients except for the coconut meat.

      Now, I used a fresh coconut which was a first for me, because I didn't think that canned coconut water would be an acceptable substitute (maybe it is, who knows) and all you can really buy in the store is sweetened, shredded coconut. So I had Martin open up the coconut for me using what I'm pretty sure was an incredibly dangerous technique, and I poured out the water into a measuring cup.

      Then I spent about an hour scraping the damned coconut. It's hard to get enough meat out of one of those things, or at least out of that particular one of those things.

      So once you've done all that and you've mixed together the ingredients you can add the coconut meat. The dough should be pliable, so feel free to add extra flour until it is the correct consistency. If it's too dry you can add a bit more of the coconut water.

      Now break the dough apart into six pieces and roll into balls. On a floured surface, roll each ball out until it is about as thick as a tortilla (mine were thicker than they were supposed to be).

      Heat the oil in a large skillet and turn the heat down to medium. Put the tortilla in the skillet and cook until it's starting to turn golden on one side, then flip and cook the other side. Keep warm until ready to serve.

      I was very pleasantly surprised by this meal. It's exactly what you want from a meal—simple and delicious. It seems like you hardly ever get those two things to happen together, at least not on blog night.

      Martin loved the kelaguen. In fact he told me I should make it again and we should invite some friends over. I was almost afraid to tell him it was just a rotisserie chicken with some onions and lemon juice.

      Actually I think one of the things he liked the best was the manha titiyas, which were sweet but strangely delicious with the kelaguen. Now, someone is bound to post a note on this entry letting me know that eating manha titiyas with kelaguen is wrong, wrong, wrong, but hey, it worked for us and even if it was wrong I would probably do it again. There, I said it.

      The beans and ham were nice and different, but a bit stodgy. I'm not sure they were exactly right with the kelaguen, but I did like them.

      Oh, and the rice: loved it. I am a huge fan of fluffy rice with a simple flavor, like the sort of thing you get as a side in a Mexican restaurant. This was exactly like that, only with a twist. Nice light flavor and light texture that went perfectly with the other two dishes.

      So there you go, not exactly the same experience that Dad had with food in Guam, but very surprisingly delicious and simple. A keeper, for sure.

      Next week: Guatemala

      For printable versions of this week's recipes:

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