A white (faranje) adoptive mother to two Ethiopian (habesha) girls wends her way through
Exotic Ethiopian Cooking by D. J. Mesfin

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Annual Connecticut Ethiopian Adoptive Families Holiday Party


I know, I know.  Another new year is barreling towards us, gaining momentum, and I haven't been on here since September.  Somehow, I truly thought that preschool was going to bring 12 extra hours a week into my life, but it didn't quite end up working out that way.  Then the Ethiopians started ballet class, which led to the annual Nutcracker, with rehearsals and dress rehearsals enough to rival any professional production company out there.  Sometimes it's all I can do to get a home-cooked meal on the table and avoid takeout!  Our Ethiopian nights have sorely suffered.  

But, unlike Monday's dress rehearsal for The Nutcracker, our life here is not a dress rehearsal, but a work in progress, and I'll just keep getting back up on this horse!  

Tonight is the annual holiday party for our local Ethiopian families.  I would be refused admission if I showed up without my doro we't, so I pulled that together last night and it's in the crockpot now.  I somehow thought I had already documented my doro, but when I went to link to it, I see that I didn't.  Ah well, I was charging the camera battery for tonight's performance anyway.  

There had been discussion on our local listserv earlier this week about what I will call The Injera Situation.  Our local Ethiopian restaurant is only open for dinner these days, which makes procuring injera extremely difficult.  Still, I had hope.  Last night, I thought to inquire as to The Injera Situation, only to receive the news that the situation wasn't good.  Indeed, there was talk of pita bread and naan.  

Nothing against pita and naan...we're passionate consumers of both.  But they're not injera.  Not to mention that if the Ethiopians see naan, they're likely to start asking where the palak paneer is.  

So, with about 18 hours of lead time, I decided to try making some form of injera.  I Google'd "quick injera" and found recipes that called for club soda and lemon juice.  "Okay", I thought, swallowing a little bit of dignity.  "It'll be better than no injera."  Until I read through the recipes and found that they called for brushing the cooked injera with lemon juice to simulate the sourness.  I couldn't do it.  

I seemed to remember what seemed like a relatively simple injera recipe in the cookbook I reviewed earlier, "Lucy's Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia - Recipes from Afar and Near".  But I couldn't find the cookbook!  I suspect it's somewhere in the detritus surrounding my husband's computer space, but I couldn't uncover it.  I did, however, remember that, on my sidebar, I had a link to the recipe!

I tripled the amounts and used buckwheat flour in lieu of the teff flour (we couldn't get to Whole Foods last night).  To this mixture, I then added some starter.  My husband, an avid amateur bread baker, has managed to not only attract wild yeast in our New England environs, but he has been farming and tending to it in a variety of starter mediums.  He graciously allowed me to take a bit of his all-purpose starter, as long as I took "no more than 75 grams".  I dutifully pulled out our digital scale and made sure to take only 74 grams (our scale only measures by even grams, and 76 grams would have been a breach of our complicated starter contract).  

The mixture started forming bubbles almost immediately and I went to bed, heartened.  

This morning, the batter looked great and had even started fermenting a bit, smelling less like plain flour and water.  Again, I'm sorry for the lack of pictures.  I'll be doing this again and promise to document it thoroughly!

A blog-less friend of mine (or I'd link to it), Kristen, had given me a Heritage Lefse Grill and I was anxious to test it out.  I know that, in my earlier injera post, I had said that I wasn't entirely convinced that having this grill would make a difference and I still think it can be done on a stove in a regular pan, but I will say that I will no longer be trying that method.  The grill is fantastic.  Even heat, a huge cooking surface, and easily removed injera.  She had given me the lid, too, which I tried, but I ended up not using it because I felt the condensation made the dough too damp.  Plus, it was easier to see when the injera was done when I didn't use the lid.  

The results were mixed, but definitely skewed towards success.  I will be working with this recipe from here on out.  It's much thicker and spongier than my earlier results and it looks and feels like injera.  But, sadly, it needed to be fermented a lot longer; twelve hours is nowhere near long enough.  This injera is quite bland.  Dipped in a bit of doro (in that red crock-pot behind and to the right of the lefse grill), however, it was passable.  Much more passable than my first injera attempt.  

This recipe was also easy.  I have to play with the mix/types of flours a bit until I get something I love, and I will have to play around with how long to ferment it, but it really was so easy that I feel confident in saying that we will be having Ethiopian again soon.  

Monday, September 27, 2010

Telba Fitfit (Flax Water Mixed with Injera)

"Telba Fitfit is a refreshing meal for a hot day or after fasting.  May act as a mild laxative." ~ D. J. Mesfin, Exotic Ethiopian Cooking, p .203

Don't get too excited about that injera -- I didn't make it!
Today's repast veered ever so slightly into the alternative medicine arena.  :)  I actually love flax seeds and we often use them on our cereal in the morning, so I had some in the freezer ready to go.  Except I forgot that when I was out shopping and bought another package (Trader Joe's has them for an awesome price).

This was a simple and quick meal to make and interesting.  It is served cold and that, combined with the presence of cinnamon, made me think that it would be a better breakfast meal than a dinner meal, despite the berbere included in it.

The first step was to take the flaxseeds:

Trader Joe's brand is much cheaper!
I poured them into a frying pan and toasted them, which smelled heavenly!

After toasting and letting them cool a bit, I threw them into the poor, abused coffee grinder:

prior to grinding...forgive the battle scars/stains
after grinding
Those of you who are among my Facebook coterie may have seen a status message last Friday bemoaning the fact that I failed to clean the grinder well enough after grinding the cardamom for the yesiga t'ibs last week.  For the rest of you, what happened was that, Friday morning, I pulled out my brand new bag of Starbucks Ethiopian Limu (sadly, they seem to have done away with the Sidama and replaced it with the Limu), put the beans in the inadequately cleaned grinder, brewed, and ended up with cardamom-laced coffee, which, alone, may have been not too bad, but I had also added some chocolate milk.  It was a little too antiseptic-y and the two tastes together were not working for me!

Once upon a time, I had had two coffee grinders and kept them for separate uses, but I burned one out grinding (human-grade) puppy food for the bird's food (I have a starling).  I keep meaning to buy another one (I've decided that, in an ideal world, I should own three), but every time I'm in front of them in the store, I keep thinking I don't want to spend that whole $20 on them.  The cardamom fiasco definitely changed my mind and I resolved to fix this...until I discovered I had a second grinder all along, hidden in the plastic bin in which I keep my Salad Shooter.  So the cardamom grinder is now the official spice grinder (I labeled it and everything) and the other grinder will be my coffee grinder.  

After grinding, I added cinnamon (left), a meager teaspoon of berbere (right; usually measured in cups around here), and salt:

Then I added water:

And torn up bits injera:

I pulled the mail-order injera out of the freezer, since it lends itself quite well to fitfit.  It was only as I was preparing this dish that I thought "hmm, perhaps I should have made some injera to use to eat the fitfit".  Since injera is anything but a last minute chore, I decided to just use up the last of the mail-order injera.  Microwaving it a little bit improved its texture quite a bit, though it still left an odd residue that kind of turns us off.  

The fitfit was placed in the refrigerator until dinner time.  This was quite a filling dish and it seemed like we barely made a dent in it.  As I mentioned above, it seems like it would be a great dish for breakfast or, as the book notes, a nice cold dinner on a hot summer's day.  The cinnamon imparted a nice sweetness to it and the berbere was almost completely unnoticeable, while at the same time adding just a little something.  It's not a meal that's going to make it into our regular rotation (my husband prefers meat and berbere), but it was nice to try something a little different!  In researching this dish, I noticed it being offered as an appetizer on several Ethiopian restaurant menus, and I think that it would work perfectly in such a role.  

Monday, September 20, 2010

Yesiga T'ibs (Meat Cooked in Spice and Red Pepper)

"Yesiga t'ibs is prepared on all occasions.  It is very delicious with injera or bread." ~ D. J. Mesfin, Exotic Ethiopian Cooking, p. 114

that's homemade injera there, baby

I put the t'ibs together this morning to throw into the crockpot, as I was also to be tackling injera today, which I figured could end up consuming a good amount of time (it did).  

I am going to right come out and say that I don't think that the proportions in this recipe are correct.  Either that, or an ingredient is missing.  Or I simply haven't a clue.  But I'll get there in a moment.  

I started as I usually start with an Ethiopian dish: I dry-sautéed a very large amount of red onions (after being quite thankful for my food processor):

To that, I added 1/2 cup of nit'ir qibe (I know I don't usually throw in too many measurements, as I wish to respect the author's copyright, but I'm giving some today because I really need help figuring out whether this recipe was correct or not).  

So far, so good.  Next, came 1 cup of berbere.  

Still within the realm of possibility, though it seemed like an awful lot of berbere for that amount of nit'ir qibe (in my doro we't, for instance, I use 2 cups of nit'ir qibe to one cup of berbere).  I even had a bit of trouble incorporating the berbere into the nit'ir qibe and the onions.  I thought "this can't be right" and looked at the recipe again.  Oh, I had forgotten to add 1/2 cup of red wine.  It still seemed like way too little liquid for the amount of berbere that I had in there, but I added the wine.  It did help a bit:

But it was still quite thick.  By now, I decided it really needed some more liquid, so I threw in another 1/2 cup of nit'ir qibe and added some water until it stopped looking so pasty. I didn't add a lot of water, just enough.  

Then I added the meat and cooked it for 15 minutes:

Next came (clockwise from top) black pepper, salt, cardamom, and garlic powder:

I usually grind the cardamom whole, pods and all, in my coffee grinder, but, for some reason, this morning I was inspired to see how easy they were to open up.  It turns out it was quite easy to get the seeds out and, in no time, I had the little cardamom carcasses to prove it:

I still, however, threw the cardamom seeds into the coffee grinder.  After adding the spices, I then put the t'ibs into the crockpot until we were ready for dinner:

It looked good and smelled divine, but, sadly (at least it was sad for myself and the Ethiopians), it was way too spicy.  And that was with the addition of the extra butter and some water (it was probably about 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of water, not a huge amount).  I cannot even imagine trying to eat this stuff full-test.  It was very good, but I couldn't eat more than a few bites due to the heat.  We weren't talking the lovely endorphin-rush heat of the yesiga fitfit, where it was hot, but you couldn't just resist taking another bite.  This was painful all the way down and it remained painful for quite a while.  My husband pronounced it the spiciest/hottest stuff he's ever eaten, and he'll use a half bottle of (very) hot sauce as a condiment for his lunch.  He had to go outside to get some air and was pretty blissed out for the rest of the evening.  

Does anyone know if the yesiga t'ibs is supposed to be basically berbere-coated beef with no sauce?  Almost like an awaze paste?  My husband even mentioned that it felt grainy.  I never order yesiga t'ibs, I can't remember if my husband has ever ordered it before, and I'm having trouble finding pictures of it on the Internet.  It seems that some of the other t'ibs recipes in the book include cups (like 6) of water, but not all t'ibs use the berbere and it's just very difficult to figure out if that's how it was supposed to be.  After all, with water added, isn't it just t'ibs w'et?  Though that beef is fried, not stewed.  Arghh!!  One of the hazards of learning a very foreign cuisine.  I tried pulling out my Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery (circa 1966), but they don't cover Ethiopian cookery.  Go figure.

For now, I added some more water and am letting it stay in the crockpot overnight so that my husband can bring it to work for his lunch.  I probably won't be able to get it to my tolerance level, but I'd like to next time.  I can handle the doro w'et with 1 cup of berbere, so I know that that alone is not the issue.  This is the first time a recipe from this book has been too hot/spicy for me to eat.  

Despite the thrill of feeling like I could eventually get a handle on the injera, I have to say that tonight's dinner was a bit disappointing as a whole.  I haven't eaten so little of a dish since the iskunfur, though I can't say that was because it was too spicy!  :)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Yet'ef Injera, day #3

"Yet'ef injera is a soft, spongy, sour bread made from a rye like grain called t'ef which is grown in Ethiopia.  A staple food, it is served with all kinds of dishes on any occasion and eaten with the fingers, and is usually served cold." ~ D. J. Mesfin, Exotic Ethiopian Cooking, p. 79-80

Houston, we have injera!
It was not great injera (though the Ethiopians begged to differ), but I am excited about where the process took me.  I learned a lot, and I feel fairly confident that I have a decent foundation upon which to build.  Lest you think I lead some sort of charmed life and was able to just churn out injera like scrambled eggs, let me introduce you to my first piece:

It eventually got better.  (How could it get much worse, right?)  But first things first.  This morning, this is what greeted me in the injera pot:

See?  Pretty nasty, huh?  Though at least this wasn't black like it was yesterday morning.  The batter was definitely smelling quite sour, too.  The first order of business was to get rid of the water from the top of the batter.  This was actually quite easy.  I just tilted the pot and slowly poured it off until I got down to the batter.  

Then I took a cup of the batter, added it to a couple of cups of boiling water, and cooked until the mixture had thickened (this mixture is called "absit"), which didn't take long at all:

absit bubbling away
This was left to cool for a bit, doing some serious congealing as it did so:

Once cool, the absit was then added back into the rest of the batter and "more water" was added; there were no measurements given for this amount at all, so I just kept adding water until I had a batter that looked good to me (I aimed for the consistency of a crepe batter and tested it by pouring it from a spoon).  At this point, I did pull out the immersion blender and tackled the lumps that were present from the absit until I had a fairly smooth batter.  I then whisked it a bit by hand; I don't know why.  

Then, I let it sit for a bit to do a final rise.  I was multitasking, so I'm not sure how long I left it.  I made lunch, made the yesiga t'ibs and got it into the crockpot, made the Ethiopians' lunches for tomorrow (they'll be thrilled to learn that I later went back and stuck in some injera), consoled a playground injury, ate lunch, ran to the grocery store, and came back to this:

"Double, double toil and trouble/Fire burn, and cauldron bubble." ~ Shakespeare's Macbeth
I took some video to show that this was very actively bubbling...no cooking was involved at this point!

Now it was time to cook the injera!  I had read many times about folks not getting the pan hot enough, so I took my frying pan and set our glass cook-top to 8 (9 is the highest setting).  Once water danced upon the surface of the skillet, I poured about 3/4 cup of batter into the pan and covered it (despite its pancake-like demeanor, you don't flip injera; the top gets cooked via the steam provided by a lid).  I was excited to see the bubbles forming.  It was looking like....injera!  I dutifully set the timer and watched for the curling edges, which supposedly signaled done-ness.  And, as you've already seen, I ended up with this:

What you're looking at is a largely gooey mess.  The bottom was nearly burning, yet there were pockets of raw batter.  It stuck horribly (a common issue, I've heard).  Thus started my quest to figure out what I was doing wrong.  It turns out that there were a number of things going wrong and it took many, many more failed attempts before I started seeing progress.  At first, I thought maybe I didn't have the heat up high enough, so I turned it up.  That wasn't it.  The bottom was still cooking pretty quickly and the edges were curling up, yet the top wasn't cooking.  So I tried ditching the timer and leaving it in the pan until it looked like it was done:

Nope, that wasn't it either.  Yes, the top was done, but the bottom was burned and crunchy and crunchy injera isn't flexible, doesn't roll up well, and smells awful.  So, in a completely counterintuitive move, I moved the heat down to 5, almost dead medium.  Eureka #1!  I had actually had the heat up way too high and the injera needed to cook at a more temperate heat in order to cook evenly.  It wasn't an immediate success, and I have the botched injera in the wastebasket to prove it, but it quickly became evident that this was a key discovery.  

At first, I was still having problems with goopiness.  The edges would be curling, which I kept reading meant it was done, yet when I tried to remove it, there would be sticking on the bottom and uncooked batter on the top.  I was diligent with the timer and I wasn't getting why it wasn't working.  I finally decided to stop using the timer and let it cook a little bit longer.  Eureka #2!  The batter only sticks on the bottom when it's not done.  I never used spray oil or anything like that in the pan; I remember reading that that only makes matters worse.  That's not to say I wasn't sorely tempted at some points, but I resisted the urge and, sure enough, when an injera is done, it doesn't stick at all.  Even a few seconds too early will result in sticking.  When an injera is done, you should be able to pull it up by the edges with both hands, lift it up, and get it onto a plate without injury.  If you're burning your fingers because it's too hot, it means there's still too much steam in the injera because it's still a bit too wet (even if it's not sticking on the bottom).  Here you can see some perfectly curled edges:

Somewhere along the way, I also experimented with using a lot less batter than was called for and I started putting it into the pan differently.  Originally, I was using the traditional technique of pouring the batter from a cup around the pan in a circle, moving from the outside in.  It was just too much batter and it wasn't cooking well, even on the more moderate heat.  What I started doing instead was using a ladle and pouring a much smaller amount of batter into the pan.  I then lifted up the pan, tilted it, and moved it around so that I was increasing the area that the batter covered.  I tilted and swirled the batter until it cooked enough to stop moving.  I then replaced the pan and threw on the lid.  This led to the best results.  My injera was pitifully thin, but I am fairly certain that this was a function of making the batter too watery.  I kept hoping that adding more batter would make a thicker injera, but it never quite worked out that way.  

Once I had a good level of heat and the proper amount of batter, I found I was encountering another problem.  With the lid on the pan for the entire time, I was getting condensation dropping from the lid onto the top of the injera, which would effectively dissolve the section upon which it landed.  Removing the lid would allow it to re-cook, but then I was having to leave injera in too long just to fix a little area of an edge or two.  I will admit that I tried flipping the injera a few times, hoping that I could just finish off the too-wet sections.  It's what you do with pancakes, right?  Well, I learned that injera batter is not pancake batter and flipping it doesn't work at all.  I then tried just taking the lid off, but it was clear that the injera needed to be covered to cook properly, so, instead, at the first sign of a condensation drip, I tried cracking the lid and tilting slightly it towards a small, empty section of the pan (I wasn't making pan-sized injera by now so that I could test this technique).  This was a good-enough fix, but I'd really like to try using a mesob cover or something that vents a bit better, while still providing enough steam.  

I eventually found my groove and was able to churn out an impressive stack of injera, even as the Ethiopians kept coming in and asking for more:

This injera is made with 100% teff flour.  The Ethiopians loved it, but my husband and I weren't enthralled.  We ate it and it wasn't horrible, but we're used to the gorgeously pillowy injera offered by our local restaurant and it is that towards which I am aiming.  Next time, I am planning on cutting the teff flour with buckwheat flour.  I'm also going to use less water so that I can try to get a thicker injera and I may try cutting the fermentation by a day (this was very sour injera).  However, I made sure to snag some starter from this batch because it just seemed appropriate to build upon the beginning batch!  

the starter for next time

There will definitely be more injera-making to come, and I look forward to getting it perfect some day!  

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Yet'ef Injera, day #2

I thought I'd post a short update, since I'm sure everyone's at the edge of their seats.  Today is day #2 of the injera batter.  Jessica helpfully commented yesterday that, with a sourdough batter, one should use glass or 100% stainless steel, as the batter can corrode any other vessel.  I had forgotten all about my husband's stainless steel beer-brewing pot (which I had also used for the tej), but as soon as I remembered it, I moved the batter over. 

The batter was looking great yesterday!  It had nearly filled the stew pot I had started with and was frothy and bubbly. Absolutely gorgeous!!

yesterday afternoon, before changing pots

I stirred it yesterday because I couldn't help myself.  I probably shouldn't have, but I was transferring it and disturbing it anyway.  If this is going to be a fail, it will be much more interesting if I keep upping the number of variables so that I can't easily narrow down where things went wrong, right?  

This morning, the stuff looked nasty.  There was a layer of blackish liquid on the top and it looked completely inedible.  It looked so nasty, in fact, that if I hadn't been warned that this would happen, I would have thrown the batter away.  I should have taken a photo, but I guess I assumed it would continue looking that bad and that I'd have time to document it.  Alas, when I went to look again, it was looking a little better.  Still not as nice as it was yesterday, but the sickly black-green layer seemed to be less prominent:

how it's looking Saturday afternoon, after about 30 hours

I wish I remembered where I had read about how awful it would look during the fermentation process, but I can't seem to find the source right this second.  I suspect it was a little odd for my husband to hear me say this morning "it looks nasty....perfect!" 

I bought the steak for the t'ibs today (I'm not sure what it says about me that I have every other ingredient in the house except for the meat), so we're definitely moving forward with Ethiopian night tomorrow!!  I only hope I can pull off the injera!  

For tonight, though, it's homemade pizza with dough made by my husband and pepperoni artfully and thoughtfully arranged by the Ethiopians (at least the pepperoni that didn't make it into their mouths).  

Friday, September 17, 2010

Yet'ef Injera (Injera Made from T'ef)

I am getting serious here now.  Earlier this year, my local Ethiopian restaurant cut their hours, which meant that I couldn't run in for some dinner injera at lunch time.  Their dinner service doesn't start until about 5:30, and since we start bedtime routine at 6:30, that wasn't going to work either.  We tried the mail order injera and didn't like it (we only tried one place, but there is just something about fresh injera that makes us loathe to try another place).  Yet the Ethiopians need their injera.  Heck, I need my injera!!

Ever since we first started the journey that led to the adoption of the Ethiopians and discovered the sheer euphoria that is berbere, I had been warned about the injera process.  I was told it's impossible.  I was told it's so hard that even Ethiopians buy it rather than make it.  I was told it would be hopeless without some starter batter.  

That may all end up being true, but we're not left with many other viable options at this point and I'm planning on making some yesiga t'ibs this weekend.  I keep coming back to the realization that a lot of people do make injera and make it on a regular basis.  Some even make it to sell to folks like me who have been too afraid to give it a go.  

I'm going to give it a good shot, keep an open mind, and go into this with the expectation that I will need to work through some trial and error, but I am also hoping that, eventually, I get to the point where I can place some reasonable facsimile of injera on the table.  

This morning, my husband took the Ethiopians to school (they just started 3-day preschool last week, sigh; for their first packed school lunch, they asked for yesiga fitfit).  I stayed home to wait for the plumber so that we can stop using our propane shower water pump to empty the tub and figured I may as well get started!  I had purchased teff flour last Friday, knowing that I was going to be jumping into this sooner rather than later (my Whole Foods carries it; you can also find it on Amazon here).  Using the recipe in Exotic Ethiopian Cooking, one bag is the exact amount needed! 

The recipe is pretty straightforward.  Take the teff:

Add water and stir:

The recipe mentioned mixing with one's hands to ensure that there were no lumps.  I just used a spatula and decided that was good enough.  I almost thought about using my immersion blender, but decided the batter looked pretty good without that intervention.  

I was thrilled to see yeast in the list of ingredients!  I feared that this would be a recipe requiring "natural" fermentation: you set the pot out and hope some yeasty organisms decide to make it their new home; this is the fermentation method preferred for tej, yet it seems that this particular corner of New England doesn't lend itself all that well to natural fermentation.  Not to worry, though, as yeast was the next addition:

I may have used a bit too much water; the recipe wasn't exactly clear on how much water to use when, and I had thrown the entire amount into the flour, forgetting that I needed a cup of water to dissolve the yeast.  Later on in the recipe, there is a call for a further unidentified amount of water, so we shall see.  

After dissolving the yeast, I dumped it into the flour-and-water mixture: 

Perhaps I was just delusional, but I thought I saw bubbles start forming almost immediately!  So I decided to check just now.  In the time it took me to start this post, text with my husband about whether he remembered to give the Ethiopians' pictures to their teacher (their first homework assignment), drop a pewter mug on the computer tower causing said computer to spew out a blue screen of death and restart itself, and finish this post, this is what has happened:

Even to my inexperienced eye, this looks good to me and I am hopeful.  It also smells divine!  For now, though, the lid goes on the pot and it sits on the counter until Sunday (the recipe suggests two to three days of fermentation).  

Of course, the batter is just half of the equation.  It sounds like actually cooking injera can be tough, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed for now!  Stay tuned....

Sunday, September 5, 2010

This is What a House Should Smell Like!

 ye'atakilt alich'a (top) and yesiga fitfit (bottom)

It's been a great summer, but as Labor Day weekend churns its way inexorably towards Tuesday, I find myself with a chance to take some breaths!  As my husband and I discussed the options for dinner tonight and looked over what we had in the freezer (a lovely, new, huge chest freezer, thanks to my mom) and the refrigerator, I thought to myself "I could make a yesiga fitfit and ye'atakilt alich'a!"  All right, what I actually said was "I could make yesiga and some of that cabbage and carrot stuff".  (I know my yesiga.)  Since things here have been so quiet, I thought I'd blog about it.  It's not an official post or anything like that, so I'm not going to document the process, but I just thought I'd poke my head up out of the hole to prove that I'm still here.  :)

It turns out we actually needed to go out and purchase more potatoes and red onions and tomato paste, but everything else we had in the house.  Yes, we are a household that has berbere and qibe, but no potatoes.  Alas, we are also a household that didn't have injera (except for the frozen stuff that we didn't like before, which lends itself well to fitfit).  Enkutatash (the Ethiopian New Year) happens to be this Saturday, the 11th, and I've decided that injera will be our Ethiopian new year's resolution.  Our local Ethiopian restaurant is now only open for dinner, after 5:30 p.m., which is too late to be of much use for us (I used to be able to pick up injera around lunchtime, but no more), and the mail-order injera currently in our freezer doesn't do it for us (it has an odd texture and breaks instead of being all flexible).  So, 2003 (the Ethiopian calendar is 7 years behind ours) will be the Year of Injera.  A friend has offered us an injera skillet, even!

yesiga fitfit (left) and ye'atakilt alich'a (right)

I winged the fitfit. There is no recipe in Exotic Ethiopian Cooking for yesiga fitfit, but the fitfit part is the easiest of all: just add pieces of injera to the yesiga we't (or whatever we't you like; my personal favorite is doro fitfit).  The berbere came courtesy of my friend, Amy, over at Reimagining Our Lives.  It's different from what we've been using in the past, but it still comes straight from Addis and it was some seriously good berbere.  I'm starting to wonder exactly what is put in that homegrown stuff over there.  Every single one of us can't stop moving our hands from our plate to our mouth.  The Ethiopians are crying, panting, swigging milk, and taking bites of bread in between bites of the we't, yet I believe I served them fourths.  The ye'atakilt?  The alich'a? (alich'a is a mild stew; we't is the spicy stuff with berbere)  They didn't even ask for seconds.  They like it just fine and ate it, but there is just something about dishes with berbere.  We are going to have to videotape it one of these times because it's like a comedy routine.  You wouldn't think that somebody who appeared to be suffering that much would keep on eating that which is making them suffer, yet I understand it.  It gets to me sometimes, too, but it's so good it's hard to stop!

The Ethiopians forgave me for the lack of injera and used some of Daddy's homemade wheat buttermilk bread instead.  Poor ND was so excited to have Ethiopian that she scooped up the all-but-bubbling we't and threw it in her mouth.  :(  She did something similar at Meaza in Northern Virginia once, except that time she only burned her fingers a bit.  We have made a mental note to remember to either tell her to let it cool or just hold off on serving her until things are manageable for her!  After an ice pack to her tongue for a minute, she got right back up on that horse and dug in.  

The Ethiopians start preschool on Friday and have requested the yesiga fitfit for their first lunch.  "Can we bring it in our lunchboxes?" they asked.  I can just picture the scene now.  Eleven soynut and jelly sandwiches (the school is a tree-nut-free zone) and 2 dishes of yesiga fitfit with buttermilk bread.  I'm not sure I can explain it to their teachers...I'm fairly sure they'll think we're trying to torture them.  We'll have to see if there is a microwave there when we go to orientation on Wednesday.  

The start of preschool brings me about 12 extra hours of time a week and I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of this blog again.  After all, it was a new year's resolution and Saturday marks the Ethiopian new year.  It's a perfect transition!!  Despite the fact, however, that it has been pointed out to me that I have approximately 13 hours of things-to-do planned for every 4-hour school day.  

Friday, June 11, 2010


"our" beach at the Cape (it's a public beach, but we like to pretend it's ours )

So things ended up getting a little crazy around here and I have dropped the proverbial ball.  Alas, I am no Julie Powell.  She didn't have to contend with things like business trips and The Ethiopians' third birthday, their well-child doctor's visit, their first visit to the dentist, and boning up on defensive and offensive maneuvers in the quest to get spots in swimming lessons and drop-off day camp.  It's cutthroat here.  I've heard stories of mothers starting to arrive in the parking lot at like 2:30 a.m., glaring at each other through windshields, daring the others to make the first move.  Not me.  I like my sleep too much.  Yet, I still got all the days in day camp that I wanted!  All while one of The Ethiopians hung from my leg, loudly crying "but I don't WANT to go to day camp, it's yucky" (the person at the desk registering us seemed largely unfazed, fortunately).  However, swim lessons is another story entirely and that sign-up isn't until tomorrow.  We don't always get into swim lessons because I just can't take seriously the mental and physical training necessary to ensure successful registration.  

Anyway, I figured I was going to have to take an informal sabbatical after Memorial Day, as our summers are insane, from Memorial Day to Labor Day: here for a week, there for a week, somewhere else for another week, on my dad's boat for a few days, catching a few tunes for a few more days, preschool orientation, spending time with family here and here and here (eventually ending up either here or here) and maybe here.  All while slogging through the summer reading list for preschool; juggling day camp, swimming lessons, toddler baseball (we're looking forward to the sheer entertainment value this promises to present), and other myriad activities; and just enjoying the summer with the girls before they start preschool in the fall.  Unfortunately, the insanity started a bit early this year.  

That's not to say that I'm not going to be doing nothing entirely in terms of Ethiopian cookery (I have some things on the burner that require some nice hot, sunny days for drying things and I'm seriously considering buying this with my birthday money), but I'm going to officially release myself from expectations.  If I manage to make something over the summer, I'll report it on here!

Have a great summer and I promise to be back at it in the fall!