Italy Day 4 – Margherita Pizza

To close out our time in Italy I chose a classic known to most- the margherita pizza. This simple yet delicious masterpiece came to be on June 11th 1889 to honor the Queen consort of Italy-  Margherita of Savoy.  Raffaele Esposito created the pizza to represent the colors of the Italian flag by using basil for green, mozzarella for white, and tomato for red. Originally the pizza dough used was more of a flat bread compared to the sweeter, fuller crusts we are accustomed to most of the time.

Pizza dates back 7,000 years ago throughout Europe with various toppings placed on top of flatbreads and round breads. The pizza we know today dates back to the late 19th century when tomato and bread were being paired together.

We appreciated the simplicity that we only needed a few ingredients to have an amazing meal. Of course I used local basil Portland Pie Pizza Dough which just added to how yummy it was! As pretty as fresh basil looks on the pizza as you’re making it once it comes out of the oven it doesn’t have the same appeal. I would suggest added basil afterwards unless it is dried. We rated this dish 9.5/10 because it was just so good! How could you go wrong with pizza?

(74) Bhutan -Ema Datshi

The Tigers Nest. Source: The Global Grasshopper

Welcome to elevated Bhutan, a peaceful Buddhist-loving country that is high in the clouds. The country borders China and India and nestles in Himalayan Mountains. The name Bhutan actually translates to “land of the thunder dragon” because of the intense thunder storms in the mountainous country. One gorgeous hot spot in the country is The Tiger’s Nest which is a monetary situated on the side of a mountain over 900m up. It is the only country that bans the sale of tobacco products and until 11 years ago banned TV and internet! The world’s the tallest unclimbed mountain can also be found here, Gangkhar Puensum which is a staggering 24,840 feet tall.

Cuisine here is a bit unique compared to its surrounding countries due to its harsh climate and high elevation. Rice is a typical base of most meals which could contain meat, root vegetables, chilis, onions, and beans. The national dish of Bhutan is ema datshi which is the mixture of chilis and a Bhutanese cheese called datshi (which can be substituted with yak cheese). There are different varieties that include meat or other vegetables, however the base is the same. You can find this dish accompanying many meals due to its popularity. You can find the recipe here.

Going into this I knew it might be a little too simple so we decided to add some ground meat to it as well for more sustenance. I used a combination of feta and cheddar to fill in for the traditional cheese- I did search for yak cheese. The great thing about this meal is that it was quick and easy, definitely something you could whip up during the work week!

So we tried this dish with and without the beef to experience it as close to the original as possible.. without the beef we found the dairy elements kept the dish from being too spicy. With the meat we thought it helped complete the meal and overall the cheese mixed well with all the elements. It was simple but good, although I don’t know if I see myself making this again. Ian liked it a little more than me so we give it an averaged rating of 7.5/10.

With the meat..

(73) Hungary – Hungarian Bean Goulash

Szechenyi Spa Baths Outdoor Pool, Budapest, Hungary. Source: Baths Budapest

Back to Europe we go! Today we are in Hungary, a central, landlocked country found next to Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Austria, Croatia, Serbia, and Ukraine. Hungary is one of the older countries of Europe and came to be after the fall of Roman Empire in 897. Thermal Springs are are a big deal here and are known for their healing and cleansing properties. There are here over 1,300 in the entire country, some being an outdoor attraction and others in luxurious bath houses. Many well known composers call Hungary their home including  Franz Liszt, György Ligeti, and  Béla Bartók. I don’t know about you but I think I’m Hungary for more 😉

Hungarian or Magyarian cuisine often includes paprika, onion, black pepper, and other spices to make their dishes flavorful. The focus of each meal is well seasoned meat and vegetables and the use of fresh dairy and baked goods. Their national dish goulash is a one pot dish that was traditionally cooked over an open flame consisting over various vegetables, beef or beans seasoned with the above spices. Goulash gets its name from the Hungarian word gulyás for cow herder since they were the inventor of this meal. The goulash I am making today is vegetarian and using beans to substitute the meat (which was traditionally done when beef was scarce. You can find the recipe here.

I made a few alternations to the recipe to make my life easier and to match the authenticity. I used liquid smoke once again to capture the smokiness it would have had if cooked traditionally and instead of grinding my caraway seeds I let them steep in a tea bag will the stew was cooking (pictured bellow)! Pro tip, make your on veggie broth (pictured above) by using veggie scraps will you are prepping! Make sure to compost them when you’re done 😁

We thought the stew was spicy, smoky and had a nice tomato-based broth. You could almost say it had a barbecue like flavor! It had a hearty mixture of vegetables which made me think of how this would be a great fall or winter meal. We thought it was worthy of a 7/10 rating.

Next we make something truly unique in Bhutan, see you then!

(69) The Gambia – West African Peanut Butter Stew

The Gambia River. Source: World Nomads- © Getty Images/Bart Brouwer / EyeEm

Hey fellow foodies, today we are in The Gambia. You can find this country tucked inside Senegal and has a unique shape that surrounds the Gambia River. It is the smallest non-island country and measures 30 miles across at its widest! Although the country is small it has over 500 species of birds and a beautiful 50 miles of coastline. The majority of the country’s income is dependent on its agriculture which consists of sorghum, peanuts, millet, and rice.

The Gambia is apart of West Africa which shares a cuisine consisting of grains, peanuts, local vegetables, and seafood (if bordering the coast). As we know from our previous taste bud travels peanut butter is used often in African cuisine to thicken stews or even potatoes- you can see that dish here. The dish I made tonight is a Western African dish consisting of some of my favorite things. You can find that recipe here.

We’ve got another week night meal folks! It was a breeze to cook and I didn’t have to make any modifications. This dish smelled incredible while it was cooking and I was super excited for the end result (mostly because of the peanut butter).

I LOVED THIS DISH! Peanut butter hell yes! I get so pumped about dishes with that good ole PB and this one did not disappoint! Although I was much more excited than Ian he thought it was another delectable dish that was creamy and savory comfort dish. The ginger and pepper brought a nice mild warmth that just tied it all together. On top of that it was a vegan dish! How incredible. I rated the meal higher than Ian, but it still got the high marks of 9.25/10.

(59) Curaçao – Keshi Yena

Willemstad, the capital of Curaçao. Source: Reddit

Welcome to another day traveling the globe by taste bud, today we land in the Caribbean on an island called Curaçao. You can find this Dutch island off the shores of Venezuela. It has a unique landscape that makes it stand out from the other Caribbean islands- it is a true desert island that receives little rain. Because of its dry climate growing crops is a challenge. When the Spanish came to the island and wanted to grow oranges they instead got small and tart fruit. Eventually it was discovered that the leaves from these plants were great to make liquor known today as blue curacao! This island of course has beautiful sandy beaches, incredible coral reefs, and a vibrant capital city know for its array of colors.

This gem of an island has strong European influence that can be found in its buildings, culture, and of course food. Dutch treats are enjoyed around the island along with Caribbean specialties. Keshi yena is considered to be the national dish of Curaçao which can be made vegetarian or with meat. It consists of cheese lined molds (such as a muffin tin or ramekins) filled with a savory filling that is baked until the cheese melts to completely enclose the center. You end up with several “cheese-castles” which is best served with a sliced up French baguette. The recipe I used can be found here.

When I was starting to make this dish I was surprised by the ingredients I was using. I would have never thought that raisins, capers, and soy sauce would be together as a part of this dishes filling! I found it tricky to cut the cheese thin enough to mold into my muffin tray, but I made it work. I used two different gouda cheeses (one older and one younger) which I felt elevated the meal.

Once I stuffed the cheese molded tray with the filling I used the remaining sliced cheese to encase the concoctions. Warning, there was a lot of grease that formed on the top of my tray and I had to keep dabbing it throughout the cooking time to avoid it dripping into the bottom of my oven. The author of this recipe used separate cooking dishes which may have eliminated this issue.

The end result once again surprised as with its complex and rich flavor. Most of my little cheese castles fell apart, but I was able to get a couple to stick together (shown above). We served them with the recommended baguette which we discovered tasted great with the keshi yena on top. Ian thought it reminded him of a lasagna in a way. If you don’t like your meals really cheesy this would probably be too much for you (or if dairy makes your tummy upset). We rated the dish 7.5/10.

(58) Nepal – Dal Bhat

Mountain Sinai. Source: Gadsventure

Today we travel back to Southern Asia to the country of Nepal. These country is situated mostly in the Himalayan mountains (home to Mount Everest) bordered by China, India, and Bhutan. Due to its location in a harsh environment it is considered one of the least developed countries in the world. Nepal is known to honor their cows due to Hindu religion (one of the most popular religions of Nepal) which means they will not kill their cows even when they stop providing milk. At that time cows are released and the community will care for the free cows. How cute!

Cuisine of Nepal can be broken up into regions and understandably has strong Asian influence. Such regions are Himilayan, Newars, Khas, Lohorung, and Terai. Each have specific dishes and cooking preparation methods that are unique to the region (with some overlap). Today’s dish dal bhat is a lentil curry, sometimes soup-like in consistency, that is eaten throughout the country and neighboring China and India. Traditionally it is served over rice and is vegetarian or vegan dependent on the oil used for cooking. It’s served at the 17,000 ft base camp on Mount Everest to fuel the brave hikers on their journey to/from the summit. The recipe I followed can be found here.

This meal was super-duper easy and healthy. I don’t cook with lentils often, but I was intrigued by the mix of spices (which I admit did not measure out when preparing). Additionally it has few ingredients and is inexpensive to make. Have I caught your attention now?

We enjoyed this meal and the blend of spice giving a mild heat to the dish. The lime and cilantro helped balance the heat. It was by far the best lentil dish we have ever had. Ian felt that adding salsa would have made it better, but what doesn’t salsa make better? We rated this dish 7.25/10 and recommend it to anyone who has never had lentils before or enjoy the flavors of cumin, turmeric, and cayenne. Let us know what you think by dropping a comment below!

(45) Turkey – Almodrote

Cappadocia, Turkey. Source: allthatsinteresting.comRoastad

Hey everyone, we are in Turkey today! Turkey is a Middle Eastern country southeast of Europe and west of Asia.It is bordered by three seas- the Mediterranean, Aegean, and Black Seas. It exports 75% of the world’s hazelnuts and is the birthplace of Santa Claus! Above is a picture of Cappadocia, Turkey a truly unique place of unworldly land formations of rock that can shoot over 100ft into the sky. Many of these house-like formations are known as fairy houses.

Turkish cuisine has Ottoman roots and can vary based on the location. It is thought to be a blend of Balkian, Central Asian, Eastern European, Middle Eastern, Armenian, and Mediterranean cooking styles and flavors. Vegetables often dominant their dishes.

This dish is traditionally made with eggplant, however this blog uses a zucchini and summer squash combo. I was happy to find another recipe that has been made throughout several generations knowing it was authentic as well as a “keeper.” This dish is full of cheese, eggs, bread crumbs, and squash mostly and is baked until the top layer has become crispy and golden brown.

One thing to note is that you should squeeze out as much liquid as possible prior to combining the ingredients. I had squeeze mine out several times, but noticed it was a little more liquidy than I was have liked. Nevertheless I had made a little cheesy pie/quiche.

I feel my downfall here was too much liquid from the squash which made the texture all wrong. The flavor of the dish was pretty good but unfortunately it was a little bit on the blander side. If I maybe cooked it longer (glass container may have also affected the cooking time) and/or drained more liquid from the squash I would have been successful. We rated it 6/10. I will strive to repeat this dish sometime in the future or try another Turkish dish, let me know what you think I should try!

France Day 2 – Ratatouille

Day 2 of French cooking brings us to Ratatouille, a vegan dish that reminds me think of the Disney Pixar movie. In the movie, this was the dish that was served to Ego the harsh food critic and ultimately thawed his ice cold heart. I will admit I did play this movie while I was prepping the vegetables and it made me feel like a kid again!

Ratatouille hails from the providential region of Nice dating back to the 18th century. The name ratatouille is made up of the two French words rata (chunky stew) and touiller (toss up food). This is yet another modest peasant dish that has been elevated to a fine dinning experience. This meal often consisted of the farmers leftover harvest and can be made from using various different vegetables. I went by this recipe which used the more typical eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, potato, and red pepper. This is then placed on top of a tomato sauce and can be served with fish, meat, or rice.

After you have used your mandolin or sliced each vegetable very finely you start to assemble your ratatouille.

Voila! What a piece of art! I topped it off with salt and pepper before covering it to cook in the oven for almost an hour. When it was done cooking I served it with risotto!

We thought it was a nice vegetarian option and liked how with every bite you could taste each vegetable. Next time I would use more sauce. We rated the dish 6.5/10, a nice healthy option for dinner 😋