(79) Cooks Islands – Moana-Roa Mahi Mahi

Mitiaro Cave of Rarotonga Island. Source: Pinterest

Hello fellow foodies, today we are at the Cooks Islands, a group of 15 islands in the South Pacific. You can find these scattered islands below Tahiti and close to New Zealand. Rarotonga is the capital island and most populated with approximately 13k inhabitants. This country was named after the exploring Captain James Hook, however he never visited the islands. Known for its tropical beauty the islands are not overdone with fancy resorts and flashy lights- actually no stop lights either! You can explore the limestone caves, pristine sandy beaches and underwater scuba excursions. The Cooks Islands is a top producer of the black pearl- a very scientific and precise process of inseminating oysters with sphere like shells. Over time the oyster will avoid the foreign object ultimately coating shell to make a black pearl over a few years time.

The Cooks Islands pride themselves of clean waters and immaculate seafood which their cuisine is filled with. Coconut and other native fruits are commonly eaten as well. All other foods are imported from their neighbor New Zealand. Today to honor the Cooks Islands I made Moana-Roa Mahi Mahi with a side of beats and salad (my easy way out of not making a potato salad). This traditional island fare includes taro leaves, green bananas, coconut cream, ginger, taro root, and more to accompany the fish. If you want to experience the real deal try this dish.

Once again there was no mahi mahi at my local store so I used tuna steaks instead! I also could not get taro roots or leaves so I substituted potatoes and spinach. This was definitely a new for us since we can never prepared or eaten bananas in a savory fashion before. I think this was easy enough to make just difficult to get my hands on all the right ingredients!

We thought the Cooks Islands brought unique flavors to the table. The bananas and fish may sound super strange, but the combination was actually pretty good. The cooked bananas didn’t lose their flavor and tasted like the uncooked fruit. It was surprisingly pleasant, but didn’t blow us away. We rated it 6.5/10.

Before traveling to ITALY we will be making a pit stop in Puerto Rico! Stay tuned!!

(78) Zimbabwe – “Mama’s” Stewed Chicken

Matobo Foothills. Source: Global Geography

Welcome back to Africa, we are visiting Zimbabwe today. Unlike Liberia, Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in southern African surrounded by Zambia, Mozambique, South Africa, and Botswana. Zimbabwe is one of the countries that borders the spectacular Victoria Falls which is one of the most popular attractions here. A lesser known attraction is the high concentration of rock paintings from the Stone Age; greater than 1,000 across the country. This country is also the destination for safaris and exploring its mountainous/plateau terrain. Tobacco, gold, ivory, textiles, cotton, and ferro alloys are major exports and source of income.

Zimbabwe cuisine consists of maize and rice for grains, farmed and game meats, and local fruit and vegetables. Some specialties of the country include maize beer (whawha), mopane worms, dovi (peanut butter stew with meat and vegetables), and sadza (maize meal portage eaten with meat or stews). Although controversial popular game consumed here includes ostrich, crocodile, and boar to name a few. Today I prepared “Mama’s Chicken” or stewed chicken with herbs, ginger, spices and vegetables. Do Mama proud and try this dish!

This week night-friendly dish was easy to follow and make. I was unable to obtain Maggie seasoning and instead substituted the seasonings that make up the Maggi cubes and added a chicken bouillon cube. This like the previous dish was not as “saucy” as I would have liked it and suggest adding tomato paste as you go to get the desired consistency. I’m a little too OCD when cooking and would like the recipe’s picture to match my finished concoction.

Zimbabwe you brought us a beautiful blend of savory flavors and very tender chicken. I personally thought it could of used more vegetables to balance out the chicken but overall really loved what I was experiencing on my taste buds! We really loved this dish and rated it 8.625/10 (to be precise).

(77) Liberia – Liberian Chicken Gravy

Hey guys I’m back! Summer time brings a lot of outdoor adventures and less time at the computer and stove to bring you more content. Hope you are also enjoying your summer!

Pygmy hippopotamus, Source: Dinoanimals.com

Before we get to it, lets first learn a little bit about Liberia! Liberia is a West African country that borders the Atlantic Ocean, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, and Guinea. English is mostly spoken here, however there are 20 indigenous languages still spoken today. It is the oldest African republic and was the first to gain its independence in 1847; its name literally translating to “land of the free.” This beautiful country is home to incredible surfing, over 700 bird species, the endangered pygmy hippopotamus, and Sapo National Park (which contains a portion of West Africa’s primary rainforest).

Today we make a classic Liberian dish, chicken gravy. This meal consists of not only chicken but shrimp and fish steaks as well. I decided to omit the fried fish and use additional shrimp instead. At the heart of traditional African stews lies tomatoes, garlic, and herbs along with other complementary ingredients to increase the savory and heartiness. Liberian cuisine alike other West African countries include plantains, cassava, rice, yams, and other local fruits and vegetables. Local seafood and fish is the primary meat source of Liberians diet however poultry and other red meat can be eaten on occasion. You can find this recipe here.

Preparation and cooking was simple. This is another good option for a week night meal that can simmer while you cram in a 30 minute work out or finish up a blog post (maybe that’s just me..). I look back now and would have added more tomato paste to thicken up the sauce.

So we had never experienced chicken and shrimp together before and thought it was pretty good! The sauce as I said earlier should have been thicker, however the herbs and ginger really pulled through. It had unique elements, but was an easy meal with common ingredients. We thought it was tasty and rated it 6.5/10.

Next up we head to Zimbabwe for another tender chicken meal!

(76) Saint Barthélemy (St. Barts) – West Indian Red Snapper

We are still in the tropics and visiting Saint Barthélemy (also known as St. Barts). This itty-bitty island sits below Anguilla, East to the U.S. Virgin Islands, and above St. Nitts and Nevis. The island is primarily French-speaking and is part of a collectivity of France (first-order division of France) that also contains Martinique, Saint Martin, and Guadeloupe. At just under 10 sq miles in size it has an impressive array of high class restaurants and luxurious resorts. The island has no fresh water sources so the locals rely on desalination plants to collect rain for drinking water- talk about stressful!

Saint Barthélemy cooking incorporates French, Creole, West Indian, and Asian influence with many fine dinning restaurants around the island. Indian cooking styles often include fish and steamed vegetables, Creole include more spice. More often you will see French and Creole styles of food. Like other Caribbean islands they use native produce and seafood in their meals, much like today’s dish. Red snapper can be found in the Caribbean waters and is the main attraction of this West Indian dish. You can find the details here.

This was a pretty straight forward dish using common ingredients, most already being present in the apartment. Never skip marinating since this is how the fish will absorb all the flavor. We decided to pan fry the fish (especially since it was cod fillets vs red snapper).

We felt this dish was well seasoned, however it was more on the simple side. I was also unable to get red snapper again because it is rarely ordered at the rural Hannaford I go to. We can’t lie and give this dish a rating higher than 6.5/10 because it does not compare to other fish dishes we have made. It is still good and easy to make but not a knock out recipe.

Next we go to Liberia! See you there

(75) Dominican Republic – Mangú Con Los Tres Golpes

The Barahona Coast. Source: Propertiesincasa.com

Welcome to the beautiful Dominican, a place you think of when people say they are going on a cruise or tropical vacation. It sits East of Haiti and is surrounded by other Caribbean Islands. The Dominican Republic has reserved a quarter of their land to national parks, sanctuaries, and other protected lands which includes rainforests. Want to see whales up close? January through March you can find humpback whales in Samaná Bay Sanctuary. The climate here is sometimes referred to as “the endless summer” due to its sunny and warm year-round conditions. The country is known for it coffee, national league baseball players, and white sandy beaches.

The cuisine of the Dominican Republic is very much like its neighboring islands and bordering country. It is a very sustainable country producing several different foods that are found in many of their traditional meals. Its dishes show influence from Africa, The Middle East, Spanish, and indigenous Taino. I decided for tonight’s dinner I would actually make a traditional breakfast. Mangú Con Los Tres Golpes is a well-known classic of the Dominican that contains mashed green plantains, pickled red onions, fried cheese, egg, and salami. African influence shines through this dish with the mashed plantains or mangu that originates in West Africa. If breakfast for dinner excited you click here.

Cooking was simple and while one thing cooked you could prep the other. It is important the onions have time to pickle in order to get the best flavor. I used my air fryer to start the cheese, but due to its runny nature and thin layer of flour it wanted to seep in-between the grates and needed to be finished in the skillet.

We loved this unique and colorful dish! It was a first to experience mash plantains and pickled onions together, the pair worked well. The plantains had a very mild taste, that was well complimented by the salty salami and cheese. This is traditionally a breakfast and I could definitely see myself eating this in the morning. We thought the plantains are a great potato substitute and are underrated in the kitchen (I haven’t said this enough). We thought it deserved higher marks at 8.75/10.

(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!

(72) The Cayman Islands -Mango Chicken Bean & Rice Bake

Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman island, Cayman Islands. Source: theresidencesgrandcaymanrentals

The Cayman Islands are a British Territory that sits between Cuba and Central America in the Caribbean Sea. The territory is made up of three islands that each have their own personality and attraction. The islands are actually the tops of the Cayman Ridge that sits 7,500 m (24,600ft) above the ocean floor! It is well known for its Seven Mile Beach, but come to find out it is only 5 1/2 miles long! The Cayman Islands are best known for their scuba diving excursions and gorgeous beaches.

The cuisine found here mostly consists of seafood, vegetables, spices- this even includes turtles! You can find other traditional Caribbean dishes here as well like jerk chicken, rice, beans, and fried plantains. These islands are sometimes referred to as the culinary capital of the Caribbean because of their high class foods (often found at their world class resorts). Today I made a mango, chicken, rice and bean bake that contains plenty of island spice paired with tropical fruit sweetness. If this tickles your taste buds click here.

The meal was mildly confusing to me which lead me to cook the rice prior to added it to the bake which lead me to mushy rice- just add it in dry and it will absorb all the wonderful flavors. I couldn’t find mango chutney in my local Hannaford so I substituted it with apricot preserves.

We thought the Cayman Islands brought as a nicely spiced and savory. It was definitely a casserole like dish that was comforting to eat, although the texture of the rice really bothered me. The mango kept the spiciness at a tolerable level and gave the dish a nice balance. We thought it was worth 7.5/10 and considered it mostly successful..

Join us next time as we visit Hungary!

Brazil Day 4 – Churrasco with Pão de Queijo (Beef Kabobs and Cheese Bread)

For our final meal in Brazil we decided to do two classics- cheese bread and beef kabobs. This delectable and versatile cheese bread (or pão de queijo in Portuguese) has its roots set back to been the Portuguese colonized Brazil. It originated when the African slaves of these landowners used cassava to make tapioca flour by grating the flesh of the root, allowing it to soak in water, and straining the mixture so it could dry. The first bread was made solely of this starch and did not contain the dairy products until later on. The bread is now very popular throughout Brazil. If you are interested in making this cheesy goodness click here.

The history of churrasco however is a bit different. It started when cowboys in the Southern Brazilian wilderness cooked local game over an open fire in a deeply dug pit. Before the meat was cooked they allowed the flames to die down until embers remained, the meat was skewered and salted thoroughly. Now a days you can see these kabobs with various vegetables and fruits accompanying the tender and flavorful meat. Today’s recipe includes pineapple, peppers and onions that were simply seasoned with salt/pepper. I did not bother to prepare the pineapple as the recipe directed because grilled pineapple is already incredible.

While I prepared the bread and the meat marinated Ian heated up the grill. It did not take long to cook the meal, most of the time was spent skewering the meat and produce (it took a surprisingly long time). We decided to make up a fresh salad using greens from our garden to lighten things up.

HOLY GUACAMOLE! This cheese bread is everything you are looking for- soft, doughy, and cheesy. It is just so easy to make and 100% gluten free! I can see myself making this bread as a side, as an appetizer paired with tomato sauce, or a delightful snack. The kabobs of course were delicious and I do love so grilled pineapple. I feel like it is the superior way to prepare it and honestly I didn’t season it at all (even though the recipe called for butter among other things). This meal was crazy good, the bread really outshining the kabobs and truly blowing our minds. We rated this dish 9.5/10!

Brazil Day 3 – Moqueca

For day 3 we made moqueca, a seafood stew that is traditionally cooked in a terracotta casserole dish. With its Brazilian origin you understandably find lime, garlic, and cilantro to season the dish up. You serve this stew with a side of white rice and garish with a lime wedge and fresh herbs. Typically a fish component accompanies the shrimp, but the fish I bought went bad (although the date was good).. not cool Hannaford! If moqueca entices you, you can find the recipe here.

It was important to allow the shrimp to sit in the lime/ginger marinade for at least 30 minutes prior to cooking. This was another great weeknight meal that took little time and mostly was a “sit and wait” method. I was able to utilize the shrimp shells to make fish stock while they were marinating.. I highly recommend this to save money. Just throw it in the freezer and you’re good for another seafood chowder or stew!

Oh man this was great. This super creamy and warming broth paired well with the shrimp and veggies. Also a new enjoyable combination of basil and cilantro was discovered. There was nothing bland about this stew (which seems to be an issue 50% of the time) and we felt it was a new refreshing way to enjoy shrimp (no fish was needed). We thought it was deserving of a 9/10.