They say that to learn another country's culture, you have to live it. But few families can send the kids to boarding school in Europe or spend two months of vacation on an African safari.
Fortunately, food is culture. You can bring the world to the dinner table with these family-friendly recipes, inspired by the culinary and cultural traditions of four regions across the globe. Crack open the atlas before you pull out the aprons, and turn the kitchen into a classroom, by exploring world cultures while you work!
Butternut Parmesan Turnovers
Among Italians, the city of Mantua is renowned for its golden squash. This delicious filling is used to stuff tortelli pasta, which is served in chicken broth. In turnovers, it makes a great side dish or snack:
- 1/2 c. mashed, cooked butternut squash
- 1/4 c. graham cracker crumbs
- 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 Tbsp. fruit mustard (or 1 tsp. fruit preserves and 1/2 tsp. mustard)
- Dash of pepper
- 1 package refrigerated dinner rolls
Combine all ingredients except the rolls. Flatten rolls with rolling pin into 3-inch circles. Place 1 tablespoon filling on each roll. Fold and crimp with fork to seal. Prick the top with a fork. Bake at 350°F for about 12 minutes.
Peanuts are a valuable source of protein and fats for many people in Africa, where they're called groundnuts. Whole or mashed into a paste, they flavor main dishes, soups, and sauces like this one:
- 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1/2 c. chopped onion
- 1/4 tsp. minced garlic
- 1 c. chicken broth
- 1 c. chopped tomatoes
- 1 c. cubed, peeled eggplant
- 2 Tbsp. peanut butter
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt to taste Toss eggplant cubes with salt and lemon. Cover and let drain in colander. (This extracts bitter flavor compounds.) Sauté onion and garlic in oil until golden brown. Add broth, tomatoes, and eggplant; simmer until soft, about 20 minutes. Reduce heat; stir in peanut butter, cayenne pepper, and salt, if desired. Serve over rice.
Criolla describes Argentina's people and its cuisine: native grown with European roots. The country's vast, fertile pampas produces just about every ingredient in this, its signature stew:
- 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 12 oz. stew beef, cubed
- 1/2 c. chopped onion
- 1 tsp. minced garlic
- 1 1/2 c. beef broth
- 2 c. cubed and peeled potatoes
- 2 c. cubed and peeled sweet potatoes
- 1 cup chopped tomato
- 1/2 cup corn kernels (frozen may be used)
- 1/2 c. peach chunks
Salt and pepper to taste Brown beef in oil; add onions and garlic and cook until golden brown. Add broth, potatoes and sweet potatoes. Simmer, covered, until vegetables are fork tender, about 20 minutes. Add tomatoes and corn; simmer until corn is cooked, about 10 minutes. Add peaches and simmer 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.
Turkish kadayif is a decadent, honey-drenched pastry of shredded phyllo dough and nut filling. This lighter version makes an interesting addition to a bunch:
- 2 3-oz. packages instant ramen noodles
- 2 T. butter or margarine
- 1 1/2 c. peeled apple slices 1/4 c. chopped walnuts
- 1/4 c. oats
- 2 T. sugar
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/3 c. honey
Cook noodles as directed (save seasoning packet for another use). Drain well. Toss with butter and set aside. Process apples, walnuts, oats, sugar, and cinnamon into a chunky paste. Spread half of noodles in 8" casserole or cake pan. Top with apple mixture, then remaining noodles. Bake at 350°F for about 25 minutes. Cool a few minutes, then invert onto serving dish. Warm honey and drizzle on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.