According to Oxford Dictionaries a Xenophile is a person who is attracted to foreign peoples, manners or cultures. I would consider myself a culinary xenophile as I am totally attracted to culture, cuisines and foods from around the world. I cannot learn enough about, cook enough or taste enough different types of foods. I am continually on a quest to pick up new and interesting ingredients for my pantry, play with them in my kitchen, and ultimately use them in one of my cooking classes.
I am not just referring to exotic ingredients–the very strange stuff people try to just say they tried it, (such as insects, molds, potentially poisonous foods). What I like to do is prepare a whole meal from a particular cuisine. I begin by preparing an appetizer or starter, then making entrées including various side dishes and then sometimes, dessert. If I really feel like I am on a roll, I will bake bread, too. I practice cooking by learning about other cuisines. It is fun to read not only about what ingredients are being used, but also to study some of the cooking techniques. Often, I change the described method of making a dish and use my classic French techniques instead, achieving great results because I know they will work. For example, a sauté pan can be used instead of a wok.
On three almost-consecutive cold crisp winter days (not that many weeks ago!) I did the following menus, mainly inspired by ingredients I had on hand:
Pork Souvlaki with Tzatziki, Tomatoes and Homemade Pita
Greek Chopped Lettuce Salad with Garbanzo Beans, Salami and Chick Peas
Cumin-Roasted Carrots with Greek Yogurt
Psari Plaki (Greek-Style Baked Fish with Tomatoes and Lemon)
Lemon Rice Pilaf
Bierocks (Bread Dough Filled with Beef and Seasonings);
Jogurtsalatsauce Mit Zweibeln (German Yogurt Salad Dressing with Onion)
Kartoffelsuppe (German Potato Soup)
Mexican Pot Roast
Cilantro Lime Rice
Guacamole and Chips
A great way to introduce kids to food and cooking is through international cuisines. The food seems different and cool, and kids seem to want to at least try unique foods, as long as they aren’t too strange. Often I include the history and cultural importance of a dish as well. Kids Cooking Classes, Kids Summer Cooking Camps and Teen Cooking Classes and Camps offer kids and teens a chance to taste food from many different places—some they may visit and some they may not. Kids cooking classes coming up in Madison in the next couple months include:
Kids “Cinco de Mayo” Fiesta (5/5, 4-6pm)
Bento Box Basics (5/11, 4-6pm)
Kids Cook Norwegian for Syttende Mai (5/16, 4-6pm)
Kids Cook Vietnamese (6/2, 4-6pm)
I am including a recipe for one of the first recipes I ever taught. It is for an Egyptian Flatbread called Saboob. Because it was for a kids cooking class, and they were Middle School age, I told them the last final “b” is silent.
Saboob (Crisp Flatbread)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
¾ cup milk
Method: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour. Add the oil and milk. Stir to combine. Turn the dough out to a lightly floured counter. Knead until smooth. Let rest 15 minutes. Divide the dough into four parts. Roll each out thinly to about the size of a piece of paper, though not necessarily the same shape. Place on a parchment lined sheet tray. Bake 8-10 minutes until lightly browned, flipping once about half way through the baking process.