Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Vancouver to Ethiopia

Vancouver has a great public transportation system. It didn't take long to figure out how to get where we were going, and if you had a ticket to an Olympic event, all public transportation was free for the day. The trains and buses were crowded with people bedecked in Olympic gear and in a festive mood. Every time I thought we were at capacity we'd stop at another station and somehow we'd squeeze in dozens more. There were very few seats, so most people stood, hanging on straps or seat backs or poles.

In the Skytrain the first day I saw an ad for Yellow Pages that made me chuckle. The headline read "Touched the pole?" and the text said you could find anything in the Yellow Pages, including hand sanitizer.

Well, I touched the pole. By the time we left Vancouver I had the sniffles, and when we got home a week later I was ready for my usual sinus-clearing comfort food, something spicy and mushy. This time I decided on an Ethiopian dish called Mesir Wat.

I love Ethiopian food. Until recently we didn't have any Ethiopian restaurants in Pittsburgh; now we have two. Many of the common dishes are quick and easy to make at home, especially if you keep a few basic ingredients on hand, like berbere and niter kibbeh. It's best to have three or four dishes served together that you share communally, but in a pinch, one dish will do, and it really is comfort food.

Mesir Wat

1 large onion, cut in 8ths
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tbsp niter kibbeh
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp paprika
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp berbere, either purchased or homemade
1/2 lb red lentils or masoor dal
2 cups vegetable stock
1 small can chopped tomatoes
salt and pepper

Puree onion, garlic, and ginger in a food processor or blender.

Heat niter kibbeh in a saucepan.  Add turmeric, paprika and cayenne pepper and stir, about 30 seconds.  Add onion mixture and sauté on medium heat until moisture evaporates, about 5 minutes. Add lentils and stock.  Bring to a boil and simmer till lentils are cooked through and fall apart, about 30 minutes.  Add tomatoes and berbere and simmer for another 20 minutes or so.
Stir in salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Serve this on injera and eat with your hands by tearing pieces of injera and scooping it up. Between the unpacking and the laundry I didn't have time to make injera, so I warmed whole wheat tortillas, put one on each plate and scooped some mesir wat on each. We used additional tortillas to eat it. Close enough.

As I served it Jack said, "That looks like plop."
"It IS plop," I said.

He had two helpings. So did I.

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