Nicci Morris

What’s your manna?

In Food, Lifestyle, Recipes on September 25, 2009 at 2:57 pm
Main Entry: man·na
noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English, from Late Latin, from Greek, from Hebrew mān
Date: before 12th century
1 a: food miraculously supplied to the Israelites in their journey through the wilderness b: divinely supplied spiritual nourishment c: a usually sudden and unexpected source of gratification, pleasure, or gain (
from www.m-w.com)I was talking to a friend recently about manna, not in the literal sense, but the concept. I have been in search of it (literally and figuratively) for sometime now. I was hoping to discover it in a new restaurant, but I ended up going where I knew for a fact that I would find it: Empress Taytu, an Ethiopian Restaurant in Cleveland.

What’s my manna when it comes to eating? Soul food. Injera (seen above) wrapped around just about anything edible (and spicy) in an Ethiopian restaurant. Thai food. Indian food. And (wait for it) sauerkraut mixed with mashed potatoes. What can I say… This is what happens when you love food and your family is a hodgepodge.

I am still in search of that spiritual nourishment and the unexpected pleasure, but I’m working on it.

What foods (cuisines or specific dishes) bring you pure pleasure? If you haven’t tried Ethiopian, see if it brings you joy. Here are two fundamental parts of Ethiopian cuisine: Injera, the bread that also serves as a utensil in this communal dining experience, and niter kebbeh, a clarified butter, rich with spice and flavor.  Don’t be scared of the injera recipe. It’s just like making pancakes. And teff is more widely available than ever before. Try Bob’s Red Mill which is carried by many major retailers.


Injera

3/4 cup teff, ground

3 1/2 cups water

salt

sunflower or other vegetable oil

Mix teff with water and let stand in a bowl covered with a dish towel, at room temperature unti it sours. This may take 2-3 days. Once fermented, the teff mixture be the consistency of pancake batter.

Stir in salt. Lightly oil a griddle or a large skillet. Using medium-high heat, proceed as you would with a normal pancake or crepe. Pour in just enough batter to cover the bottom of the skillet. Use more batter than you would for a crepe, less than you would for a pancake. Cook until holes form in the injera and the edges lift from the pan. Remove and let cool. Makes 10 to 12 8-inch pieces of injera.

Niter Kibbeh

2 cups butter
1/4 cup chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
4 whole cardamom seeds
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried basil

Melt butter in a small saucepan over very low heat until bubbling. Add onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg and basil, and simmer for 45 minutes. Butter will be translucent and solids will be at the bottom of the pan. Strain through cheesecloth into a heat-resistant container. Discard spices and butter solids.

Cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 2-3 months. Use this spiced butter as you would cooking oil to saute and season vegetables and meat.

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