November 05, 2013

Testing Ethiopian recipes

Ye'atakilt Kai Wot

I've just started testing recipes for Kittee-Bee Berns' upcoming Ethiopian cookbook. You know if you've ever done it, that testing recipes is a lot harder than just waiting for the book to be published and buying it, but I have to tell you that testing the recipes for Kittee has been great so far. I love Ethiopian food, and I'm pretty sure I could eat it every night, though I might need a larger wardrobe.

Seriously, I think my natural ability to stop eating when full has taken a vacation from my brain. This morning I woke up still full, and only managed a cup of tea for breakfast. Maybe once the novelty wears off, I'll regain some control.


First up was a visit to an Ethiopian grocery store and injera bakery, where I purchased various spice blends and other assorted necessities. I had to have help from the kind proprietor to identify the items, and I wrote the names of the various herbs and spices on their labels so I'd remember what they were.


I had planned to buy gluten-free injera there, too, but they were sold out, and I was told I needed to order it in advance. Luckily there are three or four Ethiopian restaurants on every block where we were (both sides of the street, too!) and several had signs in the window for GF injera. We picked one and asked if they would sell us injera, and they said yes. We bought six pieces. It was the darkest, thickest, sourest, largest injera I've ever had. Perfect.

Homemade Niter kibbeh on the left. Dry berbere from the shop on the right.

The first thing I made was the fragrant cooking oil used for many of the dishes. In Ethiopian cooking, a spice infused clarified butter is used, but for vegan cooking, that needs to be altered. I minced, peeled, grated, measured and cooked my niter kibbeh, then put a jar into the sink to catch the liquid fat as I strained it. I was almost done with the straining when the jar tipped over and much of the oil mix dumped into the sink. I quickly set the jar upright, then, after staring in disbelief at the golden liquid in my sink, decided the sink was clean enough, grabbed a silicone spatula, and scooped up as much as I could. I lost about 1/2 cup but I suppose it could have been worse.

Ye'atakilt Kai Wot

We made three dishes the first night and one the second night. Plus, I made a seasoning mix and a salad dressing.

Ye'misir Allecha

There was a lot of food so our plan was to add something new each night to go with leftovers.

Ye'tikil Selata

This is working out well because the food actually tasted even better the second night. (And I'm counting on it being even better on night three. :D) I think it would be perfect party food that I could make ahead and reheat.

Ye'zelbo Gomen

Although we've loved everything I've made so far, I think our favorite dish was Ye'zelbo Gomen — a collard recipe. There were a lot of mmms and ooooohs as we ate it.

Because I've been photographing the food at night, it's been hard to get good images, but trust me, tasting the testing has been a real treat so far.

40 comments:

  1. oh wow.. i am so jealous of all the ethiopian food being cooked up at kittee's and now your house!

    which ethiopian shop is there berbere from?

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    1. We went to Amy's Merkato at 2922 E Cherry St - Madrona/Leschi. Only some of the things were labeled and some not in English, but the owner was very helpful. There's no shortage of Ethiopian food in Seattle!

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    2. i live within a stones throw from 4 restaurants ;) i am on 19th and jefferson. just been 3 months here though so still discovering the area

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  2. What fun!! I'm so envious that you have multiple places to purchase injera. I would totally make Ethiopian food more often if I could be saved from the work of making injera too. (It's just not the same with rice.) Sadly, there aren't any Ethiopian restaurants in the entire state. Sooooo... It's been a full year since I last made an Ethiopian dinner! (I know this, because of course, as a blogger, I have pictures.)

    I'm glad you decided to suspend your disbelief about the infused butter and just scoop it into your jar. I know the time and effort that goes into niter kibbeh. I don't blame you!

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    1. There are so many Ethiopian restaurants that an indecisive person like myself just can't ever decide where to go! And I'm never really sure if the food has butter in it, though some places do say they will cook with oil. Plus now that I want my injera to be gluten-free, I have to call 24 hours ahead to be sure they'll have it. Needless to say, we haven't been out for Ethiopian food in a long time.

      You are so right that rice isn't the same as injera. The sour taste and the texture add so much to the flavor of the food. I'm going to make some, I think.

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  3. This all looks really delicious. I've never had Ethiopian food but there is a restaurant in Milwaukee I'd like to eventually try. I've heard so many praises of the cuisine.

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    1. There used to be a great Ethiopian restaurant just a few blocks from my house in Madison, and I loved going there. I would think Milwaukee would have lots of choices.

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  4. Ethiopian food is still a bit of a mystery to me too, but you've convinced me to get involved. I'm hoping I can get some of those spice mixes online!

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    1. Your next food project should be an Ethiopian meal! Do you like spicy food?

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  5. I'm a tester too and I'm also finding that it tastes better the next day. Even the Niter kibbeh was more aromatic after sitting awhile. Sadly NYC lacks Ethiopian markets and I have had to resort to mail order? Unbelievable.

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    1. Susan, I got the adjwain and nigella seeds (overpriced) from Kalustyan's, although they didn't have the koserut. I also bought a bunch of stuff online b/c I didn't make it to Dual as planned.

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    2. Thanks Abby. Yeah I checked their online list and they didn't have enough of what I needed to go cross town. I decided it was easier to order online.

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    3. a lot of the individual spices are common with indian cuisine so you might get them super cheap in an indian store:)

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    4. I thought NYC had everything!!!

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    5. Richa — I found a bag of the little tiny chickpeas at Amy's. I wanted them for Indian food.

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  6. It all looks so amazing! I can't wait for this book to come out.

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    1. I'm looking forward to it, too, but I'm glad I don't have to wait to try the recipes!

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  7. Andrea! I just found you on the email list/SS thanks to Susan; I'm starting my testing Friday and am looking so forward to a feast. I'll try not to spill in the sink... Happy testing!

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    1. Yup. I saw you on the list, and was excited that we'll be partners in testing. DON'T spill in the sink, but just in case, clean the sink before you start, and block the drain. :D

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  8. I LOVE Ethiopian food! It's been too long since I had some and the picture of your gomen made me crave it so badly. I'm travelling to DC this weekend though so hopefully I'll be able to get some of the good stuff in Adams Morgan!

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    1. You should be able to eat well in D.C. As for the gomen, it was 10 times better than it looks in the photo!

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  9. Wow--your food looks so amazing and fresh! Yum. I really like Ethiopian food, but there is only 1 Ethiopian restaurant that I know of her and they are not vegan friendly at all--just about everything has butter in it :-(

    Courtney

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    1. I would have thought there would be more in Minneapolis. I'm surprised. You'll just have to wait for Kittee's cookbook to come out. :)

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  10. I've only had Ethiopian food once so far and haven't ever tried making it at home. It looks yummy - how fun to be a tester. Haven't ever been a tester either. :-)

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    1. Testing is fun, but it's a little stressful for me because to be a good tester I have to follow the recipes exactly — not my usual style of cooking on the fly. At least with Ethiopian food, I NEED to follow the directions since it's not something I'm familiar with cooking. That keeps me focused.

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  11. I believe you when you say everything was fantastic! Kittee makes some amazing looking stuff. Bummer about the nitter kibbeh loss, I probably would have done the same.
    There was a stand at the farmer's market yesterday selling injera, which I thought was a little weird... it looked kind of dried out, and I assumed it was best made the day of. How did the restaurants sell you the injera? In a bag? Do you just reheat them in an oven or something?

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    1. They put the injera into a bag and sealed it. It was fresh and moist and stayed fresh in the bag for a couple of days on my counter. I used it at room temperature, which is how I think it's served in restaurants. The food is hot and goes on top.

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  12. Oh, Andrea, that niter kibbeh incident sounds like something that would have happened to me, so I can feel your pain. How cool that you are testing recipes for Kittee's cookbook though!

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    1. I knew you would understand. Unfortunately, no cake balls could save the situation. :)

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  13. I have yet to try Ethiopian foods…but I would love to try them soon! I don’t think there aren’t many here in Oregon ;( or is there one? These dishes look spectacular with loads of spices & love (love spiced foods!) and the collard dish sounds tasty!

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    1. I ate in a great one in Portland. It was called Bete-Lukas. Some of the dishes I've made are really hot and spicy and some are garlicky and gingery — all are delicious!

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  14. Everything looks so wonderful! I have Kittee's first book that a friend gave me. But I'm sad to say that I still haven't made anything from it. Making Ethiopian food at home kinda scares me. So for now I get it out and about. One day I will overcome this totally irrational fear so I can have this yumminess at home.

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    1. I used to have Kittee's Ethiopian zine but it is lost — I think I loaned it to someone. I really wanted to test recipes to get more comfortable with cooking the food at home. The other night I threw together a kale dish without a recipe and it was great! When testing, though, I follow the directions. :)

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  15. Oh, I can hardly wait for this book to be on the market! I/We love Ethiopian food. Everything you made looks spot on. Good job.

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    1. We have Kittee to thank for her good recipes. This is the most Ethiopian food we've ever eaten!

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  16. Oh man I'm so envious that you are testing! I think Ethiopian is my favorite cuisine, and Kittee's stuff is the greatest! I love that you salvaged the spilled oil. I did that last week with my entire blender full of green smoothie - I knocked it over and it spilled onto a dish towel...and I lifted the towel and poured as much as I could back into the blender. Hahah so gross.
    I wish I had that collards recipe for the insane amount of collards I have in my house! Can't wait for this book.

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    1. The icky part probably stayed on the towel, so you're good. I actually scraped the sink so I'm not sure how gross it was. But, who cares, right? :) The collards were excellent. I made them twice.

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  17. All my friends dig Ethiopian food and I only experienced the food once and that was with a non-friend who I think tainted the Ethiopian food experience for me. Kittee's food and the food you are testing/preparing looks like it will take me one step closer to giving this food a whirl. Looks delicious. I know what you mean about testing I am currently testing for another cookbook (covert ) and precision and plating is everything.

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    1. Ethiopian food is tasty but it is traditionally made with more fat than you or I like to use. When I'm done testing recipes, I'll see if I can make it still tasty but leaner. It sure tastes good, though. A secret cookbook? How interesting. Is it yours?

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    2. No, it's not mine, although I am planning to do something of that sort with sotires . Yeah. I know about the leaner, I can't test and stay completely on no fat.
      I can reveal who's cookbook...it's Zsu's, formerly of Vegan Aide and now Zsu's vegan pantry. She is great. the food you are whipping looks delish.

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