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Jen Hoy

Following the Ethnic Trail

By January 9, 2013

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As an aspiring young chef -we're talking 10 years old- I became very interested in what I now refer to as the 'anthropology of cooking". I was fascinated by the ways different countries and continents fed themselves, and even more so by the common threads that linked humanity. Various foods appear in the global community, and while they may be prepared very differently, they remind us of our inextricable connection to one another.

All of this exploration led to a great fondness for ethnic cooking, and I have always looked for ways that we can take traditional recipes and enliven them for optimal health. Some need no tampering at all; others benefit from a reduction in oil, salt, cooking time or spiciness. Most of the recipes here allow for some short-cuts in a modern kitchen, without losing the essence of the dish. Moroccan Vegetable Stew with Saffron and Chickpeas is one such dish; Mujadarra (lentils with rice and caramelized onions) is another. Soups might include Lebanese Vegetable Soup, or the lovely pureed Middle Eastern Lentil Soup. Grains are abundantly represented by Couscous with Vegetables, Basic Bulgur Pilaf, and the assertively scented Brown Basmati and Carrot Pilaf. Curries include Curried Cauliflower, Japanese Yam and Potatoes; rich Pumpkin and Chickpea Curry; and the quick and easy Chickpeas with Watercress (this last can easily be prepared with spinach if you're not a watercress fan).

These dishes are just a smattering of what is possible when we begin to play with spices.

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