Dr. Susan’s Summer Experiment: Ethiopian Cuisine Blog #7
Ethiopian Summer Experiment 7
Coping with Summer Heat
Summer has arrived in Texas, and the heat is not conducive to ambition in the kitchen. The day may begin in the mid-70 degree range, but as heat builds throughout the day, we find ourselves feeling thankful if the mercury stays below 100 degrees in the afternoon. Nevertheless, I find this Ethiopian adventure so fascinating that I must carry on, if on a somewhat limited scale. Most of the recipes I have tried so far keep over well, so making one batch sufficient for several meals and reheating has been a successful method of keeping good food on the table even in the heat. Small portions are the norm—usually about 1/3 cup—and I serve cool sides such as the quia salad or cottage cheese at almost every evening meal. Dessert can be a fresh peach or a handful of bing cherries.
However, last weekend I did fire up the Dutch oven to prepare a recipe I had been longing to try—chicken alicha. This is a mild chicken stew (Cookbook 9-10). Traditionally it is served with injera or rice, but because I’m trying to cut carbs severely out of my pre-diabetic hubby’s diet I do not use either one. We eat it plain, and it is delicious that way. This dish is going to be another favorite.
Now, in keeping with my newfound confidence in challenging the printed recipe when warranted, I did make a few modifications. First of all, the recipe called for 2 cups of niter kibbeh, the spiced clarified butter of Ethiopian tradition. I did not have it on hand, so I used unsalted butter, but I sprinkled a little dusting of turmeric and cardamom hoping to brighten the flavor a bit. It worked—not perfectly, but it worked. Moreover, I cut back the fat drastically, using only one stick of butter, or about ½ cup. Combined with the fat from the 2# of chicken, the stew was plenty rich enough. I did not quite have six onions on hand, so I used the four I had. The result was OK, but I will definitely count my onions more carefully before I make this recipe again.
The accompanying photo shows the alicha in the Dutch oven nearing the end of its cooking time. I was aiming for a very thick sauce consistency, almost no liquid left, and that’s what I got eventually. The final result suited our tastes very well, although connoisseurs of Ethiopian cuisine might not have cared for it. The dish met my requirements for a low-carb main dish that was also tasty.
Overall, these dishes are easy and quick to prepare. It’s the cooking time that takes so long. Cooking too fast will result in tough meat and/or a burned meal, especially toward the end of the cooking time. This food just cannot be rushed. That’s OK by me.
To return for a moment to the theme of coping with summer heat, I have learned that there are two more Ethiopian restaurants nearby, a lot closer than Habesha over in Austin. I hope to make a field trip to each of these, try their delicacies, and report back over the next few weeks. As in every cuisine, each chef has her own style and takes pride in it. It will be fun to explore the varieties and try out new methods.
Until next time everyone stay cool, keep safe, and eat well.
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