If you would
prefer a printed softbound version of When Vegans (Almost) Rule the World,
you can pick one up for just $11.99 at Amazon. Kindle eBook coming soon!
either softbound or Kindle/Nook/etc. eBook at Amazon
by Kittee Berns
review by Marla Rose
When I was in high school, I was introduced to
the pure sensory delight that is Ethiopian food. I was working as a
vendor selling peanuts (and earning peanuts) over the summer at Cub’s
games and would occasionally carpool with the Berman brothers,
childhood friends of my brother, who, despite the fact that we grew up
in a pretty lilywhite suburb, were passionate explorers of food from
around the globe. Chicago and its abundance of ethic restaurants was
just a short distance away but I never really experienced it until that
summer of carpooling with the uncommonly worldly Berman brothers.
Once a month or so, we would stop to get Indian food on Devon Avenue
after a game, which was life-changing to me as a sheltered vegetarian
teen who didn’t get many options beyond baked potatoes when dining out.
Another favorite of the Berman brothers was Mama Desta’s Ethiopian
restaurant on Clark Street, just south of Wrigley Field, where the Cubs
play. Mama Desta’s was (and perhaps still is) a little dark and seedy
for someone who came from a clean-scrubbed suburban environment but the
food – oh, the food. It was a taste explosion in the best possible way.
One bite of those weird sour flat breads, those creamy potatoes and
carrots and tomato-y lentils, and I was hooked for life. I didn’t know
flavors like those – spicy, tangy, salty, indescribably unusual but
appealing – and textures like those – creamy, spongy, crispy in every
bite - existed. It’s hard to not be hyperbolic but Ethiopian food felt
like it nourished me on a level that I didn’t even know existed before.
As silly as it sounds, I was changed from these experiences eating out
and not just a little bit. That summer, I learned that there was an
exciting culinary world out there for those of us who don’t eat
All these years later, Ethiopian food remains my favorite world
cuisine. For those who love complex spices married with comfort food,
it is pure bliss, and it is especially compatible to herbivorous diets.
Whenever the opportunity arises, I am thrilled to eat at any of
Chicago’s excellent Ethiopian options but most are not too close to me.
When I learned of the new cookbook by Kittee Berns, Teff Love: Adventures in Vegan Ethiopian Cooking, I couldn’t wait to get a copy in my hands. Would I be able to recreate those flavors in my own kitchen, though?
It turns out, yes, with Kittee’s able guidance, we are now all able to
enjoy Ethiopian food in our own homes without any compromise. Kittee
walks you through the features of the cuisine, including common
ingredients (which includes what to look for in your berbere, the
famous peppery spice blend of Ethiopian food), the best resources for
purchasing items online, even advice on cooking for a crowd and setting
up your platter. While the recipes generally include a lot of
ingredients – as in keeping with this lavish cuisine – these are often
ingredients used over and over in many of the dishes. Also, while many
of the recipes may include a fair number of ingredients, keep in mind
that Ethiopian food is peasant food in the best sense of the word: it’s
comforting, unpretentious, not fussy and very easy to create at home.
The true test would be the injera bread, though. After a disastrous
attempt at making my own injera (the fermented, spongy native flat
bread of Ethiopian food) a few years ago, I was apprehensive about
trying again with Kittee’s method. As injera bread is a sourdough
created with a starter over multiple days and specific conditions,
there are many points where things could go wrong and any time science
is introduced into a recipe, I get a little nervous. Kittee’s
instructions that went with her recipe, though, were painstakingly
detailed and included troubleshooting notes. From Monday until
Saturday, I attended to that rising, falling, bubbling bowl of
potential injera heaven in my kitchen (it really took just a few
minutes a day) (I can be a little melodramatic sometimes) until
finally, it was ready. And it worked. Perfectly. After six days and a
fair amount of worry, praying to Hanuman, asking for guidance from the
Berman brothers, positive visualizations and the occasional chant, I
had perfect, delicious, amazing, restaurant-quality injera bread. This
recipe is worth the price of the book alone, but thankfully there is
much more. While I now know for certain that owning an Ethiopian
restaurant is not one of my life’s ambitions, being able to make injera
in the comfort of my own home is a worthwhile consolation price.
The meal I made from recipes in Teff Love
In addition to the injera, I made ye’misser wot be ‘timatim, a.k.a.,
Red Lentils in a Spicy Tomato Sauce, ye’atakilt alicha (just like mom
used to make), also known as Stewed Cabbage, Potatoes, and Carrots in a
Mild Sauce and selata, or Simple Green Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette.
Everything was aromatic, rich in flavor, easy to make and, as my
husband pointed out, as delicious as anything we’ve eaten at an
Ethiopian restaurant. Our son also loved the food. It was an epic
Ethiopian feast from my very own kitchen, one that transported me back
to that introductory meal at Mama Desta’s: love at every bite.
With colorful photography, vivid descriptions, clear instructions and
written with an obvious love for the cuisine, this is a cookbook for
anyone who already loves Ethiopian food or is even curious about it.
Packed with classic recipes as well as some fun new interpretations,
such as Ethiopian-Style Hummus and Ethiopian-Style Mac ‘n’ Cheesie,
Teff Love will not disappoint.
Thanks so much to The Book Publishing Company for permission to reprint the following recipe from Teff Love.
ye’denich be’kaysir atakilt
Tender potatoes with pickled beets and onion
Makes 4 cups in a lime vinaigrette
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄4 cup freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
1 teaspoon agave nectar
1⁄2 teaspoon salt, plus more if desired
8 ounces small red beets, roasted and peeled and cut into sticks (between 1⁄4- and 1⁄2-inch thick)
1⁄2 cup thinly sliced onion
3 thin-skinned potatoes, boiled and peeled and cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes (3 cups)
Freshly ground black pepper
Put the oil, lime juice, mustard, agave nectar, and salt in a me- dium
bowl and stir well to combine. Add the beets and onion and stir gently
to combine. Cover and let marinate in the re- frigerator for 1 to 12
Put the potatoes in a large bowl and add the beet mixture. Stir gently
to combine. Season to taste with pepper and addi- tional salt if
desired. Cover and refrigerate until cold.
Per cup: 300 calories, 4 g protein, 15 g fat (2 g sat), 38 g carbohydrates, 62 mg sodium, 37 mg calcium, 6 g fiber
2013-2015, Vegan Street