Category Archives: Recipes


Madison, Wisconsin

I prefer raspberries, but there’s something exciting about strawberries. Perhaps because here in the north it is the first fruit of the season. Perhaps because there is nothing like strawberry ice cream. Perhaps because it signals summer has truly arrived and raspberries are just around the corner. Perhaps because, like flower bouquets, no one ever complains about the price of strawberries. What ever the case every year I get little-kid excited when strawberries come into season. And after a cool if not downright cold spring in Wisconsin the strawberries have finally arrived. Although I’ve been harvesting about two quarts a week from my community garden plot and sampling strawberries from Harmony Valley Farm at the Dane County Farmers’ Market, where I work once a week, local pick your owns and most farmers’ market vendors have gotten off to a very late start.

On Sunday June 26, about two weeks later than usual, two friends and I drove  JenEhr Family Farm in Sun Prairie, which runs the only organic strawberry pick-your-own in southern Wisconsin. In 2011 Strawberries were #3 on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list of most contaminated fruits and vegetables. The EWG Shopper’s Guide is published to help consumers who are concerned about pesticide exposure choose which fruits and vegetables to purchase organically. The Environmental Working Group also publishes a Clean 15 list. Children especially are at high risk to pesticide exposure when consuming fruits and vegetables on the Dirty Dozen list. On Sunday JenEhr Family Farm was packed with families with children under the age of seven.

Our instructions included the command “to eat as much as possible while you pick”. Our initial assigned a row yielded less than a quart each and we wondered if we should have gotten an earlier start. However the day was absolutely gorgeous, not too hot, sunny and breezy and we chatted with other pickers and a family we knew from Madison while we waited to be assigned new rows. The new rows were fabulous and we bent or squatted and picked. I, of course, despite being the most experienced squatter, nevertheless ended up with strawberry strains on my knees.

Now the madness begins. What to do with all the strawberries?

I used to make strawberry jam, strawberry bread or muffins, strawberry shortcake, dried strawberries and strawberry fruit leather when I lived in New Hampshire. These days I keep things simple. Eat as much fresh as possible and freeze as much as can fit in my Euro-sized fridge. Last week I made homemade vanilla ice cream and served it with strawberries to my neighbors across the street.

This week I invited friends over for strawberry batidas, an alcoholic drink made with cachaça, in an attempt to use as many very ripe strawberries as quickly as possible. Out of necessity this summer I’ve begun a return to a barter-based economy and I’m hoping my neighbor across the street will fix my bike in exchange for a strawberry-rhubarb pie.

While preparing to write this blog post I learned that strawberries are botanically not considered berries. They are actually an accessory fruit or false fruit. Figs and mulberries also fall into this category.

Wikipedia helped me to sort this technicality out by stating “…that the fleshy part is derived not from the plant’s ovaries but from the “receptacle” that holds the ovaries. Each apparent ‘seed’ (achene) on the outside of the fruit is actually one of the ovaries of the flower, with a seed inside it. In both culinary and botanical terms, the entire structure is called a ‘fruit’”.

I checked my dirt-stained copy of Rodale’s Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening and they do not mention it. Since that book, trial and error and interning on an organic farm were my main sources of information about strawberries I guess that’s how I only came to learn of it from the internet. My botanical education continues. Or maybe I knew this instinctively all along and perhaps this is the reason strawberries are so exciting- they aren’t really berries.

Wisco-Brazilian Strawberry Batida (bah-chee-da)

Makes two large servings

1 pint very ripe (i.e. need to be used now) strawberries, stems removed



Crushed Ice

                                                                                                                                                                                                   Place the strawberries in a blender with a couple of tablespoons of water and blend until smooth. If the mixture is too thick for your taste add more water. For a true Wisco-Brazilian Batida for each drink place 2 ounces cachaça, 4-5 ounces strawberry puree, 2 tablespoons of sugar in a glass pint jar 2/3 full of crushed ice. Cover and shake to blend. If desired add more crushed ice. Drink directly from the pint jar on your front or back porch with friends. Talk until sunset.

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Filed under Recipes, United States

Erasmo’s Shrimp and Eggplant Stew Saves the Day

September 15-26

In Nametil it took me two weeks to be better able to meet my daily living needs. I finally secured a table, a chair and mosquito net although I was never able to get the net hung properly so in the end it was useless. It did however provide a nice bit of color for the empty room. After a few days I was able to get hot water for instant coffee every morning. I would have boiled the water myself except the kitchen cooking heat came from a small coal fire in a grill. At night the coal and grill are locked away so I have to wait for Virgilio, the cook of another government worker who lives in a different government house which is not equipped with a kitchen, to arrive and boil some water for me. Yes I should have prepared as if I were camping. At some point early in the first week I learned that the driver for my host organization is staying in the same government guest house I am. The place is much larger than it appears from the outside and many people, actually all men, are staying here. The driver, Erasmo, began talking about how he was going to prepare Shrimp and Coconut for dinner. I of course said I love that and as a result was invited me to eat it with him. In return I supplied the beer for the meal. As he was unable to find any coconut we ended up eating a Shrimp and Eggplant Stew with rice which was absolutely delicious and restored me to myself. This best meal yet included good conversation in my crazy Portuguese, which now includes occasional Brazilian pronunciation and a Spanish word here and there.

As the days passed Eramso and I formalized our arrangement. I supplied the money for the food, after consulting with me about my likes and dislikes he decided what we would eat and gave instructions to Virgilio about what to buy and any necessary prep work. Finally Erasmo would finish the cooking when we returned from the field. Due to a severe lack of variety in the local food market I ate shrimp at least three times, grilled fish once or twice and either a cabbage salad or green pepper salad with every meal. The seafood was brought to our door frozen every morning likely from a shop like the one pictured here.

Once Virgilio and Erasmo prepared Matapa made with cabbage rather than pumpkin leaves. I prefer the pumpkin leaf version. My second favorite meal of the week was another shrimp stew in a light tomato sauce heavy on the garlic and onions served with fried manioc. We often bought vegetables from the farmers we visited and if we were lucky were given vegetables as a thank you.

Buying onions for dinner

Even here the selection was limited and my diet was primarily cabbage, green peppers, tomatoes and carrots. My one contribution to cooking was to make Cowboy Coffee for Virgilio, Erasmo and myself on afternoons when we were hanging around with nothing to do.

On the weekends I was left to my own devices as the grill was locked away and Erasmo returned to Nampula city for the weekends. My choice was to eat in the one restaurant in town where I usually had an omelet with French Fries. I’ve eaten more potatoes and eggs in the past two weeks than I usually do in two months back home! Now that I am back in Nampula City my food choices have expanded somewhat to delicious vegetable soups and expensive grilled meats and seafood, but mainly I am thrilled to be eating fresh pineapple and papaya every morning for breakfast. I can honestly say that I have never eaten a pineapple anywhere in the world better than the ones I have consumed in Mozambique. And this alone makes me happy.


Filed under Mozambique 2010, Recipes, Uncategorized

A Recipe for Matapa

After consulting with several on-line cookbooks, an article entitled Hungry for Adventure in Gourmet Magazine and my own memory I created a rough recipe for Matapa (also spelled Mathapa), my favorite Mozambican dish. In Mozambique you use young cassava (my preference) or pumpkin leaves. Here I’ve substituted collard greens. You might also try it with spinach. This dish can be served over white rice, coconut rice or xima, a thick maize porridge which is somewhat similar in consistency to polenta, but made with white corn flour. If you prefer vegetarian, leave out the shrimp. It will still be tasty.



2 bunches collards

28 ounces unsweetened coconut milk

1 pound raw peanuts

garlic, chopped fine

salt to taste

1 pound small shrimp, shelled and deveined (reserve shells)

  • Place the shrimp shells in a pot of cold water and boil for 5 minutes. Strain and save liquid.
  • Wash the collards; remove the tough stems and cut into small pieces. Purée collards in a food processor. Traditionally this is done with a large mortar and pestle.  Cook the collards in 2 cups of shrimp water with 1 can coconut milk over medium heat for about 30 minutes.
  • Cook the shrimp for five minute in boiling water. Strain and save liquid.
  • Grind the peanuts in the food processor until they resemble powder. Place the peanuts in a saucepan with 2 cups of shrimp water and 1 can coconut milk over medium heat. When it begins to boil, pour the mixture over the greens. Add the garlic, salt, and shrimp; stir; reduce the heat and simmer for 1½ hours. Serve over rice.

Variations include serving with piri-piri, and adding tomatoes, onions, shaved green papaya or cassava flour during the final simmer


Fresh Piri-piri peppers, chopped fine

(in the US try small Thai Hot or Habanero Peppers. I’ve also used dried red pepper flakes)

Garlic, chopped fine

Lemon juice

Olive oil

Parsley, chopped fine (optional)

Combine all the ingredients and let sit for one day before serving. For basting chicken, substitute coconut milk for the lemon juice.


Filed under Mozambique 2009, Recipes

Pickled Carrots and Zambezi Chicken- Beira, Day 26

On my first night back in Beira I had one of my best meals so far. Without asking I was served spicy pickled carrots as an appetizer and instead of sending them back I ate them and then asked for more. I conferred with the waiter and the following is an approximate recipe.

First slightly cook the carrots in boiling water. Then slice into rounds. Chop some garlic into small pieces and mix with the carrots, olive oil, vinegar, and pimintao (slightly spicy pepper- something like hot paprika) and let sit overnight in the refrigerator.  Before serving salt lightly and garnish with parsley.

Frango a Zambeziana consists of ½ chicken (breast, leg and wing) marinated in coconut milk and then grilled. It was served with coconut rice. I have memories of other ingredients such as piri piri sauce, tomatoes and parsley, but this was simple and delicious as served. Tomorrow I go in search of the best matapa in town.

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Filed under Mozambique 2009, Recipes