09 September


West African Shrimp

in Peanut Sauce

September 13: National Peanut Day

We were sponsoring a Nigerian couple, Osas and Chizobam N., through our church’s marriage preparation program when the coronavirus hit. They were planning a grand wedding weekend with two ceremonies—one African and one Western—but things have changed drastically due to COVID-19. Their wedding was postponed until a couple of weeks ago and really scaled back to just their family and entourage (we served as “health and safety” ushers at the “white wedding” ceremony at our church). What a year 2020 has been with the pandemic impacting weddings, birthdays, graduations and other celebrations.

We were only able to meet at our home twice and complete the rest of the social distancing marriage preparation sessions via Zoom. We shared a meal with them then and discussed their wonderful West African wedding cultural customs and their favorite home cooked meals that they miss while living in the USA. We had planned on serving this shrimp dish with peanut sauce at our next session together to feed the homesick couple something familiar to their groundnut soup. But that, too, could not happen because of the coronavirus.

In their honor, we went ahead and cooked this anyway since it is a delicious dish with a flavorful blend of spices, coconut milk and peanut butter. We hope to learn more from our African friends about their culture and cuisine so we can post the recipes here. For now, enjoy cooking West African shrimp with peanut sauce for National Peanut Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Dummies)

Ingredients

  • 5 stalks green onions, white parts chopped only
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • ½ piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 cup canned coconut milk, unsweetened
  • 1 ½ pound shrimp, shelled and deveined (if frozen, defrost and rinse)
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro leaves, chopped (optional garnish)
  • 2-3 tablespoons roasted peanuts, chopped (optional garnish)

Directions

Chop up the white parts of the green onions, the round onion, red bell pepper and tomatoes.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sautee the onions and bell pepper until soft, around 7-10 minutes. Mix in the tomatoes. Add the ginger and garlic.

Season the vegetables with red pepper flakes, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper. Stir in the peanut butter.

Pour in the coconut milk and stir until smooth and creamy. Lower the heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the shrimp and cook until no longer pink, around 5-7 minutes, depending on the size. Ladle the stew in a bowl and sprinkle chopped cilantro and peanuts. Serve hot with rice, quinoa or couscous.

Notes

  •  

    The kente cloth pictured above is traditionally from Ghana in West Africa. A Nigerian lady sewed a simple robe from that cloth for Islander when she and her husband were also studying at our alma mater. We all met while participating in cultural shows through the International Student Organization.

  • Islander’s boss at the ESL center is from Nigeria but lived and worked in Brazil before coming to America. He noted that the peanut sauce (coconut milk and spices) is very similar in both cultural cuisines. This recipe reminds us also of the satay sauce in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

  • See this similar recipe for West African groundnut soup: Algonquin Wild Nut Soup.

  • We pray for the best for Osas and Chizobam’s future and all the couples whose wedding plans were affected because of the pandemic. They are learning quickly about the vows of being committed to each other in good times and in bad…in sickness and in health.

Hot Cross Buns

September 11: National Hot Cross Buns Day

Hot cross buns are traditionally associated with Good Friday. But they could be appropriate for September 11, too, coincidentally National Hot Cross Buns Day. The 2001 date is one of history’s darkest moments, when terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City. Many turn to the cross as a symbol of comfort and hope in times of tragedy—and also in times of triumph (good over evil…life over death…reconstruction over destruction).

Hot cross buns typically mark the end of the Lenten period and beginning of the Easter weekend. But some bakeries offer them year-round because the sweetly spiced bread with the special markings are distinctive and delicious. The cross represents the crucifixion of Jesus and the spices symbolize those used for his embalming and burial. The buns were especially popular in England that there was a short song that vendors would sing along the street:

‘Hot cross buns, hot cross buns!
One ha’penny, two ha’penny, hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters, give them to your sons,
One ha’penny, two ha’penny, hot cross buns!’

We make hot cross buns at home on Good Friday, starting in the morning cheating by using our bread machine to make the dough. After dividing them into buns, letting them rise again, baking them and decorating the tops with crosses, these labors of love are finally ready to snack on in the afternoon (before and after attending Good Friday 3 p.m. mass). They last us through the Easter weekend, although some legends state that they can last a whole year, even throughout a long sea voyage.

Be inspired to bake some hot cross buns, whether on Good Friday or on National Hot Cross Buns Day, and in honor of those who perished on Sept. 11, 2001, and those who worked the front lines to keep us safe and informed. God bless them all!

Recipe

(Adapted from Pillsbury)

For the hot cross buns

  • ¾ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
  • ¼ cup butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons bread machine dry yeast or active dry yeast
  • 1 package (6 ounces) dried apricots, chopped (about 1 cup) – mix in

Directions

In the container/well of the bread machine, place the ingredients in order. Mix the water and milk. Pour in the sugar. Grate the orange peel and add it in the container.

Cut up the butter and place it in the container. Layer the flour over it.

Add the salt and nutmeg. Sprinkle the yeast over it. Place the container in the bread machine. Set to dough only cycle (do not use the delay cycle).

When the machine beeps for the mix in, open the lid and scatter the dried apricots on the dough. Close the lid of the machine and let the machine run through its dough course. Meanwhile, make the egg wash.

For the egg wash

  • 1 egg, beaten (reserve 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 teaspoons water

Directions

In a small bowl, beat the egg and remove a tablespoon to a small ramekin or cup. Stir in the water. Refrigerate while the bread machine is finishing its dough only cycle. When the dough is done, transfer to a lightly greased clean surface. Cut into 16 pieces. Grease hands with butter, oil or cooking spray and roll each piece into a ball. Place on a greased baking sheet about two inches apart.

Cover with greased plastic wrap. Place in a warm oven (80-85 degrees F) and let rise until doubled in size (about an hour). Remove from the oven and discard the plastic wrap. Brush the tops with reserved egg wash.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 16-18 minutes or lightly browned. Remove from the oven and transfer immediately to cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, make the frosting for the crosses.

For the frosted crosses

  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoons orange juice

Directions

In a small bowl, mix together the powdered sugar with the orange juice, a teaspoon at a time, until it has a pasty consistency. Place in a piping bag with a small round tip (we used Wilton round tip #5); alternatively, place frosting in a zipper top plastic bag and snip a small hole from the bottom corner. Squeeze out crosses on top of each bun. Let the crosses set and serve. Store hot cross buns in a tightly covered container for three days.

Notes

  • Learn more about the origin, legends and variations of hot cross buns from Wikipedia.
  • Prior to that fateful date of Sept. 11, 2001, we resided in New Jersey and toured the Twin Towers and Manhattan on the weekends when the weather was nice. On the day of infamy, a horrified Highlander, whose field office was across the river, witnessed billowing smoke coming clearly from the World Trade Center. Months later, on Christmas break, we solemnly went to see the remains of mangled pieces of metal of Ground Zero in New York City. We viewed various anniversary memorials in different museums throughout the years since then. In 2016, during a visit with our old friends in New Jersey, we were able to visit One World Trade Center. Pray for peace, please.

Buko Pandan Salad

September 2: World Coconut Day

For our marriage preparation ministry, we usually sponsor the “mixed couples” from our church. It makes sense because we are a mixed couple ourselves and can relate our experiences with them. Sometimes we are assigned a young couple where the bride and/or groom is Filipino. Their parents and grandparents would like them to incorporate Filipino traditions (13 coins, veil and cord) in their wedding ceremony, so we practice at our house. To get them in the mood and excited about their cultural customs, we have a Filipino theme night and serve Filipino foods for dinner. One of our brides wanted to share a dessert and brought buko pandan salad. It brought back happy childhood memories for Islander who ate it at relatives’ parties!

We had leftover young coconut (buko) shreds from our buko pie recipe and Islander was able to make this sweet salad at home on the mainland. Thanks to our bride Jobelle for sharing the dessert and the recipe. Serving and eating this buko pandan salad is a wonderful way to observe World Coconut Day!

Recipe

(From Jobelle B.)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups buko (young coconut meat), shredded
  • ½ cup quick-cooking tapioca pearls + water
  • 2 cans (7 ounces) table cream
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 can (5 ounces) evaporated milk
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon pandan extract (we used Butterfly brand—see Notes)
  • 1 jar nata de coco (cubed coconut gel), drained
  • 1-2 cans green ai-yu jelly, sliced

Directions

In a saucepan, bring 4-5 cups water to a boil. Add the tapioca pearls and cook for 5-10 minutes until no longer white in the middle. Immediately strain and rinse with cold water. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, pour the table cream and mix with the cooked tapioca.

Pour the condensed milk and evaporate milk. Stir in the pandan extract. Drain the nata de coco from the jar and add to the mixture.

Open the can of green jelly and slice into cubes. Gently fold into the mixture. Mix in the buko until well blended. Cover and chill for at least an hour. Serve cold.

Notes

  • If using frozen buko, defrost, rinse and dry completely. If it is too wet, it could spoil easily and ruin the dessert.
  • Butterfly brand pandan extract is thick and bright green but other brands of pandan flavoring are thinner and/or clear color. Adjust accordingly and add a few drops of green food color if desired.
  • Green gelatin, agar-agar or gulaman may be used instead of the canned green ai-yu jelly.
  • In addition to nata de coco, kaong (sugar palm fruit) in a jar could be used in this recipe.
  • Search our blog for other coconut recipes.

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