Ethiopian Wots from Vegan Eats World

As Vegan Mofo was drawing to a close, one of the things that excited me the most was thinking about cracking open some of my newest cookbooks.  At the top of the list – Vegan Eats World.  I’ve written about Terry Hope Romero’s last solo cookbook endeavor, Viva Vegan, many times over on my blog.  In fact, it’s gotten to the point that her name has become synonymous with “Mmm” in my house.  If I’m trying a new recipe and my husband asks who created it, and I say Terry Hope, he’s instantly counting down the minutes until dinner.

Living in a small town after spending many years in a food mecca means that our options have become considerably more limited restaurant-wise.  The downside to that is that I sometimes end up cooking when I’d much rather go out.  The upside to that is that I sometimes end up cooking when I’d much rather go out.  Over the time we’ve been here we’ve saved money by cooking at home, and I’ve become a better cook.  Things that I wouldn’t have bothered to learn how to do if I was still living in Los Angeles have become second nature.

Sometimes when I’m trying to figure out what to make for dinner, my husband and I will play “what if.”  What if we were in Los Angeles?  Where would we go for dinner?  Then I base the evening’s meal on that particular craving.  There is one flaw in this game.  Nine times out of ten, David says that he’d eat at Rahel Ethiopian, the all-vegan restaurant in Little Ethiopia.  Well, hey, me too, but unless a person has made spice blends ahead of time and infused oil/vegan butter in preparation, it’s not exactly a quick meal.  (If you’d like to find out more about Rahel, you can read all about it on my review.)

So I took the opportunity when David was out of town for work last week to get started on the spice mix, infused oil, and stews (wots) while he was away.  I figured a home-cooked Ethiopian meal would be a fun surprise when he returned.

First, I followed the recipe in Vegan Eats World for the berbere spice blend, which involved cutting open cardamom pods to use the seeds from inside, toasting cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, peppercorns, and cloves, and grinding it with other spices in the coffee grinder.  (I cut back on the cloves to two instead of six, because I’m not crazy about them.)  In the end I had two standard-sized spice jars filled with berbere for future use!

To make infused oil (niter kibbeh), onions, garlic, ginger, cinnamon sticks, fenugreek seeds, turmeric, and cloves went into a pan with oil & vegan butter.  After releasing the flavors into the oil, the contents of the pan are poured through a metal strainer, leaving just the flavorful oil behind.  The oil keeps in the refrigerator for months, meaning that the next time a Rahel urge strikes, I can run to the kitchen instead of  the computer to look up airplane ticket prices.

Terry has several Ethiopian recipes in VEW, and one of them, Cauliflower and Green Beans in Berbere Sauce, is open to variations.  While it’s listed as using green beans and cauliflower, it can be made with any combination of collard greens, cauliflower, green beans, potatoes, or carrots.  I decided to make that dish twice – once with collard greens and once with cauliflower and carrots.  It came together easily with all of those signature Ethiopian spices.

For a third stew, I made Seitan Tibs simmered in berbere and wine (seitan tibs w’et).  This dish is made with seitan coriander cutlets, which I steamed instead of baking.  I’d never had anything like this dish at an Ethiopian restaurant since it’s based on a meat dish.  With lots of spices and a long simmer with red wine, this dish has flavors that are reminiscent of French cuisine but with an Ethiopian twist.  Both David and I were blown away by the deep, rich, and complex flavors.  This is a dish that impresses.

For the injera to scoop the wots, I made the injera from Vegan Lunch Box that I’ve made several times, but there is an Ethiopian-style crepe recipe in Vegan Eats World, along with a few more Ethiopian dishes to try in the future.  After stuffing ourselves with injera & wots we were almost transported to Little Ethopia, and we didn’t even have to fight traffic on the 405!  Next step, figure out how to grow my own sun-drenched beaches, palm trees, and mountains, and I’ve got it made!

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