Recipe: Gomen (Collard Greens)


Before trying gomen for the first time at an Ethiopian restaurant, I don’t think I had ever eaten collard greens before in my life. I don’t know why- I’m a longtime vegetarian who is unafraid of trying all sorts of more adventurous greens, like kale or swiss chard- but I sure was missing out. To me, gomen is a must-have when I make several Ethiopian stews for dinner. Having a healthy green really seems to balance it all out, taste-wise and nutritionally.

This is a recipe that I have to admit I’ve sort of come up with on my own. By using recipes online, asking Kiddy for her ingredient list and using her cooking methods, and memorizing the flavors from several Ethiopian restaurants, I experimented and came up with the following. Adam thinks it tastes even better than the kind we get at one of our favorite restaurants, and Dawit gets a look of pure delight on his face when he sees me pulling out a big bag of greens as I put away the groceries, so I think the recipe’s a hit. I almost always supersize the recipe to ensure that I get a taste 🙂

On a side note: some Eth. restaurants use spinach instead of collard greens. It tastes good, but Dawit was unfamiliar with spinach when he came to America and I suspect that the substitution is an Americanization and not “authentic.” Stick with the collard greens if you have them at your local grocery store.

Recipe: Gomen

2 bunches of collard greens
1 large onion, chopped
1/3+ c. canola oil (replace some of the oil with niter kibbeh or butter if desired)
minced garlic and ginger (about 2-3 tsp. each, would be my guess. If you’ve read my other recipes, you know how this works)
2 jalapeño peppers, de-seeded and chopped
salt, to taste

Pull off the leaves of the collard greens and discard the stems. Tear the leaves into medium-sized pieces (just small enough to get them into the pot for cooking- you’ll chop them into smaller pieces later) and wash them well under cold water. Bring a large stockpot of salted water to boil and add the greens. Cook for about 10-15 minutes- the greens should change color and soften. Drain in a large colander and rinse with cold water. Squeeze out all of the excess moisture and chop into small pieces. Set aside.

Cook the onions on medium heat until they start to soften and turn translucent, about seven minutes. Add the oil/niter kibbeh/butter and cook for several minutes. Then add the garlic, ginger, and jalapeños and saute for several more minutes. Add the chopped greens and stir well, ensuring that the greens are thoroughly mixed in with the other ingredients. Add salt and cook on medium-low until the greens have soaked in the flavor.

Recipe: Fossolia

Fossolia is a delicious green bean dish. Like many other Ethiopian dishes, there are countless ways to prepare them. Kiddy’s version has a strong tomato flavor, giving it an almost Italian essence. I don’t know if I’ll admit it to her, but I ended up eating the leftovers over pasta and thought it went together perfectly. It’s very easy to make and doesn’t require any special hard-to-find Ethiopian spices, so it’s an ideal recipe to start with if you are new to Ethiopian cooking.

Fossolia

2 onions, chopped
1/3 c. canola oil
3-4 oz. tomato paste (about 1/2 of a 6 oz. can)
4 cups green beans, ends snapped off and cut or snapped into halves or thirds
3 carrots, cut into stick-shaped pieces
2-3 tomatoes, chopped
minced ginger and garlic (as much or as little as you’d like- I use about 2 tsp. each)
salt, to taste

Start by cooking the onions on medium heat for about seven minutes, or until the onions begin to turn translucent and soften. Add the oil and continue cooking for several more minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and allow several minutes for the ingredients to simmer together. Add the green beans and carrots, stir well, and cover. Continue cooking on medium heat for 10-15 minutes, then add the tomato, ginger, garlic, and salt, and simmer until all of the vegetables are tender.

Recipe: Missir Wat

Missir wat is a hearty lentil dish with a rich berbere flavor. This is a great dish to bring along to a potluck or family gathering. It’s a nice introduction for newcomers to Ethiopian cooking, easily doubles for a large crowd, and is one of the easiest recipes to make. And at around $3 per batch, it’s inexpensive. You can turn the heat up or down by adjusting the amount of berbere to your liking. I make it pretty spicy because that’s our family’s preference (even at age 2, Sula can take it like a champ!) but if you aren’t too keen on heat, definitely limit the berbere to a tablespoon or so the first time you make it. The recipe below could easily feed six. Before starting, take a look at this post that explains the basics of Ethiopian cooking- much of it applies to a recipe like this.

3 onions, chopped
1/2 c. oil
2-3 tbsp. berbere
1/2 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
3 c. water, plus extra on hand
2 c. split red lentils, rinsed well
minced ginger and garlic (about 1 tbsp. each)
salt to taste

In a large stock pot, cook the onions on medium/medium-high heat for several minutes, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften and turn translucent. Add the oil and cook for a few more minutes before adding the berbere. Add the berbere and allow the ingredients to simmer together for several minutes (berbere should always have plenty of time to cook before other ingredients are added- Kiddy told me about a word,”kulait,” for a sort of uncooked/raw flavor of berbere that wasn’t allowed to cook through all the way. I know what she means and it’s important to avoid it). Add the tomatoes and several spoonfuls of the tomato juice and stir. Then add three cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the rinsed lentils and stir to combine all the ingredients. Turn the heat to low-medium and simmer, but keep a close eye on the lentils- if the liquid has been absorbed before the lentils have softened, add more water as needed and continue cooking on low heat. Add the ginger and garlic and salt, stir well, and continue simmering until the lentils are completely tender.

Recipes: Shiro Alecha and Shiro Wat


When we were in Ethiopia we had very few opportunities to explore the city, but I did make sure I stopped into a grocery store. I purchased several kilos of spices, powders, and other unfamiliar substances with the idea that a) whatever the stuff was, I could learn how to make it, and b) it would be a lot cheaper to buy it in Ethiopia than in America. Among my bags of mystery goods were two types of shiro: plain shiro and mit’in shiro. Shiro is a flour made from ground legumes. It is not entirely clear what kind of legumes- I have heard chickpeas, fava beans, and split peas are all possible ingredients, although it seems like the menus at the Ethiopian restaurants we frequent say it’s made from chickpeas. Mit’in shiro is just like plain shiro except it already has spices added and thus has an orange color. Mit’in shiro (used to make shiro wat) is hot, but shiro alecha is mild. Adam prefers shiro wat, but I love both versions; it just depends on what you’re in the mood for!

You might notice that the recipes are virtually identical. The only difference is that the wat recipe calls for tomato paste where the alecha recipe calls for turmeric. And I use a hot pepper to add a little bit of flavor at the end of the alecha. That’s it; otherwise, the recipes are the same. If you go to an Ethiopian restaurant, check out the menu- many offer the same dishes with the choice of wat or alecha (misser wat/misser alecha; doro wat/doro alecha; etc.).

Shiro Wat

1 onion, chopped
1/2+ cup oil
2 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
2-3 c water
3/4 c mit’in shiro
minced ginger and garlic
salt, to taste
**see Notes

Cook the onions dry in a large, stirring frequently, for several minutes on medium/medium-high heat. When the onions have softened, add the oil. When the oil has heated through, add the tomato paste and mix well. Wait a few minutes, add 2 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Add the shiro slowly and stir briskly (preferably with a whisk) to remove any lumps. Add more water or oil as needed to achieve the right consistency (see Notes below). Add the ginger and garlic and stir. Add salt if you desire.

You can tell when the shiro is ready when it gets very thick and pops (careful, it can get messy!). The oil will also separate and rise to the top.

Shiro Alecha

1 onion, chopped
1/2+ cup oil
1 tbsp turmeric
2-3 c water
3/4 c shiro
minced ginger and garlic
salt, to taste
1 jalapeño pepper, deseeded and sliced into thin strips (optional)
**see Notes

Cook the onions dry in a large, stirring frequently, for several minutes on medium/medium-high heat. When the onions have softened, add the oil. When the oil has heated through, add the turmeric and mix well. Simmer a few minutes, then add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the shiro slowly and stir briskly (preferably with a whisk) to remove any lumps. Add more water or oil as needed and continue cooking. Add the ginger and garlic (I actually measured the other day and I used about 1 tbsp. of each) and salt, if desired, and stir.

You can tell when the shiro is ready when it gets very thick and pops (careful, it can get messy!). Add the pepper before serving.

NOTES: I have not had to purchase shiro or mit’in shiro in the U.S., but I will have to eventually when my stock runs out. You can buy it online (fyi, the sites I’ve come across spell it mitten shouro, in case you are looking), but your best bet is to find an Ethiopian grocery store in your area or just stock up like crazy when you’re in Ethiopia. You can substitute a pureed tomato for the tomato paste in the wat. I use a lot of turmeric in the alecha because I love it, but you might want to cut back the first time you try it if you’re unsure. Same with the ginger (you can use powdered if you don’t have fresh) and garlic- I can never have too much of either of those, but I know not everyone feels the same way. The most important thing to pay attention to when making shiro is the consistency. It should be smooth and thick, but not too thick. Definitely something you would eat with a spoon (or, obviously, injera!!) and not a fork. Make sure that no lumps remain- Kidist and I had a funny shiro-making experience a few weeks ago when it came out very lumpy for some reason we couldn’t figure out. She was horrified; apparently, lumpy shiro is a telltale sign of an inexperienced cook in Ethiopia 🙂 So just whisk like crazy when you’re adding the shiro, and add water or oil to smooth it out if it’s getting too lumpy or thick.

Utility company kills man over unpaid bill

I woke up to see this story in the news this morning. A 93-year-old Michigan man named Marvin Schur froze to death inside his home in January. He hadn’t paid his bill for four months, so the utility company installed a power limiting device in his home. The device tripped, shutting off his electricity entirely, and the man died four days after the installation. Apparently customers can reset the devices themselves, but I think we can all imagine how a 93-year-old man would be unable to make it outside in the frigid Michigan winter to fiddle around with an electronic device.

When neighbors went inside Marvin Schur’s house, it was so cold that icicles were hanging from the faucets and the windows were frosted over. Schur was lying on his bedroom floor with multiple layers of clothing, and the door of his oven was open, indicating that he had made attempts to keep warm. It appears that the World War II veteran may have been suffering from dementia, as there was enough cash lying around Shur’s house to cover his entire bill.

This man slipped through the cracks. No one had bothered to investigate *why* he wasn’t paying his bills, or if he needed some sort of assistance. I am just astounded that anyone would think it acceptable to put any sort of mechanical device limiting access to a basic need like electricity in the home of an elderly person (or any of the other fragile members of our society) and expect them to be responsible for fixing it if it works improperly. The company didn’t even bother speaking to Schur about the device- they simply installed it and left a note by the door.

The title of my post might seem like an exaggeration. But the bottom line is that if the utility company HAD been paid, this man would still be alive. They installed that device because of money. As it turns out Schur had the money to pay, but not the mental faculties to do so, but that should not make a bit of difference. People should not be at risk of dying for a lack of heat in this country, regardless of their ability to pay. I doubt that I will ever get the image of this man-dying a slow and painful death on the floor of his home, bundled in layer upon layer of clothing, wondering why he couldn’t get warm- out of my mind. And I hope that the people at Bay City Electric Light & Power company can’t, either.

Recipe: Firfir

Firfir is another one of my new favorites. It is an excellent way to use leftover injera that is past its prime but still edible.

2 large onions, chopped

1/4 cup canola oil

1-2 tbsp. berbere

3 ounces tomato paste (it comes in 6 oz cans, so 1/2 can)

2 tomatoes, chopped

1/4-3/4 cup water

minced ginger and garlic

3-4 pieces injera, torn into pieces

1-2 jalapenos or other hot green peppers, de-seeded and cut into thin strips

salt

**See notes at the bottom**

Cook the onions for several minutes until they start to soften and turn translucent. Add the oil. When the oil is hot add the berbere and stir. After a few minutes, add the tomato paste and cook for several more minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and a bit of salt, and cook on low-medium heat until the tomatoes are thoroughly cooked. Add the water and bring to a simmer. It should look like a really thick tomato soup at this point. Add the injera and stir, gently chopping the injera as you mix it in. Continue cooking until the injera has absorbed all of the liquid. Top it off with jalapenos and enjoy!

**This can be made without the fresh tomatoes if you don’t have them. The amount of water you use will depend on the amount of injera you use. Less injera –> less water. As always, the amount of ginger and garlic is undefined. I would guess that I use maybe 2-3 tsp. of minced ginger and the equivalent of four or five cloves of garlic. You could substitute powdered ginger if you don’t have fresh on hand. The one thing I really wouldn’t try to do is use a fake (as in quickie, non-sourdough) injera for the recipe. As injera is the main ingredient, the lack of the sourdough taste would ruin it for me (but that’s just my opinion).

Recipe: Tikil Gomen


This is a vegetarian vegetable dish. We just made this for the first time on Sunday and it’s already one of my favorites. Like other Ethiopian dishes, it would be very easy to double or triple, or alter the quantities of several ingredients. For example, if you want to use more or less potatoes or carrots or cabbage, it’s fine. Just make sure that if you increase the amount of vegetables, you increase the other flavoring ingredients.

Ingredients:

2-3 onions, chopped
1/3-1/2+ cup canola oil
1-2 tbsp. turmeric
3/4 cup water
4-5 Yukon gold potatoes, cut in half lengthwise then sliced into 1/4-1/2 inch pieces
3-4 carrots, chopped into stick-shaped pieces
1 head green cabbage, chopped
6 scallions (white parts with some of the green), chopped
1 1/2 tbsp. dried basil (you can use fresh basil- the store just didn’t have any that day)
finely chopped garlic (see note at bottom)
finely chopped ginger (see note at bottom)
salt (to taste)
2 jalapeno peppers, seeds removed and sliced into thin strips

In a large pot, cook the onions, stirring occasionally, on medium/medium-high heat until they start to soften and turn translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the oil (as much as your arteries can take!) and cook until the oil gets hot. Add the turmeric, stir to ensure the it is evenly distributed, and cook for another few minutes (and please be sure to take a second to enjoy the aroma). Add the scallions and cook for another minute or two. Add the water and bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Once the water is boiling, add the potatoes, stir, and cover. Since the potatoes take longer to cook than the other vegetables, let them cook for at least 5-10 minutes. Then add the carrots, cover again and allow them to cook for several minutes, and add the cabbage. Add the salt and continue cooking until the cabbage starts to shrink and soften. When the potatoes are almost finished cooking, add the basil, ginger, garlic, and jalapeno peppers and cook until the vegetables are tender.

***It’s really hard for me to pin down how much garlic and ginger to use, as I keep large quantities of both freshly chopped in the refrigerator and just dump a bunch in when I’m cooking. I would guess that I use roughly five or six cloves of garlic and a 1 1/2 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped. Really, I have no idea. I would ALWAYS err on the side of adding too much of these. You can never have too much flavor, you know?