In life, we come across people of different backgrounds, ethnicities, races, religions, etc... If you aren't, you're doing it wrong and you should reassess. We learn lessons along the way, or we should be, at least I try my best to embrace differences, to learn from others, and to adapt my way of moving through the world. That might mean thinking differently, moving differently, acting differently, in my case it often means cooking differently.
There is a lot we can learn through cuisine
I have a friend from Ethiopia and through that friendship, I have learned about their culture and cuisine, which heightened my culinary curiosity.
Ethiopia was never colonized by an imperial power. They were occupied by Italy for some time, but that was short-lived.
Since they were never colonized, they were able to continue to practice Orthodox Christianity. Which accounts for 40% of the population. One of the tenets of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is "fasting" for 180 to 252 days a year, depending on how strictly you observe. Their "fast" consists of eliminating animal products from their diets during those "fasting" days.
Make it make sense!
At one point the following countries were all part of the Roman Empire: England, Wales, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Israel, Egypt, Tunisia, etc.. the list goes on, Ethiopia not amongst them. During the expansion of the Roman Empire, so to expanded the Church of Rome. Then in the 16th century, England begins their rampage to colonize the world. Spreading their culture, religion, and values, which were partly derived from the Roman Empire and the Church of Rome, yet still never colonizing Ethiopia. Thus Ethiopia stayed adhering to the Orthodox Tewahedo Church.
This is why, Orthodox Christians, celebrate Christmas on January 7th, and Roman Catholics Celebrate Christmas on December 25th, because they follow separate calendars. We are learning together, people!
Berbere´ is a traditional Ethiopian spice mix commonly and generously used in their cooking. It generally consists of Paprika, Black pepper, Coriander, Nutmeg, Finger, Ajwain, Allspice, Birdseye Chili, Fenugreek, Cardamom, Clove, Salt, Onion, and garlic. It's hot! Since it's a mix, you can find a variety of Berbere´ mixes ranging on the heat index. Warning, be careful which one you purchase and use. I decided to go with the Teeny Tiny Spice Company because of the balance of the flavors, and the "right" amount of heat. The heat isn't overpowering, just enough to know it's there and elevates the dish.
Honesty is the best policy
Since this is a safe space, I'm going, to be honest. I did not love this recipe. Wait, let me back up. My typical approach to cooking something new is to find an existing recipe and freestyle that recipe into my own. One of two things could have happened here, my freestyling didn't work out as it usually does, or two, I should have followed the actual recipe. My bad.
With that said, it was still tasty as heck and provided me with several healthy meals throughout the following week.
The recipe I adapted it from can be found at Best of Vegan.
My adaptation is as follows
Ingredients, freestyle version, if you want exact measurement you're going to be disappointed
Sweet Potatoes, about 2 - 3 cups cubed
8 Ounces Dry Chickpeas, soaked for 8 hours
Berbere Spice Blend
Mint leaves, or if you're like me you use parsley because that's what you had in the fridge and you needed some green to make the pics pop
Diced onion, 3/4 cup
Garlic, 4 cloves diced
Step 1: Preheat the oven (pause reading, walk over to the oven and start preheating)
Step 2: Separately toss the chickpeas and sweet potatoes in berbere and a drizzle of olive oil. Separately, place on two separate baking sheets. These two things aren't going to take the same amount of time to cook, so it's important that you bake them, you guessed it, separately. Once the potatoes are soft, remove them from the oven, once the chickpeas are golden remove them as well.
Pro-tip: The chickpeas will finish first
Step 3: Make 1 cup of Quinoa, easy, follow the directions on bag/box. Usually, 1 part quinoa, 2 parts liquid.
Step 4: Sauté Onions and garlic. We do this by heating a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet, adding onions, cooking for a bit, adding a pinch of salt to draw out the liquid, cooking a bit more, now add the garlic, you add it 2nd because it takes less time to sauté and you don't want to burn it, cook for a bit, add a couple tablespoons of tomato paste, and cook that into the onions and garlic for 1 to 2 minutes
Notable Cultural Point: I've read and heard, that onions form the foundation of a lot of Ethiopian dishes
Step 5: Add your cooked Quinoa to the sauteed onions and garlic, gently mix the two until the ingredients and flavors are integrated
Step 6: Now, if you are a sane person, which I am not, you will purchase and use regular-ass tortilla shells purchased from the store. Or you can dabble and try to make your own like me, here is the recipe that I followed at Mama Knows Gluten Free. They turned out all right, overall I'd rate them as a 6.5/10.
Pro-tip: It's harder than you think it would be to make your own
Step 7: Now it's time to assemble. Take warmed tortilla shell, add a scoop of the quinoa mixture, a scoop of chickpeas, and sweet potatoes
Pro-Tip: you and dress your tacos with a squeeze of lime, a dollop of mint yogurt sauce, diced mint leaves, and/or a pinch of sea salt to finish assembly.