I'm just gonna go ahead and say it: Teff Love by Kittee Berns is (and will remain) the best vegan cookbook of 2015. Yep. It's a bold statement, but I'm sticking by it. I LOVE THIS BOOK.
I may be a little biased because 1) I've been a long-time fan of Kittee's blog, her zines, and her kitschy style, and 2) Ethiopian food is probably my favorite cuisine. But just trust me on this one. If you love Ethiopian food as much as I do, you're going to need this book in your life. When it comes to vegan Ethiopian cooking, Kittee is pretty much the expert. She's been cooking up wot, fitfit, and firfir for ages. And a few years back, she put out her bright orange Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food zine.
Teff Love: Adventures in Vegan Ethiopian Cooking is like the grown-up version of Papa Tofu. It's loaded with both traditional dishes and some inventive Ethiopian fusion fare. I can't wait to try those creative twists, but for my review stop on the Teff Love blog tour, I wanted to test out some of the classic dishes I love to order at my two favorite local Ethiopian restaurants.
My very favorite Ethiopian dish is Ye'Misser Wot (Red Lentils in a Spicy Sauce), so I chose that. And then I picked a few traditional veg dishes — Fasolia Be'Karot (Tender Braised Green Beans with Carrots and Soft Onion in a Garlicky Sauce) and Ye'Tikil Gomen Be'Timatim (Stewed, Seasoned Cabbage in a Golden Tomato Sauce). And of course, no Ethiopian platter is complete without Selata (Simple Green Salad). I made her Citrus Dressing for the selata.
Let's talk about those lentils. So, you know when you go to a restaurant that serves food of another culture — say Ethiopian or Indian — and the food is just so good. And you think to yourself, "If I made this at home, there's no way I could get it to taste like this." Well, I've most certainly thought that about these lentils when I've dined out. But you know what? These were just as good (if not better!) than what I am served in Memphis' Ethiopian restaurants!
The veggie dishes were spot-on too. The tender green beans were just like what I order at the restaurant! All super-tender and oniony and flavorful. And although I've never had a cabbage dish quite like this at a restaurant, it was simply fantastic — soft cabbage seasoned with spiced butter and turmeric and cooked down with tomato and jalapeno. Yum!
The secret, you see, is in the butter. In the beginning of the book, Kittee provides a recipe for Ye'qimem Zeyet (seasoned oil or butter). You put Ethiopian spices, onion, garlic, and basil and some other stuff in a pot of oil or butter (I used Earth Balance) and let it simmer for awhile. It's called for in many of the recipes, and although you can sub olive oil, you shouldn't. Make the seasoned oil. Make a ton. You won't regret it.
You might notice that my plate is lacking a very key part of a traditional Ethiopian meal — injera! I had a little injera crisis tonight. No fault of Kittee's recipes, of course. It was my own stupidity. For months, I've had a half-used bag of teff in my pantry. I used it once to try Robin Robertson's injera recipe, but that failed. I couldn't figure out why. And then tonight, I tried to use it in Kittee's Quick Teff Crepes (the shortcut injera that doesn't have to ferment).
I mixed the batter all up and poured some into a hot skillet. And just like when I made Robin's recipe, the batter just bubbled and disintegrated. And that's when it hit me! I've been using teff grains instead of teff flour in my injera attempts! Duh! Kittee writes about the different between these two in her intro, but of course I failed to read. So my advice: Read the book before you get started!
Anyway, I ended up eating my meal with a slice of whole wheat sourdough bread spread with the spiced butter. The sour flavor of the bread was similar to injera, so at least there was that. But tomorrow, I'm just gonna cheat and buy some pre-made injera from a restaurant to enjoy with my leftovers. I will tackle Kittee's recipe soon though!
I also tried Kittee's Shehan Ful (Tender, Seasoned Fava Beans Topped with Tomatoes, Onion, and Chile) from the breakfast chapter, and I've been having that for breakfast over the past couple of days.
I love this savory dish. I often order ful at our local Ethiopian restaurants but typically for dinner and not breakfast. But traditionally, it is served in the morning. So I've been eating it for breakfast, and it's super filling. I love a good hearty, savory breakfast. Ful is typically served with brown bread, so I enjoyed this with more of that whole wheat sourdough. And upon Kittee's suggestion, I added vegan sour cream and avocado to the top too.
Next, I plan to try some of recipes for dishes I've never tried in a restaurant. There's an berbere-spiced tempeh salad that sounds so good. And there's a recipe for Ethiopian-Style Mac & Cheese (yes, it has berbere!). She even has a recipe for Chickpea Tofu (soy-free tofu made from chickpea flour!). And I'm certain Ye'beqolo Genfo (Creamy, Cheesy Corn Grits with Spicy Seasoned Oil) will be on my breakfast table soon.
There's even a dessert chapter — Spiced Teff Snickerdoodles! Mocha Teff Brownies! Peanut Tea!
Get this book. Seriously.