January can be a tough time to find inspiration in the kitchen, particularly in the cold Midwest. But there's one kind of ingredient that's always readily available, even when its 10 below: Spices! We take a look at some spicy Ethiopian dishes below.
Rich casseroles and meat-heavy dishes are traditional Midwest favorites this time of year, but a vegetarian trying to eat light has to get a little more creative. In Chicago, we're lucky to have access to a wide variety of ethnic markets, and the spices we find there make it easy to punch up winter staples like lentils, beans, greens and root vegetables. Of course, many of them are located near wonderful restaurants that make great use of these ingredients, so inspiration is never hard to come by.
Lately, we've been inspired by Ethiopian cuisine and wonderfully complex Berbere sauce. Berbere is a mixture of many spices, including cloves, cardamom, fenugreek, chiles, ginger and tumeric, and typically moistened into a paste with dry red wine.
We're eager to try it with a homemade batch of Yeshimbra Assa – small cakes made from chickpea flour, usually in the shape of fish and served in Berbere sauce to mimic a sort of fish stew. We may even try to make our own injera – the thin, spongy, tangy bread eaten with Ethiopian dishes.
In Chicago, Ethiopian ingredients can be found at Kukulu Market in the Edgewater neighborhood. If you don't have an Ethiopian market nearby, you can mix your own Berbere, but if you have a chance to visit this or any ethnic market, we highly recommend it. It's such a great way to get inspired and warm up with a spicy dish.
Related: Recipe Source: The Spice House
(Image: Flickr users Greencolander and jlkinsel, licensed under Creative Commons)