Family Friendly Ethnic Meal Inspiration

When Ethnic Foods are Few and Far Between This Mom Gets Creative

Do you live roughly 20 miles from any good ethnic cuisine so deep in the wilds of Connecticut that there is no take-out save the local pizza joint? Well, I do. And after years of city living this can be a crushing situation at times.

Last week while trekking around the circumference of the local Stop & Shop, loading up on the usual for my family of five, I paused in front of the meats. Staring at the ground turkey I wondered if it would be meatballs, burgers or Bolognese. And then I sighed. And then I had a vision. I could cook ethnic food. I could choose one country a week and for the 3-4 dinners where my husband and kids were all present, I could cook from that country. Extra bonus: We might even discuss the country- where it is and what the staples are - and learn something! Not to mention that the kids would be expanding their palettes by experiencing a variety of herbs and spices in different cuisines.

My middle daughter was studying India in school, so I thought that would be a good starting point. I used two main resources. The first was a cookbook by Madhur Jaffrey, titled Quick & Easy Indian Cooking. My family’s favorites from here were her ‘Most Delicious Meat Cubes’ and a ‘Gingery Cauliflower Soup.’ Both were simple to make but used many of the signature Indian staples (onions, garlic, hot green chile, and ginger) and spices (cumin, coriander, turmeric, red pepper to name a few.) I made two vegetable, one rice and one meat dish each night and my kids at least tried them all. They especially liked the veggie dishes because the sauces made them more palatable than my usual oil and salt on the broccoli technique.

My second favorite resource for recipes and products was a wonderful website: I like that they ship from the closest Indian food purveyors to you. The site also has a description of how spices are varied depending on the season. For instance, in Spring, less dairy is used, though more yogurt, and spices such as turmeric and coriander are added all in the effort to decrease the stiffness of joints and build up of mucus and cholesterol which we accumulate in Winter. Click  for a link to a Butter Chicken dish recipe especially delicious with the combination of spices, tomato, lime and a touch of cream. My kids also really liked Steamed Carrots and Peas Lightly Spiced.

With India behind us, next week will be Spanish cooking and the following week, Israeli. If you have any suggestions or comments about authentic recipes and where to find them, please post a comment.

Eliza Paolucci is the guest blogger for this food series. She grew up in Manhattan and is raising her 3 beautiful daughters in rural Litchfield County.