Out of Africa Inspired Dinner

My husband, Michael, is a” first world” kind of guy. That is, he believes the sun rises and sets on European food and specifically, the Italian food he grew up with outside of Pittsburgh. We love Italian food, of course, but I often crave the opportunity to discover far off neighborhood grocery stores, fill my home with unfamiliar fragrant spices, and spend the day curating a menu out of brightly colored vegetables, aromatic sauces, and long-simmering meats.

Where would I like to eat tonight? This is often a question we ask. For all these reasons, I thought it would be fun to host a series of dinners where I would cook around the world for my husband, Michael! Our first culinary dinner destination was East Africa and we asked a few of our Africa travel loving friends to join us. After so many years of catering large events, a personal intimate dinner at home with friends who enjoy worldly food and wine is so refreshing. Researching East African food took a bit longer than I had expected. Africa itself has 50+ countries with culinary influences crossing borders. I decided to break Africa into a more specific culinary group and concentrate on East Africa, near the Indian Ocean, with a focus on Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. My hope was to take another section of Africa, maybe South Africa for the next eating adventure. We enjoyed a heady Coconut Chicken Stew enlivened with fresh ginger and sprinkles of cumin, Irio which is a pretty sweet potato and white potato with fresh corn mash with fresh, Mango, Tomato Cucumber Salad with Toasted Peanuts, and Basmati Rice with Sauteed Kale and Spiced Beef.

Of course, I asked the talented Kenny Woodman to help with setting the dinner table. Somehow he found Uganda textile napkins in my stack, added some earthy burlap runners and green living leaves, pieces from The Storied Table like the Moto Pitcher and Obie Candle and accessorized with an appropriately African inspired chalk sculpture that set the tone of the evening. What happened? Through the research I learned about a part of Africa I was unfamiliar with.  We had a wonderful time together discovering delicious world flavors, looking at visually exciting food colors which was a great mood booster on a cold, cloudy Chicago evening, and most of all we enjoyed each other’s company in a relaxed setting. Stay tuned for more global dinner adventures!

Cheers, Wendy