What’s saving me in the kitchen right now?

By Sidonie Maroon 
Posted 4/3/24


Once a quarter I’m taking you into my kitchen for a look at what I’m learning, and how it adds to a kitchen life.


New Cuisine—Africa

I’m …

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What’s saving me in the kitchen right now?



Once a quarter I’m taking you into my kitchen for a look at what I’m learning, and how it adds to a kitchen life.


New Cuisine—Africa

I’m developing recipes for the Food Co-op’s Summer “Community Cook” recipe pamphlet — “A Taste of Africa.” I like to choose places to cook from where I’ll have lots to learn, but I think I overdid it this time! 

For weeks, I didn’t know how to organize the recipes, because Africa is so diverse with so many influences and traditions. Finally, I settled on an Ethiopian feast menu; a series of West African mains, and North African salads and sauces. It cheered up our late winter kitchen and pulled me out of the doldrums to work with exciting flavor combinations. Sneak previews of a few of the African recipes I mention are available on the Food Co-op’s blog “The Beet.”


Community Cook Recipes

I started cooking from my own books! I was so uninspired last winter that I pulled my recipe packets and worked them into our weekly meals. “Community Cooks” booklets are available free for download on the Food Co-op’s website. I write the recipes, and at this point we have booklets featuring vegetarian Indian, Greek, Italian, Vietnamese and the Caucasus. 

I love this work, and take it seriously by honoring the places, and what they have to teach us — bringing new flavor combinations and highlighting real food made with seasonal produce.


Leaning Into Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are now a regular at dinner — we eat them several times a week. They’ve become my starch of choice for ease, flavor and nutrition. I’m learning ways to disguise their skins so my husband will eat them. 

Last week, I made a sweet potato and kale salad with a lemon and fennel dressing. Blend together:

1 clove garlic, minced

Juice and zest of one lemon

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ teaspoon cayenne or red chili flakes

1 teaspoon fennel seed

2 teaspoons paprika

½ teaspoon sea salt or more to taste.


Garlic Oil

With so much African style cooking, heavy on the garlic, my digestion was suffering. I found a work around that works wonders. I found the technique on a FODMAP site, it eliminates the fructans but with the robust roasted garlic flavor. Roughly crush 4 cloves of garlic. Bring it to a low simmer in 1 cup of olive oil. Simmer for 20 minutes, let it sit and infuse for another 20 minutes. Strain the oil. Refrigerate for up to a week, or freeze. Garlic oil left out is susceptible to botulism, but under the conditions I've mentioned is safe and delicious.


Chicken Thighs

There are so many extraordinary African chicken recipes, including Yassa de Poulet, a rich Senegalese dish made with caramelized onions, as well as West African chicken and peanut stew, andEthiopian Doro Wat (spicy chicken stew). Chicken thighs are perfect for making sheet pan or Instant Pot versions of these recipes. Adding roasted sweet potato fries and some of the garlic oil? Yum! And so affordable and easy!


Greens Jam and Mild Harissa

I’m ecstatic about the flavors in the greens jam recipe. What’s a greens jam? It’s a chunky spread made with any type of greens, especially over wintered greens or nettles. I used black Italian kale in mine. The kicker is the lemon, and smoky spices. It’s incredible on toast with avocado, or just by the spoonful.

I made some harissa, a Tunisian chili sauce, using dried ancho chilies, and only a little heat. Harissa is usually scaldingly hot, which isn’t so useful in my kitchen, but, oooh la la, this mild version is divine.


Herb Jam with Olives and Lemon

Baqqala, Moroccan

Makes 1 ½ cups

What could be better, but a thick puree of greens, herbs, olives and lemon to spread on toasty bread?

4 cups greens like spinach, mustards, kale, nettles or a mix, chopped with tender stems included

1 cup parsley, chopped

½ cup cilantro leaves, chopped

½ cup celery leaves, chopped

½ teaspoon sea salt, for blanching water

¼ teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

4 large cloves garlic, halved

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup pitted black olives, chopped Fresh lemon to taste

Sea salt to taste


1. Before preparing the ingredients, fill a pasta pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the salt once it’s boiling.

2. Once the water is boiling, add the greens and garlic. Bring it back to a boil before timing 3-5 minutes. After 3-5 minutes, or when tender, use a skimmer/strainer to remove the greens from the water.

3. Squeeze the excess water off of the greens and add to a food processor with the other ingredients except the olives. Pulse until smooth. Add olives and pulse briefly. Taste and add salt and lemon. It should be chunky-smooth.

4. Serve or refrigerate and use within a few days.


You can find more recipes by Sidonie at www.foodcoop.coop/recipes

Sidonie Maroon is the culinary educator for the Food Co-op.