Comforting stews mixed with exotic spices eaten hand-to-mouth with pinches of tangy flatbread called injera sum up the interactive pleasure of dining at 18-year-old Café Lalibela in Tempe. The only way to make Ethiopian cuisine more intimate would be to eat it in your own home – and now you can.
Chef Atsade Desta and her daughter Salam Beyene (also the restaurant’s manager) recently created an enticing retail line of their most popular vegan dishes, available at Whole Foods locations throughout the Valley (look for them in the refrigerated section).
Choose from five stews ($5.99 each), including spicy misir (red lentils spiced with berbere, a highly flavorful and aromatic mixture of chiles and warm spices); yekik alicha (buttery yellow split peas); gomen (onion-and-garlic-flavored collard greens); tikil gomen (mildly spiced cabbage, carrots and potatoes with turmeric and cumin); and fosolia (stewed tomatoes with green beans and carrots). Eat these delicious stews chilled or warmed (our preference) with injera ($2.50 for two 16-inch rounds) – thin, spongy sourdough bread made from teff, a nutritious ancient grain. Utensils are optional.
Odds were good that Cassie Weisz would become an entrepreneur in the culinary field. She grew up surrounded by kitchen playthings. Her mom owns the long-running, whimsical kitchen playground Two Plates Full, which is filled with artisanal items for the kitchen and dining room, and Weisz didn’t fall far from the tree. She started Never Enough Sugar, an online, boutique bakery, even before she graduated from The Art Institute of Phoenix’s baking and pastry program in 2010.
Grainy black and white Westerns flicker silently across a TV screen at Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue, occasionally interrupted by the jarring clang of a dinner bell. Everyone turns to stare. Just another heaping mound of Chef Bryan Dooley's pecan-smoked 'cue – worth the drive from anywhere in the Valley. And the one constant on every plate at this cowboy-chic outpost is Dooley's signature condiment: the sweet-and-tangy pickled jalapeño.
As hot sauces go, heat levels are relative: What’s scorching to one palate is child’s play to another. Maybe that’s why culinary-school-trained Stuart Hutchinson, creator of a unique line of condiments called Precious Sauces, is more focused on “where” a given hot sauce brutalizes the mouth than “how much.” For example, his personal favorite among his four flavors, Liquid Gold, hits the front and sides of the tongue – first with a sweet, fruity flavor, and then with a powerful, if short-lasting, punch from habanero.
The story has all the trappings of a Hollywood screenplay – bootleggers, a remote barbecue shack in the woods of western Kentucky and a debt owed. It culminates, rivetingly, with a bottled barbecue sauce based on a 176-year-old recipe. Owner DeeDee Crook traces the sauce back to his grandfather, who owned a dairy farm in bluegrass country and had a brother who ran moonshine. One thing led to another, and the boys ended up with a secret recipe that became Old Kentucky Barbeque sauce.
When Letitia Lavant decided to market her family’s pasta sauce, she spent hours cooking with her mother, measuring and writing down the recipe. Two sauces – and a lot of memories – came out of those sessions: spicy Italian marinara and garlicky pizzaiole gravy. ($8.50 for 24 ounces; available at Luci’s Healthy Marketplace and Old Town Scottsdale Farmers’ Market.)
Tasha Mehl looked at the five olive trees in her yard and got an idea, but first she needed to do some research. A handful of trees isn’t enough to harvest olives or press them for oil commercially, but what about the leaves? Long intrigued by the health benefits of plants and herbs, Mehl wondered if olive leaves had anything to contribute. Turns out, olive leaves are high in antioxidants. The taste is mild, carrying both sweet and bitter characteristics. Olive leaves aren’t known to produce any medical miracles, but when blended with other plants, herbs and spices, they make for a comforting cup of tea.