Gathering at one of Morningside Height's many Ethiopian restaurants for a dinner spread shared with friends is a distinctly New York pleasure. Here's how to make your own Ethiopian kosher, vegetarian dinner at home. It can be made either dairy or dairy-free, if you'd like to include one of Ethiopia's famous meat stews.
This post is part of the Eating New York series.Yum
An Ethiopian dinner is like a tasting menu of wonderfully spiced stews, which can be meat based, vegetable based, or legume based. A refreshing, spicy salad usually completes the dishes. Everything is served on injera, a sourdough flatbread made from teff flour. Although traditional injera is made with 100% teff flour and naturally cultured starter, most restaurants in the States use a combination of teff and wheat flours. The injera is broken off and used to spoon up the stews.
Part of the fun of an Ethiopian dinner is sharing lots of different dishes with friends around the table. Since there's no kosher Ethiopian restaurants locally, and I wanted my kids to have that experience, I made a full complement of dishes to replicate the experience. I've also made each of these dishes individually, either to serve alongside an Ethiopian meat stew or on its own, especially tikel gomen, the hearty cabbage, carrot, and potato stew, or kik alicha, stewed yellow split peas. All of the stews reheat very well and make for great lunching all week long.
Preparing to cook an Ethiopian dinner
Ethiopian cuisine uses a lively flavor base for many of its signature stews. The spices used vary, but onions, garlic, and ginger fried in niter kibbeh, Ethiopian spiced clarified butter, are the mainstays. You can make your own niter kibbeh from regular butter and spices, or its parve version, ye’qimem zeyet, with oil. But if you just want to get to cooking Ethiopian dishes at home, you can also use plain ghee, which imparts a distinctive flavor on its own. Ghee, or Indian-style clarified butter, is now widely available and many brands are kosher certified. It's often found near the oils or near the shortening in supermarkets. It's a dairy product, so plan accordingly.
Along with ghee or oil, plus onion, minced garlic, and minced ginger, if you get out a few spices from your spice cabinet, you'll have a well-appointed cooking station for making the multiple dishes on offer at an Ethiopian meal, all served on injera flatbread. You'll want to grab some berbere, Ethiopia's national spice blend, plus turmeric and cumin.
In terms of planning in what order to make the dishes, the collard greens are the only dish that requires blanching and then sauteing, while the rest are all one-pot dishes. The yellow split peas and the cabbage stew have the longest cooking times, so you could start off the cabbage, then move to the collards, and then work on the legumes. If you're making both legume dishes in the Instant Pot on the same day, I'd advise beginning with the misir wot, since the turmeric flavor in the kik alicha is strong. You can also prepare either or both ahead of time, since they practically get better hanging out in the fridge and reheat well. I like to prepare the salad and injera last, right before serving.