October 3, 2011

Vegan MoFo Day 3 - "Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food" Review

Hello my friends! For Day 3 of Vegan MoFo I wanted to bring your attention to an awesome new cooking zine I got my hands on recently. It's called "Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food" and it's written by Miss Kittee Berns. Anyone who is a vegan and is also gluten-free has GOT to know about her. Kittee is an absolute rockstar when it comes to cooking and baking without animal products or gluten. In fact, she even coined the term "xgfx" as the shorthand for "vegan and gluten-free". Pretty ingenious, huh?

Kittee writes a blog called The Cakemaker to the Stars, is also a founder and contributor to the site xgfx.org, and she is one of the organizers of Vegan MoFo. In her spare time, she self-publishes a series of cooking zines that are quite legendary in the vegan-verse. Her latest, "Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food" focuses on... Ethiopian food! It's a topic which has never been fully covered in any vegan cookbook before, and as I read through the zine I came to realize what a fascinating cuisine it truly is.  

Personally, I've been a fan of Ethiopian food since I first set foot in Zemam's, a wonderful little restaurant back in Tucson. It feels more like you're eating in someone's home than in a restaurant. For those not familiar with Ethiopian food, you order several dishes to try (either on your own or as a group) and the food is served in heaps on top of a big piece of airy flatbread called injera. You get extra injera on the side and you scoop up and eat the food with it. No flatware! Eating with your hands may seem strange, but as they say at Zemam's, the majority of the world's inhabitants eat with their hands and it's quite fun! Most Ethiopian food is highly spiced (but not necessarily spicy) and the flavors are unlike any other cuisine I've tried. It's the perfect food for vegans and vegetarians because they offer a lot of lentil and vegetable based dishes. Yum!

Anyway, back to Papa Tofu! Kittee really did her research on this one. She starts off by giving a very helpful intro to the spices and ingredients you'll need to make the recipes. Two of the most important items are berbere, a spice blend, and niter kibbeh, a spiced butter or margarine that is used in place of cooking oil. I was able to find berbere at Kalustyan's, my neighborhood ethnic foods market, but the niter kibbeh has to be prepared at home. 
The meal I made thanks to Kittee!
There are so many amazing dishes to choose from in this zine, it's hard to narrow it down! I decided to cook the Lentils in Spicy Gravy and Collard Greens. I actually planned on making the Black Eyed Pea Sausages, but I was out of black eyed peas. Those are definitely on my radar for next time!

All in all, I found the recipes really easy to follow and spot-on with the measurements. Anytime I was confused by a word or term, I referred back to the intro. As everything cooked, the scents kept luring Johnny into the kitchen to check out the action and say, "It smells so good in here!" The lentils had so many flavors and the fresh tomatoes were a perfect ingredient. The overall dish turned out a little spicier than I anticipated, but neither of us mind a little heat. And the collards, cooked with a touch of cinnamon, were so delicious. Since I didn't get to cook the Black Eyed Pea Sausages, I served the lentils over some brown Basmati rice and the flavors went together quite well. And, since I cooked this on a weeknight and was short on time, I didn't get to tackle her recipe for homemade injera (she calls 'em Injera Fakeouts since they are GF). I bought some frozen Chaptis (Indian flatbread) and grilled them up and they were delicious. It was a cross-cultural dinner for sure, but everything worked together nicely. "Eaters Without Borders" I like to call us.

And can I just take a minute to say how cool it is that zines still exist? Zine culture was so big in the 90s (as everyone knows, my favorite decade) and the thought that you can still have a great idea, cut and paste it into a booklet, photocopy it and distribute it to the masses warms my little heart. Kittee does such a good job adhering to the feeling of those old zines while making it look polished and modern. Well done!

I can't wait to make more of the recipes from "Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food" as the weather cools. I highly recommend picking up a copy of your own! You can purchase it on Kittee's web site here.


  1. Yum! I have that zine but I haven't made anything yet. This is the kick in the pants I need. :)

  2. I just ordered a copy yesterday, so I am so excited to see your great review -- can't wait for mine to arrive so I can make some delicious Ethiopian food!

  3. Carrie and Kitchenoperas - You will both LOVE cooking from this zine, I tell ya! Good luck, let me know what you try!

  4. I've always wanted to try making Ethiopian at home. That's awesome that she has a recipe for gluten-free injera, I'd love to know how that one turns out.

  5. I've seen several people review that zine. Looks like I'm going to have to go ahead and order a copy. :0)

  6. Maggie Muggins - Isn't Ethiopian food delicious? The recipes I tried weren't too difficult, but the injera seems a bit time-consuming. I will give it a try some weekend and let you know how it turns out!

    Michelle - I have seen quite a few people posting about it, too. I think part of it is that Kittee is just so cool and creative, it's easy to fall in love with her zines!

  7. Thanks for this great review! I'm gonna link to you from my blog, and I hope you get a bunch of new readers.


  8. Thanks Kittee! You're the coolest! :-)

  9. OK, I am definitely getting this zine! Thanks for the review. (Just stopped over from Michelle's blog)