Growing up, I don’t recall learning much about United Nations Day in school. Maybe we did, I just don’t remember. If it were something taught in elementary school, we were far too busy worrying about the missiles in Cuba and building bomb shelters to be concerned with United Nations anything. After all, the world was ending – or so we thought.
However; at home United Nations Day was a big deal. Not for the obvious reasons, but because my parents – from two different nations – were married on October 24th – United Nations Day. Mom always made it a point to mention the significance of their wedding day in the grander scheme of things.
After World War I, it was decided that a treaty was needed to prevent another world war. A treaty was signed on June 28th, 1919 in Versailles, France and it was essentially supposed to be a League of Nations to prevent further outbreaks of war. I’m not going to get into all the politics of why the League of Nations failed to prevent World War II except to say that at the end of WWII it was decided another approach needed to be taken. On October 24, 1945, the United Nations charter was officially ratified. United Nations Day was observed for the first time in 1948. So how does one observe United Nations Day? Traditionally, United Nations Day is celebrated with a myriad of different exhibits, discussion groups, and meetings. Since 1946 in America, the President has issued a proclamation recognizing United Nations Day. For some countries, it is a non-working holiday. Being a hands-on type of person I like the idea of exhibits. However; meetings sounds rather boring and I think discussion groups can get out of hand. Besides, none of that sounds like much of a celebration – far too clinical, dry and just not much fun.
While this is just my opinion, I think people all over the world should celebrate the spirit of United Nations Day. Not only by showing pride in the cultural practices of their country of origin or the country of origin of their ancestors, but also by being open to learning about the world as a whole. Taste, see, smell and experience the beauty found in every culture. I think it would be great if the entire world could have one big block party with food, drink, dance and music from everywhere. What a swirl of color that would be!
The menu I’ve created to honor United Nations Day is based on my particular make-up with one dish each from my mother’s roots and my father’s roots. For me, that would be Filipino, Spanish, Chinese, Irish, English and Native American. I know I should have included Russian and German for Hubby’s side, but things were getting complicated as it was. You could create your own menu based on one person or the entire family. I must warn you though, the more nationalities included the more eclectic the menu. The eclectic, the more crazy. The more crazy, the more assistance is required. Sounds like a great excuse for a family or neighborhood pot-luck! Celebrating the diversity of people is also a great way for co-workers to get to know one another. It’s a great idea for students as well, having each child bring in a dish that best represents their family.
My Heritage United Nations Day Menu
Chinese Lettuce Wraps – Mom’s Side
Spanish Paella – Mom’s Side
Filipino Beef Steak – Mom’s Side
English Layered Salad – Dad’s Side
Dessert and Conclusion:
Cherokee Fry Bread with Honey – Dad’s Side
Irish Coffee – Dad’s Side
Ground Chicken Lettuce Wraps
4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch, optional
1 lb ground chicken, white meat or dark meat (see note)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
8 ounces mushrooms, chopped small
1/2 cup minced Carrots
1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, drained and chopped small
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece ginger, grated (about 1 tablespoon)
2 small heads Bibb
1/2 cup sliced green onions (from about 6 green onions), divided
Hot Sauce for serving
Red Pepper Flakes for serving
Note: If dark chicken meat is desired, have your butcher grind a pound or so boneless thighs. You can also “pulse” grind the dark meat using your food processor.
First mix together the sauce by combining the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil in a small bowl. Whisk to combine with a fork and set aside within easy reach of the stove. If you’d like a more thickened, glossy sauce, whisk in 1 teaspoon of cornstarch.Next, cook the ground poultry meat. Heat a teaspoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the ground meat and cook until cooked through and no longer pink, 7 to 8 minutes. As the meat cooks, break it up into small crumbles. Drain cooked ground poultry and transfer to a serving bowl and keep warm.While the meat cooks and drains, prepare the remaining ingredients for the filling. Chop the mushrooms, set aside. In a small food processor, mince the carrots and add to the mushrooms. Finely chop the water chestnuts using a food chopper and set aside in a separate bowl.In the now empty skillet, warm another teaspoon of oil. Once warmed, add the mushroom-carrot mixture to the pan. Saute until tender, about 5 minutes.Stir in the water chestnuts. Quickly press garlic, and grate ginger directly into the pan, and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds.Return the cooked poultry to the pan. Mix everything together. Add about half of the green onions and heat through.Pour the sauce over the top of the chicken mixture and stir to coat. Cook just until you hear bubbling and the sauce is warmed through, 30 to 60 seconds. Taste a spoonful of the mixture and add more hoisin sauce if you’d like a stronger flavor.To serve: Break off all the lettuce leaves and pile them on a plate in the center of the table, along with small dishes with hot sauce, red pepper flakes, and the remaining sliced green onions. Transfer the hot chicken mixture to a serving dish, or serve straight from the skillet. Give everyone a spoon and let them dig in — place a generous spoonful of chicken mixture in the middle of a lettuce leaf, top with green onions and hot sauce or red pepper flakes, and eat right away.Make-Ahead Tip: The poultry filling keeps very well in the fridge for 3 to 5 days.
The Main Entrées:
My Paella isn’t “authentic” in that Mom and Dad made it together. Dad is not a shell-fish (or any kind of fish eater), so things like clams have been omitted, while American touches of Chicken Thighs have been added. For more authentic Spanish Paella, omit the chicken, add more seafood such as muscle, clams or scallops. In true Spanish tradition, the “star” of this dish is the browned rice.
Spanish Paella (American Style)
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
6 Chicken Thighs, boneless
¼ Cup Flour
1 Onion, finely chopped
2 Garlic Cloves, pressed
4 Chorizo or Linguiça Sausage, in casings, split
2 Cups Yellow Rice (Arroz Amarillo)
Pinch of Saffron, rubbed
Dash of Cayenne Pepper
Salt & Pepper to taste
3 ½ Cups Chicken Broth (2 cans)
1 1/2 Cups Tomatoes, chopped
10-12 Jumbo Shrimp, peeled, deveined and cooked
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon garlic
¼ teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
1 Cup Peas, steamed
Parsley or Cilantro for garnish
Black or green Olives (Optional)
Crusty Bread (such as French) for dipping
Chop onions & tomatoes, set aside. Peel garlic, set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a Paella pan over medium-high heat. Season Chicken with salt, then dredge in flour. Add to skillet and cook until well browned on both sides, about 6-8 minutes.
Remove chicken from skillet and set aside.
Add chorizo, brown well, about 3-4 minutes per side. Set aside.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in now-empty skillet. Add onions and garlic, sauté until tender, about 3 minuets. To skillet, add rice, and saute 3-4 minutes.
Add spices, salt, pepper, broth and tomatoes. Bring to a low boil. Return chicken and sausage to skillet. Cover pan with lid or foil reduce heat to very low and simmer until rice is tender, about 30-40 minutes.
When rice is almost cooked, sauté shrimp with a little butter, garlic powder and red pepper flakes in a sauté pan over low heat until nicely pink. Set aside and keep warm. Steam peas with a small amount of butter.
Remove Paella from heat. Remove chicken and sausage. Stir in steamed peas.
Return chicken and sausage to pan. Top with warmed shrimp in decorative pattern. Cover and let sit until peas and shrimp are heated through, about 5-10 minutes.
Garnish with parsley or cilantro and black or green olives.
To serve Spanish-style, place pan in the center of the table. Everyone eats straight from the pan, using torn chunks of bread, pita bread or tortillas.
Filipino Beef Steak
Juice from 1 lemon & 1 Lime
3 tablespoons Soy Sauce
1 Teaspoon White Sugar
Salt & Pepper to taste
4 lbs New York Strip Steak, sliced thin
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
¼ Cup Vegetable Oil
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
½ White Onion, sliced
½ Red Onion, Sliced
3-4 Cloves of Garlic, Chopped
1 Red or Yellow Bell Pepper, cut into strips (Optional)
Cut New Your Strip Steak into thin slices. Set aside.
In a non-reactive bowl, whisk lemon juice, soy sauce, sugar, salt and pepper. Place steak strips in a casserole dish or marinating container. Pour lemon juice mixture over steak and toss to coat. Sprinkle with cornstarch and toss lightly.
Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours or overnight.
Cut bell peppers and onions. Set aside. Chop garlic and set aside.
Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove beef from marinade, shaking off excess liquid. Fry beef in hot oil in batches to allow for even cooking. Cook until steak starts to firm and are reddish-pink in the center, about 3 minutes per side.
Remove steak and keep warm on a serving platter.
Add olive oil to pan. Cook onions, garlic and bell pepper until onions begin to brown and pepper is crisp-tender, about 6 minutes.
Top steak with onion mixture and serve.
English Layer Salad
2 cups small Shell pasta
4 carrots, peeled and julienned
1/2 head Green Leaf lettuce – rinsed, dried, and chopped
1 medium English Cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
3/4 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1/2 cup frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Drain, and rinse under cold water to cool.
While the pasta cooks and cools, peel the carrots and cut into thin match-book size carrots. Place the carrots in an even layer in the bottom of a large trifle bowl.
Rinse, dry and chop or tear the lettuce into small pieces. Place the lettuce in a layer over the carrots.
Peel, seed and dice the cucumber. Place cucumber into a small bowl along with the peas and corn. Toss to combine. Spread the cucumber mixture in a layer over the lettuce.
Once the pasta is cooled and drained, carefully spread the pasta over the cucumber mixture.
2 Cups Mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
1 Tablespoon Curry Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Salt
In a smaller bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, brown sugar, curry powder, and garlic salt. Spread this carefully over the pasta.
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
Top with shredded Cheddar cheese. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.
The Dessert and Coffee Conclusion:
Cherokee Fry Bread with Honey
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
1 cup milk, warmed
Oil for Frying
Honey, as needed to drizzle on bread
Mix dry ingredients together. Cut in shortening; then add milk. Knead for 5 minutes on floured board. Shape dough into a long cylinder; brush with oil, cover with plastic and let rest for 20 minutes.
When ready, fry up the bread. Cut dough into 8 equal parts. Work with 1 part at a time, keep remaining dough covered.
Roll a piece of dough into a ball. Flatten the dough by hand to create about a 4″ to 6″ tortilla. Don’t worry if your fry bread isn’t perfectly round. Mine rarely are – some are oblong, some a bit more square. It really doesn’t matter.
Fry bread in hot oil until golden brown, swirling as it cooks to prevent burning. Use the end of a wooden spoon to swirl bread as it cooks, flip and continue to brown until done. Place on a paper towel, blot off excess grease and set aside in a warm oven. Repeat until all the bread has been fried.
To serve as a dessert; drizzle Fry Bread with honey and enjoy.
Hot Irish Coffee
Ingredients – per glass
1 Teaspoon Brown Sugar
1 Shot Irish Whiskey (double if desired)
6 oz Hot Black Coffee
Heavy Cream, unwhipped, optional to lighten
Sweetened Whipped Cream, optional to top off the glass
In a footed Irish Coffee Cup, add brown sugar, whiskey and hot coffee. Stir until sugar is dissolved.
To lighten, add a splash of unwhipped heavy cream. Float a dollop of whipped cream on top. Serve hot.
Who we are, where we came from should never be hidden away. It is cause for celebration. It is an opportunity to educate and to learn from others.
This world should not be a melting pot where individuality and cultures disappear into a bland mess of nothingness but rather a toss salad filled with colors, textures and flavors. After all, we are all in the same giant bowl on this wonderful adventure called life.