Foodbuzz 24 X 24: Congolese Dinner Fundraiser for Women for Women International

I received a small grant by’ s 24 X 24 program. Every month the site gives 24 food bloggers $250 to organize some sort of dinner party or food event, and all the events take place on the same day of the month. I wrote a proposal to host a dinner fundraiser for Women to Women International, an organization that helps women in war torn countries rebuild their lives, and their families. I was delighted to win, but then just had two weeks to organize!

I spent yesterday afternoon cooking a humble Congolese meal (with a little Egyptian thrown in) and then some lovely folks came out to eat and make a donation. Some other lovely folks, who couldn’t make it to the dinner, donated to my Firstgiving site online, and all together we raised over $1000. Awesome! It was a great night.

pictured above and below are: peri-peri muffins, a spicy, buttery, peanut-y muffin popular in West Africa; Kushari, an Egyptian dish of rice, macaroni, lentils, tomato sauce and fried onions; Collard Greens, popular across Africa (and, of course, the Southern US); Congo Moambe, a peanut butter and tomato with nutmeg, chili, garlic and onions served over rice.

Since 1993, Women for Women International has directly assisted more than 153,000 women and approximately 655,000 family members have benefited from its programs. Women for Women International has distributed nearly $42 million in direct aid and microcredit loans since 1993. If you want to learn more about Women for Women International, and how you can get involved, see their website at:


Manakeesh Lebanese Bakery

I’ve been so excited to see what opened in the formerly abandoned bank building at 45th and Walnut Streets. It’s always been a stunning building, and now even more so. Manakeesh, a family-run Labanese Bakery opened just over a month ago in the old bank building after a stunning and warm renovation to the inside. Manakeesh is not “fancy” but it provides delicious food at very welcoming prices, a killer espresso machine, and a broad selection of home baked pastries. I came in for “brunch” with a friend and we both ordered coffees and manakeesh – house-made, grilled flatbread sandwiches filled with fresh toppings. I enjoyed the labneh above – a yogurt cheese spread with cucumber, tomato and wonderful, meaty green olives. My friend ordered the “hot cheese” pictured below; Cheese and fresh spicy pepper paste baked on a flatbread. Both were delicious, the service was friendly, and I’m sure to be back. Manakeesh also offers catering, for that extra-special office or house party.

Manakeesh Cafe Bakery on Urbanspoon

Red Lentil Coconut Curry

I’ve never made a lentil curry before, but this recipe from Simply in Season, with coconut milk, red lentils, cauliflower, sweet potato, cabbage and frozen peas, was calling to me. Like a traditional dahl, this curry cooked into a very soft, comforting almost-stew, bit a little bit of bite in the cabbage. The flavor was complex and relied on a mix of spices (tumeric, curry, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, red pepper and bay) rather than an average “curry powder” mix. The only downside – the recipe feeds 8 – 10 people, something I only noticed after I made it. My roommate benefited from the plenty, and we ate it all week with greet yogurt and indian pickles.

Congolese Dinner Fundraiser for Women for Women International

Congolese Fundraising Dinner for Women to Women International
March 26th, 2011
6:30 – 8:30 PM
Kelly Writers House
3805 Locust Walk
Phila., PA 19139

Hello blog buddies!

I’ve been given a small grant by’s 24 X 24 program to host a dinner fundraiser for Women for Women International, an organization that helps women in war torn countries rebuild their lives, and their families.

I will be cooking a humble traditional Congolese meal (in honor of the amazing work that WfW does with Congolese rape and violence victims) and am asking guests to make a donation ($10 +) to support Women for Women International. Through your donation, women in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovinia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kosovo, Rwanda and Sudan receive:

– direct aid for food, medicine, clothing and schooling

– microcredit loans and access to other economic opportunities

– rights awareness and leadership education

– job skills training and

– emotional support from the exchange of letter through the Sponsorship Program

You’re invited to this event! If you would like to attend, please send me an RSVP (so that I cook enough food!) at If you can’t attend, but would like to contribute and support this fundraiser and Women for Women International, you can do so safely and easily here:

Since 1993, Women for Women International has directly assisted more than 153,000 women and approximately 655,000 family members have benefited from its programs. Women for Women International has distributed nearly $42 million in direct aid and microcredit loans since 1993.

Donating through this website is simple, fast and totally secure. It is also the most efficient way to support my fundraising efforts. Women for Women will send you a notice of donation for your tax purposes. Women for Women International receives high marks from Charity Navigator for meeting or exceeding industry standards for nonprofit organizations.

Soba Noodles with King Mushroom, “Beef” and vegetables

Another meal made awesome by H-Mart. On my last trip I picked up a few basics – giant bottles of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil. Also soba and ramen noodles. And, of course, produce. I know its not seasonal or local, but its still kind of winter here and I was craving mushrooms. I bought these beautiful kind mushrooms – huge and meaty – along with carrots, a delicate green savoy cabbage, ginger, garlic and shallots. Some fake seitan “beef” strips, again not a usual for me but fun sometimes, came together will all the produce, the pre-cooked noodles, and a sauce of chili oil, soy, sweet soy, vegetable broth, sugar, salt, sesame oil and a pinch of flour to thicken. Nothing fancy, but a hearty, delicious, and quick meal.

Su Xing House Vegetarian Chinese

Tucked away on Sansom Street in Center City, Su Xing offers a huge menu of all vegetarian Chinese food. The prices are more than reasonable (and even cheaper at lunch), the portions huge, and the staff polite and helpful. I stopped in on an early evening between the Opera and few hours at work to enjoy a nice meal and read the paper. I started with the hot and sour soup, which I am rarely able to resist. Su Xing‘s hot and sour is likely different than others you have tried. It’s not at all viscous or gloppy, and the heat comes towards the end of the bite, bright and sharp.

It can be difficult for me to make decisions when I have so many options – I’m just not used to an all-vegetarian menu – but can usually narrow it down by one of two ways. 1. Is it spicy? 2. Does it have mushrooms? If I can’t have both, I have to decide which I want more that day. Spicy usually wins out, as it did this day. I ordered the spicy garlic eggplant with tofu with brown rice. The sauce was almost delicate, yet still had kick and plenty of garlic. I ate just over half and then packed the rest up for a great lunch later in the week.

Su Xing House on Urbanspoon

Mr. Lee’s Lemongrass Braised Long Beans, tofu with shallots, garlic & sweet soy

I picked up some long beans at H-Mart last weekend, and I knew that I needed to use them soon. They certainly aren’t in season, and can get slimy fast. So I trimmed the ends and cut them into 1.5 inches pieces, and pulled out my trusty “Cradle of Flavor” by James Oseland – a great cookbook and general information source about the cooking of the spice islands. I had some new lemongrass, too, so I made Mr. Lee’s longbeans. Like almost all Indonesian cooking, this recipe starts with a samble – a sauce made from shallots, chilis, sugar, and other ingredients based on the recipe. The samble is fried first, to release its flavor, and then the beans are added. I tend to make my sambals “rustic” and don’t worry too much about how smooth they are, which results in a “chunkier” appearance after cooking.

The tofu was a bit of a disaster, maybe because I picked up the firm tofu instead of the extra-firm, or because I initially had the heat too high, but I kind of destroyed it, visually. But fried with garlic, shallots, sweet soy sauce and a dash of salt, the flavor was just fine.