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Cooking Up an (International) Storm

by Natalia Thompson

Eat your heart out!

Did you hear about the American who tried to cook Italian, Spanish, Moroccan, Middle Eastern, AND Mexican food?

No, that isn’t a joke, it’s just me. I love to cook!

Here are some of my favorite international recipes that have, at one point or another, survived my ever-changing kitchen storm. They’re healthy and yummy, and none are insanely difficult to make—I promise! You can even use my original, above-mentioned, punchline-less joke on your friends.

Italy: Polenta

In northern Italy, polenta, also known as corn grits in the U.S., is as common as pasta.


6 cups (1 ½ L) water

Pinch of salt

2 cups (312 g) dry polenta (corn grits or corn meal)

1/4 cup (25 g) grated parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon (2 g) dried herbs, such as oregano or basil

Grated parmesan cheese, to sprinkle

Pinch of pepper

Tomato sauce or roasted vegetables for serving

Preheat oven to 350º F (180º C). Bring water and salt to a boil. Slowly stir in polenta. Add herbs and 1/4 cup (25 g) cheese. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 5 minutes, stirring to keep the polenta from sticking to the pan. (Warning: The polenta can form popping bubbles. Wear kitchen gloves as you stir to keep the hot bubbles from burning you.)

Spoon polenta into a greased pan. (Polenta will form to the shape of any pan, so size isn’t too important.) Flatten the top of the polenta with a table knife and let set for up to 25 minutes. Sprinkle cheese and pepper on top. Bake for 20 minutes (or until polenta gets firm). Cut polenta into slices and serve hot with warm tomato sauce or roasted vegetables. Serves 6 to 8.

Spain: Tortilla Espanola

In Spain, the word “tortilla” means omelet. This tortilla Espanola looks nothing like a Mexican tortilla—which is a thin, flat type of bread.


2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 pound (454 g) small red potatoes, sliced about 1/4 inch (0.6 cm) thick

6 eggs, well-beaten

Pinch of pepper

Preheat oven to 350º F(180º C). Heat oil in a 10-inch (25 cm) oven-safe skillet. (Cast iron works great!) Add onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add potatoes and cook for at least 15 minutes. Add eggs. Put skillet in oven and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked thoroughly and slightly browned. Sprinkle with pepper and slice to serve. Serves 4 to 6.

Morocco: Couscous Mesfouf

Couscous, a small type of pasta, is made from crushed and steamed durum wheat. North Africans use couscous the same way many cultures use rice. You can serve this recipe at breakfast.


3 cups (710 ml) water

2 cups (346 g) couscous

3/4 cup (109 g) raisins

1/2 cup (160 g) jam

2 teaspoons (5 g) cinnamon

3/4 cup (81 g) toasted almond slivers

Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add couscous, raisins, jam, and cinnamon. Stir and remove from heat. Let sit, covered, for 3 minutes. Fluff and stir in almonds. Serves 6.

bowl of beans

Middle East: Shorabat Addas

This red lentil soup is popular in the Mediterranean-influenced areas of the Middle East.


2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon (2 g) cumin

2 cups (384 g) red lentils (split), rinsed

3 cups (710 ml) water

4 cups (946 ml)vegetable or chicken broth

Pepper, to taste

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add cumin and cook for 3 more minutes. Then add lentils, water, and broth. Bring to boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 1 hour, stirring to keep lentils from sticking. Add lemon juice and simmer for 5 more minutes. Season with pepper. Serves 6.

Mexico: Arroz Con Leche

Arroz con leche translates to “rice with milk” or “rice pudding.”


1 cup (185 g) long-grain white rice

3 cups (710 ml) water

1 teaspoon (2 g) cinnamon

Pinch of salt

4 cups (950 ml) milk

1/4 cup (50 g) sugar

3/4 cup (109 g) raisins

1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract

Bring rice, water, cinnamon, and salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Lower the heat and cook over low heat, covered, for 30 minutes or until the water has been absorbed. Stir in the milk, sugar, raisins, and vanilla. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until the mixture thickens (about 25 minutes). Remove from heat. Let sit, covered, for 15 minutes. Enjoy it warm or chilled. Serves 6.

Don’t Forget!

Always ask an adult for permission before you start cooking. You might also want help when you’re chopping vegetables or working with high temperatures.


© 2005 New Moon® Publishing, New Moon®: The Magazine for Girls and Their Dreams, Duluth MN.




This article is from New Moon  , a magazine written for girls by girls. Here is a complete list of the New Moon articles on

Content last reviewed May 15, 2008
Page last updated October 31, 2013