How to Make a Sensational Ethiopian Appetizer: Injera Roll-ups
One of my favorite things to do is riff on a recipe.
My “recipe” for Injera Rollups is a perfect example. In Ethiopian restaurants, Injera is the spongy pancake you use to pick up the food instead of a fork. I became enamored of injera largely due to Abu, the Ethiopian farmer I visited while he was in detention, awaiting his asylum hearing.
Abu and I would talk about what life was like in his communal family farm compound: the crops they grew, the animals they tended and of course, the food they ate. Thankfully, Abu won his asylum case and we have maintained our friendship(You can read Abu’s reaction to some of the animals I tend to in suburban New Jersey).
Injera is made from teff, a super grain with lots of protein and minerals. Teff’s adoption has been a bit slow in the US as the Ethiopian government, fearing the effect on grain prices that the quinoa craze spurred in Latin America, made it illegal for Ethiopian farmers to export the grain. But now there are several US companies that provide US grown teff.
I tried to make my own injera, using an internet recipe. It didn’t work. Good injera has a network of “eyes,” the little burst bubble holes that give the bread its spongy texture. My injera was practically blind, with a few burps of bubbles in random places. I have since found a better recipe in a book called Teff Love.
But you can ask any Ethiopian restaurant to sell you some. I got my injera from Esey Market in West Orange, New Jersey where the kind shopkeeper also offered to share some of her starter dough with me (they also own Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant in nearby Montclair NJ).
While eating injera, it occurred to me that a variety of foods would also taste good wrapped in injera, which has a slightly malty flavor. For a “fancy” appetizer, I rolled up smoked salmon, crème fraiche and dill. Mashing up Middle East and Ethiopian cuisines, I layered on beet hummus (any hummus would do, but I liked the ruby red color), diced cucumbers and chopped parsley.
Injera Roll-up How-To:
Here’s how I made the injera roll-ups:
Spread the injera on a non-stick surface. Injera freezes well. The Injera below has a crack due to the way I stored it in the freezer.
Spread the humus. I found I needed 4 oz. of hummus for each injera, but you can stretch the quantities by spreading the hummus a little thinner.
Sprinkle on the diced cucumbers and parsley.
Then start rolling. I put my rolls in the freezer for 15 minutes to make them easier to cut into slices.
The process is the same with the smoked salmon. Spread the crème fraiche, layer on the smoked salmon and sprinkle with dill. Then start rolling.
The Final Product
Here are two trays of Injera Roll-ups ready to go to the First Friends Post Release Holiday Gathering, where volunteers and successful asylum seekers (called asylees), shared a potluck meal. I am happy to report, my trays of roll-ups came back empty!