Tapado: Caribbean Coconut Fish and Plantain Soup

 

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Somehow we ended up with a table-full of green plantains last night, which it turns out are NOT the ones you make yummy sweet fried plantains with. Is that common knowledge? I felt totally uninformed and unworthy of my food blogger status. Well, now I know (and so do you!).

The internet told me I could deep fry them, tostones style, or make a dough out of them and stuff them with meat or whatever, bolo style. All options sounded fine, but in a eureka moment, I remembered cooking with green plantains once (I think they were green bananas then, but I believe they can be used fairly interchangeably), at a very steamy cooking class in Livingston, Guatemala.

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I got out my journal, go me for being obsessive about notebooking, and immediately found the recipe I jotted down after the class. It was a very simple affair, made of what was local and available, namely lots of coconuts and fresh fish, with very little else.

Livingston, Guatemala is totally different from the rest of the country. It’s a Garífuna enclave on the Carribean coast, where it is steamy, humid, and damn tropical. Almost all food has to be brought in by boat and is hence pretty pricey. Its budding tourism industry is one of the prime sources of income for the area, but there’s not much to do in the oppressive heat — despite being on the coast, the only nice beach is accessible only by boat and the hostel options are all of the dreaded “party” variety, where invariably some huge Australian dude has slept all day and now has 40s of beer taped to his hands and is challenging other dudes into pull-up contests. #yolo #traveltolearnaboutothercultures #ohmy.

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Some enterprising folks at Rasta Mesa started a cooking class to teach us bumblers how to make the traditional and ubiquitous soup of the region, tapado. It was a laid-back, steamy afternoon, with children running around and intermittently (and impressively) playing drums. “Class” was in the loosest sense of the word — I got the feeling the instructors were just making themselves dinner and we were around to help chop some vegetables and maybe babysit. Which was totally fine with me. The experience was only tainted by the one hostelbro who decided to get over his hangover, leave the hostel for the first time, accompany us to class, and flirt with all the women present. Despite his presence, it was a tranquil and delicious afternoon that I’m glad has come back to me.

tapado-4Note on recipe: When we made this in Guatemala, we used small white fish, hacked into thirds, with their bones and eyeballs still intact. The versions I saw around town had all sorts of seafood; I decided to use just shrimp but use whatever you prefer. For a vegan meal, you could use roasted sweet potatoes or green pepper chunks instead of fish. If you don’t have access to green plantains, don’t use bananas or yellow plantains, they’re too sweet and soft. The green variety is not sweet at all — it’s very starchy. Try subbing potatoes or yuca.

one year ago: rice noodle salad with carrot-ginger dressing and unstuffed eggplant with yogurt sauce 
two years ago: kale Caesar salad and black bean mango corn salad
three years ago: easy rhubarb cake and roasted beets + greens with mint yogurt sauce

more Guatemalan food: rellenitos de plátano (for when you need to get rid of yellow plantains) and quichon de verduras (Mayan veggie stew) 

Tapado

adapted from cooking class at Rasta Mesa

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ pound raw shrimp (mine were tail-free but either way is fine)
Pinch each of: garlic powder, granulated onion powder, cayenne
Salt
1 onion, diced
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (save the juices)
1 jalapeño, diced
2 cans full fat coconut milk
Small handful fresh basil leaves
2 green plantains, peeled and in bite-sized chunks
Juice from ½ a lime
Chopped basil and/or cilantro, to serve (optional, but nice)
Cooked white rice, to serve

Heat a big saute pan (for which you have a lid) over a high heat. Toss shrimp in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of oil, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, and salt. Add to very hot pan and cook on each side for just 2-3 minutes, or until they just turn pink. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to same pan. Lower to medium heat. Add onion and a bit of salt, and scrape up any bits left by the shrimp. Cook onion for 3-4 minutes, or until it’s just turning translucent. Add tomatoes and their juices and jalapeño. Cook for another 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the onion and tomato have broken down and become somewhat jammy.

Add both cans of coconut milk, one can’s-worth of water, small handful whole basil leaves, the green plantains, and bunch of salt. Bring to a boil, then partially cover and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until plantains are totally cooked. Partially mash some of the plantains with the back of a wooden spoon to thicken the soup. Add lime juice and shrimp — cook for another 2 minutes or so until shrimp are reheated.

To serve, ladle into a bowl, add a spoonful of white rice, and sprinkle with fresh basil and cilantro.

 

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Black-Eyed Pea New Year’s Stew

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The day before New Year’s Eve, my co-worker told me she had so much prep cooking to do that night. Not someone I had pegged to be a big cook, I asked what all she needed to do. She told me that every year she has a tradition of making black-eyed peas, greens, and noodles (from her Southern and Chinese heritage) for the new year. I love this idea of canonized end of the year traditions, but the furthest I ever get is rereading last year’s list of goals and usually rewriting many of the same ones. (“Restring guitar”, “get better at yoga”, and “think about grad school” have all graced each list from the past three years…) Inspired by her lead, I decided to play around with these simple ingredients.

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I’d heard of the black-eyed pea tradition before; supposedly it is lucky to eat them on New Year’s Day because the spotted peas look like coins (and who wouldn’t want a little more of that in the coming year). According to this article, looks like the Jews started this tradition over 1500 years ago, eating the peas on Rosh Hashanah. (Don’t know if I buy that, though.) It may have come to America in the early 1700s with the Sephardic Jews or (seemingly more likely) as part of the slave route; regardless, it has evolved into a classic Southern soul food tradition.

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I’ve also heard of noodles being lucky — I’ve repeatedly been tempted by the “longevity noodle” dish at Biang! that looks like a whole platter of noodles but is in fact just one very long one that comes with a pair of scissors. Long noodles represent a long life, as long as you slurp them up in one mouthful and don’t chop them off partway. Makes sense to start a new year with an ode to long life.

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And the greens I’m a little confused about. I think they also represent wealth (greens=the color of money?), but for me, they will represent a pledge to eat healthfully in the coming year. Combine these three together, and I give you… quick and simple black-eyed pea stew! Perfect for New Year’s, or really any time you need a quick meal. The peas are traditionally cooked with some sort of pig product; I added smoked paprika and liquid smoke to replicate some of that flavor. (Although Daniel did put bacon on top of his bowl and was pretty happy about it.) To be honest, we both enjoyed this more with rice, but if you want the lucky triple whammy, spaghetti away! Nothing like a symbolic meal to start this uncertain year off on the right foot.

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one year ago: …I was in Guatemala and didn’t update the blog, BUT let me take this moment to let you know I JUST updated my Recipes page! check it out! 
two years ago: Bengali egg curry 

Black-Eyed Pea New Year’s Stew

a Swanky original

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped small
1 bell pepper (preferably red but other colors work fine), chopped same size as onion
1 rib of celery, chopped same size as onion
1 jalapeño, some seeds removed, minced
2 big cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 small tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 cup veggie broth
1 can black-eyed peas (don’t toss the liquid!)
½ teaspoon liquid smoke (optional, but adds nice smokiness)
2-4 cups kale, ribs moved and torn into bite sized pieces
Fresh parsley
s&p

Heat olive oil in a medium large pot over medium heat. Add onion, pepper, celery, and jalapeño and sauté for 6-8 minutes, or until veggies have softened and onion has become translucent. Add garlic, smoked paprika, thyme, and a bit of salt and pepper and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until garlic is fragrant and veggies are evenly coated in spice mixture.

Next, add in the chopped tomatoes and their juices, broth, black-eyed peas and the liquid in the can, and the liquid smoke, if using. Add a bunch of salt here too. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until peas soften and most of the liquid evaporates.

Right before serving, still with pot on medium, add in your kale and stir until it wilts, about 3-5 minutes. Serve with rice or spaghetti and a sprinkle of fresh parsley.

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Herby Sunchoke Gorgonzola Salad

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Sunchokes (also known as Jerusalem artichokes), when roasted in a pool of olive oil and liberally decorated with salt, make my heart do strange things. I just can’t get enough of the their nutty artichokey potato-ness, so satisfying and downright earthy. I pitter patter at their smooth savory finish, and will fight you for the caramelized edges. Ugh, I could just stand by the oven and eat a whole tray of those scintillating little stunners. (Wait, I have. But I don’t recommend it — those dudes have some pretty tough-to-break-down skins if ya get what I mean.) So, as a lesson in moderation, mix them with a bunch of other stuff and make it last longer than one stove-side binge session. Hence, salad. I’m SO good at moderation.

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Also I don’t think I used actual gorgonzola in this salad. It was just a generic (read: cheap) bleu (blue? blew?) cheese. So, substitute away as necessary. And let’s take a moment for a General Announcement about substitutions. This is a Salad. As such, you can’t f up “the recipe” too badly. (We used to joke in college that as long as you had a big assortment of stuff in a bowl, it counted as salad. Which led the way to cereal salad, spaghetti salad, cookie salad, etc. We had the right idea.) Because it’s not a real recipe, like for cake, which won’t taste like cake if you leave something out. It’s a suggestion. It’s Salad. It will literally and definitively still be salad no matter what you add or don’t add. So use whatever stinking cheese you want. (Or don’t use it at all, you rebel, you.) End of General Announcement.

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But do let me suggest this specific mix of ingredients cause dang they’re good together.

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one year ago: roasted eggplant and pepper soup with orzo and homemade baked bean and pineapple tacos 

Herby Sunchoke Gorgonzola Salad

a swanky original

¾ lb sunchokes, scrubbed and unpeeled, cut into irregular-sized small chunks (about 2 cups)
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
1 cup wild rice, cooked (or sub brown rice)
½ cup loosely packed parsley leaves, roughly chopped
½ cup loosely packed mint leaves,  roughly chopped
1 cup shoots mix, or use arugula
½ cup red grapes, sliced
2-3 tablespoons gorgonzola, crumbled
s&p

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine sunchokes and olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet; add a generous amount of salt and pepper. Roast for about half an hour, turning occasionally, until browned, softened, and tantalizing. 

Let sunchokes cool down while you mix all remaining ingredients in a big bowl. Add sunchokes. Top with a drizzle of olive oil and serve. 

 

Mustard Greens with Oyster Sauce and Garlic Oil

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Three years ago I returned from Israel on the Fourth of July. I was flying down the East Coast just as it became dark. My return to the US was celebrated with hundreds of different fireworks displays out the window, dotting the horizon as we hurried from Toronto towards JFK. Every suburb along the route outshined its neighbors with their colorful luminescent displays. After a month of touristy activities and solitary explorations (and amazing hummus), I was elated to be above this spectacular opening of America’s arms, witnessing this celebration of her might.

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Then last year I experienced my first “ribBQ”–a rib and meat-filled event of Texan proportions. Very celebratory, very America, very memorable. (More on that, plus very un-Texas tacos, here.)

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This year, as July 4th loomed closer and no plans to escape the city materialized, we decided to embrace the opportunity to make our own event. A grill grate and coolers and folding chairs were purchased, and now you can officially invite me to a suburban soccer game because I own One of Those Chairs That Folds Into Its Own Bag. So does Daniel. They were $8 (yay Home Depot!).

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We dressed in red, white, and blue and ate delicious food with lovely people in our inviting backyard. We made elotes, grilled veggies, and burgers aplenty, gorged on salads and grilled peeps (yes you read that right–it was time for the Easter candy to go), and giggled over a drunken bout of Cards Against Humanity. Although not condensable to a single moment or story, it was a total success! Memories made.

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and oh! These greens? Definitely didn’t make an appearance at our joyous Americana evening. The recipe’s simplicity and promise of “just like dim sum!” were enough to give it a go the next day, after all the dishes were washed, the yard was cleaned, and a nap was had. I super recommend it: easy, filling, light, and delicious. Mustard greens, til we meet again (probably in tomorrow’s CSA basket…)!

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one year ago: Roasted Beets and their Greens with Mint YogurtSimple Rhubarb Cake, and epic Tofu Banh Mi Sandwiches 

Mustard Greens with Oyster Sauce & Garlic Oil

from Rasa Malaysia 

1 bunch mustard greens, rinsed well and roughly chopped, big stems removed
2 drops canola oil

Garlic Oil:
3 small cloves garlic, finely minced
1 T oil (olive, canola, whatever)

Sauce:
2 t oil
1.5 T oyster sauce
1.5 T water
½-¾ t sugar
2-3 dashes white pepper

Set a large pot of water to boil. When it’s boiling, add the two drops of canola oil. Add mustard greens and cook for 30 seconds to a minute, or until the structure starts to breakdown and both leaves and stems are soft. As soon as this happens, use a slotted spoon or spider to transfer greens into a colander. Rinse with cool water. Dry well, either with towels or a salad spinner.

For Garlic Oil: Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add oil. When shimmering, add garlic and cook until oil is fragrant and garlic is browned. This happens very quickly! Could be as short as 10 seconds, depending on how finely you mince the garlic. Pour oil and fried garlic bits into a small bowl and set aside.

For Sauce: Return empty garlic oil pan to medium heat and add oil. Add next 4 ingredients, being very careful. Pan may sizzle! Cook together for about 15 seconds, until ingredients are cohesive and viscous.

Arrange greens on a serving platter. Top with sauce and garlic oil. Delicious served with brown rice.

Gingery Coconut Rice + One Week Homemade Challenge

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Last week Daniel and I tried this nifty thing called…making all our food all week.

Simple as it sounds, you must remember the plethora of distractions that make this quite a challenge. Just, for example, think about:

-our Friday morning bagel sandwich ritual
-Tuesday evening post-salsa beers and pretzels at the German place down the road
-a night of Thai take-out and Kimmy Schmidt binging after working two jobs in a day
-grabbing a slice of pizza or deli sandwich in between said two jobs
-that hunger that arrives around 7 pm, when you’re already out with friends and contemplating a movie. To see a movie and arrive home starving hours later? Or not to see the movie? Or just break the deal all together?

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But we did some major grocery shoppings and conquered the odds and made it the whole week! And had some really freaking delicious food. Some real meals and leftovers (coconut rice (recipe below!) and sweet potato chickpea curry, homemade pizza) and some small thingers that can easily be turned into a meal (big batch of granola, not-quite-big-enough batch of hummus).

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That is, until Friday evening, when somebody had one beer too many (…that means 2 total, ps) and decided the only thing they could possibly eat that night was tofu pad see yu. (That person was me.) Oh well, close enough.

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We really meant to continue through the weekend but then the weekend EXPLODED. On Saturday I worked at the bakery in the morning, then stilt walked at the Tribeca Film Festival Children’s Street Fair for 2 ½ hours, and then had a salsa performance. And Sunday was more bakery work, a trip to the NYC Hot sauce expo, reconnecting with old friends and visiting the Brooklyn Morbid Anatomy Museum and then greedily and excitedly downing a mediocre but fully deserved and stupendously salty mushroom burrito.

Weekends aren’t for practical decisions.

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Gingery Coconut Rice

from Plenty by Ottolenghi

Previously pictured on the blog with sambal-y okra in this post, with recipe for caramelized fennel with goat cheese!
Also would be super-delicious with Bengali egg curry

1 ⅔ c white basmati rice
¾ c full-fat coconut milk (use the other half of the can for curry!)
1 ½ c water
½ t salt
6 thin slices of peeled fresh ginger

Rinse rice with lots of (cold) water and drain well. Put in a medium-small saucepan and toast rice over medium heat for a minute or two–just until it starts to smell nutty. Add all other ingredients, stir a bit, and bring to a boil. Cove, turn down heat, and simmer for 12 minutes. Remove from heat but keep pot covered for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve immediately!

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Hard at work at the office, eating leftovers and organizing costumes for the weekend’s stilt-walking activities 😉

Bengali Egg Curry (Dimer Jhol)

wpid598-DimurJhol-21.jpgwpid594-DimurJhol-19.jpgThis meal came about, as some of the best ones do, by a neutral reminiscence about an ex. Unfortunately for Daniel, my vegetarian Jewish New England upbringing does not hold a candle cuisine-wise to a particular carnivorous Bengali, shall we say, companion of the past.

But tradition, schtradition, I say (or, as my fiddling ancestors say, tradition, TRADITION!)! This lady can make dimer jhol as well as the next Brooklyn transplant!

And away we went!

wpid558-DimurJhol-1.jpgwpid562-DimurJhol-3.jpgIt turned out…good. Delicious, even! Sneak-out-of-the-fridge before breakfast delicious! Tasty enough to share with you, vast blog readership, and to implore you to attempt!

wpid566-DimurJhol-5.jpgwpid588-DimurJhol-16.jpgwpid582-DimurJhol-13.jpgBut, alas, it wasn’t the egg curry of his past. Wrong consistency, slightly different flavors, not as spicy. I’ll blame the peppers but I won’t be defeated! To a future of delicious and inauthentic egg curries! Hurrah!

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Bengali Egg Curry (Dimer Jhol)

from Foodolicious Pictured

canola oil
4 eggs, hard boiled and peeled
2 medium potatoes, cut into big chunks
½ an eggplant, cut into big chunks (an unnecessary but delicious and addition)
1 onion, sliced
4 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 inch ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 green cardamom pods
¼ t whole cloves
2 bay leaves
2 inches cinnamon stick
1 jalapeno, diced
2 tomatoes, food processed to a paste
1 t chili powder
½ t cumin powder
¼ t turmeric powder
cilantro, roughly chopped

Heat ½-inch of canola oil in a medium pot. Fry potatoes for about 15 minutes, until beginning to turn golden but not totally cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon or a spider onto paper towels. Add eggplant to oil and fry for about 6 minutes. Remove to paper towels. Cut slits on hard boiled eggs and fry for 5ish minutes, until blistered all over and turning colors. Remove to paper towels.

Meanwhile, saute onion in a big pot for 7-8 minutes on medium low heat. When slightly browned, take off heat. Put in food processor with garlic and ginger. Process until it forms a smooth paste.

Then, heat 2 t oil in that same big pot over medium high heat and add cardamom pods, cloves, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick. Toast for about 30 seconds. When fragrant, add the chopped jalapeno and onion/garlic/ginger paste from blender. Cook for about a minute, then add tomato puree. Cook for 3 minutes, or until oil starts to separate.

Next, add chili powder, cumin, and turmeric. Stir to coat. Add 1 cup of water, a healthy sprinkle of salt, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add eggs, eggplant, potatoes, and garam masala. Turn heat to low, and cook for 10-12 minutes more. Top with cilantro and serve with rice (this recipe was amazing!).

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Caramelized Fennel with Dill and Goat Cheese

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Yes I know I’m roughly four years late to the party but…OTTOLENGHI’S “PLENTY”!!!

In the past, I’ve wistfully flipped through the beautiful, vegetable-and-spice laden pages, whispering “someday, I’ll have you” and getting creepy looks from very nice bookstore people. And then last week, due to a fortunate series of events we will from here on out refer to as birthday + boyfriend’s parents, I received my very own copy. No more awkward cell phone pictures of recipes (as the lovely book people look the other way) for me! Hoorah!

Onward to oil-splotched pages, handwritten notes in margins, and vegetarian nirvana!

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To start, Daniel chose two recipes at random. They absolutely didn’t go with each other but no worries, we made a delicious meal of it AND I cooked two new vegetables! Neither fennel nor okra have ever made an appearance in my kitchen until yesterday. I have now officially found my favorite fennel preparation–Ottolenghi’s version tempers the “licorice”-ness, not by hiding it, but by adding a spicy caramel kick and and a fruity dill and lemon zest finish. And THEN you add goat cheese.

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And the okra? Drenched in a homemade fiery sambal sauce and paired with gingery coconut rice, fried shallots, and cilantro (and roasted shredded chicken for the carnivore), it totally stole the show.

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Please refer to book for exact instructions (Fennel on page 172 and Coconut Rice with sambal and okra on page 230) but here’s roughly how I made the fennel. So far, so good, Ottolengz. Two outta two.

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Caramelized Fennel with Dill and Goat Cheese
from Plenty

2 large fennel bulbs, fronds removed, cut into ½-inch thick slices
2 T butter
2 T olive oil
1 T sugar
scant 1 t whole fennel seeds
s&p
big handful of dill, stems and leaves, roughly chopped (about 1/2 cup)
zest of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, chopped
3-4 oz creamy goat cheese

Heat butter and olive oil in a large pan over high head. When butter starts to sizzle, add a single layer of sliced fennel. Cook without moving for about 3-4 minutes, until lightly browned. Carefully flip over, using tongs, and brown on the other side (1-2 more minutes). Do this in batches, until all the fennel is cooked. Set fennel aside.

In the same pan, add sugar, fennel seeds, and s&p. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds, or until fennel seeds smell good. Add all the fennel back into the pan and cook for just another 1-2 minutes, stirring to evenly coat with caramel mixture. Return fennel to plate to cool.

In a big bowl, mix chopped dill and garlic. Stir to combine. Add cooled fennel slices, and mix delicately to coat. To serve, put all fennel slices in a single layer on a plate. Place spoonfuls of goat cheese on top. Finish with lemon zest and a drizzle of olive oil.

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