TinTin (Christina), my dad's mom guarded her dried pigeon peas like they do gold at Ft Knox. It was common knowledge that if peas were out of season, she had some stored in airtight bottles somewhere in the dimly lit-smoky kitchen of hers. I still recall the scent of that kitchen, a mixture of the musty tobacco she always had drying in the ceiling and the smoke from the different types of hard-wood she would use to fire-up the coal pot she would use to to cook her meals. Not to mention the actual smoke from the pipe she smoked all her life! To this day, I'm still to taste a stewed dried pigeon peas like the stew this woman would make on that coal pot, in that simple kitchen.
Dasheen Bush is basically the leaves (usually the tender ones) of the Dasheen plant (Taro) which is used mainly in the Southern Caribbean for making Callaloo or as in this case, stewed down on it's own like you would spinach or any other 'greens'. With the aid of coconut milk and a few simple ingredients and what you'd think is a simple vegetarian dish, is something very tasty and in my case, quite addictive. It's was one of the few vegetarian type dishes mom never had a hard time serving us as kids. With Sada roti, flour dumplings or with split peas dhal and rice... iman was in heaven.
Though not necessarily a "Caribbean" thing when I was a young fella' on the islands, smoothies are making it's way across the island chain as more and more people are looking for healthy ways to start their day, especially with the abundance of fresh tropical fruits we have available to us. Back then, you'd quicker find freshly made juices and punches with the same fruits, so I must confess that I'm not a huge fan of smoothies (it just wasn't part of my diet). This mango raspberry smoothie only takes a couple minutes to make, quite refreshing and a wonderful meal in a glass.
Salsa is not a "Caribbean" type dish! Really? How easily we forget the Spanish speaking Caribbean, like Dominican Republic, Cuba and Puerto Rico. I started making this take on salsa for my girls after I read the label of the pre-packaged stuff they were buying at the grocery stores. Called salsa, but lacked any real flavor and loaded with sodium and preservatives. You'll notice that I've taken the technique we use in Trinidad and Tobago for making Tomato Choka and applied it in making this salsa.. for what I believe is the best salsa you'll ever have/enjoy! Ask my daughters and their friends.
This is NOT a recipe on so many levels, but an ideal dish for when you want something light and for when it's just you you're 'cooking' for. Just about every day I get emails asking for healthy recipes and with the new 'living better' regime I follow, I thought I'd share this one with you. Our family home in the Caribbean is surrounded with many fruit and citrus trees, so I have a natural affection for both avocado and grapefruit. Maybe in the coming weeks I'll share mom's recipe for one of the most refreshing grapefruit juices you've ever had (I assure you). You can easily multiply the ingredients if you plan on making this for a group. Not only is this a super quick salad recipe, it's vegan, vegetarian and gluten free.
As we have Caribbean Green Seasoning as the base of many dishes in most of the Southern Caribbean, in the Spanish speaking Caribbean you'll find Sofrito. An aromatic blend of herbs, garlic and seasoning peppers. A few years back while in old San Juan (Puerto Rico) I had a delightful rice dish at a small roadside vendor and she told me that the secret was all in the sofrito she started with. You will definitely find variations in the way sofrito is made as you make your way through Cuba, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic, as everyone tend to have their own specific recipe. This recipe I'm about to share is as basic as sofrito comes and a great starting point.
Our mom is an expert at making Caribbean style stewed red beans and I'm still to find someone who can match the way she balances flavor, tenderness and the perfect consistency to the gravy. A recipe which calls for soaking dried beans and slowly cooking then for a relatively long time. Time is something we never seem to have much of lately, so I've come up with a recipe which will cut the cooking time tremendously and give you the same sort of feel-good vibe as if you were eating traditional Caribbean stewed beans - stuff your mom or grandma would make for you.
Kuchela is one of those spicy condiments traditionally made with green mangoes and a must-have topping for 'doubles', saheena and pholourie (street food in Trinidad and Tobago). Being that I call Canada home and green mango is not something I can go in my back yard and pick off the trees as I did for my mom when I was a young fella on the islands, Granny Smith apples are my new choice. Though sweet, the slight tartness and sturdy texture of these green apples makes an ideal kuchela when you can't source mangoes.
The key to making traditional baigan (eggplant) choka (dip) is roasting the eggplant over an open flame and if you really want to excite the taste buds with even more flavor, you would place the eggplant on hot coals. On so many levels this is not always possible, especially if you live in temperate climates where having that fire in the middle of winter is not possible. Yes, you can always use the flame on your stove top, but if you've ever had to clean up that stove after - you'd never do it again. This baigan choka recipe is specifically for people who want the same sort of flavors, but with an easier method of achieving this. Students, you can even do this is a toaster oven.
With the natural abundance of fruits we have in the Caribbean I'm surprised we didn't have a wider jam and jellies culture, when I was a kid on the islands. To be honest, the only jam mom would make was guava, sour cherry and Pommecythere (ambarella). However with all the artisan -like initiatives lately, we're seeing more and more creative use of our fruits. We've come to realize that we can still enjoy tropical fruits when it's out of season. If you're from the Caribbean you'll know exactly what I mean when I say we eat 'seasonally'... take sorrel for example. We only drink sorrel at Christmas time. Why? In this recipe we'll take two of the most common topical fruits and make what I believe is the perfect marriage of flavors and texture.