Fun Food Friday: Rasta Pasta


I am not totally certain what exactly Rasta Pasta is aside from pasta with vegetables in it. I found that children that hate veggies ate this stuff up with relish, like literally finished the pot off.  I made it when I was visiting one of my host families last week, they asked for the recipe and to make it one more time before I left, so here is the recipe!

Ingredients:

Pasta

Oil to cook in and make sauce with (****True Rastas do not use oil unless they press it themselves)

variety of veggies for this one I had:

zucchini

onion

scallion

okra

tomato

red pepper

bok choy (pak chow if you live in Jamaica)

Kale

Chick Peas

All purpose seasoning

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I cooked the pasta to al dente and left it in the pot with some water to keep for the sauce later.  I sautéed up the veggie, leaving the greens until the end.  I added the greens and beans along with some pasta water and seasoning jus to steam the greens down a bit before mixing the pasta.  That’s pretty much it.  Sometimes it has mayonnaise in it, but I do not think it needs that.

The second time I made this I used black beans, Choyote, a can of mixed vegetables, bok choy, zucchini, peppers, onions, okra, yellow tomato,  and a little bit of kale.  This was based on what was available and what I had on hand.

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Fun Food Friday: Stuffed Cabbage Rolls


This is not a Jamaican Dish, but more a cheap healthy and delicious dish to make with ingredients that are fairly cheap here.   This recipe is adapted from the Book “We Love Your Body”  which I really enjoyed reading.

Large Head of Cabbage

Onion

Tomatoes or tomato sauce, or both

Rice or quinoa (any type of grain will work, even roast rood veggies (but they will not stay in the roll as well.

Herbs and spices

Oil

Protein source, Chicken, veggie mince, beans, whatever floats your boat, I do not think fish will work though.

Nutritional Yeast or cheese if desired.

Nuts or seeds if desired

Various veggies such at carrot, zucchini and whatever you think will mix well in your grain with a tomato sauce.

First you have to cut the core out of cabbage to ease the removal of leaves.    I like to pull the leaves out and soak in salt water to ensure no extra Protein sources are hiding in the leaves.  If you want you can blanch the the leaves with a quick dip in boiling water for about 1.5 minutes.  Otherwise you can just choose to roll the raw leaves, blanching just makes the rolling easier.

Cook up your grains.  I am a meal prepper so I prep this type of stuff up ahead of time and it almost always ready to go.  Season and add cooked protein along with sauteed veggies as desired.  Mix all ingredients together but not the sauce or cheese/nutritional yeast.  The seeds can go in at this time, they add a nice little crunch to the dish at the end.  You can also use them as garnish when serving.

Once everything is mixed nicely you can start stuffing the rolls.  First you must oil your baking dish or lay down parchment paper.  Hold cabbage leave curve side up. If leaves re too inflexible you can blanche them for a few minutes to soften the large vein down the middle.  Fill with about 1/4 cup of filling, for smaller leaves fill so that you can roll them nicely and they end up like a little burrito.  Lay the rolled leaf face down in baking dish.  (The side that the leaves are loose will go face down, if your leaf is too small use a secondary leaf to ensure filling stays in.  Continue to fill leaves until your dish is full.  and nicely laid out.  The idea is to be able to put a spatula or flipper under the rolls individually to serve them.

Once your rolls are ready you can prepare the sauce.  Even if I actually use a prepared sauce, I typically spruce it up with more veggies finely diced and herbs.  Now cover the rolls by spooning sauce evenly over them.  They do not need to be completely covered unless you love extra sauce, but it makes it much harder to serve that way.  (If you like extra sauce, save some to cover after plating.)

I have a gas stove that I have no idea how hot it gets but for argument sake, 350 degrees.  Light that bad boy up and put your dish in the oven.  Because I have no idea how hot mine actually is, I keep a pretty good eye on it.  I check it after 30 minutes, but around 45 is when I add the cheese/nutritional yeast.  Finish off by allowing the cheese to melt/toast up.

The rolls are super hot when you first pull them out, I suggest waiting a few minutes, more like 15 minutes to allow them to cool some before plating and eating.  As a side note you can prevent the sauce from getting too dry by covering with foil while cooking.

Fun Food Fridays: Tofu Cabbage Wraps with Peanut Sauce


Since Monday I have cut out gluten, dairy, alcohol and added sugar from my diet.  This recipe falls nicely within those parameters.  It is also cabbage season here in Jamaica and cabbage is readily available and cheap right now.

Tofu cabbage wraps/salad

Modified from Eating Well Magazine recipe:

Peanut Sauce Ingredients:

Peanut butter, less sugar better, you can grind your own peanuts into a chunky paste.

salt

garlic

scallion

vinegar (I prefer rice wine vinegar)

liquid aminos (soy sauce)

hot sauce or scotch bonnet

Add all liquid ingredients about (except hot sauce) a 1:1 ratio

salt, garlic and scallion are added to taste.

Hot sauce or scotch bonnet added to taste.

Sesame oil if you like just enough.

This sauce can be jarred and put in refrigeration for up to a week. The longer it sits the thicker and better it tastes. I use this sauce for salads or for stirfrys as well.

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Salad Ingredients:

Oil (coconut is best)

Cabbage (1 head whole for wraps)

scallion or onion

tofu or chicken/fish

carrot

cucumber

dark lettuce greens or herbs (basil and cilantro are fantastic) sliced into ribbons. (Cilantro or parsely finely chopped.

Additions for the creative:

Sweet peppers

mushroom

shrimp

celery

small bok choy

any other rawish vegetable

Prepare:

Wraps:

I take the cabbage and cut around the core to ease the removal of whole leaves.  By cutting away the core in a hexagonal shape you create an easier to peel head of cabbage.   The leaves do not rip if pulled slowly from the bottom and the sides are loosened from the head as you lift the bottom.  Once removed rinse and drain.  If the cabbage is too tough to eat raw you can blanche it for a few moments.

Thinly slice the cucumber, scallion, carrots and other veg you choose.  If you use a vegetable peeler you get lovely thin slices.

Ribbon the lettuce or basil, finely chop any herbs.

Cut tofu or fish or chicken into nice sized strips. Saute in oil, I like coconut oil for this. Cook well.

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Set up plate of chopped veg and allow tofu or meat to cool to handling temperature. Gather ingredients and set into cabbage leaf. Top with peanut sauce and herbs or lettuce, roll cabbage to hold for eating.

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Enjoy!

For salad, simply dice up the cabbage and mix the ingredients to taste and top with peanut sauce and herbs or lettuce ribbons. Top with crushed peanuts for an added crunch.

Fun Food Friday: Eggplant Medallions


Baked garden egg for Eggplant Parmesan  or sandwiches

Ingredients:

Eggplant

Salt

Egg

Breadcrumbs

WW Flour

Seasoning (your choice)

coconut oil, just because I refuse to use vegetable oil, nasty mon!

Directions:

Clean and slice the eggplant, best if you do round disks unless you are going to use a french roll

lay the disks on a plate or cutting board and sprinkle salt on both sides of the disk. *This removes the excess water to ensure a crisper texture. Let stand about 30-60 minutes.

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Beat an egg or two, depending on how much eggplant you intend on making.

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In a separate bowl mix up the flour and breadcrumbs with the seasoning, the more breadcrumbs the better, the ratio should be 2/1 breadcrumb to flour. Season as you like, this might take a couple of tries to get exact, I like a lot of herbs in mine!

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When you are ready to bake, turn the oven on to 300 and lightly grease a pan or cookie sheet. Or if you are really invested layer parchment paper and forget the oil, your choice. Dip a piece of eggplant into the egg batter then toss it in breadcrumbs. Lay it on the baking dish. Repeat until all the eggplant is finished or the baking dish can hold no more.

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Bake for about 10-15 minutes depending on how thick you cut the eggplant, the thicker the disks the longer you need to bake, flip over and bake another 10 minutes. Pull out of oven and remove from baking sheet. Repeat until the disks are all done. *** Bonus I tend to use any remaining egg-batter as scrambled eggs for a sandwich. The breadcrumb mixture is not able to be used again so I tend to make small batches at a time to save ingredients.

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At this point you have lovely breaded and baked disks of eggplant. For eggplant parmesan  simply use a store-bought tomato sauce or make your own and heat it up. Place over pasta and layer the eggplant nice on top of sauce. Finish with a generous amount of Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

For sandwiches pick a nice bread and desired toppings. I personally use tomato and roasted red pepper along with some Muffeletta or some jalapeno spread, both from Rolands and readily available at some local shops, in Ochi General Foods and Petcom both carry them. This is also nice with a little cream cheese on the bread to keep the bread from getting soggy. Just like any sandwich option, the choices are endless. Enjoy!

Fun Food Fridays: Jamaican Ital Steamed Veg


There are many ways to do this.  It all depends on what is available and how clean you want to eat.  I do not eat Ital, that means no salt, no alcohol, no animal products and no oils.  I use oil, I use salt, I drink alcohol (lately it is less and less due to budget mostly) and I eat cheese and eggs and on a rare occasion seafood.  A true Rasta eats Ital and you will know by how clean their skin is, for real most Rastas have very clear clean skin and eyes.

To start with you have to obtain vegetables.  Today I have Bok Choy, (which Jamaicans call pak chow),  carrots, scallion, onion, tomato, zucchini and some hot pepper.  Cabbage is also a staple in this dish, I just do not happen to have any at the moment.  Traditionally here you will soak your vegetables in salt water to kill off any insects/worms that might be hiding in the leaves.  In Ital cooking you simply chop it all and drop it into the pot/pan and cook it down slowly.  In my version we use a bit of coconut oil to soften/brown the onion and carrots.  I slice the onion and carrots and add them to the hot oil, stirring pretty regularly so as not to burn the oil off.  I then chop up the bok choy, zucchini and toss it in along with slivers of the scotch bonnet pepper, which if you do not like so much heat you can toss in whole, just be careful not to mash it up as that releases the heat.  Cutting sliver off the pepper releases more of the heat but keeps it in control.  I then mix it all together and cover for a bit, keeping my eye on it, because sometimes you need to sprinkle in some water to ensure it steams well.

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I pictured a can of broad beans, which is commonly served with this dish.  I however, made up a pot of black beans this week, so I will be using those instead.  (Crockpots are amazing for cooking up legumes, except kidney beans!)  I reheat the beans while the veggies are steaming.  I also add a little salt, thyme or other seasoning to flavor it up.  As the green parts of the bok choy start to wilt and cook down I cut up a tomato and toss it along with some chopped scallion.  A real Jamaican cook would clean the scallion and toss the whole thing in at the beginning along with a sprig of thyme.  I like to eat the scallion so I cut mine up, scissors are my favorite kitchen tool for cutting scallion, hot pepper slices and garlic bulbs up!  *** The carrot ribbons are cut using a vegetable peeler, another favorite tool I have found!

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Once the beans and rice that I cooked last night are heated up, I plate the dish.  In a traditional Ital shop you might be offered “food” to go with this dish along with chunks.  Food is basically a collection of starches; boiled green banana, Irish potato, sweet potato, breadfruit and/or yam.  It could be any combination of those or all of them.  Sometimes you are also offered a dumpling, which is basically flour and water boiled in the case of an Ital cook.  I find this much starch overwhelming.  I choose one of the items most often rice or Irish, not all of them!

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Chunks are a soy product, they are a textured vegetable protein or TVP.  They seriously look a lot like dried dog food.  Typically they are boiled for 20 minutes and made into a gravy or stew with canned vegetables to be served up on top of the “food” or rice.  I chose beans today because I am out of chunks and I had made up a pot of beans earlier this week. The secret to Ital beans is to cook them in coconut milk.  This creates a tasty almost sweet gravy to mix over the food.  (Richard liked these so much I sent him home with a bag of them.)

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This is a fairly inexpensive meal and quite filling.  This is my favorite Jamaican dish because it has so much vegetable in it.  Typically a boxed food, (Jamaican food to go) is served with a few shavings of cabbage a slice or two or cucumber and a slice or two of tomato.  The majority of the boxed meal is rice and peas with a bit of meat in a lot of gravy.

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Fun Food Friday: Akee!


Akee and Saltfish is Jamaica’s National Dish.  It is quite interesting that Akee is not originally native to the island, it was likely brought over by slaves.  Akee is considered a national pride and everyone who visits should at least try this dish.  Saltfish is also not from Jamaica, but rather dried and salt preserved cod shipped over from England.  To add saltfish you must first soak it, best if done overnight, but you can speed it up by boiling some of the salt out as well.  You will notices the texture remains rather stiff  and chewy but flakes well.  You should understand that there may be a few bones in your dish, as the it is hard to remove all of them.

Since I do not eat meat if I can help it and I most certainly am not a fan of saltfish, I cook my akee differently.  I also skip the process of boiling it first, as that makes it more watery and I like it a bit more solid.  Akee is actually poisonous until it naturally pops the pod open.  You must know who you buy your akee from, because people will “tief” it before it is ready, force it open and then sell it to persons on the street.  Anytime you hear of a large number of akee poisonings, you can almost bet they bought it on the street.

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Nutritiously akee is much like avocado, mostly fats.  It is also a similar consistency to scrambled eggs.  If you get it from an Ital shop, which is how the Rastas would eat it, you will not have any additional oil or salt on it.  You also will  not find saltfish in it if you get it from an Ital shop.

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The Akee must first be carefully removed from the pod.  Then you must cut the flower and seed out.  This takes time and sometimes you lose some of the akee, but it is better to remove all of the flower and seed than risk eating them as these are the parts which still carry poison in them.   If you are not familiar with how to cook it, let a Jamaican show you first.  Better safe than dead!

I do not cook Ital, I use salt and oil!  I start off with some coconut oil and saute down some onion and hot pepper.  I like to slice my pepper with a pair of scissors to get a nice fine sliver or two, not too much as it is hot!  I will also use scissors to slice my garlic into the pan, and if I am using scallion I cut it with scissors as well.  I love my scissors!  As soon as the onion starts to brown up I toss in the akee and sweet peppers.  I continually stir making sure it does not stick.  I then add some seasoning, be it salt and pepper or a blend of herbs or both.  To serve with the akee I sometimes steam up some cabbage or make callaloo.  Bread fruit is also good with the akee.  Roast breadfruit is so good and super nutritious.

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In this dish I sauteed up sweet pepper, hot pepper, onion, garlic, akee and tomato and served it with Steamed cabbage, which I will share in a future blog!

Friday Foods! Jamaican Callaloo recipe.


Callaloo is a staple here in Jamaica.  It is often served for breakfast and sometimes contains saltfish.  Saltfish is a salt dried and preserved cod, it is almost jerky like in texture.  The salt content is extremely high and to use this you must first soak it for several hours to soften it and pull the salt out.  Saltfish is often used as more of a seasoning than a main component to a dish.

Callaloo is a type of amaranth green.  This grows well here and is available almost year round.  You can find someone selling it in most communities and it is not often in short supply.  When I think about the Jamaican diet this dish is the one that makes me the happiest.  For some Jamaicans this constitutes most if not all of their vegetable intake for a day.  I expected much more vegetation on my plate when I first arrived, but I was so shocked by the amount of starchy foods and meat consumed in the average diet.  I cannot eat so much starchy food or I would not be able to move around!

Typically you can get callaloo either in natural state, fresh harvested or already prepared for you, cut and diced.  I prefer the natural state, as I distrust that the time was taken to clean and soak the callaloo of all worms and bugs.  But this is my personal fear and not one that most people consider.  If buying it precut you can go to the market and watch the vendors take the callaloo and bunch it up after stripping the stringy parts, at the base, out. They then take a sharp knife and around their fist start slicing away.  I find this to scary as I would likely take a large hunk of my hand off!  I prepare it differently.  I clean it and dry it, because dry produce lasts longer in the fridge.  I then pick the pieces I want out and store the rest in a sealed container with a paper towel in the bottom to soak up the moisture if any appears.  I then cut the pulpy parts off and dice away on my cutting board.

Some people prefer their callaloo steamed all the way, I prefer to saute my onions and steam at the end.  I think it adds more flavor and I use coconut oil so it has great flavor.  So I strip my onions and slice them thin and saute them.  I add garlic and a bit of scotch bonnet peppers, not too much!  I use the actual pepper and slice it open, so if you do this be aware that no matter how much you wash the pepper capsaicin is in your fingernails and will be for quite some time.  I learned that using a pair of scissors to slice it is a much easier and better for small slivers than a knife.  Once my base is cooking down, I then add my cut callaloo.  I add a small bit of water, less than 1/4 cup and put a lid on it to allow the steam to cook it down.  At this point I might add some herbs and spices, traditionally this would be whole pimento, or allspice and some thyme and a scallion.   I however like to build a big flavor and add oregano and dried basil.  If you use pimento be sure to pull those bits out along with the twig from the thyme and the scallion if you desire.  I typically cut my scallion down to bite size pieces to make it more edible, because why throw it away?

As the callaloo is cooking down, I check on it to ensure it does not burn and dry out, I also take a peeler and pull off bits of carrot, a trick I wish I had known many years ago!   I also chop up a tomato to throw in.  Sometimes I add some coconut milk at the end to simmer it down in.  This adds a truly Caribbean vibe to the meal.

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There you have it, all done.  Typically served with fried dumpling, boiled banana and or a piece of yam.  If you are lucky you can find some breadfruit to serve with it.  This dish is one of my favorites.  I like to baste an egg with my callaloo but if I were serving this to a true Rasta I would put in broad beans instead for the protein source, I would also not saute anything, all steamed and no salt.

For those that cannot find callaloo, you could try cale or mustard greens, mustard greens have a sharper taste so be aware of this as you season it.