Month: November 2012

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Caribbean Pumpkin & Coconut Cream Bisque

I know three things for sure: this Caribbean soup cannot wipe out old college debt, or go gift shopping for us… or even stop that dog from barking a few houses over (unless that particular dog likes soup?). That being said, I have personal proof that this soup can help you bring love into the kitchen and give your family just a little escape from the ordinary.As you whip it up, the house will fill with the scent of pumpkin, ginger and coconut cream – that’s when it’ll start. Your family will come wandering in to see what you’re doing. The neighbors will come knocking.  Soon the house will fill with spirited chatter and spoons clinking against bowls. This taste of the islands is the best thing after a week of pumpkin pie and turkey leftovers (but not to0 big of a leap – it’s still pumpkin season after all!).In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (as well as all over the Caribbean), they enjoy this soup, often with some really spicy scotch bonnet peppers, ginger, and …

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Caribbean Black Cake

Sometimes I think the holidays would go a lot smoother if everyone was handed a shot of rum and a slice of cake. How could conversation not go smoothly after that? Turns out, that’s what they do in the Caribbean… with great success. Black cake is a cousin to the British Plum Pudding and is made with an expensive array of dried fruits, like cherries, raisins, and prunes and topped off with a bit of nutty crunch (almonds for me). Before baking  – sometimes for months – the fruit soaks in rum and cherry brandy until it’s so plump and intoxicated, that only good things can come from it. What version of the cake ends up on your fork depends on what island your plate rests on, although most will agree that – unlike with American fruit cakes – grinding up the boozy fruit is a must. This, along with a dose of molasses and brown sugar give the cake it’s deep brown coloring (while some also like to add a local ingredient called “browning”). …

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Menu: Saint Vincent & the Grenadines ($400+ Giveaway)

We’ve hit Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on our Adventure to eat the world. Consider this my way to sneak the holidays to you, Caribbean-style. This menu is for those days when you wish you still felt like pumpkin pie, but you’ve eaten three pies too many….and coconut pumpkin soup seems like the only logical answer. It’s for when you are ready to dive into a traditional boozy cake, but without the scary pieces of giant neon fruit that you find in the preboxed variety. In sum, this is the holidays on cruise control, island-style. P.S. Make the cake for friends. This is not your grandma’s fruit cake. Unless you’re grandma is from the islands. In which case, never mind. Caribbean Pumpkin & Coconut Cream Bisque [Recipe] Pumpkin and coconut milk combine forces with ginger, onion, and garlic with this mainstay of Caribbean cooking. Do you have an urge for heat? Add a scotch bonnet pepper.  P.S. You can make this soup in less than 30 minutes, most of which you’re leaning against the counter sipping wine. …

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Ponton de Saline Bay. Photo by Moiom.

About the food of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Let’s meet up in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Really. Wouldn’t it be great to carve out a sweet little spot for ourselves. A place where time can stop for a while? I love that, now that we’ve hit a cold snap here in Tulsa, our minds have been cruising through the “Saint” countries – all of which nestle cozy and warm in the balmy Caribbean seas. We’ve done two already and this week we continue to the 11-mile long, 6.8 miles wide “main island” called Saint Vincent and about a hundred scattered islands of the Grenadines. Those 100 or so other islands? Apparently the whole shebang only adds up to 17 square miles. Quaint. Neighborly. Exactly how you’d like it if you lived in the hurricane belt, which they do. But, then, where there are storms there are rainbows. Even though the weather is warm there, the islands continue with much the same traditions found throughout the Caribbean. The holidays (and every day) can be celebrated with Rum, Black Cake [Recipe] (which is, essentially, rum …

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Monday Meal Review: Saint Lucia

“I don’t like nutmeg,” a willowy, blond girl of about ten whined. Her mother looked reproachfully at her. “Have you ever tried it?” I asked with what I hoped was an encouraging smile. “No,” she quietly replied, eyes downcast. She stood with one hip turned away from me, as if my slightest move would send her scampering away. “Well, here, smell it,” I said as I picked up the whole nutmeg and passed it to her. “Isn’t it amazing?”  The nut was about one inch in diameter and was round except for a flat spot where it had been grated by dozens of kids throughout the afternoon. The girl jerked back her head and furrowed her brow at the prospect, but after a particularly stern look from her mother, she dipped her head close to the nutmeg and gave a tentative whiff. She scrunched up her nose distastefully. The mother seemed bothered, but I simply said “Good for you. Now whaddya think about grating some of that nutmeg on your Cocoa Tea?” and added “This is …

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Cocoa Tea

When I told Ava that the fine people of Saint Lucia like to wake up in the morning and drink Cocoa Tea, she squinted her eyes, titled her head, and said “what mama?” “It’s like hot cocoa,” I smiled, “but richer, and seasoned with cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg.” Her eyes instantly popped open in recognition and the corners of her lips curled impishly. I showed her my mound of chocolate chips and added that in Saint Lucia they use cocoa sticks and balls to make their Cocoa Tea, but we’d be making it with chips since that’s all we can get in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “Don’t worry,” I added, “It’ll still taste amazing and feel completely snuggly.” Truth is, the end result is a rich, thick blanket of goodness… each sip is almost like dreaming underneath a giant bar of ooey-gooey warm chocolate. This is the kind of drink you want after a chilly walk or sledding. After a breakup. Or an engagement. It’s the exact right statement for any sentiment, in fact. A giant mug …

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Caribbean Fry Bakes

This week I’ve completely given up: – shooing the cat off our bed – working so hard, I can’t see straight. – being in a hurry – doing the laundry – eating boxed cereal Instead, I’m now: – snuggling my cat – not-so-accidentally forgetting my phone at home – dancing with my daughter with the curtains wide open – playing board games with family – gobbling up bakes Thanksgiving week is a time for a little closer look at what matters. It’s about family, not work. It’s about noticing each other and taking the time to interact without twitching, finger first, towards our cellphones. It’s about looking each other in the eyes. And it’s about cooking together. While I value a good pancake (and even a good Russian-style pumpkin pancake) most of the time, I’m a new convert to the Caribbean breakfast treat called “Bakes.” I’ve made three batches in as many days. Despite the name, bakes are only occasionally baked. More often than not, Bakes are fried discs of dough. Confused? Don’t worry. The only thing you …

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Menu: Saint Lucia (w/ Giveaway)

When Thanksgiving meal preparations take over the household, I like to do little things to make the rest of the week’s meals feel fun. With that in mind, I put together two festive, but relatively quick treats to make the ordinary extraordinary.  After all, why can’t every day be Thanksgiving? The theme for both is breakfast, Saint Lucia-style. Caribbean Bakes [Recipe] If your family likes doughnuts and biscuits, these fried discs of soft, doughy goodness will certainly be a big hit. Serve them warm with sweet, fruity jam, salt fish, lunchmeat, or even sliced cheese. Cocoa Tea [Recipe] This is the traditional morning drink in Saint Lucia. Think thick, rich hot cocoa with cinnamon, and a dusting of ground nutmeg. THE GIVEAWAY Happy Day Before Thanksgiving, friends!  So here’s something you never knew you wanted… ancient map leggings from Black Milk Clothing. I fell in love with these the moment I saw them. And, p.s., I instantly thought of ten people I’d like to buy them for. They’d look great with a big sweater, under …

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The village of Soufriere lit up as night falls. the Pitons in the background are volcanic plugs rising straight out ogf the sea. Photo by Tri-X Pan.

About the food of Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia pops out of the Caribbean Sea like a coy mountain range. She’s partially submerged in the deep blue, yet her curves peek out randomly in greeting. Her deep green foliage (oftentimes thick and tropical) and her dusty, tan soil gives the island a “land before time” feel. The occasional free-wandering chicken and the featured “drive-in volcano,” where one can drive right up to a bubbling crater, only add to the illusion. (Don’t let the threat of lava scare you; Saint Lucia hasn’t had an eruption since the 1700’s.) Interesting “point” though, are the two peaks you see below. They are called pitons: two volcanic plugs (towering masses of rock formed in the craters of ancient volcanoes). As night falls, people dance, sing, and eat under Saint Lucia’s brilliant street lights. Thanks to a long history with France and Britain, a little French will likely fall upon your ear and French-Creole on your taste buds  This is a draw for locals and tourists alike: a Fish Fry – where anything goes, as long as it can …

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Monday Meal Review: Saint Kitts and Nevis

Do you ever wonder if you need to get out more?  While I keep stumbling into serendipitous connections in Tulsa, like the young book salesman from Bulgaria who knocked on my door the same week I cooked his country and the Finnish mother I ran into the same day I was to cook Finland, I didn’t really expect to find the same thing during our brief 4 night stay in New York City. Who was I kidding? I should have known better. It is New York City, after all. On our first bleary eyed morning in New York I asked Keith’s cousin, Kelly, about where I could go grocery shopping. I told her our meal was from Saint Kitts and Nevis, in the Caribbean.  She glanced out her tall, sunny windows, over the shimmering city below and laughed. She cocked her chin to the side, and added “Every other shop around here is Caribbean.” I searched her eyes, looking for a twinkle of mischief but there was none. That afternoon, as we walked through the blustery …

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Killer Bee Cocktail with Black Pepper & Nutmeg

I can’t even begin to take credit for this drink. My dear friend Marina wanted to contribute something to our potluck-style dinner but even after I gave her the easy out by suggesting our Caribbean Rum Punch, she insisted on creating something new and unique to Saint Kitts and Nevis. Her research and uncovered this gem of a sipper… the Killer Bee Cocktail. With a name like that, it has to be good. According to her research: The Killer Bee cocktail is by far the most popular beverage on the island of Nevis.  Sunshine’s [Beach Bar] is so secretive about the drink that I’ve read he mixes the cocktail under the bar to hide the mix from curious eyes. So while this is not exact, it is the closest thing you will find…after a few you won’t notice anyway, right?   (Caribbean Escape Blog) Any kind of drink that is made under the table to preserve it’s secret? Count me in! Now for a few notes on the nitty gritty. Marina made the cocktail with …

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Peas n’ Rice

There’s a tall, skinny window, in a full-of-love kitchen in Brooklyn, where one can set a giant pot of rice to cool. Under the icy winter sun, steam rolls up and fogs the panes. With a swipe of the hand you can peer out at the city below, but the glass now clings to a dream of sauteed peppers, onion, garlic, celery, and thyme.  This special place is my friend Marina’s kitchen, where I cooked our Global Table this past week while I was in NYC. There’s nothing to this recipe. And yet it is everything. And this is why it’s a staple all over the Caribbean. The version I made is vegan, although a few slices of diced, fried bacon or a ham hock would be grand – and traditional – in this as well (just fry them up before you add the veggies). The key to this dish are the Pigeon Peas, although you can substitute black-eyed peas if you can’t find any. In a delightful twist of fate, I found pigeon peas …

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