All posts filed under: North America

New York City at night. Photo by Paulo Barcellos Jr.

About the food of the United States of America

Ah, the United States of America. After three and a half years of cooking the world, we finally reach my homeland. Our country is known as the land of opportunity, a melting pot, and a dream that stretches “from sea to shining sea.” Whether or not you agree with these sentiments, one thing is for certain: it’s easy to eat in the USA. There’s food on virtually every corner. Ever since the first Thanksgiving, when native Americans shared their bounty, our people have celebrated abundance. Thus, when talking about American food, Thanksgiving is a fair place to start: that one holiday which is quintessentially American and that celebrates all the goodness we have and are grateful for. A traditional spread offers a giant roasted turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, green beans, mashed potatoes, and other autumnal fare. A crimson scoop of cranberry sauce [recipe] is served on the side. Soft dinner rolls round out the meal. Once everyone is as full as can be, dessert is pulled out: usually a pumpkin or pecan pie, though the most …

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View of the Five Islands, Carrera Island and Point Gourde near in Chaguaramas, Trinidad. Photo by Jean-Marc /Jo BeLo/Jhon-John from Caracas, Venezuela.

Monday Meal Review: Trinidad and Tobago

This week, gorgeous Trinidad and Tobago helped me question what was real about my relationship in a way I’d never thought about before. The timing couldn’t have been better, since Keith and I just celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. The lesson came in an unlikely form: The Swiss Family Robinson. The Swiss Family Robinson was filmed in Tobago in 1960.  The filmmaker, Ken Annakin, emphasized how perfect the location was for shooting…  After visiting countless less-than-desirable locations, they called Tobago “love at first sight.” It was beautiful. It was serene. The island was everything they’d been looking for. And yet – even with this “love at first sight” location – they still flew in countless animals from around the world (think elephants, cranes, parrots, tigers, anacondas, and more), to build the ambiance of the film. They still constructed their own set in Tobago, bending the location to suit their needs. All this was done to make the story of a shipwrecked family seem more real. I thought about this story, while my stew chicken simmered. A few questions kept popping back …

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Caribbean-Style Orange Juice Rice

In Trinidad and Tobago they say “Don’t pick fruits after 6 p.m., the tree is sleeping.” I’m not exactly sure what the tree would do to retaliate if you interrupt its sleep … but I do know that when I don’t get my sleep, I’m not only gruffy, but I can’ t focus on anything. I’m so tired that my work suffers. I pout. I play with my hair. I pace rooms. I can’t bear fruit, so to speak. So. Let’s avoid picking fruit from the tree after six, both literally and figuratively. Instead, let’s enjoy fruit in our rice. I first read about orange rice in The World Cookbook for Students. Apparently, this is a popular side dish in parts of Trinidad and Tobago. And for good reason. When cooked with orange juice, rice becomes sweet, tangy, and makes the perfect complement to spicy food. Now. There is nothing subtle about replacing all the water with O.J., so if you’d like to start off with something more mild, try using half water (or broth) and half O.J. …

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Trini Stew Chicken

Many a good thing requires we throw our all into it. Swimming, for example. If we don’t swim with our all, well… we sink. Fast. When it comes to food from Trinidad and Tobago, adding a ton of flavor goes a long way to making unctuous and irresistible stew chicken. And when I say a “ton of flavor”, I mean, we’re going to throw our all into it.  Just about everything your market (and your herb planter) has to offer goes into stew chicken. The basis of Stew Chicken is Green Seasoning. We made green seasoning back when we cooked Guyana. There are hundreds (thousands!) of recipes for green seasoning, so I thought it’d be fun to make up a second batch with this recipe. I used a different mix of herbs and aromatics, like ginger, garlic, tomato, green onion, and thyme. These flavors speak to Trinidad and Tobago’s preferences… and go wonderfully with this chicken. For this recipe, I used four whole chicken legs, which weighed about 2 lbs total. This sauce is enough to serve with 4 lbs …

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Menu: Trinidad and Tobago

Keith and I just celebrated five years of marriage. There’s an old saying from Trinidad and Tobago that sums up the depths to which I love this man: There’s more in the mortar than the pestle. In other words, there’s more to this man than meets the eye. He’s not just a pair of jaw dropping hazel eyes. He’s not just the funny one. He’s sure. Stable. All things committed. And I’m so lucky to have him. What better way to celebrate my husband than two of his favorite things? Spicy food and orange juice. Sweet and hot. Please and thank you. These recipes will be posted throughout the week along with the meal review. Orange Juice Rice [Recipe] Take ordinary rice on a tropical spin; cook it up with orange juice! This pale orange, fruity dish is a must-have on the side of any spicy food. Caribbean Stew Chicken [Recipe] Stew chicken is a celebration of the Caribbean. There are so many seasonings in here – a true melting pot of flavor characteristic of the West …

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About the food of Trinidad & Tobago

If you’d like to dig into a melting pot, try visiting Trinidad and Tobago via stovetop travel. These Caribbean islands, right off the coast of Venezuela, are known for having absorbed a bit of Spain, Portugal, France, Dutch, China, Africa, Creole, and Indian cooking… and spat it back out in their own, lovely cooking style. From what I can tell, the food is spicy, bold, and – like a brilliant tapestry – layered with infinite threads from the many influences… which weave an intricate flavor portrait. Curry is probably Trinidad and Tobago’s most popular food, often seasoned with an incredibly hot batch of Green Seasoning, or some variation thereof. This could be fish curry, chicken curry, long bean curry, or pretty much whatever your heart desires. The ever popular Stew Chicken is a great example of a curry-like dish made more robust with bits of ketchup and Worcestershire sauce [Recipe]. Some even add ginger and soy sauce. Hot peppers (a.k.a. Scotch Bonnet or Habenero pepper) and seasoning peppers, which are a lot like scotch bonnet peppers with …

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Monday Meal Review: Saint Vincent & the Grenadines

This week we brought our Global Table to Keith’s parents’ house in southwest Oklahoma, where we ate with his mom, his aunt, and his uncle. His childhood home sits under the glinting autumn sun, surrounded by dusty golden grasses and emerald green wheat. There’s a half mile (or more) in all directions between the house and any other structure, at least that’s the way it seems to me. At night the stars act as streetlights. It’s quite the retreat. Keith’s mom was able to use some of her family china to set the mood and I brought some rust-orange leaf place mats that my mother gave me. The warm autumn colors went perfectly with the pumpkin and coconut cream soup. Eating our meal off of plates and mats which have cycled through dozens of special meals made me feel connected to the deeper meaning of Thanksgiving… the importance of family. I loved seeing the three siblings come together from miles apart for this meal. While we ate the Global Table the Friday after Thanksgiving, injecting the …

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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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