Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cookbook Challenge 2: Week 6 Caribbean Vegan

I realize I'm doing this out of order but I am super excited about everything I cooked this week!  It was the 6th week and we could cook out of VCTOTW or use it as a freebie.  Well, right before I went home for the holidays, I received a review copy of Caribbean Vegan.  So, I decided to cook from it.  The book had been on my wishlist for awhile so I jumped at a chance to do a review.  I've been steadily making my way through the book and made a lot of recipes this week so I could give a very fair opinion.

Saint Lucian Bake, grapefruit, Everyday Vegan Ham, scramble
There are over 100 authentic recipes, with tons of tips throughout.  I was pretty surprised by everything I learned by reading through this book.  First of all, I never knew the Caribbean had such a strong Indian influence.  This book has a ton of delicious curries, stews, and rotis.  I immediately gravitated towards those because I have a major love for Indian cuisine.

Herbed Sada Roti and Eggplant Choka
The book is divided into 9 chapters: condiments and sauces, breakfast dishes, appetizers, soups and stews, entrees, side dishes, Caribbean tea party, desserts, and drinks and cocktails.  The easiest way for me to cook through this book was to head straight for the condiment section.  There are plenty of recipes that require condiments or sauces from this section.  My suggestion is to start with the: Bajan Seasoning, Jamaican Jerk Seasoning, and Bajan Pepper Sauce.  These are the three that seem to be used most often.  I totally fell in love with the pepper sauce.  It's this vibrant yellow color with a kick of mustard and spice.  So good!

Dal Puri Roti w/ Sauteed Spinach
Dal Puri Roti w/ Curried TVP Stew
This book really opened me up to a new kind of cuisine and different methods of cooking I never knew about.  Also, this is pretty cheap cooking.  A majority of the ingredients are found in the produce section for less than a dollar.  There are a few specialty items that may require a Caribbean or Latin market: banana leaves, ackee, breadfruit, and yams.  These aren't in too many of the recipes, though.

Chickpea Curry and Spinach Rice
There were plenty of dishes that I fell in love with.  First and foremost, every baked good I tried was absolutely divine.  My favorites were the banana bread, herbed sada roti, and dal puri roti.  I also gained a new respect for chickpeas.  The way that Taymer handles them in this book has resulted in some of the tenderest and most flavorful chickpeas I've ever had in my life.  I feel like that's a bold statement for a vegan to make, but I stand by it.  I also fell in love with the doubles (especially the chickpea stew), the chickpea curry, Creole sauce, ham, and eggplant choka.

Coconut Flan
1. Bajan Seasoning: Super easy to make and adds so much flavor to the dishes.  It makes a lot and lasts up to a year in the fridge.  Love this stuff!
2. Bajan Pepper Sauce: Bright yellow and seriously flavorful.  This is spicy and great.  Another recipe that is used a lot in the book to flavor dishes.
3. Green Mango Chutney: Unlike the mango chutney I'm used to, this is not sweet.  It's salty and garlicky, a pleasant surprise!
4. Creole Sauce: I'd like to bathe in this...or at least drink it from a cup.  It's this wonderful tomato based sauce filled with slivered onions.  So good over the tofish and cou-cou.
5. Saint Lucian Bakes: This was my first time ever seeing a recipe that used baking powder call for a dough rise.  It really makes a fluffy, chewy, crusty combo that just cannot be beat.
6. Herbed Sada Roti: These take about 3 hours to make, but they are so damn worth it.  The edges get pillowy and delicious.
7. Eggplant Choka: Simple, spicy, and undeniably delicious.  This is a classic breakfast dish in the Caribbean and I can see why!
8. Curried TVP Stew: This is rich and has so much depth of flavor!  It calls for Marmite or Vegemite, which adds a nice beefy undertone.
9. Chickpea Curry: I fell in love with this!  The eyes-roll-back-in-your-head kinda love.  So flavorful and delicious.  Very simple to make as well.
10. Everyday Vegan Ham: This ham really reminded me of the stuff I used to eat at Christmas.  Spiced beautifully with a great smoky flavor.
11. Trinidadian Doubles: Streamline this process by making the chutney and filling while the bara rises.  This is really an epic meal.  Perfect for a Sunday afternoon so you can take doubles for lunch all week.  Drool.
12. Cou-Cou and Tofish: Amazing!  Anything with okra is automatically awesome in my book.  I really like the tofish marinade.  Just delicious!
13. Spinach Rice: A super simple side, but really satisfying.
14. Dal Puri Roti: Just wrap me up in this stuff.  Flaky roti filled with dal.  Nuff said.
15. Sauteed Spinach: The dish seems really simple, but it is mighty flavorful.  Spicy and delicious!
16. Banana Bread: Dense, moist, delicious.  Not too sweet.  The first banana bread I didn't feel the need to smear with Earth Balance.  Fantastic straight out of the fridge!
17. Coconut Flan: This is creamy and delicious.  Really easy to make.  Not overly sweet.  The pineapple and cherry addition makes it super purty.

So, hopefully, I've done this book justice.  I absolutely adore it!  I love getting excited about new cookbooks and this one has so many things to "Squeeee" about!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sopa de Repollo

It has been a crazy week of illness in the Martin-Cisneros house.  Last week, Era got sick.  I basically mocked him for whining and talked about how strong my immune system was.  Then karma kicked my butt.  I've been sick since Saturday and spent the past two days battling a high fever.

I'm just starting to get my cooking energy back, so I decided to make one of my favorite and easiest soups: cabbage.  Sopa de repollo is a Mexican cabbage soup that contains cabbage, squash, and a gang of veggies.  It really hits the spot for when you feel sick.  Plus, it's super easy to make.  The best thing to do is to cut the veggies on the thick side so they don't break down too much during the cooking process.

veggie heaven
Sopa de Repollo
(serves 8)
gluten free
soy free

2 Tbsp canola oil
1 small white onion, diced
3 large carrots, cut diagonally
4 small red potatoes (about ¾ lb), diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, more or less to taste
2 tsp ground cumin
2 small zucchinis, sliced in half moons
2 celery stalks, cut diagonally
½ medium head of green cabbage, roughly chopped
8 cups water
1 ½ tsp fine sea salt, more or less to taste
pepper to taste
1 cup tightly packed cilantro, minced

Heat canola oil in a large stockpot over medium high heat. Add the onion, carrots, and potatoes. Cook them until the onions start to turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, and cumin and cook for another minute. Add the zucchini, celery, cabbage, water and salt. Bring to a boil before turning the heat to low. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the fresh cilantro.

Now, I must take some more meds and relax.  Later this week I'll be doing a Caribbean Vegan review!  I'm way excited about that.  Also more cookbook challenge stuff to come.