caribbean

Callaloo is a Caribbean dish that originated in Africa. It is typically made with amaranth leaves (aptly called callaloo in the West Indies), taro leaves (dasheen), or water spinach; since these plants are somewhat hard to find in the United States, spinach is a common replacement stateside. There are many variations of this dish, and my recipe follows the Trinidadian version, which includes coconut milk and okra. In the Caribbean, Callaloo is often served as a side dish, but when I make it, it almost always turns into a main course. I’m not the type of guy that craves vegetables often, or vegetable soups for that matter, and I crave this dish. A lot.

I think I could eat my weight in Callaloo. I don’t know what it is about this dish that makes me go crazy about it. For one thing, I feel like a superhero after I eat it – like I’ve consumed a week’s worth of vegetables in one sitting. It’s also ridiculously delicious, and carries a unique flavor despite using fairly common ingredients. The only ingredient in here we don’t eat regularly is okra, since my wife isn’t a fan of okra’s slimy texture; luckily, the texture is cleverly masked in this dish.

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Boniato (also called batata or tropical sweet potato) is a white, starchy, and dry version of the common sweet potato. It’s popular in Florida and the Caribbean, but well-known throughout the Americas and some of Europe (Spain in particular). It was cultivated as far back as 1,000 years ago in Central and South America. Its skin is red-to-purple in color, and has white flesh. As far as I can tell, it is nearly identical to the Japanese sweet potato in terms of appearance and taste; considering the fact that sweet potatoes were a late addition to Japan (around the 17th century), I’d guess that the differences between the two is minimal. I’ve also seen identical sweet potatoes labeled as Korean sweet potatoes here in Maryland.

Taste-wise, boniato is like a cross between a white potato and sweet potato. If you’re missing the consistency of white potatoes but react poorly to them, this is the dish for you.

Preparing boniato is easy. Because the potato is naturally creamy, you only need to add a little cream to them to get a truly decadent flavor. If you’re dairy-free, they’re still surprisingly creamy when made with only chicken broth.

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Lately I’ve been slightly obsessed with making super nourishing foods, mainly soups. Turns out that many soups that are considered miracle meals (often affectionately termed “hangover meals”) – Pho, Attukal Paya, or even a simple chicken soup – basically consist of boiling soup bones for extended periods of time and adding spices as needed. So to add to my growing list of nourishing soups, I present Cow Heel Soup.

Also known as Cow Foot or Bull Foot Soup, Cow Heel Soup is a traditional soup found in the Caribbean (mainly Jamaica, Trinidad, and Tobago). Legend has it that in the 18th century, plantation owners would take the best cuts of cows and leave the workers with the “fifth quarter” – tail, feet, head, and organs – which became quite a challenge for local cooks. Over time the recipe for cow heel soup became popular, and while there are many variations to this dish, I tried to keep my recipe close to the standard, baseline recipe.

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