Dull knife

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For the first time ever, my paring knife has gotten dull enough to require a detailed sharpening. All of the great garden-fresh local produce we’ve been cutting up & eating is taking its toll.


Pumpkin Pakoras with Crushed Coriander Seeds

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This recipe was adapted from the original found on p. 454 of Yamuna Devi’s “Lord Krishna’s Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking.” I substituted our island pumpkin from Annette’s stand for the pumpkin called for in the original recipe. I also made a few test pakoras with sliced bananas and ochroes, the former of which were probably the better experiment. If you share my fasctination with battering & frying a variety of foods, this pakora recipe provides a forgiving, delicious batter for use in your test kitchen.

I have had my best luck with this recipe using thinly-sliced butternut squash instead of pumpkin. Also, I opt not to use the baking powder called for in the recipe, preferring a less cakelike texture.

Pumpkin Pakoras with Crushed Coriander Seeds

  • 1 1/3c. sifted chickpea flour (sifted before measuring)
  • 1 1/2-2t. salt
  • 2t. melted ghee or vegetable oil
  • 1/2t. turmeric
  • 1/4t. asafoetida powder
  • 1T. crushed coriander seeds
  • 2T. yogurt
  • 1/2c. cold water, or enough to make a batter of medium consistency
  • 1/4t. baking powder (optional)
  • 25-35 pieces of trimmed, peeled ripe pumpkin, cut into 2 inch squares 1/4 inch thick
    ghee or vegetable oil for frying

Place the flour, salt, melted ghee or vegetable oil, turmeric, asafoetida, crushed coriander seeds and yogurt in a bowl and mix well. Add 1/2 cup of water slowly, beating with an electric beater or wire whisk until the batter is smooth and easily coats a wooden spoon. Alternately, place the batter ingredients in a good processor fitted with the metal blade, or a blender, and process until the coriander seeds are crushed and the texture is smooth, then transfer to a bowl. Cover the batter and set aside for 10-15 minutes.

Again beat the batter with an electric mixer, wire whisk, or your hand for 2-3 minutes to further lighten the batter. (Check the batter consistency: if it is too think, moist foods will spatter as they fry; if it is too thick, they will not cook properly. Add water or flour as necessary). Stir in the baking powder at this time if you prefer a cake-like crust. Set the pumpkin pieces to be friend next to the stove. They should be patted dry and at room temperature.

Heat 2 1/2-3 inches of fresh ghee or vegetable oil in a karai, wok, or deep-frying vessel (Aunt Itsy’s Skillet, for instance) until the temperature reaches 355-degrees. Dip 5-6 pieces of pumpkin in the batter and, one at a time, carefully slip them into the hot oil. The temperature will fall but should then be maintained at between 345-355-degrees throughout the frying. Fry until the pakoras are golden brown, turning to brown evenly, 3-4 minutes per side. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately, or keep warm, uncovered, in a preheated 250-degree oven, until all of the pakoras are fried, for up to 1/2 hour.

accras de morue

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Accras De Morue

(Martinique & Guadeloupe)

Adapted from Jessica B. Harris’ excellent study of African food in the new world “Iron Pots & Wooden Spoons” p. 30:

  • 2c. sifted all purpose flour
  • 1c. water
  • 1/3c. saltfish, flaked
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 scallions, minced
  • 2 chives, minced
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, minced
  • 2 sprigs parsley, minced
  • 1/2 Guinea pepper-type chile, minced
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • oil for deep frying

Place the flour in a medium-sized bowl and drizzle in the water, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Mix the flaked codfish, onion, garlic, scallions, chives, thyme, parsley, and chile together and mince them finely in a food processor (thorough prep can avoid this step). Season the codfish mixture and add it to the flour and water along with the egg yolks and vinegar. NOTE: The recipe can be prepared in advance up to this point. When ready to prepare, fold in the baking soda and the egg whites, beaten until stiff. Heat the flying oil to 350 to 375 degrees in a heavy iron pot or deep-far fryer. Dip the accras by the teaspoonful into the oil and brown on both sides. When done, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper. Serve warm.

kung fu sound system

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They’re playing kung fu movies over the sound system at the rum shop across the street.

A couple of times a day a driver with a paint-can muffler rolls by. I can tell it’s him because he taps his foot on the accelerator as he drives.

The sun is so strong you can hear it.


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i like it right here. i hear the rhythm of the traffic on the road; the way the traffic dies out in the rain. there’s an ice machine across the street and chennups down by the post office and the sound system across the road at the rum shop. a gang of fishermen lay out two nets just off our steps this morning. by the time we got to grand anse another gang of men was laying a net out of a two-bow boat, crewed up by a laughing rasta who took a bucket of sea eggs out to deeper water to multiply.

eat local

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local onions and peppers
local onions and peppers

There are great produce stands all around. The same people every day with fresh-picked organic food and fruit. Between our neighborhood stands and the market today we’ve got our vegetarian diet covered. The supermarket sells bulk cornmeal, rice, sugar, chickpea flour (for pakoras), salt…the rest is vegetarian food less than 24 hours away from the Earth…sometimes food less than a couple of hours old.

So because it’s me I’m thinking about how the foodways here will fare in a post-carbon world. There’s already a distribution system. The food production line is already staffed in an established economic model. Best of all: it’s good. The best meals I’ve prepared here as a vegetarian cook have been made of local ingredients. You come to believe in the vitality of your food.

an old favorite made new

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Kabli chana baigan tarkari, made with callaloo, scotch bonnet peppers, and local spices. The culinary qualities of ingredients here are vastly superior to what was available in Seattle. Even the packaged garam masala available here is more flavorful.

Here’s the recipe:

This recipe was adapted from the original found on pp. 203-4 of Yamuna Devi’s “Lord Krishna’s Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking.” I substituted fresh callaloo from the market for the pound of spinach called for in the original recipe. My next riff on this recipe will involve ochroes (okra).

For those of you scratching your heads after reading the ingredients list, asafoetida is a culinary resin derived from plants grown in India, Pakistan, and Iran. The powder has a strange, not entirely pleasant odor when raw. However, when added to hot oil it releases a strong, florid scent of fried garlic or shallots. Available wherever East Indians purchase their staple foodstuffs, it is an indispensible ingredient in Indian cooking. Some highly pure preparations of asafoetida powder require double-jar storage lest they permeate your cupboard with their pungent aroma.

Gingered Chickpeas with Eggplant, Callaloo & Tomato

(Kabli Chana Baigan Tarkari)

  • 8T ghee, or 6T olive oil & 2T vegetable oil
  • 1 medium-sized eggplant (1-1 1/4lbs/455-570g), cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 1/2T scraped, fresh ginger root
  • 2 hot green chilies, stemmed, seeded and finely minced
  • 1/2T cumin seeds
  • 1/4t yellow asafoetida powder (hing)
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes (about 1lb/455g)
  • 1T ground coriander
  • 1t paprika
  • 1/8t each cayenne and black pepper
  • 1t turmeric
  • 1/2c water
  • 2c cooked chickpeas
  • 1lb fresh callaloo, washed, patted dry, trimmed, and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2T salt
  • 4T chopped fresh coriander (shadow beni) or parsley
  • 1t garam masala

Heat 6T of the ghee or olive oil in a large nonstick frying pan or wok over moderate heat. When it is hot but not smoking, add the eggplant and fry, stirring frequently, until it is browned and offers no resistance to the point of a knife. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the remaining 2T of ghee or vegetable oil and raise the heat to moderately high. When it is hot but not smoking, add the ginger, chilies, and cumin seeds and fry until the seeds turn dark brown. Drop in the asafoetida and seconds later the tomatoes. Stir well, then add the ground coriander, paprika, cayenne, black pepper and turmeric. Cook until the tomatoes are reduced to a sauce that separates from the oil (up to 10 minues depending on the intensity of your heat).

Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and add the eggplant, chickpeas, callaloo, salt and half of the fresh herb. Cover and gently simmer or bake in a preheated 325-degree (160C) oven for about 30 minutes. The dish is now cooked, but you could cook it for another 1 1/2 hours if you want a less cohesive consistency. Before serving, stir in the remaining fresh herb and the garam masala.

Serve with rice.