Monday, May 3, 2010

St Lucia

Here we are with yet another Caribbean island. Don't worry there's still plenty more of them coming up. St. Lucia's history is very similar to many other East Caribbean islands and involves a succession of French and British colonial rule from the 17th to 20th century eventually leading to autonomy in 1979. This messy colonial history brought a great deal of distant people and cultures to the island (of course not all did this by choice). Today St. Lucia is a popular cruise ship stop and a strong exporter of bananas. The island's food is pretty much what you'd expect from that region of the Caribbean. Fruit, fish, and beans play a dominant role in the dishes whose influences come from just about every corner of the globe.

Cucumber and Avocado Salad

In today's busy world, people seem to forget that cucumbers are actually subtly sweet melons. This salad is centered around the cucumber's sweetness. When eaten without the standard accompaniment of lots of lettuce the cucumber provides a refreshing side to any meal.

2 lbs cucumber peeled and thinly sliced
1 lb avocado roughly chopped
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/3 cup lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup cilantro
1/3 cup pistachios chopped
1 orange pepper cut into strips
1/2 red onion thinly sliced and soaked for 10 minutes
1 clove garlic minced

Soak the onion and drain it after it loses its bite. Then simply mix everything together in a large bowl, allow to rest for ten minutes, give another stir and serve.

Lentil and Cheese Soup

Simplicity is key to this dish. Beans and cheese are always a crowd pleaser. But it's also quite easy to make way too much of this stuff, but that's ok. It keeps well in the fridge the provided me with a lunch at work for the rest of the week.

2 cups lentils
2 quarts water
4 sprigs thyme
Salt to taste
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp chives chipped
1/2 cup sour cream
Handful of chopped parsley
Whited cheddar cheese grated

1. In a large pot combine the lentils, thyme, and water. Raise to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and cook for 45 minutes or until the lentils have become tender.
2. Blend the lentil mixture or pass it through a food mill adding more water to thin the mixture if needed.
3. Stir in the butter, chives, and sour cream. Ladle the soup into individual serving bowls and garnish each bowl with your desired quantity of cheese and parsley. Serve.

Fried Biscuits

I was shocked by the simplicity of these biscuits. No yeast or waiting is involved, instead baking powder provides them with a fluffy texture and frying them in oil ensures they'll be delicious.

1lb flour
3 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
2 oz lard or butter chilled and cut into thin squares
1 tbsp sugar mixed with 1/4 cup water
Oil for frying

1. Combine everything in a food processor and blend into a gooey ball adding more flour or water if neccessary.
2. Pinch off about a golf ball sized piece of the dough and pat it into a 3 inch diameter round.
3. In a large cast iron frying pan, pour 1/4 inch of cooking oil and heat it over a medium flame.
4. Fry the biscuit rounds in batches about 3 minutes aside or until each side is golden brown. Allow ten minutes to cool and serve.

Green Fig (Banana) and Fish Pie

I guess the big surprise with this dish was that it wasn't disgusting. Still I wouldn't exactly call it tasty. Bananas, fish, and cheese tasted exactly as I thought they would. I guess it's best to say that I'll never make it again. Nevertheless here's the recipe, and you can try for yourself. The green bananas are more starchy than sweet and taste somewhat like mashed potatoes. I'd imagine plantains would make a better substitute. After eating this, you may find yourself wondering why anybody would make this their national dish.

2 lbs green bananas
1 lb tilapia
1/2 lb mozzarella or other melting white cheese
1/2 cup milk
Juice of 1/2 lime
2 red peppers
2 tomatoes thinly sliced
1 medium red onion thinly sliced
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil the bananas in their skins for 20 minutes and set aside to cool.
2. When cool, peel the bananas and mash them in a bowl. Sprinkle the lime juice onto them to prevent them from darkening.
3. Heat another pot of water until it boils, and poach the fish for two minutes. Remove the fish and shred it.
4. Butter a deep pan and smash half the mashed banana on the bottom. Sprinkle half the onion, cheese, tomatoes, and pepper on the banana. Place another layer of banana over this and sprinkle with the remaining toppings putting the cheese on top.
5. Top the pie with breadcrumbs soaked in milk and bake for 40 minutes in a 375 oven or until the surface has evenly browned. Serve.

In Conclusion

When all was said and done and everybody had eaten their fill, there was a lot of untouched green fig pie. I made the mistake of putting cheap swiss cheese on it which I'm sure didn't help this poor dish. I'm sure if a skilled hand made it I might change my mind. Maybe it just needed bacon. Everything else, however, went down quite well and the beans tasted even better throughout the week. Amy actually just requested I make another pot of lentils to get us through the current work week. Up next is the mighty nation of Turkey! Until then, cheers!

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