Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

Have you ever owned a cookbook which you compulsively reached for?  A book which took your taste imagination on a never ending journey?  For me, The Soul of a New Cuisine by Marcus Samuelsson, is that book although it is far from perfect.  (For those who don't know, this book focuses on African food and the New World countries populated by ex-Africans during the slave trade.)  The writing kinda sucks, the pictures don't always match the recipes and the scope of the book is too broad to serve as a reference book but man, these recipes.  I love 'em so let me tell you why:
  1. Chile peppers are frequently used in African cuisine and if you've read this blog for any amount of time, you already know that I love spicy food.
  2. Liberally spiced recipes.  Much like Indian food, African food seems to be built on layers of spices.  This philosophy appeals to me
  3. Lots of condiments and sauces.  I like dipping food into sauces...think Indian food and chutneys and you get the gist of it.  African food seems to share this idea of little taste enhancers.  In addition, the book contains recipes for interesting spice blends. 
The book also intrigues because of Samuelsson's heritage.  As I explained back in this post, Samuelsson was raised in Scandinavia but of Ethiopian heritage so his book represents an effort to get in touch with his roots.  It's obviously extremely personal to Chef Samuelsson although it's a shame that so little of his passion comes through in the writing.  Finally, it seems like only two African cuisines have made it to the United States: Ethiopian and Moroccan.  It's nice to see some material on what the rest of the continent eats and, given my experience, they eat well so let's get to this recipe.

First, a note on callaloo.  There is no definitive recipe for callaloo.  Much like other beloved ethnic foods, there are as many recipes for callaloo as there are cooks.  However, 15 minutes of Googling research have turned up a few commonalities.
  1. Dasheen aka taro leaves and onions.  I didn't feel like trekking to Chinatown to get taro leaves so I used a mix of mustard greens, kale and collard greens.  The cookbook recommends spinach.
  2. Some sort of pork product.
  3. Okra
  4. Chili peppers.
This version focuses on the Trinidadian version.  Callaloo is sometimes eaten as a soup but is just as often used as a thick condiment.  Either way, it's crazy delicious and very, very easy to make.  Please please please please please please give this a try.


2 tablespoons oil
1 medium Spanish onion, chopped
2 minced garlic cloves
2 bird's-eye chiles, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped (I couldn't find these chiles in my 'hood so I substituted 2 whole, chopped serrano chiles...very mild heat, I will probably add a third serrano next time)
1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
1.5 teaspoons coriander seeds (I will grind the coriander seed next time...the blender didn't do a good enough job pulverizing the seeds)
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup bottled clam juice (I see you raising your eyebrows...I was equally skeptical but just roll with it...think of the clam juice as a substitute for crab meat which is a common addition to callaloo...I found clam juice at my local grocery store)
1 cup heavy cream (You could probably add another cup of coconut milk if you are lactose intolerant)
Two 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach (I used 1 16 oz. bag of mixed, chopped collards, mustard greens and kale from Trader Joe's...definitely one of the best things they sell)
Juice of 3 limes

1. Heat oil in a large pot.  When shimmering, add the onion, garlic and chiles and saute until the onion is soft and translucent.

2. Add the cumin, coriander, chicken stock, coconut milk, clam juice and heavy cream and bring to a simmer.  Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes.

3. Add the spinach and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until spinach is cooked.  (If using the bag of Trader Joe's greens, or if you are using other hearty leafy green, I recommend simmering the cumin, coriander, chicken stock etc. for 15 minutes, throw in the greens and simmer until the greens are mostly limp...it took me roughly 45 minutes)

4. Transfer the soup to a blender, in batches if necessary (definitely necessary), and puree.  (Please exercise caution when blending hot ingredients.)  Transfer to a bowl and stir in the lime juice.  Serve hot. 

(Next time, I will add even MORE greens.  I was dubious that this amount of liquid would support such a large quantity of veggies but I was dead wrong.  In addition, more greens equals a more vibrant color.  Hmmm, I can't think of a reason why you couldn't use broccoli in this recipe in place of the greens.  Both are from the brassica family, right?  Hmmm, the wheels in my mind are spinning...)

Time: An hour, almost all of it inactive cooking time.

Food cost:
Clam juice- $3.15
Chicken broth-~$2.50
Greens- $2.29
Cream- $1.99
Coconut milk- $1.39
Incidentals- Maybe $1.00?
Total- $12.32.  If you serve this as soup you'll probably get 4 large bowls so ~$3.00 per bowl.  I've been using it as sauce over hot rice...probably 6 servings...~$2.00 per bowl.

No comments: