Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A-maizing Green Corn Dumplings

corn dumplings mill

Is there a certain food or meal that takes you back to your childhood? Perhaps there is a meal that evokes a story in your family? The dish comes to the table and someone invariably says, "Remember the time when....."

Our favourite dishes may not be gourmet, nor are they cooked up by a Michelin chef, although those are nice too. Our best meals are often those that have been lovingly prepared by family or friends. Such food is unpretentious and honest and forever, fondly remembered, no matter where life takes us.

Some weeks ago we received a bag of fresh corn. My father was immediately transported to his youth in Canouan and spoke excitedly about making Green Corn Dumplings. 'Green' meaning raw corn, straight off the cob.

All told it was a fun project and a look back in time to when Caribbean islanders were more directly involved with the food that they ate, from it's cultivation, to processing and cooking.

My four year old enthusiastically helped with the grinding of the corn, hopefully creating his own nostalgic ties to this traditional food. For my part, I remembered my part Carib grandmother who grew corn and milled her own cornflour. My brother remembered the time when... "all the corn had to be harvested early because of Hurricane David and we glutted ourselves on roasted corn".

Once the dumplings were cooked, we added some well seasoned dolphin (Mahi- Mahi) fish steaks on top of the dumplings and simmered until they were cooked.

Many of my parent's generation are of the opinion that the convenience of processed foods means that we sacrifice taste and nutrition for ease of preparation. What do you think? In this instance I am inclined to agree. These dumplings were a treat and so full of flavour that it was akin to eating actual boiled corn. Simply put, they taste like corn. You will be amazed after eating them to discover that in comparison, commercially processed cornmeal, doesn't actually taste like corn at all.

green corn dumplings

Green Corn Dumplings


8 cups Green Corn
1 1/2 tbs white flour
1/4 cup warm water, slightly brackish ( translation: slightly salted- don't you just love the Vincy turn of phrase?)
1 1/2 tablespoons of flour


Use a mill and grind the corn. Mix together flour and corn. Make a well in the center of the corn and slowly add 1/4 cup or less, warm, salted water stirring until it comes together - enough that you can shape it with your hand. Make your dumplings in the shape that you prefer and place in coconut milk which has come to a rolling boil. Cook for 15 minutes. Traditionally in St Vincent and the Grenadines these dumplings are served in a soup that is called
Boilin. I am pleased to enter this soup in Deb in Hawaii's Souper Sundays lineup.

green corn dumplings

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Best Thing that Ever Happened to Supermarket Tomatoes

Do you regularly eat vine-ripened tomatoes? There is no argument that tomatoes which are left to ripen on the vine have the best flavour of all. But how many of us are fortunate to have ready access to them?


I remember the first time I tasted one. I was 16 ( really just the other day;-) I was hiking with friends and we ran out of water. There was a farmer in a nearby field of tomatoes and we stopped to ask if he had any. He didn't but invited us to have a tomato to slack our thirst until we got back to where we had parked our vehicles. "They are ripe and juicy." he assured. I scrunched up my face. A tart, acidic, tomato was not what I would call a thirst quencher. However, due to an absence of any other liquid options on that burning, asphalt, country-road and with at least another mile of walking in tropic heat and humidity ahead of me, I bit into my first vine-ripened tomato. Cue the Seraphims - heavens choir of angels. Ahhhhhhhhhh! My senses were thrown into confusion as my taste buds registered sugary sweet, at the same time that my brain was bracing to be assaulted by sour.

So here we are in the present. I still dream of that tomato but live in the real world. That farmer's field is on a treacherous mountain road, accessible only on foot or with a 4 X 4 vehicle. The supermarket is closer and air-conditioned.

At the farmers market, there is one stall that sells organic and sometimes vine-ripened tomatoes but the demand is great. Might I add that it is the rainy season and this market is largely open to the elements. The supermarket is air-conditioned, has a roof, and I don't have to beat off hoards of people with a machete to get to the fruit and vegetables. Yes, the market is always the better place for fresh produce but I have to get up at 5:00am to get the best stuff and beat the heat. Let's be honest, some Saturdays wouldn't you rather sleep late?

So for those less than perfect tomatoes and catching up on some sleep weekends, I offer you a vinaigrette that is seriously the best thing that ever happened to supermarket ripened tomatoes.

This recipe was featured in "Island Life" magazine. I've long forgotten the issue but the recipe has stayed with me. It is a salad from the Kariwak Hotel in Tobago where I can only surmise that the chef may not have had a reliable supply of perfect tomatoes. Some of the ingredients seem to be superfluous. For example the Dijon Mustard and mustard powder, the red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar seem to be flavours that repeat themselves. Still, who am I to argue with someone who went to cooking school and created something that improves upon my less than perfect non vine-ripened tomatoes.


The Best thing that Ever Happened to Tomatoes Vinaigrette


* 6 ripe tomatoes, sliced
* 5 garlic cloves (minced)
* 1/2 cup chopped basil
* 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
* 2 tablespoons ketchup
* 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
* 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
* 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
* 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
* 1/2 cup light vegetable oil
* salt (to taste)
* black pepper (to taste)
* Caribbean pepper sauce (to taste) (optional)

Whisk all dressing ingredients together except oil and basil.
Drizzle in oil, whisking constantly.
Add salt and black pepper to taste.
Stir in basil.
Arrange tomato slices on a salad plate and spoon dressing over slices.
Cover and chill.
Garnish with fresh basil leaves.
If you desire serve over fresh bed of lettuce.

Monday, July 13, 2009

I cook because I photograph


Julia over at, A Slice of Cherry Pie asked, "What can you do with watermelon and mint?" Here is my answer, A Deconstructed WMF Salad. Why deconstructed? Why not a full on watermelon-mint-feta salad like the one from Food and Wine which has been on my to make list for well over a year? It's because I made this long in advance of the actual meal and I was worried, that the dressing would make it soggy. There's nothing as unappetizing as a soggy salad.

This is a simple salad to be sure but clean, bright and fresh. I am of the opinion that the olive oil dressing suggested in Food and Wine would have dulled the sweetness of the melon. I am glad that I omitted it. In this instance I seasoned with a sprinkle of sea salt just before serving. The salad kept well and what little moisture it did produce was easily wiped up before plating.

Oh all right! I'll fess up. The truth is I saw a picture....which gave me an idea for a pattern. So now you know my awful secret. I do not cook to feed my family. I cook because I photograph. The fact that they can eat the by product of my creative efforts is just a lucky bonus for me. If you are at all confused that my cooking is less driven by a need to nourish my family, and more because I want to take a picture of food, then clearly you need to read, 10 Things You Should Know about Food Bloggers, by Not So Nigella. In it she explains the strange creature that is Foodus Bloggerus. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Not So Skinny Bitch


Every once in a while I happen upon a recipe that tempts my inner skinny. That part of me that is buried under the ravages of pregnancy, busy days, skipped meals, little exercise and late at night junk food noshing. I found this vegan recipe for Pecan Crusted French Toast while browsing through my hairdresser's magazine stash in People Magazine Sept 2008.

"Huh?" I thought. "Egg bread (my childhood name for French Toast) without egg."
Hmmm..... I considered.
"No way!" shouted my carnivore self; lover of butter, chocolate, cheese cake, oil down, pizza, ice-cream and other calorific comfort foods, "Don't you dare mess with my "Eggy bread!"

The promoters of this recipe were former Ford model agent, Rory Freedman and former model, Kim Barnouin. They are the co-authors of a diet book called Skinny Bitch. They are both radiant and look the epitome of health and yes ....skinniness.

And so, in the hopes that one day I too might be a skinny bitch...on the outside, as well as on the inside - this recipe entered my life.

Bite after bite I kept expecting to dislike this but it was quite good. Imagine then my surprise to find out that just one slice with honey is approximately 400 calories! Granted these online calculators are not 100% accurate but OMG I had two of these for breakfast! True they did take me through to lunch without needing to have a mid morning bite. As a result I am renaming these Not So Skinny Bitch Pecan crusted French Toast:-)

Here is the recipe with my adaptations in bold.

Not So Skinny Bitch Pecan Crusted French Toast

1-1/2 cups vanilla soy or rice milk
3 tablespoons corn starch or arrowroot flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons chickpea flour or brown rice flour split pea powder
1 cup finely chopped pecans
2 tablespoons refined coconut oil, or more as needed for cooking
6 to 8 slices vegan whole wheat or whole wheat raisin bread
Maple syrup for topping * honey

In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy or rice milk, corn starch and cinnamon. Whisk in the chickpea or brown rice flour. Transfer the mixture to a shallow bowl. Place the pecans in another shallow bowl.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the coconut oil. Once slice at a time, dip the bread in the milk mixture, turning to soak both sides. Do not soak bread in mix too long as it gets soggy fast. Dip one side in the pecans, pressing to coat. (The pecans don't stick easily on the bread.) Arrange the bread in the skillet (you might have to do more than one batch), pecan side down. Cook 2-3 minutes, until the pecans are well-browned. Carefully turn the bread, and continue cooking until the second side is browned, 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately with maple syrup.