Tag Archives: coconut milk

Island Shrimp, Sweet Potato and Zucchini Curry

Isn’t it great when family members can help other family members with academics, college or careers?  One of our nieces, Meg, reached out to her Uncle Jimmy for help with a skype interview for a summer internship.  We’re so happy to learn she got it!  When Delta Airlines made moves to open a reservations office in San Juan my aunt, Madrinita, helped me out and secured an interview for me.  It was certainly no guarantee of being hired but it got my toe in the door. The rest was up to me.  Hundreds and hundreds of people were interviewed for 13 positions.  I was just out of college, young and foolish and completely unaware of any competition for these highly coveted positions.  With the beauty and confidence of one in their early 20’s, I sailed through all my interviews happy to be on a mini-vacation during the day while spending precious moments with my family at night, secure in the knowledge that the world truly was my oyster.  I scored that position myself but had my aunt not let me know, had she not set up the initial interview, that chapter of my life would have been rewritten.  I lived with my relatives for some time and although we had a few disagreements, (for instance, how can I be home by 10:00 pm if I’m not leaving the house until 11:00pm.  Right?), we all enjoyed this unexpected gift of time spent with each other.  I gained a fierce loyalty and love of the island and its people, from the cool, wet mountains down to the white, hot beaches.  I had some great times and, of course, some not so great moments but regardless, Puerto Rico is my safe haven, my refuge, the stuff of my dreams.  My hope is that you’ll pour “dos dedos”, two fingers, of rum, crank the salsa and explore this island recipe.  Buen provecho!

This recipe has so many Caribbean flavors.  Sweet potato and pumpkin are huge in the islands and linger softly in the background tone of so many dishes such as beans, soups and curries.  Coconut milk is used in both sweet and savory dishes while cilantro plays a major role in countless savory dishes.  I put a whole scotch bonnet pepper in the the pot and fish it out before serving.  If one of your guests mistakes it for a chunk of tomato they’re in for one helluva bad surprise.  If you like your food screaming hot then, by all means  mince two or three of the peppers and throw them in but I find one is just fine.  This curry is served over rice and I prefer an organic, short grain brown.  Short grain is sweeter than long and pairs well with this dish.  Please know all these ingredient amounts are easily changed.  If you’re not crazy about pumpkin then leave it out and double up on the sweet potato.  Not a fan of zucchini?  Add carrots or potatoes instead.  And basil is brilliant in place of cilantro so play around with this forgiving dish until you come up with your own island version.  Enjoy!

Island Shrimp, Sweet Potato and Zucchini Curry

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped, approximately a generous 1/2 cup
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 2-3 bay leaves, preferably fresh
  • 1 medium size bell pepper, seeded and cut into small thin strips
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 2 13.5 cans unsweetened coconut milk, lite or reduced fat is fine
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 pound calabasa squash, peeled and cut into 2 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 scotch bonnet pepper, optional
  • 4 medium size zucchini, cut lengthwise into quarters then chopped into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 1/2 pound peeled and deveined shrimp, with or without the tail, it’s your choice
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped and divided
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large, deep-sided saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook until soft but not browned, about 4-5 minutes.
  3. Add the bay leaves, bell pepper, tomatoes and curry powder, stirring for several minutes.
  4. Add the sweet potatoes, coconut milk and water and gently stir.
  5. Simmer 10 minutes then add the squash and scotch bonnet, if using.  Gently stir.
  6. Simmer 10 minutes or until sweet potatoes and calabasa are fork tender.
  7. Add the zucchini and cook 3-4 minutes.
  8. Add the shrimp and 1/2 cup of the cilantro and cook just until the shrimp turn pink, about 2-3 minutes.
  9. Taste for salt and pepper.
  10. Scatter remaining cilantro over curry and serve.

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Spicy Asian Peanut Dressing

With autumn settling in I am ready to bulk up.  Give me a salad with lacinato kale and Napa cabbage.  I want peppery sprouts, sweet shredded carrots and savory red onion.  No longer does a light lime vinaigrette dressed on romaine cut it.  This girl’s hungry and I have the perfect dressing to tame my runaway appetite.  My spicy asian peanut dressing marries well with the heft, sometimes tough and often leathery texture of kale and cabbage.  And when it starts getting dark at 5:30 in the evening I’m ready to tuck into an enormous salad topped with an organic grilled chicken breast or a spicy jerked Mahi filet.  The dressing keeps well for a week.  It’s also superb over cool noodles with grilled or raw vegetables or as a dip for meat or chicken.  Children love it but if you are serving it to little ones, definitely scale back on the chili oil as it packs some great heat. Gosh, I almost forgot.  All these products can be found in the Asian section of your grocery store.  Please, please try the fish sauce.  If you’ve not tried it before know it smells bad.  Really bad.  But only in the bottle.  You don’t taste it at all in the dressing but it adds a depth, a level of flavor that you expect in a quality restaurant peanut dressing.  Without fish sauce this dressing is flat and one-dimensional.  So go for it and enjoy!

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Spicy Asian Peanut Dressing

  • Servings: 1 1/2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter, I use one with no additives what so ever
  • 2-3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoons plus 3 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 teaspoons hot chili oil
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • salt to taste
  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor, blender or Magic Bullet and pulse until mixture is completely smooth.
  2. Refrigerate until ready to use.  Allow to sit out at room temperature for 10-15 minutes if dressing thickens too much in the refrigerator.

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Coconut Rice Pudding

 

In my house, we quote often from movies, and I’m not even a big movie goer.  The earliest quote I remember, and we used it often, was “…Ain’t got no underwear!”, from the musical, “Hair”.  Mom and Dad saw the play in Palm Beach and I saw the movie.  Dad would sing that line to us anytime one of us would ask him for money.  I guess we were supposed to feel sorry for him, no underwear = no money?  Apparently it didn’t faze us a bit as we continually went back for more.  One of my favorite movies, if not my favorite, is “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”  With a stellar cast of Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal and Sandy Dennis, it is my #1, go-to, cheer me up movie.  I will frequently quote from the movie, “Never mix, never worry”, a line I happily chose to follow in high school.  I love that movie… it’s so brutal.  And visceral.  Pamela and I have adopted a line from “Beetlejuice”, a movie we watched over and over screaming and cackling with sheer delight over some really terrific lines.  Our favorite is most often and best used in public, drawing questioning looks from strangers that are now certain those two girls are really strange losers.  It is heard most often in Publix, Target and the Dixie, when one sister unexpectedly comes upon the other.  Low, harsh and guttural, one will call the other, “Hey! AIL-VUS!!”  The head of the startled sister being called will shoot up in recognition.  We always laugh as if it’s the very first time.  At our boy’s baseball games, she and I would yell, “Hey, battuh, battuh, battuh, battuh.  Suh-WING, battuh”, from the movie everyone adores, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”.  Sometimes when I say goodbye to my son, James, but only if he’s going out, not when he’s going back to school, I’ll yell as he goes through our gate, “His mama call ‘im Cassius Clay, I call ‘im Cassius Clay!” and I’m always rewarded with a blazing, white smile.   If James is going out for the evening, and in an exceptionally good mood, he might say to the dog, Pericles, “I have a date with LEEsa!”  And many an advice session has been wrapped up with a resounding, “Go on, honey. Take a chi-ance!”, again, from “Coming To America”.   So take a chance and try this rice pudding.  The same way your favorite movie makes you happy, this recipe won’t let you down.

This is an exquisite recipe from Puerto Rico, rich in spices, smooth with coconut milk and warm in comfort and steadfastness.  We fall back on it because it says the right thing to us.  It does the right thing for us.  It will fill part of the black hole.  It’s home with an offbeat twist.  All the ingredients are found at the grocery store and, lagniappe, it’s a walk away kind of recipe.  It just knows what to do and how to do it.  This is a rice pudding, cooked in coconut milk in lieu of whole milk.  Replacing vanilla, are whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, freshly bruised ginger and star anise.  We’re not in Kansas anymore.  Trust me.  It’s unbelievably satisfying!

 

Coconut Rice Pudding

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2 cups short or medium grain rice
  • 4 cans coconut milk, don’t use lite.  Just don’t.
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large piece fresh ginger, about the size of a man’s thumb
  • 8 cinnamon sticks
  • 7 or 8 whole cloves
  • 1/2 cup raisins, (optional)
  • ground cinnamon for garnish
  1. In large bowl, wash and rinse rice in water until water runs pretty clear.
  2. Add fresh water to bowl, an inch above rice, and let soak for at least 2 hours.  This will soften the rice and keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot when cooked.
  3. When rice has soaked sufficiently, drain and add to heavy-bottomed pot along with cloves, cinnamon sticks, salt, and 3 cans of coconut milk.
  4. Take the whole piece of ginger and using something hard and heavy, I use a pestle but a wine bottle, heavy sauce pan or meat tenderizer can be used, give the ginger a couple good whacks.  Just enough to open it to allow the flavor out.  Add that to the pot.
  5. Stir well, cover and cook at low heat checking every once in a while that it’s not cooking at too aggressive a boil.  You want it to just simmer.
  6. When the rice is just about dry, add the sugar, the last can of coconut milk and the raisins if you’re using them.  Stir, cover and continue to cook on low.
  7. When rice is almost dry pour onto platter and chill.
  8. Sprinkle with cinnamon just before serving. Buen provecho!

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