Pikliz – Haitian spicy pickled veggies #Superfood#takethatkimchi

Dear readers, I apologize for not having brought this recipe to your attention before.  One of goals of this blog is share healthy and tasty recipes that elevate your daily cooking.  Pikliz does exactly that – it adds a zingy, spicy, crunchy texture on top of fried foods (such as falafel), rice and sandwiches.  It is a painless way of adding a few more vegetables to almost any dish, which is alwas a good thing.  I also love dill pickles and Korean kimchi, but I find that pikliz is on a whole other level.

Ingredients:

  • A decent size Mason or a recycled and santized jar from the supermarket (I actually use recycled Dill Pickle jars)
  • Thinly sliced or grated cabbage  **  If you grate instead of slice, you are looking to use the larger grater blades that give you you long thin slices and don’t “crush” the vegetables.   Also, I’ve used cabbages of all colors for pikliz – they all work well.  What’s important is the crunch and texture.
  • 1 or 2 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced or grated.
  • A lesser amount of bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced (for added color and texture) *** Pro tip/cheat code – if you can find bags of presliced or grated cabbage, carrots, peppers and celery  (meant for salads)in your local supermarket, by all means use this .  If you make as much pikliz as I do, it’s a timesaver..  
  • 1 decent sized onion, thinly sliced (do not grate this)
  • 1 spring onion, thinly sliced (including the green stalk part).
  • 2 to 4 Habanero chiles, cut in half and seeded ** (the Habanero imparts the zingy spice notes so I cut it in half to allow it to do so.  Some people cut it thinly which means you’ll eat the pickled Habenero as well.  Generally speaking, I love lots of spice, but in my opinion the that is not the raison d’etre of pikliz.)
  • A few garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt or larger grain sea salt
  • A pinch of black peppercorns
  • 3 good pungent cloves 
  • 2 to 3 cups of white vinegar ( I find the Heinz variety does the trick)
  • Lime juice (extra points for key limes, but if not, any fresh lime juice will do)

Instructions:

This is a very basic method of pickling which means marinating the sliced vegetables in a salty vinegar acidic solution.  This is a cold picking method but I know people who heat the liquids first with the cloves, peppercorns and salt and it works just a well.  Ideally you should make pikliz at least 3 days before consuming it as this will allow the vinegar solution to meld all of the flavors as well as drive excess water from veggies.

Quantities – I have shied away from citing exact quantities because it really depends on how much pikliz you want to make and how big a jar you are using.  Suffice it to say that the cabbage, carrot, onion and bell pepper make the backbone of this dish, and the other parts play a supporting role.  

Add all of ingredients, save the salt, lime juice and vinegar to your pickling jar.  Now add the salt (at least a few teaspoons, but it shouldn’t be overly salty either), the lime juice and the vinegar until all the veggies are covered by the liquid.  Use a wooden spoon to mix everything together well.  Use the remaining vinegar to “top it up”  a bit more but the vegetables should just be covered by the solution, not swimming in it.

That’s it.  Pikliz should as month in the fridge, at the very least.  At my house, we eat it quite a bit so it doesn’t last long enough for me to test it’s preservation properties.  Enjoy.

The best “plain” rice you’ve ever had

Probably the biggest sin for a Carribbean cook is to make boring rice. Carribbean cooks have, of course, a number of rightly famous and delicious rice recipes (red beans and rice, dirty rice, congo beans and rice and, of course, the inimitable Haitian riz djondjon to name but a few). Their biggest “hidden talent”, in my opinion, is to make absolutely amazing “plain” rice, so tasty that you’d happily eat just the rice by itself. In retrospect, this is a crucial skill in a poor country, when many times there isn’t a whole lot else to “go with” the rice.

In my world view, people are either “Team Rice” or “Team Potato”. At the risk of pandering to sterotype, in my experience and travels I’ve found it absolutely true that the Irish have an almost irrational love of all things potato. And Carribbean peoples are highly skilled rice cooks and, ooooh yes, critics. Don’t ever serve them plain old white rice, mes amis, you won’t hear the last of it…ever. Due to my upbringing, I’m firmly on “Team Rice”. My mother, a midwesterner of Irish/German heritage, is absolutely “Team Potato” in spite of many decades of living in “rice” dominant countries. I suppose one’s formative years play an important role.

I didn’t learn how to make rice until I left home and had moved to the States. I quickly tired of my own limited culinary skills so every time I came home for the holidays I was really motivated to learn so I coud recreate my favorite dishes. I learned this recipe many decades ago and have been making various iterations of it ever since. It goes something like this:

The Best Plain Rice

Serves 4 people (or 2, if they really like their rice)

1 coffee cup full of rice (or whatever measuring vessel you choose, the size or volume is up to you). The type rice you use is a personal choice but I find that long grain white rice works well.

Vegetable Oil or Coconut oil

2 or 3 cloves of good pugent garlic

1 bouillon cube – vegetable bouillon if you want to keep it vegan/vegetarian, otherwise chicken bouillon is a good choice. Maggi cubes are, of course, the Carribean cooks’ “gold standard, if you trying for “authenticity”.

1 respectable heavy duty cooking pot with a heavy lid.

Optional but highly recommended:

2 or 3 heaping tablespoons of Epis/Sofrito (see here for my version):

1 whole Scotch Bonnet pepper

Put a decent amount of oil in a decent size heavy pot or sauce pan. We are going to infuse this oil so you must put enough oil in the pot, a generous amount to cover the bottom, but don’t exaggerate. Put the burner to medium.
As the oil in the pan heats up, give each garlic clove a decent whack with the flat of chef’s knife and throw them in the hot oil. Using a wooden spoon, move the garlic cloves around in the oil so they do not burn and, more importantly, infuse the oil. You don’t want the cloves to burn or blacken, but a slight crispy note is about what you are looking for. This should take maybe 2 minutes.(At this point, you can add the optional epis/sofrito and mix it with the infused oil/garlic for another minute or so. )
Now add the coffee cup/jam jar/whatever of rice and mix it with the infused oil in the pot briefly so all the rice grains are covered by the oil. Turn the burner heat up to high and add your water, which would be 2 times the volume of the rice, so in this case, 2 coffee cups full of water. As the pot come to a boil, add the bouillon cube and stir the mixture sufficiently so that the infused oil and bouillon are diffused. Once you’ve achieved the boil, immediately reduce the heat by half, or maybe even just a tiny bit less than that.
At this point, you can add the optional Scotch Bonnet pepper. If you do add it, make sure it’s whole, with no rips or tears and preferably with the stem still on it. Put your tight fitting lid on the pot. It’s important that lid is tight. In a pinch, put heavy stuff (within the bounds of reason and safety) on the lid to make sure it’s doing it’s job. Let the rice cook for roughly 10 minutes. Never less than 10 minutes, and possibly a little bit longer. Once you are familiar with the rice and the pot that you use, you’ll have a feel for how long it takes. DO NOT, under pain of excommunication from Team Rice, lift the lid before the rice is done.

That’s it, the rice is ready to eat. Lift the lid and carefully extract the optional scottch bonnet pepper, if you added one. Grab it by the stem, if possible, and chuck it in the trash.

** Nutrional Commentary

I get it, white rice is just sort of nutrionally barren carbs and the bouillion cube adds sodium, etc. However, I think the infused garlic oil not only makes this dish tastier, it helps make it healthier. If you add the Epis and/or Scotch Bonnet pepper, the tastiness and nutrional value goes up exponentially.

Sofrito/Epis – The delicious secret weapon for athletes – A recipe

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This is a recipe that I am publishing for all my brothers and sisters in the Strength Sport community.  It is a tasty method of injecting a tasty, highly nutritional component into your rice, stews, sauces and such.

What follows is a personal observation regarding the value of eating 100 percent organic.  Please jump to the next non-italicized paragraph if you just want the recipe.

When I was a young child to teenager going back and forth from the Caribbean to the US, it was the period just before (and the beginning of) the Obesity epidemic in the States.  There just weren’t that many overweight people when I was a kid.  My early to late teen years coincided with the paradigm shift in food production in the US and consequent rise in obesity.  I remember coming back to the US – every year or two – and literally noticing a greater percentage of obesity with each trip.  Meanwhile back in my “home” country of Haiti, most people had a hard enough time eating every day much less worry about getting fat.      Amongst the vast majority of the population, having sufficient resources to fatten up would have been very welcome indeed.  Yet even amongst the upper classes (who were often fantastically wealthy) obesity was a rarity.

So people were generally slim and, furthermore, I remember noticing that younger adults who did manual labor (peasant farmers, construction workers, etc) were often incredibly ripped.  Those men and women could have made a fortune on Instragram had they been born a generation later.   The phenomenon that foreign adults remarked on most frequently was a huge increase in libido (I was a teenager couldn’t notice a difference as my libido was already in the stratosphere).  The Caribbean was (and remains) a place were some people’s marriages went to die.  The often heard remark is that “there must be something in the water”.  Close, but no Monte Cristo.  My thesis that everyone was (and in the poorer more rural parts of the country, still is) eating 100 percent organic produce, meat and dairy.  We did this not because organic, local produce was a thing back then.  Big chain stores and processed foods were rare.  You bought most of your food in the outdoor market from peasant farmers.  You ate lots of fruit and vegetables, ate meat and fish occasionally (it was expensive).  You also get a lot of sun and therefore aren’t deficient in Vitamin D.  Basically, if you ate this diet in sufficient quantity (not too much or too little) it’s like being physically turbocharged.  You are firing on all cylinders.  Epis or Sofrito is the perfect example – it combines all of the proven health benefits of garlic, ginger, hot peppers, green herbs (parsley, cilantro, etc), cloves, nions and more.  A friend of mine eats a few spoon fools, uncooked, instead of taking vitamins.  It’s hard to think of a better, more bio-available way of getting quite a few vitamins and minerals in one go.

The base of much of Caribbean cuisine is “sofrito” or “epis” (as it’s referred to in Haiti).  This preparation can be used in just about anything but especially in rice, sauces and stews.    There are many different variations depending upon the eventual recipe.  I whip up a batch of sofrito/epis at least once a week.  The components vary, but for me the back bone of any “sofrito/epis” is the fresh garlic and ginger.  I make a special effort to make my epis/sofrito as jam-packed as possible with various nutrients.  In case you were wondering, it  tastes amazing.  Below are the components of my current epis\sofrito recipe:

NB:  All components of this recipe should be sourced organically for the reasons I alluded to above.

Fresh Garlic, peeled (this should be one of the building blocks.  The amount is up to you depending on the eventual quantity. )

Fresh Ginger, peeled  (If at all possible not from China)

Fresh Curcuma , peeled – also you may want to wear some gloves when peeling and cutting, as it stains quite a bit.  This is not traditional, but I like to add it for the color and health benefits.

Spring Onions/Scallions

Onions and/or shallots

Habanero Peppers – OK, this depends on how much heat you like.  I live in Europe where the Habanero come from either Kenya or the Netherlands – they are weak AF.  If I used 2 Habanero from the Caribbean or the Yucatan in my recipe, I’d be crying.  For now, however, 2 from my current sources provide a decent amount of kick.  Also, as with the Curcuma, keep the gloves on while handling these.  Anybody who has every cut Habaneros without gloves and then gone to the bathroom shortly thereafter can tell you why.

Bell pepper (partial) – for color and fiber

Cloves, 2 or 3 should do it.

Fresh cilantro and parsley

True sea salt (no additives).

Apple cider vinegar or lime juice

Olive Oil

A bit of water.

Put all of these ingredients in a food processor and mix to the consistency you see in the picture.  You will have to be the judge regarding the essential components and the liquids, but that is actually quite fun.  In most cases, saute this mixture in a bit of coconut oil before adding it to the rice, quinoa, stews or whatever.  Note that depending on the recipe some people may add tomatoes or what have you.  This an infinitely adaptable recipe.

Pro Tip – for the best and quickest Guacamole recipe known to mankind, add sofrito/epis and peeled avocado halves in a bowl.  Thoroughly mix/crush with a fork until you achieve the required consistency.  You may want to add a pinch of sea salt to taste.