Now that Vegetanuary (or Veganuary) is wrapping up, it’s time to reinvigorate those veggie-based dishes. With “Provisions: The Roots of Caribbean Cooking — 150 Vegetarian Recipes,” by sisters Michelle and Suzanne Rousseau, vegetables not only get a shake-up, but each recipe transports you away from our cold Northwest winter to that sunnier Caribbean climate.
The Rousseau sisters are restaurant owners and acclaimed cookbook authors from Jamaica. “Provisions” continues in the vein of all their efforts, celebrating their heritage, the Caribbean lifestyle and cuisine.
Specifically, the name “Provisions” refers to the provision grounds and kitchen gardens planted during slavery, the farmed land after emancipation and to the celebration of Caribbean women whose resilience and provision for their families and communities has largely gone unseen. These recipes are soulful, exciting and very delicious.
From rare Haitian fungi to the “bad boy” of the Jamaican food world, ackee — which is deadly poisonous when not properly prepared — “Provisions” offers the vegetarian adventure I was seeking to kick off 2019. The cookbook is a wide array of finessed yet homey dishes that are very adaptable, should you not be able to track down breadfruit, djon djon black mushrooms or scotch bonnet peppers.
One ingredient you shouldn’t have any difficulty with is rum.
January is home to my father-in-law’s birthday, and nothing says “party” like rum cake. Especially, grilled pineapple upside-down rum cake. His favorite dessert is an upside-down pineapple cake, so taking it to the party level befits his birthday celebration.
Rich in eggs and butter and doused with rum — so much rum — this island classic is sticky and delicious, especially with coffee doused with, yes, even more rum.
For dinner, I wanted to try for one of the hard-to-find ingredients. Without the benefit of Caribbean sun, I gravitated to the cozier dish of Haitian-style djon djon risotto. A delicacy, djon djon mushrooms can be difficult to track down outside Haiti and the Caribbean. Thanks to Etsy, I managed to find some.
The recipe suggests a substitute of dried porcini or shiitake mushrooms, but these don’t knock your socks off like the flavor of the djon djon. Think milder morel mushrooms, and totally worth the effort. I roasted a simple chicken to pair with the dish for an at-home date night that was restaurant-worthy. All we were missing was an evening stroll with sand between our toes.
The Rousseau sisters say you can substitute dried porcini or shiitake mushrooms for an equally delicious variation on the dish, but don’t be deceived, you won’t be able to replicate the delicate earthy flavor of the djon djon mushrooms. The hunt is part of the adventure of eating from “Provisions,” and Etsy isn’t too far to have to go for a bag. If you can’t find the scotch bonnet pepper, a habanero will work. Serves 4.
1 cup dried Haitian djon djon (or other dried mushroom)
3½ cups good-quality vegetable stock
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon minced scotch bonnet pepper
1 cup arborio rice
2 sprigs thyme
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup white wine
1 tablespoon butter
4 ounces goat cheese
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
½ cup shaved Pecorino Romano cheese
Clean the mushrooms and place them in a saucepan with 3 cups of hot water. Soak for at least 4 hours or overnight. Place half the soaked mushrooms with half the liquid in a blender and puree.
Strain the puree and add it to the vegetable stock.
Drain the remaining mushrooms, pressing with a cheesecloth over a strainer to release all the liquid. In a small saucepan, heat the mushroom-vegetable stock, and keep it at a very low simmer. In a separate, medium-sized saucepan, heat the olive oil over low heat; add the onion, garlic and scotch bonnet pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are transparent (about 5 minutes). Add the mushrooms, rice, thyme and salt, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook until it has evaporated.
Add ½ cup of the stock to the rice, and cook, stirring continuously, until it is absorbed into the rice. Continue adding the stock ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly to allow it to absorb after each addition. Continue for 25 to 30 minutes until the rice is cooked through and has reached a thick, creamy consistency. If more liquid is needed, supplement with hot water.
When the risotto is ready, remove it from the heat, and stir in the butter, goat cheese, parsley and pepper. Serve the risotto topped with shaved Pecorino Romano.
Grilled Pineapple Upside-Down Rum Cake
Find the ripest fruit you can find, and use the best rum you can afford — there’s so much rum flavor, you want to enjoy what you’re tasting. You’ll have rum left over from soaking the pineapple, so it’s not going to take quite as much as it seems. I used Snohomish’s Skip Rock Distillers Belle Rose Double Barrel Rum. Halving the recipe works well. Serves 12.
For the topping:
6 to 8 cored slices pineapple, each ¼-inch thick
½ cup dark rum
1 cup brown sugar, divided
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
For the cake:
1½ cups butter, at room temperature
3 cups sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
For the rum syrup:
½ cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark rum
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
To prepare the grilled pineapple topping, soak the pineapple slices in the rum for at least 5 minutes. Remove, and coat in a little brown sugar (about ½ cup). Heat the grill or griddle to medium-high, and grill the pineapple slices for about 2 minutes on each side.
Pour the melted butter into a 10-inch round cake pan. Sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup brown sugar, and top with the grilled pineapple slices. Set aside while you make the cake batter.
To make the cake batter, cream the butter and sugar together until the mixture is light in color and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking after each addition until combined. Stir in the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture, stirring until combined. Add the milk, stirring until there are no lumps in the batter. Pour the batter over the grilled pineapple in the cake pan.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a knife or toothpick inserted in the center comes out nearly clean (a few moist crumbs clinging to the toothpick are okay).
While the cake is baking, make the rum syrup. Combine the butter, granulated sugar and ¼ cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat; then reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the rum.
Remove the cake from the oven. While still cooling, pour the rum syrup over the cake a little at a time, so that it absorbs. Allow the cake to cool for at least 5 minutes, then invert it onto a cake stand or serving plate. Serve with ice cream.
By Michelle Rousseau and Suzanne Rousseau.
De Capo Lifelong Books. 320 pages. $30.
Who should buy this? Anyone who has lived or vacationed in the Caribbean. Home cooks wanting to add sunny vegetarian flare to winter meals.