Tag Archives: tropical

Coconutty Balls

Happy 4th Day of Tropical!

Call me immature, but I still giggle when my 9-year-old son dies laughing every time someone uses the words “balls” or “nuts”.  Yes, he is still in the phase where that is funny, and apparently I am as well. B had no interest in helping me in the kitchen today, but my youngest daughter did. She is featured in these pictures.

To make this yummy treat, all you have to do is toast some coconut, chop a little chocolate, and of course add nuts.

What we used:

  • 1 ¼ cups sweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (we used macadamia nuts and walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup not super sweet chocolate, chopped (a semi-sweet bar worked great)
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips


Start off by toasting the coconut in a 350-degree oven, for about 10 minutes. Next, chop the nuts and chocolate.  Melt the chocolate by placing it in a bowl over a pot of boiling water; just make sure the bowl isn’t touching the water.

After the chocolate is melted, combine it with the nuts and coconut.


Finally, scoop balls of the mixture onto a lined baking sheet. We decided to sprinkle them with a little powdered sugar, before chilling them for a bit.  They turned out to be more of a blob-ish shape, but were delicious nonetheless!


B loved them, although he wouldn’t let me take his photo…





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Tonight’s recipe is a leafy soup from the islands called Callaloo. Traditionally made from Callaloo leaves (which are, depending on whom you ask, actually amaranth or taro leaves), I made it with kale because that’s all I had, and because kale-a-loo has a nice ring to it. (Although, to be honest, I did not come up with the name.) This soup is very easy to put together, and it’s nice and green to make you feel good in anticipation of all the Christmas cookies on which you’re about to feast.

The original recipe called for crab meat, but I made a vegetarian version to serve to a vegetarian (the vegetarian, by the way, also came up with the name “kale-a-loo”), and don’t really see a reason to make it any other way. (In fact, the soup is even vegan. Take that.) I especially like the okra in this – it adds the perfect thickness and body.

hot hot hot

adapted from The Essential Caribbean Cookbook

  • 3 tablespoons oil (olive, veggie, whatever you have)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 fresh chile (I used jalapeño), seeded and diced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder, optional
  • 8 ounces okra, sliced (about 1/4-inch slices)
  • 1/2 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped into large bite-size pieces
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • A few strands of saffron, optional
  • 1 can (13.5 ounces) coconut milk
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Limes, cut in slices, to serve
  • Cilantro, to serve

1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat, add the onion and cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the chile, turmeric, and curry if using and cook 1 to 2 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

2. Add the okra and kale. Cook a few minutes, until the kale starts to wilt. Add the vegetable broth and saffron, if using. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 25 – 35 minutes, until the kale is soft enough to your liking.

3. Stir in the coconut milk and scallions, stirring to combine. Cook for about 5 minutes more, until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with slices of lime on the side and cilantro sprinkled on top.



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Five golden links


Five tropical links for you this evening:

Have you ever made Coquito? It’s Puerto Rican Egg Nog, and I think I know how I’ll use some of the giant bottle of rum recently purchased…


And, if I have leftover Coquito (though let’s be honest, why would I?), I’ll try this Coquito French Toast for breakfast.


My friend Kelly told me about a Puerto Rican lasagna of sorts, and I’m dying to give it a try.


I know I’ve told you about Braeden’s and my favorite rum, Mt. Gay, but if you haven’t tried it, please do so. Now. Sorry, Bacardi, but Mt. Gay is where it’s at.


And finally, a little trivia for you: what artist/song borrowed heavily from Funky Kingston by Toots and the Maytals? Give you one guess.

Don’t stop the party,

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Beef Curry

So remember those exciting announcements I promised a few posts back? Here we go!

In addition to having the wonderful, beyond amazing, crazy-busy, never bored job of being Joan‘s assistant, I recently got a job working at Bazaar Spices, a lovely little spice shop in Washington, D.C.’s Union Market. If you’re in D.C., be sure to stop by Union Market, and, more importantly, Bazaar Spices. The second you walk by your senses are almost assaulted (in the best possible way) by the smell of super fresh spices and herbs. It’s been great to expand my spice, herb, and botanical knowledge, and to talk to the different people who stop by. Next time, maybe it’ll be you!

Part of the Bazaar Spices job includes contributing to their Spicy DC Blog, and I wrote a recipe for Brown Butter Cinnamon Cookies with Crystallized Ginger Studs, based on my mom’s recipe for Polvorones. They’re pretty delicious, if I may say, and would love a spot on your holiday cookie rotation. (AND, and, and, the recipe was featured in Union Market’s Thanksgiving shopping list. Boom.)

Also, the blog now has a Twitter account! Follow us @thetroikatable to get random musings and pictures of food from yours truly.

And, coming soon, there will be a WHOLE ‘NOTHER PAGE on the blog! I’ve been compiling a running list of recipes I want to make from the pages carefully doggy-eared in cookbooks before bookmarks and the internet was a thing (aka, when I was 12), websites I’ve bookmarked only to never look back, and pages that I’ve saved to Pocket (and no, I still don’t have a Pinterest, but I’m sure that will come any day now). I decided that it’s about time to actually DO something with them, and putting the list on the blog and actually, you know, making them and telling you all about it would be just the ticket.

Anyway, time for the 9th day before Christmas special: Beef Curry!

Beef Curry

This Beef Curry is adapted from The Essential Caribbean Cookbook edited by Heather Thomas, a spicy little book full of recipes from throughout the Caribbean. The original recipe, Colombo de Porc, is a Pork curry from Martinique. After doing a little research, I discovered that Colombo Curry is a spice blend commonly found in the French West Indies (Martinique, Guadalupe, St. Martin, to name a few), and that Colombo Curry blends typically have toasted, uncooked rice ground into the mix, lending a nutty flavor and acting as a natural thickener.  Maybe my recipe isn’t a Colombo at all, but it’s still pretty tasty.

I changed the recipe quite a bit to accommodate the ingredients I had on hand, and came up with something very delicious. The curry is fairly spicy and quite saucy, with a nice creaminess from coconut milk, and the curry would love it if you made tostones to dip up its juices. Don’t take my word for it, though, just make it; you’ll see.

almost ready

Faux Colombo de Bœuf (Beef Curry)
Adapted from The Essential Caribbean Cookbook

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 pound beef stew meat, cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 6 to 8 allspice berries
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds or 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1 to 2 hot peppers (such as jalapeños), sliced (remove seeds if you want less heat)
  • 3/4 cup pineapple juice
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 chayote squash, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 to 2 poblano peppers, seeded and cut in 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2 to 3 medium tomatoes, chopped, or 1 small can of tomatoes, or about a cup of leftover slow-roasted tomatoes (can you guess which one I used?)
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Cilantro, to garnish

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides.

2. While the onions and beef are cooking, make your curry paste: Mash the coriander seeds, allspice berries, turmeric, mustard seeds or powder, and peppers in a mortar and pestle to make a paste.

3. Add the curry paste to the beef and onions, stir, and cook for about 3 more minutes, stirring once or twice.

4. Add the pineapple juice and water, cover the pan, and cook for about 30 to 45 minutes, until the beef is starting to be tender. (Or, if you have a pressure cooker, cook at high pressure for 10 to 12 minutes with a natural release, then proceed as directed.)

5. Add the chayote, poblanos, tomatoes, coconut milk, salt, and pepper, and cook uncovered for another 30 to 45 minutes, until the chayote is easily pierced with a fork and the beef is tender. Serve with rice, or tostones, and garnish with cilantro.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

all dished up



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Cookie Island

Hello, it’s me…..the slacker who used to contribute regularly to this blog.  I know, it’s been about a year since I’ve written any recipes.  What can I say?






So yeah, Caribbean life is really good, and sometimes I feel like we landed in paradise.  Sure, traffic tends to be crazy, work can get hectic, and there are lots of things yet to be done around the house.  But I do like my new island home, especially the kitchen. It’s smaller than our last one, but after almost eleven years in Germany, I enjoy having a full-size refrigerator and oven again.  One reason I’m so happy with the kitchen is the way some of our furniture found its way in here and works really well.  For example, check out how my cookbooks and Polish and Italian pottery fit into these two stacked Ikea shelving units.


Even better, what about this island Jerry made out of another shelving unit and the oak butcher block that used to serve as an office work table when it topped a couple of small filing cabinets in our old house?

kitchen island

cookies on island

Yes, indeed, the kitchen island is perfect for cookie production, and I have a perfect island-inspired cookie recipe to share.  I first made these cookies last spring as an experiment when I wanted to take a treat to work.  They’re really a basic oatmeal cookie, but instead of the typical cinnamon and raisins, I stirred in cubed guava paste, a sure bet to appeal to Puerto Rican tastes, and sure enough, the cookies prompted several requests for the recipe.  I’ve actually developed sort of a reputation among my colleagues as a baker, and it all started with these cookies.

Oatmeal and Guava Cookies   

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (quick-cooking oats will work, but I like old-fashioned better)
  • About 7 ounces guava paste, cut into small cubes (I used a third of a 21-ounce container of Goya guava paste, available from Amazon if it is not in your local store)

Cream together the butter and sugars, then mix in the egg and vanilla.  Stir the flour, baking soda, and salt together, then blend this mixture into the creamed mixture.  Mix in the rolled oats and gently fold in the guava cubes.  Refrigerate the dough for an hour or more (I’ve left the dough in the fridge for close to a week and it was fine).

sliced guava

guava cookie dough

When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 F.  Drop the dough by tablespoonsful onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and flatten slightly with the back of the spoon.  Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cookies are just starting to brown around the edges.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes, then slide the parchment onto a rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container for two or three days, or freeze for longer storage.

Yield: about 4 dozen cookies

me on beach


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The 11th Day

On the 11th day before Christmas (I know, it’s past midnight and thus technically the 10th day before Christmas, but these things happen), The Troikas gave to me: TOSTONES.

I first sampled these fried plantain slices in Puerto Rico, when visiting Mom and Dad at their new Puerto Rican headquarters. They were delicious, salty, and often served with a salsa or something saucy. I made them to go with a beef curry (recipe coming soon!), and they were the perfect thing to sop up the spicy curry juices.


adapted from Saveur 

Vegetable or olive oil for frying
3 green plantains, peeled and cut into 1-inch thick rounds
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Pour about 1 1/2 to 2 inches of oil into a large, heavy-bottomed skillet.  Heat over medium-high heat until about 350 degrees Fahrenheit. (If you don’t have a thermometer, just stick a piece of plantain in the oil, and once it starts sizzling, it’s ready to go).

Fry plantains until soft, about 8 minutes, turning over half way through. (Work in batches if needed, as you don’t want to overcrowd your skillet.) They might start to crisp on the outside, but that’s fine. Remove the plantains to a paper towel-lined baking sheet, but don’t take the oil off the heat. Increase the heat a little bit, so that your oil is about 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Or, if you don’t have a thermometer, just increase the heat a notch. It’ll be fine. I did it without a thermometer, and so can you.

half smushed, half not

Smush each plantain piece with the palm of your hand into a disk. (You can put a paper towel in between your palm and the plantain if you don’t want to get too oily.) Once the oil is heated a bit more, fry the plantains until crisp, about 4 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined baking sheet. I’d suggest relining your baking sheet with new paper towels, but do what you gotta do. Lightly salt the tostones while they’re still hot.

Serve with salsa, guacamole, or beef curry.

Yield: 4 – 6 servings

the beginning

Happy frying!


P.S. If you live in Washington, D.C., I highly recommend you go to Pelican’s Rum on U St. We just had the Stewed Chicken (served with rice and peas and some cabbage), and I want to eat that chicken every day for the rest of my life.


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