Foodie Friday: Treat It Like It’s A Potato

Happy Friday, y’all!  I know you have things to do and people to see and carousing to do (and be proud of), but when you get some downtime, go check out the Friday Night Boast Post on Hollaback Health and toot your own horn or shake your cheerleader pom-poms and show some love for the blog world!

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Since moving to Trinidad, I’ve discovered (and, in some cases, RE-discovered) my rooty roots. There are root vegetables–called provisions–EVERYWHERE.  They are scraggly and covered in dirt and of all different sizes and let you cook under the delusion that you just went into your backyard and dug up something virtuous, like a green princess (or a hedgehog).  They’re also nutritious and delicious and most satisfying and budget friendly.

Here, every supermarket and vegetable stall has a few varieties of these tubers.  I may be too embarrassed to go to one particular market stall after accidentally toppling over a mountain of dasheen once.  So I try to buy from people who don’t pile them so high.

All joking aside, these babies are increasingly available in the specialty/exotic vegetable section of big supermarkets in North America thanks to both an interest in new vegetables and the wonders of the Caribbean and Latin diaspora.   When my family moved to Buffalo, NY in 1991, my dad would have sold a daughter for some yuca (or cassava, as it’s also called).  Now, it’s available fresh, and frozen, and ready-chopped-and-peeled (well, almost).  So, next time you hit your nearest big grocery store and see some yuca, dasheen/taro, eddoes, or boniato (a slightly less-sweet sweet potato), why not bring some home and pretend you dug it up from your own backyard?

But what should I do with it, you ask?  Well, I have scientifically determined that there are two ways of dealing with 99% of unknown mystery vegetables:

  • Treat it like it’s a potato
  • Treat it like it’s spinach

In the provisions/root veg case, we’re obviously not going the spinach route.

So, last Sunday, I went to the market and gathered up some provisions:

Dasheen/taro (left) and boniato/sweet potato (right)

Yuca/cassava (left), seasoning peppers (middle), West Indian pumpkin (right)

And decided that their fate was to become Provision Pie–mashed provisions, baked to comfort-food perfection, with a spice-and-seasoning kick up their bland backsides.

So, to make your Provision Pie, get your hands on:

  • About four pounds of provisions (any combination of boniato, eddoes, dasheen, yuca, and West Indian pumpkin, if you can find it–otherwise, you can use butternut squash, if you’re feeling pumpkin-y), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 head of garlic, minced or bashed in a mortar and pestle
  • 4 or 5 seasoning peppers (sometimes called “aji dulce”), or a small mild chile (poblano), or a couple of teaspoons of chipotle in adobo sauce, minced
  • 2-3 tsp. olive oil
  • a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme OR 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. minced hot pepper, or to taste (optional–I’d stick to a teensy amount of scotch bonnet to hit the right Caribbean register, but there’s no need to stick to that, or add any hot pepper at all)
  • 2 eggs
  • Grated cheddar for the top (amount up to you–I usually omit because cheese and dairy don’t love me)
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

Now for the part where you actually cook it all:

  • Put a big (pasta or soup-sized big–we mean business here) pot of water on to boil and preheat the oven to 375-400 (my oven is never accurate, so anywhere in that range is safe).
  • When it comes to the boil, add your provisions and cook for about half an hour, checking after twenty minutes to make sure everything is soft.  It doesn’t matter if some things cook before the others, because you’re going to mush it all together anyway.
  • Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat.  When it’s hot, saute the onion, garlic, thyme, seasoning peppers or chiles and optional hot pepper until the onion is translucent.  Set aside until the provisions are done.
  • When the provisions are done, drain and transfer to a big bowl or in batches to a food processor.  Bash and mash (or process) like your life depends on it (or until you get your desired level of chunkiness/smoothness).  Add the sauteed onions and seasonings, mix well, then check your seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste.  Add in the egg, beating like mad.
  • Lightly oil a baking dish (large enough to fit it all) and put the mix in, topping with the optional cheese.  Bake for about a half hour or until the middle is hot (check with a knife) and the top is golden and crisp.
  • Serve with pretty much anything (I love this with jerk fish or saucy chicken and sauteed vegetables), and give it a swoosh of West Indian pepper sauce, if you can find it and feel like experiencing blazing heat on your tongue.

Finished product

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As for happenings today:

At the crack of dawn, I went on my three-mile run and whom should I run into, but my old 9:50 pace?  We high-fived, slapped each other’s asses, and delivered a killer run in tandem.  How I missed Miss 9:50…  Might Core Fusion and Pilates have intervened to bring us back together? Hmm….
I wore real clothes again (for most of the day, anyway):

Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival 2008 t-shirt (chopped 80's style), Marks and Spencer jeans, Target shoes.

T-shirt with the festival logo–love this design!

And I found an abandoned and long-forgotten bit of jerk tofu in the fridge, which made its way onto a fresh and crispy green salad:

Time to settle in for a weekend of sewing, The Wire-rewatching (because Mad Men makes me want to buy too much fabric and is therefore off limits for a while), and unscheduled laziness.

What are you up to this weekend?

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2 Responses

  1. We are having a pretty low key weekend which is just what I need. Lots of down time!

  2. I would probably give one of my feet for some well prepared yuca and taro…YUM!

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