Friday, January 27, 2012

Cream of broccoli & tostones

It was a snowy day. From the kitchen window, the world was the monochromatic color of snow: a winter postcard! (in Walcott's sense) And while you admire the snow, and you think it is beautiful, a gift from the heavens even, like a good Caribbean-islander that you are, your deepest wish is that you were standing instead in a tropical forest or looking out at the vast and warm Caribbean Sea. Right now, looking at the whitest snow you have ever seen your craving for the greenest of greens intensifies. It is in honor of this craving for green that I made a soothing (and vegan) cream of broccoli. I accompanied the soup with that dearest of viandas, el plátano verde (the green plantain) in the grand form known as tostones. On a snowy New England night nothing could be so soothing!

 I started out with raw, fresh ingredients. 
  • 1 lb. broccoli
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 medium onion, cubed
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups soy milk
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. basil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Cut the broccoli into florets. Put the broccoli, onion, garlic, and broth or water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium heat and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and add the flour. Process until smooth. 

Return the soup to the saucepan and add the remaining ingredients.

Cook over medium heat until the soup thickens and is heated through. Season to taste with the salt and pepper and serve. 

Now the tostones. Friends from other latitudes have often asked me how to make tostones, and so here is a step by step photographic illustration that assumes you do not own a tostonera, but if you do, then substitute the low-tech, bottom of a dessert plate for the tostonera. The trick to this low-tech (bottom of a plate version) is to press down on the platano very gently).   

  1. cut plantains into thick circular pieces
  2. fry them in hot oil on each side until they gather color (but do not let them brown or fry for too long, about 1 or so on each side).
  3. remove and place on paper towel to drain out excess oil
  4. place on surface and 
  5. squash gently using tostonera or bottom of small plate (some people use a paper bag)
  6. lift the plate and remove tostón
  7. Fry tostón in hot oil until it browns (about 3 minutes on each side-depending on heat)
  8. Place tostones on a paper towel to remove excess oil and enjoy
Dinner is served!

A note: here I made "mayo-ketchup" for the tostones-- it is indeed a wonder sauce. It is simply mayonnaise and ketchup combined with crushed garlic (you can also use powdered garlic). Simple and delicious, but not vegan.

A note about tostones: because they are double-fried (yum! great for the soul and taste buds), it also means that they are not very good for your health (boo hoo! cholesterol, bad calories). This means that at our house we eat them sparingly. However, if you want to eat them more often and cut down on the health-related concerns, another and effective way to make tostones is to fry them once (steps 1 to 3 above), and then place them in the oven, on a cookie sheet, in a pre-heated oven to 300 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until brown and crisp.   

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