Have you ever ordered fish cooked in a banana leaf wrap in a restaurant? Delicious; and so I thought I would try making such a dish at home.
Banana leaves are very inexpensive to buy – a few dollars for a large pack. Banana leaves come in large, flat plastic bags at your local Asian market or supermarket (check the freezer if you can’t find them on the shelf or in the produce section).
Banana leaves can be used for baking anything “wrapped”, in the same way, you would use tin foil or parchment paper. However, banana leaves are porous (unlike tin foil), so some of the “sauce” or juices from your food item may seep through. It’s, therefore, a good idea to place your banana leaf “packets” in a glass casserole dish, or a tray that has sides on it, so that the juices don’t drip to the bottom of your oven.
Banana leaves serve many purposes, from adding flavor to foods cooked inside them, to simply being used as a colorful and exotic background for serving plates and party platters.
Banana leaves contain large amounts of polyphenols that are natural antioxidants. These are found in many plant-based foods and green tea. Food served on the banana leaves absorbs the polyphenols which are said to prevent many lifestyle diseases. They are also said to have anti-bacterial properties that can possibly kill the germs in food. The leaf wrapping protects delicate fillets from harsh, dry heat.
You can also use banana leaves as a kind of “mat” for barbecuing fragile fillets of fish, smaller shrimp, or vegetables that have a danger of falling through the grill. Simply lay a piece of banana leaf on your grill, then cook your food items on top of it (as you would with tin foil). The banana leaf will turn bright green at first, then brown as you cook. It will give your food a hint of flavor that is very pleasant.
To store banana leaves, simply wrap them in plastic and place them in a ziplock plastic bag and keep in the freezer. Banana leaves only require about 30 minutes to thaw, so this is a convenient way to keep them fresh.
Use scissors to cut the banana leaves into the size you need, depending on your recipe. For wrapping and baking food items, you will need a large “sheet” or leaf. Place enough for one serving in the center of the leaf, then fold like a handkerchief to make a square packet.
Banana leaves are also excellent for steaming, as it allows the steam to penetrate the food inside or on top of it. You can use banana leaves to line a steamer or to wrap your food and then steam it.
Secure banana leaf “packets” with kitchen twine. Or simply place the packet “seam-side” down to keep it from opening.
Caribbean Inspired Fish Wrapped in Banana Leaves
Serves 2. Double the ingredients for 4 servings.
6 navel orange slices, rind removed
2 (6-oz.) sustainable skinless white fish fillets (such as snapper, halibut, or sea bass)
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 (12-in.-square) fresh or thawed frozen banana leaf pieces
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place the thawed banana leaves in hot water to soak for 10 minutes. Drain and place on a kitchen towel.
Coat fish fillets with oil and place them in the center of each banana leaf. Stir together salt, coriander, cinnamon, red pepper, ginger, and nutmeg; sprinkle evenly over the tops of the fish fillets. Place 3 orange slices on top of each fish fillet.
Fold each banana leaf piece to enclose the fish. Place packets, folded side down, on a baking sheet or in a glass baking dish. Bake at 400°F until fish is done, about 15-20 minutes. Unwrap and transfer fillets and orange slices onto serving plates. Garnish with chopped cilantro, if desired.
Wild Rice, Almond and Mushroom Pilaf
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup Lundberg wild rice blend
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Half a red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 oz mushrooms, trimmed and chopped
1 chopped celery stalk
2 tablespoons toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoon dry sherry
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Bring the broth, rice, oil, and salt to a boil in a large saucepan. When the liquid returns to the boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer 40 -50 minutes until the rice is tender and the liquid has evaporated. Set aside.
Heat the oil over medium heat in a large nonstick skillet, and add the onion, garlic, celery, and mushrooms. Cook, stirring often, until tender, and the mushrooms have softened about 10 minutes. Stir in the cooked rice and the remaining ingredients. Cook, stirring until the sherry has evaporated. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with the fish.
Honey- Baked Squash
1 large acorn squash (1 1/2 pounds), seeds removed cut into 8 lengthwise wedges
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon honey
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Arrange the squash wedges on a foil-lined baking sheet.
Drizzle the olive oil over the squash wedges.
Pan-Seared Chilean Sea Bass With Lemon Sauce
1 lemon halved, seeds removed
2 (6-7ounces each) Chilean Sea Bass fillets skin removed, each cut in half
1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or oregano
Place a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When very hot, add lemon cut-side down. Coat fish in flour that has been mixed with salt and pepper. When the lemon just begins to brown, about 3 minutes, push them to one side of the skillet and add oil and fish. Cook until fish is browned and just opaque in the center, about 4 minutes per side, lowering heat if lemons and fish brown too quickly. Transfer fish and lemon to a serving plate.
Place the skillet over low heat and add shallot. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in wine and cook for 1 minute. Squeeze 2 lemon halves through a strainer into the skillet. Remove from heat and swirl in butter. Stir in thyme and pour the sauce over the fish.
1 cup pearled farro
1 cup fresh apple cider
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup roughly chopped fresh basil leaves
Place the farro, apple cider, bay leaves, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes, until the farro is tender. Drain the farro and transfer to a large serving bowl.
Discard the bay leaves.
Stir in the herbs and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Stir. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.
2-10 oz packages frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
Salt and pepper to taste.
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Heat on medium and let the spinach cook slowly until tender and silky., about 15 minutes.
About 1.3 million Americans are of Greek descent and have the majority live in New York City, Boston, and Chicago. However, Tarpon Springs, Florida is home to the highest per capita representation of Greek Americans in the country (11%).
In 1768 about 500 Greeks from Smyrna, Crete, and Mani settled in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. The colony was unsuccessful, and the settlers moved to St. Augustine in 1776. The first significant Greek community to settle in the U.S. was in New Orleans, Louisiana during the 1850s. By 1866, the community was numerous and prosperous enough to have a Greek consulate and the first official Greek Orthodox Church in the United States. Immigration picked up again in the 1890s and early 20th century, due largely to economic opportunity in the U.S. Most of these immigrants worked in the northeastern cities in the United States; while others labored on railroad construction and in the mines of the western states. Many Greek immigrants expected to work and return to their homeland after earning capital and dowries for their families. However, due to conflicts between Greece and Turkey, Greek immigrants lost the right to return to their homeland and were made refugees. Additionally, in 1924 the first widely implemented U.S. immigration limit against non-Western European immigrants created an impetus for immigrants to apply for citizenship and permanently settle in the U.S.
Greeks began to arrive in large numbers after 1945, fleeing the economic devastation caused by World War II and the Greek Civil War. From 1946 until 1982, approximately 211,000 Greeks emigrated to the United States. In the aftermath of the recent Greek financial crisis, there has been a resurgence of Greek emigration to New York City with the majority of the immigrants settling in Astoria, Queens.
As immigrants from various Greek areas, they settled in different regions of the United States and became “Greek Americans”. Many of their traditional foods and recipes depended on the availability of those ingredients in the U.S. so these recipes often developed into new traditions. For example, Greek Salad is called Horiatiki in Greece and the salad is made with feta and cucumber, but no lettuce—only the Greek American version of the salad contains lettuce. Greek cuisine has certainly influenced American cuisine not only with the popularity of Greek salad but also with foods like gyros, souvlaki, and baklava.
Contemporary Greek cooking makes wide use of olive oil, vegetables and herbs, grains and bread, wine, fish, and meats that include lamb, poultry, rabbit and pork. Also important are olives, cheese, eggplant (aubergine), zucchini (courgette), and yogurt. Greek desserts are usually made with nuts and honey.
Below are some traditional Greek recipes for you to try.
Spanakopita (Spinach Triangles)
10 sheets of phyllo dough
500g spinach washed and roughly chopped (18 ounces)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 eggs, beaten
200g feta cheese, crumbled (7 ounces)
Pinch of grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
Melted butter for the pastry
Salt and pepper to taste
Sauté the onions in the olive oil until soft and turning golden. Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the spinach in batches and cook until wilted. Let the mixture cool down in a colander to drain. Pour into a mixing bowl. Mix in the feta cheese, eggs, nutmeg, dill, salt, and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Spread one sheet of the phyllo dough on the kitchen counter and keep the rest covered with a cloth.
With a cooking brush drizzle some melted butter on the phyllo sheet on the counter. Spread one more sheet on top and drizzle with some more butter.
Cut the phyllo sheets in 3-4 lengthwise pieces (depending on if you like the spanakopita triangles to be small or larger). At the end of each piece add one tablespoon of the filling. Fold one corner over the filling to form a triangle and continue folding the triangle upon itself, until the entire piece of phyllo is used. Continue with the rest of the phyllo sheets and filling.
Oil the bottom of a large baking dish, place the spanakopita triangles in the dish and brush them with more melted butter. Bake in the preheated oven at 25-30 minutes, until golden and crispy. Serve with Tzatziki Sauce.
Greek Tzatziki Sauce
1 cup plain Greek Yogurt
2 teaspoons fresh dill chopped
1/2 cup cucumber, peeled and seeded
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, grated
Chop the cucumber into tiny pieces, place in a colander and sprinkle lightly with salt. Let drain for 20 minutes. Squeeze dry in a paper towel. Place in a mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for several hours.
Grilled Zucchini and Lamb Chops
1 large zucchini
4 loin lamb chops
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried Greek seasoning or oregano
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Cut the zucchini into quarters. Combine the marinade ingredients in a ziplock food storage bag. Give it a shake. Add the lamb and zucchini, seal the bag and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
Preheat an outdoor or stovetop grill. Place the lamb and zucchini quarters on the grill and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side. Remove to a serving platter and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
1 cup couscous
1 cup of water
1/2 cup diced roasted red peppers
1/2 cup diced sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 oz crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Prepare couscous as directed on the package. (Boil the water, add couscous, stir quickly. remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes). Do not add butter and salt.
In a large bowl, mix peppers, tomatoes, and olives together well. Add couscous and stir with a fork to fluff the couscous.
Add the oil, pine nuts, and feta and stir gently to combine. Sprinkle with parsley.
Modern-day Native American cuisine encompasses all the traditional foods of long ago, such as cornbread, turkey, cranberries, blueberries, hominy, and mush and many of these recipes have been adopted into the cuisine of the United States. The most important native American crops include corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, sunflowers, wild rice, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, peanuts, avocados, papayas, potatoes, and chocolate. North American native cuisine can differ somewhat from Southwestern and Mexican cuisine due to its inclusion of ramps, wild ginger, miner’s’ lettuce, and juniper berries that add subtle flavors to the cuisine.
Staple foods of the Eastern Woodlands Native Americans were corn (also known as maize), beans, and squash. This combination is referred to as the “Three Sisters” because they were planted interdependently: The beans grew up the tall stalks of the maize, while the squash spread out at the base of the three plants and provided protection and support for the root systems. A number of other domesticated crops were also popular during some time periods in the Eastern Woodlands, including a variety of amaranth, sumpweed (marsh elder), little barley, maygrass, and sunflowers. Maple syrup is another example of an essential food staple of the Woodland Indigenous peoples whereby tree sap was collected from sugar maple trees at the beginning of springtime.
Southeastern Native American cuisine forms the cornerstone of Southern cuisine from its origins right up to present times. From Southeastern Native Americans came one of the main staples of the Southern diet: corn (maize), either ground into meal or limed with an alkaline salt to make hominy. Corn was used for cornbread, grits, and liquors such as whiskey, which were important trade items. Though a lesser staple, the potato was also adopted from the Native Americans and used in many ways similar to corn. Native Americans introduced Southerners to many other vegetables still familiar on southern tables, such as squash, pumpkin, many types of beans, tomatoes, many types of peppers, sassafras and many other wild berries.
Indigenous peoples of the Great Plains relied heavily on American bison (American buffalo) as a food source. The meat was cut in thin slices and dried, either over a slow fire or in the hot sun until it was hard and brittle. Since it could last for months, it was the main ingredient to be combined with other foods, or eaten on its own. Other foods included pemmican, a concentrated mixture of fat, protein, and fruits such as cranberries, Saskatoon berries, blueberries, cherries, chokeberries, chokecherries, and currants. Staple foods also included turnips, wild berries, potatoes, squash, dried meats (venison, buffalo, jackrabbit, pheasant, and prairie chicken), and wild rice. Great Plains Indians also consumed deer and antelope.
In the Northwest Native Americans used salmon and other types of fish, mushrooms, berries, and meats such as deer, duck, and rabbit. The generally mild climate meant they did not need to develop an economy based upon agriculture but instead could rely year-round on the abundant food supplies of their region. Acorns were ground into a flour that was the principal foodstuff for about 75 percent of the population, and dried meats were prepared during the season when drying was possible.
Puebloans lived in southeastern Utah, northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico, and southwestern Colorado and practiced subsistence agriculture by cultivating maize, beans, squash, and sunflower seeds. They utilized locally available wild resources such as pine nuts from the pinyon pine and hunted game including deer, hare, rabbits, and squirrel. They were also known for their basketry and pottery to hold agricultural surplus that needed to be carried and stored, as well as clay pot cooking. Grinding stones were used to grind maize into meal for cooking.
Recently, The James Beard Foundation (JBF) announced that Sean Sherman, a member of the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota would receive a Leadership Award for his work in helping Native Americans reclaim historic food and agricultural systems. The award acknowledges Sherman’s efforts to recognize the Native American diet and revitalize traditional indigenous food systems in North America.
A Native American Dinner
Grilled Wild Salmon
The foil packets may also be baked in a 375-degree F oven for 15 minutes.
3 whole juniper berries
1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
Top greens from 1 bunch scallions, cut into one-inch pieces
2 wild caught salmon fillets, skin on (about 12 oz total)
1/4 cup Pure Maple Syrup
Preheat an outdoor grill.
Cut two pieces of foil big enough to hold the fish with a couple of inches overlapping all around the fish. Divide the scallion tops in half and place them on each piece of foil. Place the salmon fillets on top, skin side down.
Sprinkle each with salt and pepper.
Finely crush the juniper berries and mustard seeds in a mortar.
Brush each fillet with 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and sprinkle the top of each fillet with the crushed seeds.
Close the foil and seal the ends. Place foil packets on the grill and cover the grill. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes.
Use tongs or a metal spatula to remove foil packet from the grill and set it on a plate or cutting board. Allow it to cool enough to handle, then unwrap the foil.
Wild Rice Blend
The blend is a combination of Long Grain Brown Rice, Sweet Brown Rice, Wild Rice, Whole Grain Wehani® Rice, Whole Grain Black Japonica™ Rice.
1 cup (Lundberg) wild rice blend
1 3/4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
Combine rice, water, salt, and butter in a pot and bring to a boil.
Cover with a tight-fitting lid, reduce heat to low-simmer, and cook 45 minutes.
Remove the pot from heat (with the lid on!) and steam for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.
One 1 lb butternut or acorn squash
2 tablespoons soft butter
Salt and black pepper to taste
5 sage leaves minced
1 long chive leaf, minced
Halve the squash lengthwise and remove the seeds and strings. Rub the insides with the butter; season with salt and pepper. Place on a roasting pan, skin side down. Bake in a preheated 350-degree F oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until fork tender. Remove the squash from the oven, scoop out the flesh and place in a food processor or blender and process until smooth; or mash the squash in a large bowl using the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with minced sage and chives.
Spices are very important in Moroccan cuisine. Common spices include cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, ginger, paprika, coriander, saffron, mace, cloves, fennel, anise, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, fenugreek, caraway, black pepper, and sesame seeds. Twenty-seven spices are combined for the famous Moroccan spice mixture called “ras el hanout”.
Due to its location on the Mediterranean Sea, the country is rich in natural resources and meals are usually built around seafood, lamb or poultry. The Moroccan national dish is a tagine or stew named for a special pot that is used for cooking. Common ingredients include chicken or lamb, almonds, hard-boiled eggs, prunes, lemons, tomatoes, and other vegetables. The tajine, like other Moroccan dishes, is known for its distinctive flavoring, which comes from spices that may include saffron, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, and ground red pepper. Give this Moroccan inspired recipe a try.
Moroccan Spiced Chicken
1 tablespoon chili paste (harissa or sambal oelek)
1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/2 tablespoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 orange, zested, then cut into segments
2 tablespoons oil
4 bone-in chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup diced cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup green olives
1/4 cup chopped preserved lemon
Couscous, recipe below
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Heat a wide, deep braising pan over medium-high heat.
In a small bowl, combine the chili paste, paprika, turmeric, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, coriander, allspice, cardamom, cayenne, orange zest, and 1 tablespoon oil. Stir to form a paste.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper; rub half of the spice mixture on both sides of the chicken thighs.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the heated pan. Sear the chicken skin-side down until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn and brown the other side. Remove the chicken to a plate.
Add the garlic, onion and remaining spice mixture to the same pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the onions are softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
Return the chicken to the pan along with the tomatoes, chicken stock, olives, preserved lemon, and sliced oranges. Cover the pan and place it in the oven to braise for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Uncover and continue to braise until the chicken is tender, another 15 to 20 minutes.
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole wheat couscous
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ¼ cups no salt added chicken broth
Bring the chicken broth and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Pour in the couscous and the olive oil, give a quick stir, cover and turn off the heat. Let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork to break up any lump and serve.
1 English cucumber, sliced thin
1 scallion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup plain whole milk Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed.
Combine all the ingredients in a serving bowl. Mix well, cover the dish and refrigerate several hours before serving.