Caribbean food may be the most diverse unified culinary culture on the planet, deriving from among its origins African, Middle Eastern, Asian, European and tradition while utilizing locally available fare. Some of the most popular ingredients you can find growing in the West Indies include ackee, coconut, guava, jicama, mango, okra, papaya, plantain, and yucca. Endemic to the region are countless species of fish and shellfish, and you will also find pigs, sheep, cows, and goats. Caribbean food is perhaps best known for its array of spices, including cayenne, allspice, cumin, turmeric, and thyme.
One of the national dishes of Trinidad and Tobago is callaloo. It has a well balanced combination of sweet, savory, and spicy ingredients; its primary ingredient are leaves of the dasheen or Taro; and it is served with either crab or pigtails. From Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland:
“Callaloo is the leaves of the dasheen bush. You can’t get dasheen easy here…But if you can’t get the real thing, you make it with spinach. You put in coconut milk: you grate the flesh of the coconut fine and you squeeze it and the moisture come out. You also put in whole green pepper—it don’t be hot unless you burst it—thyme, chive, garlic, onion.”
So we bastardize, which, writing honestly, is the modus operandi of today’s American cooking. It’s why we have words in our culinary lexicon such as fusion and New American Cuisine. For my version of callaloo I tried to make it as modern as possible, adhering both to the vegan diet and the kale revolution.
Here’s what you’ll need
- 2-14 Ounce (400 ml) Cans Coconut Milk
- 1 Quart (1 L) Water
- 2 Pounds Kale, Washed and Chopped
- 1 Pound Okra, Sliced
- 6 Cloves Garlic, Minced
- 1 Medium Spanish Onion, Chopped
- 1 Large Poblano Pepper, Diced
- 3 Sprigs Thyme
- 1 Habanero, whole or chopped**
- 1 Bunch Chives, Chopped
- Trini Green Seasoning (optional). Grab it here  or see recipe below.
Here’s what you’ll do
- Heat a heavy pot or Dutch oven on the stove on medium-high heat.
- Add Coconut Milk and Water to the pot and bring to a boil.
- Add the Kale in several batches as the leaves wilt in the liquid.
- Heat a large skillet on high, coating with EVOO. Sauté Onions, Garlic, and Poblano until well-caramelized, roughly 5 minutes.
- Add Okra to the Onions and Garlic to the skillet and sauté until browned, roughly 3 minutes.
- Transfer the Okra, Onions, and Garlic to the Kale pot, and then add Thyme sprigs, Habanero, and Chives.
**Note: If you want some extra heat in this dish (like I do), you can chop the Habanero and add to the pot. Season the callaloo with salt and pepper.
**Note: Handling Habanero peppers while chopping is potentially hazardous. Use vinyl gloves and keep your hands away from your face and genitals.
- Stir in 1/3 Cup Trini Green Seasoning. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low, allowing the callaloo to simmer for 1 hour, whisking occasionally until the consistency is like that of a creamed spinach.
Note: If you want to go traditional, use a swizzle stick. Not the bar swizzle stick, but the Trini swizzle stick. Check it out. 
- You can always add a few tablespoons of Trini Green Seasoning, which you can buy easily, or use this great recipe.
If you must include animal protein in this dish, add steamed blue crabs or pickled pig-tails while the callaloo simmers and serve over a roasted fish high in fatty acids, such as mackerel, herring, tuna, or atlantic salmon. And for the love of all that is holy in the world of eating, please avoid farm raised fish.
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