Banana Leaf Wrapped Snapper

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Banana Leaf Wrapped Snapper

One of the many things I love about living in the tropics is how easy it is to get ingredients that are “exotic” back home. My last post was about banana bread (which isn’t really very exotic). I’m going to continue the banana theme but use something that back home is a bit more exotic- Banana Leaves. One of the largest crops grown Isla de Ometepe, the island where we live, are bananas of all varieties. Everywhere you look are banana trees. I know in the states you can sometimes find banana leaves in the supermarket, but here we just cut them from the yard. And they weren’t the only ingredient in this recipe that came from our yard. The lemongrass was fresh from the garden as well. This was actually my first experience cooking with lemongrass and I was very pleased. I’ve only ever used it before in tea. We also have ginger growing on our property but it’s so cheap here right now it isn’t worth the trouble to dig the roots out of the ground. It costs me less the 50 cents a pound so I use it A LOT. Homemade ginger ale is great (and even better with Flor de Cana, the Nicaraguan Rum). The tumeric and limes we used were also locally grown.

Anyway, the inspiration for this dish was the banana leaves. We had the fish and I’m always trying to come up with different ways to use the same ingredients (we may get what’s exotic back home but we don’t get a lot of variety). Once we decided we wanted to cook the fish in the banana leaves I started looking for some recipes to get some interesting idea. I ended up adapting this recipe for Banana Leaf Wrapped Snapper from Martha Stewart. In the end it’s quite the adaptation because I didn’t have a good number of the ingredients so I used it more as a guideline. I didn’t have the fish sauce or shrimp paste, nor did I have tamarind pulp (though I can find that here). So I added the coconut and sesame oils and the soy sauce for the some richness and Asian flavors. I added the curry powder instead of chilli and I think we got sufficient kick. We did bake the fish instead of grilling it. I can’t say that I’ve tried the original recipe for a comparison but we were very happy with the end result.

We served the fish over a bed of veggie egg fried rice with a side of local squash. Yum yum yum.

Banana Leaf Wrapped Snapper

2 Snapper Fillets

Banana Leaves

1 Piece Fresh Ginger Peeled and Chopped (about 2 inches)

3 cloves of Garlic Chopped

1 Stalk Lemongrass Chopped (only the white part)

1/2 Onion Chopped

1 tsp Tumeric

1/2 tsp Curry Powder

1 TBSP Coconut Oil

1 TBSP Sesame Oil

1 TBSP Vegetable Oil

1/2 TBSP Soy Sauce

1 Lime Quartered

Pre-heat oven to 350 Degrees. Mix onion, garlic, ginger, lemon grass, oils, soy sauce and spices using a blender or food processor until a paste is formed (I use an immersion blender).  Place each snapper fillet on a prepared banana leaf. Spoon a generous portion of the prepared paste on each fillet and spread. Garnish with a lime slice. Close each banana leaf around the fillet and secure with a toothpick. Place in a baking dish and cook for 15-20 minutes.

Banana Leaf Wrapped Snapper

Banana Leaf Wrapped Snapper

Mediterranean Night- Hummus and Falafel

Hummus

I remember the first time I ever ate falafel. It was freshman orientation when I attended University of RI. An upperclassman took each orientation group for a tour of the campus and one of the obligatory stops was a shopping center, right next to- but not technically on- campus. As we were herded passed the coffee shops and pharmacy, we came upon Falafel Dave. Falafel Dave was standing outside his little stand with an enormous grin from ear to ear saying, “Come in, have a sample of my falafel.” We freshman dutifully lined up to receive our sample of falafel dipped in hummus.

“What is it?” people mumbled.

“It’s good,” said the upperclassman.

“Is it vegetarian?” I asked. At the time I was loosely vegetarian.

“Yup.”

“And it’s good?” I asked. I had had very little vegetarian food that most people would say tasted good. I didn’t like veggie burgers or anything in that whole classification of what I think of as vegetarian food- lentils, beans, stuff that comes out as a brown mush. That falafel changed my mind about classic vegetarian foods. Well maybe not entirely. I still don’t like lentils or brown mush. However, I did learn that if you look outside American vegetarian cuisine there’s all kinds of good things you can enjoy.

Another favorite of mine, that goes hand-in-hand with falafel is hummus. No party is complete without hummus. It goes great with veggies, it goes well on chips or bread. For years I’ve been buying tubs of hummus in the grocery store, never knowing that hummus is one of the easiest things in the world to make. You just dump all the ingredients into a food processor and blend. I started making

hummus a couple of months ago and now I’m amazed that I ever bought it in the store. And the great thing about making it yourself is you can balance the flavors yourself. I personally like lots of garlic. I’ve been buying my chickpeas in cans and using those for my hummus. While I do reuse the cans, in the interest in cutting down on waste (and cost) this last time I bought dried chickpeas.

Since I had all these chickpeas we decided to have a Mediterranean night, with falafel and hummus. I was going to try to make pita bread as well but the recipes we a bit daunting based on what time I started prepping for dinner. So instead I whipped up some flour tortillas which worked as a nice flat bread substitute. We topped it with some slices of tomatoes and cucumber (the cucumber came from our garden). It was so filling we had leftovers for the next day.

Falafel and Hummus

For this I used half a 14 oz bag of dried chick peas. I intended to soak them over night but forgot. So instead I boiled 4 cups of water and added the chick peas. I let them boil for about 2 minutes then set them aside covered to soak for one hour. Then I drained the remaining water off (into my garden) and used half the chickpeas for the hummus and half for the falafel.

Hummus  -yields about 8 oz

2 cups of chickpeas (you can 1 16 oz can as well)

1/4- 1/2 cup Olive Oil

1 TBSP Tahini (you can skip this if you don’t have it- but it adds to the flavor)

2 cloves of garlic

salt to taste

Add all ingredients to your food processor, blender or I used an immersion blender and blend until smooth.

Falafel- makes 4 falafel balls

2 cups of chickpeas (canned chickpeas may result in soggy falafel)

1/2 small onion

a few sprigs if parsely

1/4 tsp cumin

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 TBSP Flour

Add all ingredients into your food processor (again I used my immersion blender, not the right tool) and blend until a coarse crumbly consistency.

Refrigerate for one hour.

Add 1/2 inch to 1 inch of oil to a cast iron skillet and heat up the oil.

Form small balls using about 2 TBSP of the falafel mixture.

My wonderful husband mans the fryer

My wonderful husband  mans the fryer

Add the falafal to the pan and fry for about 3-5 minutes per side.

Remove from oil and drain.

Serve with pita or flat bread, hummus, tomatoes, or whatever you fancy.

Enjoy!

That cucumber is from my garden

That cucumber is from my garden