Islas: A Celebration of Tropical Cooking―125 Recipes from the Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific Ocean Islands
“Whatever you cook or don’t cook, this book is a trip to the islands or islas of the world.”
A beauty of a book, all lively colors, and wonderful photos, Islas: A Celebration of Tropical Cooking takes us from island to island through the Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans.
“The people who live on tropical islands are among the toughest, scrappiest, most resilient people of the planet,” writes author Von Diaz, an Emmy Award-winning documentarian, food historian, and author of Coconuts to Collards: Recipes and Stories from Puerto Rico to the Deep South. “Storms have always been unpredictable, and generations of islanders have cultivated ancestral knowledge around how to survive and, importantly, how to feed themselves despite it all. With limited ingredients, they cook in ways that are soul-nourishing and emphasize flavor. Making magic out of what’s available.”
Her cookbook is about preserving the wisdom and values of island people who live in what Diaz describes as the most volatile and vulnerable places on the planet. She follows their histories and how the grapple with their new realities, combining legacy, adaptability, culture, and fortitude.
She tells and shows us cooking techniques and recipes from faraway places such as Santo, Vanuatu’s largest island. Here we meet Primrose Siri who shares such recipes as Laplap, the national dish with its alternative layers of starch such as cassava or yam, seafood or chicken, herbs, spices, and fresh coconut milk cooked oven an earth oven heated with hot rock. Closer to home, there’s Pasteles de Masa, a Puerto Rican Christmas traditional dessert.
Even those who may never cook Arroz Negro Con Pulpo y Calamares (Black Rice with Octopus and Squid) with its rice blackened with squid ink, will be intrigued by this Puerto Rican dish that is definitely eye catching.
Keshi Yena’s history dates back to the first Dutch colonial period in Curaçao, a bustling island some 30 miles off the coast of Venezuela. It is the food of enslaved people, as Curaçao was a slave port, who out of necessity took the rinds of cheeses such as Gouda that were discarded by their masters and stuffing it with meat scraps and other scavenged ingredients.
Some recipes are simple and easy to make at home without a lot of extra ingredients such as Ensalada Talong (Grilled Eggplant and Vegetable Salad) from the Philippines. Others, such as Monfongo Con Guiso, a common dish of green plantains and chicharron or fried pork skins in Puerto Rico are more time consuming but within reach of any cook who wants to give it a try.
The book is arranged by the chapters including the island’s cooking techniques: Marinating, Pickling + Fermentation, Braising + Stewing, Steaming + In-Ground Cooking, Frying, Grilling, Roasting + Smoking, as well as pantry staples, and sauces, spice blends, and condiments that can easily be made.
Whatever you cook or don’t cook, this book is a trip to the islands or islas of the world.