Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I cried the first time I saw the ocean, reminiscing on her East African sister. Then sweet and sudden it hits you...that smell. That familiar aroma of fresh clams being roasted on a makeshift grill. The scent of the sea mixed with the smell of sweat from hardworking people. The fragrance of labor, of determination, the scent of hope in the midst and in spite of struggle. The coast. The water altar of working class people from working class places, who bleed for a dollar and struggle towards rest. Where we come for consolation and to lay our burdens as well as our bodies down at the shore. Eyes set on the majestic horizon, where dreams trod. Today the sun is kind and the winds they breeze through, mimicking the tides sway. And with them they carry the sound of children and the thump thump of Mexican Banda and Mariachi music from a muffled car sound system. The Grand Prix is in town, so the beach and streets are packed. We shuffle to our own individual rhythms to find our piece of concrete and continue on to our destinations. Street missionaries hold up signs citing "Repent for the End is here". As the wealthy sit on gated patios of seafood restaurants, unsmiling, Vans and skinny jean clad teenagers on skateboards, laugh and zig-zag through the sea of pedestrians. I'm home. Long Beach. I salute you. Its been a long time.
I can remember being a youth running in our courtyard. Every afternoon, once we children were spent from play, my downstairs neighbor would call all of us to her doorstep for a quick munch. I can still conjure up the toasted smell of flour tortillas quick fried in butter and stuffed with scrambled eggs. These days I choose to be a vegan, however i can still appreciate the tenderness and kindness associated with the gift of a meal. I never knew that woman's name, nor did we speak the same language, but the memory of her giving resounds in my mind, even now. As I sit and reflect on this memory, taking in the fullness of home, I realize there is no better way to honor this then through my own giving. Tonight's meal will be Enchiladas.
This meal holds a history for me. It's full of a richness of a people. A richness of cultures intermarried to create this beautiful decadent cuisine. It goes back all the way to the Valley of Mexico, peopled by the Mayan civilization and finds a richness in my family's hometown of Coastal Texas. The men and women of my family took this dish and made it their own, depending on the individual tastes. This is not fine restaurant cuisine. It's what you'll find at a dinner table, surrounded by family, carrying all their experiences and emotions, ready to be comforted by great food. More times than I can remember I watched my mother at the kitchen table, sweating from the heat of the over, grating, chopping and mixing for hours to prepare this dish. It conjures up memories and sounds of neighbors blasting the music of their culture. I would sit in the living room, my head feeling as if it were on the verge of exploding and the very walls seemed they would crumble each time a horn sounded. I recall a people, dancing, celebrating, ululating, singing, loving, at the moment indifferent to a work week that was a day away. And this is the food that comes from that.
In preparing the dish, I take my place in line with the men and women of my family and other families who've all prepared enchiladas with their own signature style. Now I offer mine, Vegan Enchiladas, signed, ME. Love

Vegan Enchiladas
  • 2 cups of black beans (cleaned and cooked until tender, with onions, garlic, bay leaf, Mexican seasonings)
  • Tortillas (corn or flour) for this recipe I used flour. (taco/fajita size)
  • 2 cups of red chile enchilada sauce (pretty easy to make, but store-bought is not bad)
  • Vegan cheese (rice, soy or coconut)
  • 1 bunch of spinach chopped and lightly steamed
  • 1/2 yellow onion diced
  • 2 scallions chopped
  • Handful of cilantro diced

Into each tortilla add black beans, spinach and cheese (desired amount). Roll each individual enchilada and place ends down into casserole dish. Repeat until the casserole dish is filled. Cover the entire casserole dish and each enchilada generously with the red chile sauce. Top with diced, onions, scallions, cilantro and leftover cheese. Bake in oven on 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until heated through and cheese has melted. I usually serve this with fresh pico de gallo, guacamole and Spanish rice. For variations add olives on top or diced chiles. Also this same recipe can be used with corn tortillas. However, when I use the corn tortillas I dip each individual tortilla in the chile sauce before stuffing and then also sauce on top. Injoy!!

Ackee Tacos

* My interpretation of a breakfast taco using ackee in place of egg or tofu.
  • 3 red or russet potatoes, chopped.
  • 1 can of Ackee
  • 11 soft corn tortilla shells
  • fresh pico de gallo
  • 2 avocados diced
  • 1 clove of garlic diced
  • 1/2 onion chopped
First smother potatoes in sunflower oil with onions until tender. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Saute garlic in sunflower oil, add ackee and Mexican seasonings. Cook until warmed through. Also in sunflower oil (about a teaspoon) lightly toss and "fry" corn tortilla shells until slightly crispy. Once the shells are heated, stuff with potatoes, ackee, avocado and pico de gallo. Injoy!!!

My Kitchen Sounds Like: "Working Ways" by Stephen Marley feat. Spragga Benz. Revelation Pt.1

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