Ital food is largely unknown outside of the Rasta community. I mean, most every time I say "Ital," people think I'm talking about Italian cuisine in some food-snobby vernacular. Portland had no Ital that I know of until a few months ago, when this bright little cart popped up on SW 5th and College.
And not a moment too soon! I thought I'd die if I didn't have some properly prepared black-eyed peas, set off with fried plantains. There's also some fake-y meat-y stuff that vegans think is good, but I'll pass. I'll take greens and rice over soy protein isolate anyday.
Asaase Ital Palace offered two dishes that instantly appealed to me: Red-Red and Gold & Green.
They made me think that I should name all of my dishes after colors; it's totally the right idea.Food should be vibrant and inviting: nobody wants to eat Beige-Beige or Brown & Grey. Unless it's Jewish food, which should not stray too far from the ecru color palette. Anyway, they were both totally satisfying and full of flavor. If you're in Portland, mosey on over and check it out. If not, try my cheating version.
Black-Eyed Pea Curry With Steamed Plantains
Jamaican curries were influenced by Indian curries, but with their own spin on the spice blend. The biggest difference is that Jamaican curry powder calls for star anise. Since pre-blended Jamaican curry powder can be hard to find, I rigged up this cheater blend simply by adding punk-rock-looking star anise to a regular old curry powder. I know it's hard to believe, but steaming plantains coaxes out their sweet flavor and succulent texture even better than frying does. Give it a try. Serve with jasmine rice and sauteed asaparagus or greens.
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot
1 red pepper, finely diced
1/2 to 1 habañero pepper, seeded and minced (depending on how spicy you like things)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger
2 bay leaves
1 star anise
2 teaspoons mild curry powder
About 3 stems of fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup water
16 oz can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon light agave nectar
Juice from about 1/2 a lime
2 very ripe plantains, split lengthwise and cut into 1 inch chunks
Bring your steamer apparatus to a boil and preheat a small, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Saute the shallot, red pepper, and habañero in the oil for about five minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and ginger, bay leaf, and star anise, and saute about two minutes more. Add a splash of water, the curry powder, the cinnamon and thyme stems. Mix for about 30 seconds, just to toast the curry powder a bit.
Add the salt, coconut milk, water, and beans. Cover and heat through for about five minutes. Add agave and lime. Taste for salt and seasoning. Turn off heat, let sit for 10 minutes to let flavors meld. Remove thyme stems, anise, and bay leaves.
In the meantime, steam the plantain for about five minutes. They should appear plump and bright yellow.
To assemble: Serve beans over rice (or any grain) in wide-rimmed bowls. Top with plantains.
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Isa Chandra Moskowitz is America's most popular vegan chef. The author of several bestselling cookbooks, her work has been featured in countless print and on-line publications. A Brooklyn native, she now lives in Portland, Oregon. Visit her online at The Post-Punk Kitchen.
Books mentioned in this post
Isa Chandra Moskowitz is the author of Vegan Brunch: Homestyle Recipes Worth Waking Up For -- From Asparagus Omelets to Pumpkin Pancakes