Callaloo and okra soup

August 6, 2008

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Serves 4

Brian Benjamin's rules for cooking: "It's all about tasting. You can always add but you can't take away. Taste and add spices at the end. Soup always tastes better the next day." To make coconut milk, Benjamin grates a whole coconut, adds 1 cup of warm water, and lets it stand for 15 minutes before straining and pressing on the coconut to squeeze out all the milk. If that's too cumbersome, canned unsweetened coconut milk is readily available.

2pounds fresh callaloo leaves or spinach, stemmed
5tablespoons coconut oil (from a specialty market)
2scallions, chopped
2cubanelle peppers, cored, seeded, and chopped
1onion, chopped
12okra, thinly sliced
4cloves garlic, finely chopped
2tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2cups canned unsweetened coconut milk
2cups water, or more if necessary
1/4teaspoon sugar
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1. Rinse and coarsely chop the callaloo or spinach.

2. In a large flameproof casserole, heat 3 tablespoons of the coconut oil. When it is hot, add the callaloo or spinach, scallions, cubanelle, onion, okra, garlic, and thyme. Cook, stirring, for 8 minutes or until the onion softens and the greens wilt.

3. Add coconut milk and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer the soup, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Add the sugar, salt, and black pepper.

4. Ladle into bowls and use the remaining 2 tablespoons coconut oil to garnish each bowl. Adapted from B.B.'s Crabback