Did you see the endearing movie Brooklyn? Saoirse Ronan portrays Eilis, a young Irish woman who moves to Brooklyn in 1952 and lives in an Irish boarding house. Eilis quickly expands her world and her palate when she meets and marries a young Italian named Tony. Eilis even tastes spaghetti for the first time.
The movie Brooklyn is a reminder that the United States is a delicious melting pot of cuisines and cultures. To celebrate this concept, I am pairing Brooklyn with Chef Pierre Thiam’s recipe for Eggplant and Palm Oil Risotto. This dish is a nod to the Italian technique of risotto along with the stew like elements of an Irish recipe.
Furthermore, Chef Pierre Thiam is a Senegalese born chef who lives in Brooklyn! In our Kitchen Chat, Chef Pierre discusses the importance of “teranga” a Senegalese word that means hospitality. I hope you will enjoy the taste of “teranga” with this recipe and the movie, Brooklyn.
Who do you think will win during the Oscars?
Savor the day!
Reprinted from Senegal: Modern Senegalese Recipes from the Source to the Bowl by Pierre Thiam with Jennifer Sit (Lake Isle Press, 2016)
Recipe © Pierre Thiam
Eggplant & Palm Oil Risotto
with Sorrel-Okra sauce
This dish reminds me of a meal I used to eat at my grandparents’ house in Casamance: a simple nyankatang (plain cooked rice) with a tambadjan (dried bonito) steamed right in it and served with palm oil. Sometimes Grandma would bury a golf ball–sized suul (a fermented locust bean mixture) in the steaming rice, infusing the whole dish with a deep savory flavor. In this recipe, the fermented flavor comes from fish sauce. If you’re vegetarian, you can leave the fish sauce out.
2 cups basmati rice, washed
5 tablespoons red palm oil or vegetable oil
2 medium Japanese eggplants, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups full-fat coconut milk
1 cup vegetable stock or water
2 tablespoons Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
Baguedj (recipe follows), for serving
›› Soak the rice in water for 1 hour, up to overnight. Drain.
›› In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the eggplant with half of the onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and stir frequently until the eggplant is soft. Remove from the heat.
›› In a heavy pot, such as a Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the remaining onion and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft. Add the drained rice and stir well to coat. Add the coconut milk and stock and stir well. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the fish sauce. Cover tightly with a lid. Cook until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
›› Fold in the remaining tablespoon of oil and the reserved eggplant. Top with the parsley, cilantro, and lime juice and serve hot with the baguedj on the side.
Baguedj (Sorrel-Okra Sauce)
Baguedj is a condiment for okra lovers. I love to serve it with fish and rice dishes such as caldou or white thiebou jenn. The acidity of the sorrel cuts particularly well through the unctuous okra in this beautiful, simple sauce.
Makes about 1 cup
4 or 5 okra pods, trimmed and coarsely chopped
2 bunches sorrel or 1 bunch spinach, coarsely chopped
1 Scotch bonnet pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)
›› In a small saucepan, cook the okra in boiling water until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
›› In a separate pot, over medium heat, cook the sorrel with a few tablespoons of water, the Scotch bonnet (if using), and fish sauce until soft and wilted, about 5 minutes. Drain.
›› In a food processor, purée the sorrel with the okra and black pepper. (If using spinach, add the lemon juice.) The mixture should be light; if too thick, add a little bit of water. Serve in a small bowl as a side to the eggplant risotto or any fish dish.
›› Alternatively, you can also pound the cooked ingredients with a mortar and pestle or mix them together with a wooden spoon until the sauce holds. This method makes an airier sauce that looks almost like foam (the longer you mix, the airier it will get).