“My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard, and they’re like, it’s better than yours…la-la, la la la la…”
Wait. Kelis. Kelis. Where do I know that name from? Waitaminute. “Milkshake” Kelis? Girl, is that YOU?
I was in Barnes & Noble scanning the New in Cookbooks table when it caught my eye. No way. I flipped through the introduction.
Turns out Kelis does more than just milkshakes. Lots more. Who knew that in between cranking out that infectious dance tune and touring, she went and quietly enrolled herself in Le Cordon Bleu to become a trained chef?
I love food. I love folks who reinvent themselves in the most unexpected and interesting of ways. So there was no way I was NOT going to buy her newly published cookbook My Life on a Plate.
Just not at this register.
Don’t act like you don’t know what came next. I stood there in the store, whipped out my phone, looked up the price on Amazon, and dropped it in my cart. Delivered tomorrow for FREE with qualifying orders over $35, whispered Amazon seductively under the book title and price. Why, thank you, boo. Just so happens I left stuff in my cart from before, just waiting for me to pull the trigger. But you knew that already, didn’t you? Yet another reason why you and I go together like peas and carrots. And as long as Prime membership is our bond, the sparks between us will continue to fly.
Open Letter to Barnes & Noble:
Yes, I know it’s shady to walk in your store, lay hands on and flirt with your goods only to leave the dance with someone else. I feel dirty when I do it, if that’s any consolation. But what do you expect when you ask me to pay $24.95 plus tax for the same book my boo AMZ is willing to sell me for fifteen dollars and change? Plus free shipping? Come on, now. I ache to support you, I really do. We have history together. Remember that time your speaker system stopped me dead in my tracks and sent me running breathless to the customer service desk to find out Who dat? The late, great blues singer Eva Cassidy, heard for the first time ever right there in your writing reference aisle. You did that. Yes, yes, I know. Good times. And I’ll be eternally grateful. But back to my pocketbook. A little bird told me that despite your market woes you have no debt and a decent amount of cash. Which is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what I have. So. There’s that. Simply put, you make it too damn hard for us to continue. It was your pricing model, and not my literary infidelity, that put our relationship on the rocks, driving me deeper into the arms of an online seductress. (I can’t quit her, so stop asking with your in-store book signings and cozy cafe with plenty of outlets.) Sure, I’ll creep back in for the occasional lookup or writing bender. But we both know what this is. A booty call (my butt in your chairs) driven by research needs, the urge to run my fingertips across the physical titles lining your shelves, and the butt-hurt realization that – apparently – eating banana bread and sipping hot chocolate is frowned upon at the public library, where they have the nerve to ask you to leave. You never once put me out for trying to get a little nosh on with my browsing. (That wheat-free chocolate chunker cookie you added to your cafe menu? Nice touch.) You’re open until 11pm and that turns me on. Even now. So, I guess I still need you. A little bit. Please do all you can to keep the doors open and the lights on. If you go the way of Tower Records and Borders, I’d rather not spend a lifetime haunted by the role I and the rest of the book-reading world played in your demise. Just promise me that you’ll change your ways and business strategy before it’s too late. Mkay? Mkay. Good talk. See you Tuesday. Don’t be mad.
OK, enough about my love triangle. (Sorry you had to hear all that, but the tension had been brewing.) Back to Kelis. My fellow foodies, listen up. This is a serious cookbook. SERIOUS. It is gorgeous, with stunning food photography and fresh international spins on traditional ingredients. Kelis, who looks like a radiant, sun-kissed goddess gracing the pages, ate her way around the world in preparation, and she put her foot in these recipes.
I took the ultimate gamble on Kelis when I decided to debut her Kale Salad with Guava Vinaigrette (don’t panic – you can substitute mango) at my family’s holiday dinner. (I discovered her cookbook just days before Christmas, and ran out of time to do a trial run beforehand.) I made the dressing a day in advance in my own kitchen, then carted the rest of the salad ingredients to my sister’s house to assemble it just before dinner. Fingers crossed.
It was a hit. My aunties scarfed it down and made me promise to email them the recipe as soon as I got home. (By the way, shoutout to my Auntie B. who’s still rocking the “@aol.com” email address in 2015. Very vintage!)
Encouraged by that success, I tried my hand at her Platano Soup for our family’s New Year’s Eve dinner celebration. Platano is the Spanish word for plantain, for all you westerners and non-caribbean folks. They look like giant green bananas, and are sold in any Latin or Caribbean market, plus many Asian markets. (I’ve even seen them stocked at larger mainstream grocers like Whole Foods and Wegmans, depending on the area.)
Anyway, despite a rough start due to user error (hint: when the chef tells you to use an immersion blender in the pot, instead of your dumb idea to transfer the lava-like contents to a regular blender, it is for a good reason), the creamy batch of goodness blew everyone’s hair back… including my sister who doesn’t even like soup. (All credit goes to my culinary genius cousin Garth, who helped to bring the soup’s consistency back to life after my blender mishap had gummed it up good and proper.) My Jamaican family knows their way around a green plantain or two, but they are usually prepared fried and served as snacks or appetizers, or else a side dish to another main entree. No one realized you could also use it to make an incredibly savory and creamy dairy-free soup to rival the best chowder out there.
And the Aji recipe. Oh, my goodness. The Aji. How long has THIS been going on? If you love the flavors of cilantro and lime, you will be over the moon when you taste this. I originally made it as a garnish for the Platano Soup (where folks lost their minds), but have since been using the leftover batch to top everything from fried eggs and avocado, to sweet potato hash.
Let me stop right there. Buy this book, you will not be disappointed. Below are pics detailing my journey making the Kale Salad with
Guava Mango Vinaigrette. Note that my cousin polished off my bag of leftover homemade candied pecans (I used Juli from PaleOMG’s yummy recipe here), so on the remix I had to do a quick swap with maple walnut halves. Same deliciousness either way. That’s what I love about this salad, it’s very adaptable. Can’t find frozen guava puree? Use frozen mango chunks, and puree your own. Only have walnuts on hand? Candy those. There was nothing labeled Tuscan kale at my market, but I finally figured out that Dino kale was the same thing, so I grabbed that. Finally, I didn’t have heirloom tomatoes on hand, but I had some leftover Campari tomatoes from Costco that worked in a pinch. I just grabbed enough that looked like the equivalent of a regular-sized tomato, and kept it moving.
The heartiness of the kale allows this salad to keep longer without wilting, making it a winner for potluck or buffet events.
I don’t think Kelis would mind me sharing this one recipe of hers, since a similar version is already available online through the website of the Cooking Channel, where she occasionally hosts cooking segments. If I were you, I’d double the recipe. (I tripled it and still ran out, so many people were going back for seconds and thirds.)
Way to grow, evolve and diversify, Kelis. Well done! Terri
P.S. – I especially like how you resisted the urge to include a milkshake recipe in your desserts chapter. (Wise move. It’s been done.) Also: Sorry that I completely missed the release of your 2014 album titled Food. Backtracked with a listen on iTunes, and I like it. (With song titles like Jerk Ribs and Biscuits ‘n Gravy, how could I not?) It all makes sense now.
Kale Salad with Guava Vinaigrette (from Recipes from Around the World, My Life on a Plate, by Kelis)
For the vinaigrette:
1/4 cup grapeseed oil or extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup guava (or mango) puree
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar, or Champagne vinegar
2 Tbsp. minced shallot (about 1 small shallot)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
For the salad:
1 bunch Tuscan kale (aka black kale), leaves stacked, rolled and thinly sliced (about 4 loosely packed cups)
1/2 cup diced heirloom tomato (about half of a medium tomato)
1/4 cup diced dried apricots (about 6 medium)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped candied pecans (about 14 pecan halves)
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
- To make the vinaigrette, whisk together all of the ingredients in a small bowl.
- In a large bowl, combine the kale, tomato, apricots, pecans, and red onion slices. Drizzle with about 6 tablespoons of the vinaigrette and toss to combine, making sure to coat all the salad ingredients with the vinaigrette. Add more dressing to taste, if you choose. Leftover vinaigrette can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for several days.
Recipe Source: My Life on a Plate by Kelis, Kyle Books, 2015.