As an American traveling during this time of year there are holidays that I will miss back home. Last week was Thanksgiving and I had the opportunity of a lifetime to cook a fully farm to table Thanksgiving meal for friends and their families here at Taino Farm in the Dominican Republic.
On this day we had owner, friends and family present. All guests were able to come to the farm, go on a tour of our fully organic permaculture and aquaponics systems, as well as led on a river float that shows them the serine side to living in this remote location in the tropics.
Now while not everything from the traditional American Thanksgiving is available here in Los Brazos or on the farm, I was able to make extremely similar variations of the meals I grew up eating for this heartwarming holiday. Below I will list all the dishes that I made for the holiday with a few of the basic ingredients that I used for each; I apologize ahead of time for not having a picture of all the dishes. I got a bit caught up in the cooking and entertainment of my guests, after all it is a holiday to surround yourself with friends and enjoy their company.
Turkey: Organic free range, raised here on the farm, was cleaned and broken down into a stew that I simmered for 8 hours with potatoes, carrots, onions, and herbs (all from our garden here). Lets just say it melted of the bones!!
Stuffing: Turkey broth mixed with local dried bread, carrots, celery, and herbs. Cooking for this many, I had to make the stuffing in batches outside of the turkey rather than having the whole birds stuffed.
Salad: Collected greens from our garden and made a mix available. I used kale, arugula, lettuce, mustard greens, hibiscus, basil and mint.
Dressing: Topped the salad with a STAR FRUIT MANGOSTEEN VINAIGRETTE!!!
Cornbread: What kind of holiday would it have been had I not made Cast Iron Cornbread served with our blend of local honey and local butter.
Green Beans: A simple dish using the beans we grow in the garden with our onions and sweet peppers to create a refreshing side dish that still brought green beans to the table.
Deviled Eggs: Used avocado and yolks as the base and added spicy mustard greens, basil, and topped with fresh tomato.
Mashed Yucca: For a dominican play on mashed potatoes I used local Yucca, a starchy tuber grown all over and consumed by all dominicans, and mixed with garlic, butter and chives.
Pumpkin Pie: What would this holiday be without PUMPKIN PIE to finish everything off. From scratch making the crust as well as the filling. We grew the pumpkin, ginger, clove, cinnamon, and rest of the spice blend, and I aquired local sugar cane and local honey.
To put it bluntly, this holiday rocked. Everyone had a great time and I was able to showcase an exorbitant amount of organic foods all grown here at the farm to one of the best groups of friends around.
A special thanks to Matt and his family for collaborating on this event with me. Truly thankful for all your help and support.
Here at Taino farms we have a great working relationship with the community and our local staff members. It is because of them that we are able to come to Los Brazos to work, learn, live, and integrate and because they mean so much to the success of the operation I wanted to show my appreciation in my own way.
Being a cook and food enthusiast I thought it appropriate to cook them an over the top meal. Of course we are in their culture so the dish I decided to make for them had dominican flare.
Upon the farm we have an intricate aquaponics system running to produce certain foods in an organic and sustainable manner and one of the main proponents of that system in Tilapia. Tilapia byproducts become the food for the plants and the plants filter the water for the tilapia. It is an sustainable system that put Taino Farm ahead of others.
In celebration of both our staff and the products of this system I created baked tilapia filets, fish head soup with coconut bouillabaisse.
(for the full recipe please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org)
All parts of the tilapia were used and nothing was wasted in the creation of this dish. With any unused parts of the fish I made a simple fish broth in which we used to create future soups.
Inspiration for this meal comes from the local people of Los Brazos and the amazing system they help maintain that allows up a fruitful bounty. It is them we thank, them we celebrate and they who inspire things like this.
What are plantains? This Caribbean staple is a member of the banana family. Green plantains are lower in sugar and starchier (read: not sweet!) than the traditional banana. They are a great source of dense carbohydrates, soluble fiber, vitamins, magnesium and potassium – nutrients that are essential in tropical climates as they help to restore electrolyte balance.
There are many ways to get plantains on your plate – grilled, baked, or fried. At Taino Organic Farm, our favorite combination is to serve garlic mangú topped with spicy scrambled eggs on a bed of freshly picked greens. The best part about this meal is that all of the ingredients can be found within steps of our sustainable farm’s kitchen!
Ingredients- Serves 4
- Green Plantains (2-3 per person)
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/2 Cup chopped red onion
- 1/4 Cup chopped garlic chives
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1/4 Cup raw milk
- Salt to taste
- Slit sides of green plantains
- Boil plantains with the skin ON for 10 minutes or until skin is tender
- Carefully peel skin off plantains and slice into 1/4 inch pieces
- Continue to boil until soft
- Add garlic, onions, garlic chives, salt, butter, and raw milk
- Using a potato masher, blend all ingredients together to a creamy consistency
Serving Suggestion: Top with local Dominican cheese and crispy onions. Enjoy your meal!
You know what’s definitely one of the most exciting things that I experience at the farm?
I absolutely LOVE everything about it. Even thinking about it while I’m writing this, I have the biggest smile on my face. I really wish there were more words to describe this feeling of pure happiness that comes from breakfast time here at Taino Farm.
So now imagine…
I wake up with the sound of roosters crowing and chickens clucking just before sunrise. This is also the time when the air is the coolest (for Caribbean standards anyway). The sound is also accompanied by a donkey’s HEE-HAW and the cows’ mooooos and the sheep’s baaaaas. Lying in bed listening to all of these farm noises is the first entertaining moment of the day. It simply makes me laugh to realize where I am. After this I’m ready to go and get ingredients for breakfast. No, not from a market, but right outside from our sustainable farm.
This morning just when I went out from our main house:
Yep, looks good enough. Let’s get them eggggsss
Then, let’s pick up some dragon kale (also known as dinosaur kale or tuscan Kale)
aah…. Truly organic
We’ll add two types of mustard greens to spice things up (Tendergreen and Green Wave)
Aaalright, so …
Okay, so the only thing that’s not organic is the bread. But, hey, finding balance in life is what to strive for (as restricting something will make you crave it!)
Even the cheese is organic and homemade by our vecinos ( neighbours).
All of it is so rich in taste, it’s ridiculous. I mean, I feel like a big part of my life has been a lie (food wise!).
Just one last thing … I need some milk for coffee. So I run down the stairs and catch our staff member Victor who just milked one of his cows.
Fresh as it gets, people!
You see how breakfast is not just breakfast anymore? So much excitement, appreciation and gratitude is involved. Since arriving here I’ve noticed being more present – I feel that connection with nature (and specifically food) that I missed so much. It’s this that is making me feel more alive every moment I’m here and getting me into the swing of farm life.