Friday, October 10, 2014

Pseudo-Pasteles with Portugese Sausage and Dinosaur Kale (serves 1-2)

I often wake up not knowing what to eat, which is not unusual for me. Most days I have no idea what my next meal will be like. Some days I definitely eat better than others. While shopping at Makawao Farmer's Market on Maui, I came across dinosaur kale and taro. That's right dinosaur kale! These beautiful blue-green-silver color kales are also known as Tuscan kale, black kale, Lacinato kale to name a few. The taro at the market was larger than what I have seen. They are almost the size of a melanga and the farmer told me it was taro.

I have been soaking the cassava pieces in water for 2 days to rid some of the toxins and am ready to cook some of them. I found an old box grater and grated a few of the cassava pieces, taro and green apple banana to make this dish that is inspired by the Puerto Rican pasteles. I opened the refrigerator and almost forgot the precooked Portugese sausage that I purchased at the grocery. I sliced it and added it to the pot. At the last minute I added some greens to the dish to make it somewhat healthy and pretty. From speaking to many Puerto Ricans in the past year many do not make pasteles due to a lengthy prep time. Although I have plenty of banana leaves to wrap these pasteles I came up with a much quicker version of eating my pseudo-pasteles. The result is pretty tasty!  

dinosaur kale
wash well, dry, store in a clean bag
and refrigerate for easy access and use
Pseudo-Pasteles with Portugese Sausage and Dinosaur Kale (serves 1-2)


2 Tbsps canola oil
1/2 C grated cassava
1 C grated melanga or taro
2 grated green apple bananas or 1 regular size banana
3 C water, plus more if needed
One 5-oz precooked sweet Portugese brand sausage (or any sausage you prefer or have), sliced
A pinch of salt (or according to your taste)
4-5 kale tips, thinly sliced


1) Heat a pot over medium high heat.  Once the pot is hot add oil.
2) Once the oil is heated add the grated cassava, melanga or taro and banana.
3) Saute for about 5 minutes.  May skip step 1-3 if you prefer not to use oil.
4) Add 3 cups water to the pot and cook for about 20 minutes.  Stir occasionally.
5) Add the sausage and salt.  Cook for another 10 minutes and turn off heat.
6) Add the kale and mix.

*Before you can eat cassava (also known as yuca) you need to peel and discard all of the hard brown  outer layer. Cut the cassava pieces to the prefer cube or length and soak in water for 2 days, changing new water once per day. This process help remove some of the toxins. Be sure to remove the tough rope-like line found at the center of each cassava either before or after cooking.
*Peel the outer layer of the melanga or taro before using. Some people may have skin itchiness from handling taro. Wear gloves to avoid potential itching or a rash.
*Peel the green bananas and trim the ends before using. You may want to wear gloves for this process since the sap can be tough to remove from your skin.
*You can use the grated cassava, melanga or taro and green banana as a masa or base for many other dishes. You can make it sweet or savory--the ideas are endless. I have made a version of pasteles but steamed it in a glass container. Some people add calabaza (a large winter squash that resemble a pumpkin) to the base.

Addendum:  I remember growing up in Vietnam that my family always soaked the peeled cassava pieces in water in a large bucket for a days prior to cooking them. I now understand the reasoning behind this. If you have an interest in eating cassava root, it is probably best to soak the cassava root at least 3 full days or nights (with a change of water once daily) to get rid of the toxin (cyanide). Poorly prepared root may cause the toxin to remain in the body when ingested.  This can lead an individual to develop konzo, a disease caused by cyanide overdose. A person experiences with konzo may have symptoms categorized in 3 stages from mild to severity:  

1) mild:  he/she is able to walk without support,
2) moderate:  he/she needs one to two sticks to walk,
3) severe:  he/she is unable to walk

*Here is a good article that I found on-line on the neurological disorders from cassava toxicity, from the National Center for Biotechnology Information) NCBI: Konzo:  From Poverty, Cassava, and Cyanogen Intake to Toxico-Nutritional Neurological Disease
cassava tubers and leaves
*Here is more information on cassava from Wikipedia:

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