A crab salmorejo with coconut grits cake recipe that’s easier than it looks

Salmorejo de jueyes with coconut semolina cake

Total time:1 hour


Total time:1 hour


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Hi! As you can tell from the name in this column, I am not Daniela. I’m Marta, the chef and writer for Sense and Edibility, a food website where I teach people everything I know about cooking, baking and cocktail making. I am honored that Daniela handed me the reins of today’s newsletter.

In February, more than 30 other black food creators released a collaborative project called Eat the Culture’s Black History Month Virtual Potluck, which took a look at the concept of Afrofuturism and how it looks through the lens of food.

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Writer Ytasha L. Womack defines Afrofuturism as “an intersection of imagination, technology, future and liberation”.

Today’s recipe for salmorejo de jueyes (crab stew) with coconut grits cake shows how past and future collapsed at that crossroads. It’s the love child of two cuisines with histories of ridicule and repression – African American soul food and Puerto Rican.

Instead of using the traditional stovetop cooking method, I steamed the grits in banana leaves, which gave them a thicker, malleable consistency. Though grits are a staple in many soul food recipes, I’m basing this coconut-flavored version on Puerto Rican funche — a firmer type of polenta that’s often served with steamed beans. Here we make it with white corn grits.

Salmorejo de jueyes is a dish that for my family has a direct connection to Loíza, Puerto Rico—the heart of Afro-Puerto Rican culture. Traditionally, it’s prepared with flavors, a thick tomato sauce and chunks of sweet crab meat.

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My dish’s concept is tied to the Afrofuturism theme as it provides a visual representation of the plight of black and brown communities affected by gentrification. As a black and Puerto Rican kid with family ties to Brooklyn and the eastern region of Puerto Rico, it hasn’t escaped my notice that the neighborhoods my family hails from now fully map out into almost unrecognizable urban “utopias” or tax havens for B celebrities.

So-called “ethnic” cuisine, even that born in the United States, like grits, is often made into a spectacle. Because both my parents were active military officers, we were often relocated to places with less ethnic diversity. Most kids struggle with parents like mine in the school cafeteria. Recipes like this tomato and sofrito-based shrimp stew really blew people away. The sauce has a distinct aroma that would waft through the cafeteria, eliciting derision or feigned swooning from my schoolmates. But when Mom sent me to school with salmorejo de jueyes in my lunch box, not eating it wasn’t an option. mockery be damned. All I had to do was grin and bear it and hope that Mom would give me a turkey sandwich for lunch the next day.

This stunning quilt showcases the black influence on American cuisine 406 times

Now, the same dishes that I’ve had to explain the “craziness” of to people who had stereotyped what little they knew about Black Americans and had never met a Puerto Rican are becoming new culinary trends. Much like the neighborhoods that were unappealing to mainstream America for decades, if not centuries, the foods of my past (and ancestors), like grits and plantains, are being “elevated” to satisfy the palates of people who do never heard of it 10 or 15 years ago.

Going forward, reclaiming the kitchens of our ancestors is vital to protecting our cultures, but it also allows us to show others what makes those kitchens unique. By doing both, we hope we can all respect and honor this shared experience. Eat the Culture’s mission is to continue to advocate for black kitchen creatives to nurture that hope.

Salmorejo de jueyes with coconut semolina cake

  • You can use old-fashioned grits instead of quick cooking. >> Just add 15 to 20 minutes to the steam time.
  • Don’t have any grits? >> Use yellow, coarsely chopped cornmeal.
  • Substitute the same weight of clams, desalted cod (bacalao), or chopped shrimp for the crab meat.
  • Instead of fresh tomatoes >> canned diced tomatoes are a good option.
  • The tomato sauce is optional.

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For the coconut grits cake

  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk, preferably full-fat
  • 1 1/4 cups (6 3/4 ounces) quick cooking grits
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon adobo seasoning or fine salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 banana leaves or parchment paper, cut into 8″ x 16″ rectangles

For the salmorejo de jueyes

  • 1 tablespoon achiote oil or olive oil
  • 1 small white onion (5 ounces), diced
  • 1/4 medium green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tablespoons prepared sofrito
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped or finely grated
  • 2 medium tomatoes (15 ounces total), diced, or 1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 4 manzanilla olives, sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon adobo seasoning or fine salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3/4 teaspoon Spice (Optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces lump or claw crab meat, canned or fresh
  • 2 cups plantain chips, for serving (optional)

Make the coconut semolina cakes: In a large bowl, stir together the coconut milk, semolina, coconut oil, adobo seasoning, or salt and black pepper until the mixture forms a paste. Leave the mixture on for 5 to 10 minutes; It will be fluffy at first, but will thicken to the consistency of a soft dough as it sits.

Place a steamer basket or mesh strainer in a wide pan and fill the pan with just enough water to reach the bottom of the steamer. Place the pan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to maintain a low but steady simmer. Line the bottom of the basket with the banana leaves, cover and steam until tender, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the leaves cool. (If you’re using parchment, you don’t need to steam it.)

On a countertop or large cutting board, cross two 12-inch pieces of string to make a plus sign. Place a wilted rectangle of banana leaf (or parchment) over the cross.

Scoop 1/2 cup coconut grits into center of banana leaf and spread in an even 4-inch circle. Fold the edges of the banana leaf up and over to completely cover the grits. Cross the strands up and down to tie each packet into a roughly 5 inch square that is about 1 inch thick. Repeat with the remaining banana leaves (or parchment) and coconut grits.

Place the packets in the steamer basket, overlapping each other to fill in any gaps, if needed. Cover the pot and steam until the packets feel about as firm as an orange, 30 to 35 minutes. Check the water level regularly and add more as needed to keep it just below the bottom of the basket.

Prepare Salmorejo de Jueyes: While the grits are steaming, in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the achiote oil until shimmering. Add the onion, peppers, sofrito, and garlic and cook, stirring, until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the diced tomatoes and sauté until they start to break down into a sauce, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and stir in olives, adobo seasoning or salt, bay leaf, sazón if using, oregano leaves, and black pepper. Bring the sauce back to a simmer, cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the flavors blend, about 10 minutes. Gently stir in the crab meat and simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes.

To serve, unwrap each semolina cake and place on a plate. (If you used banana leaves, you can leave the cakes on the open, fragrant leaves; if you used parchment, toss it.) Spoon 1/2 cup or more salmorejo over each grits cake and add plantain chips for garnish or on the side if necessary

Per serving (1 grits cake and 1/2 cup salmorejo)

Calories: 565; total fat: 35 g; Saturated fat: 28 g; cholesterol: 44 mg; Sodium: 543 mg; carbohydrates: 49 g; fiber: 4 g; Sugar: 7g; Protein: 13 g.

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a nutritionist or nutritionist.

By recipe developer Marta Rivera Diaz.

Tested by G. Daniela Galarza; email questions insatiable@washpost.com.

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Check out this week’s Eat Voraciously Recipes:

Monday: Tarragon Chicken Salad

Tuesday: Okonomiyaki with smoked tofu

Wednesday: Cornmeal waffles with cheddar, chipotle and green onions

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