Friday, February 13, 2015

Dominican Vegan: Niños Envueltos

Izayaa's Kitchen's Vegan Niños Envueltos

In most cultures today one finds that within its culinary creations embedded are dishes prepared through the method of wrapping, whether prior to cooking its contents or after wards. In Mexico and Central America, tamales are prepared by wrapping corn dough unto cheese, a variety of meats (seasoned of course with the herbs and spices native to that territory), and/or Chiles with the leaves of the corn stalks. Its origins are traced to the Aztec, Mayan, Olmec, and Inca civilizations. In the Caribbean and some parts of South & Central America, pasteles is another dish prepared by wrapping masa or dough made out of the root vegetables found in the region, such as platanos  or green plantains, tropical pumpkins with the meat of their choice. The meat is seasoned with herbs that vary from recaito, red and green peppers, garlic, and many others. In Puerto Rico, the meat is seasoned with their famous sofrito seasoning, that serves as the heart to all Boricua cooking. There are many more dishes from original civilizations (people that can be traced to an ancient society) that are done by wrapping the ingredients to be eaten. 

It is no coincidence that there are variations of these types of dishes found mostly in the homes of the Black, Brown, and Yellow people of the world. We were once a united civilization, but with the growth of "dissatisfaction" simply meaning the amplification of chaos and disorder, culminating with the violent take over of the white man into our lands, our people drifted from one another and became small tribes. In Guatemala alone there are more than 20 Native tribes who cannot communicate with each other because they speak different dialects, derived from the same mother tongue. The division of our One Black Original Tribe still remains today.  Our lives mirror the ideas the grafted civilization has implanted upon us, perfectly fitting into the separatist roles the devil designed for us.   However, we can still find the traces of who we are as a whole through the many similarities within our respective "nations," one being the culinary sphere. 

The Moors were  a Black civilization that spoke Arabic.  They were an original civilization that went up to Europe (circa 700's) and were pivotal in developing the land there. With them, they brought the culinary arts, of which France and Italy get credited for today. These Original people, coincidentally, also have extremely beautiful and appetizing wrapped dishes. One of these dishes is the  "niños envueltos," which literally translates to wrapped children. Upon Spanish colonization of the Americas and the continual Moorish influence the Spanish brought into Latin America (What truly is authentically Spanish but the devilish mindset of these people?), many of these cultural traits fused into the Indigenous and African elements to form the current national folklore, which include the culinary arts. Not only were the Spanish influential, but when we refer to the culinary world we have to look to Italy as well because it was the cooking they took from the Moors that also influenced the food of Latin America. The Original higher classes always looked to Europe as the example of civilization.  Little did they know that what they saw as white, was truly Black. In addition, during the second half of the 19th century up to the beginning of the 20th, places like Argentina received a large influx of Italians who were from the Southern regions of Italy. You can find proof that these Italians were of Moorish mixture by analyzing the linguistic patterns that developed in Argentina. For example, in Buenos Aires, "particularly the speech..., has intonation patterns that resemble those of Italian (especially Neapolitan) and differ markedly from the patterns of other forms of Spanish" (1)

From this information, we can infer, that because the dialects originated in the Southern parts of Italy, these people were from there. Further proof of the presence of European Blackness in Argentina is further revealed by the comparison made to the Spanish dialect that had developed prior.  In talking about the current Italian based dialects, "The researchers note that this is a relatively recent phenomenon, starting in the beginning of the 20th century with the main wave of Southern Italian immigration. Before that, the porteño accent was more similar to that of Spain, especially Andalusia"(2). Again, when the same contextualization exercise is applied to this second piece of information, we find ourselves with the definitive connection made to a historical Moorish state. How could the porteño accent resemble that of Andalusia? The only logical inference to make is that the people from Spain who entered Argentina were from this area. The mixing of these Original peoples with the Gauchos, Argentina's Native Americans, influenced Argentinian modern society--one that is indisputably Original/Black-- and food is certainly included.

In Latin America, there is no open admittance that the Europeans who came already had a genetic and cultural Blackness which originated in the Moorish civilization. The Spanish themselves never saw themselves as Original and embraced their grafted Western conquering side. This is what they taught to the people of Latin America.  The language and cultural traits we get that cannot be distinctly applied to Spain, are often designated as from the "Arabs."  Interestingly, the Moors spoke Arabic and this is why the association to Arabic is made.  However, today in Islamic countries where Arabic is the spoken and written language, the dish in exposition throughout this piece is made. These people are also original.  Latin Americans have acknowledged that source and first kind of this dish is "Arabic," failing to understand that the Moors took it to Europe.  This means the "niños envueltos" is a Moorish dish that is very popular in Latin America, most notably Argentina, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic because they have hardly altered the recipe.  Another country which makes this dish is Mexico. Although the version is different, because it is rooted from the type that is made in Spain. This type is made with ham and cheese while it is covered in dough, eggs serving as the binding agent. The "Arabic" version is done with the leaves of Bok Choy, a popular Asian vegetable. The recipe I will provide is from the Dominican Republic, as its the version I grew up eating and now make vegan. 

Izayaa's Kitchen Ninos Envueltos

Before Cooking:  Separate the leaves of a large cabbage and soak in hot water with 1 teaspoon of salt until tender.

For filling:
-3 cups of cooked Jasmine Brown Rice 
-1 packet of Organic Tofu or 2 packets of Organic Tempeh
-Small red onion, diced
-1 green pepper
-Tomato Paste
-Ground black pepper
-2 tablespoons Safflower or Sunflower oil

For sauce: 
-4 cups of tomatoes, deseeded and diced
-1 clove of garlic, thinly minced
-2 branches of Cilantro (Coriander leaves), chopped
-Organic Sugar
-1 tablespoon of Olive Oil

Preparation Procedure:

1) You want to start with the sauce first, and allow it to cool down so that it can balance the hot steam of the wraps when served. In small flat skillet, saute the tomatoes and garlic with one 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Once the tomatoes are tender, mash them right on the skillet while medium fire is still on. Once they are mashed add the coriander, a pinch of oregano, sugar, and salt, along with a cup of water. Simmer and reserve the sauce to the side.
2) Cut the green pepper in half and remove all the seeds. Then chop the pepper into small cubes. Do the same with the onions, only they don't contain seeds. 

3) If using Tofu you want to hand crush it  or if  Tempeh is the preferred choice, carefully cut into small cubes.

4) In a bowl, combine the Tofu or Tempeh with the chopped pepper and onion. Add a pinch of oregano, salt, and pepper.

5)  Place the Tofu or Tempeh on a hot skillet containing a tablespoon of oil. Cook until it is brown. Tempeh requires a very specific way of cooking it that prevents it from breaking up. However, for this dish is not important that it remains firm, the nuttier smell and texture it develops, the better. 

6) Add two tablespoons of water and one tablespoon of tomato paste. Let the water simmer on medium heat and remove when all water has evaporated. Adjust salt to taste and mix in cooked rice using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.

7) Put two tablespoons in the center of one of the cabbage leaves. Feel free to use two cabbage leaves if they are too small.

8) Wrap tightly by binding the ends first and secure by injecting a toothpick on the side.

9) Place the "nino envueltos" in a baking pan. Add the sauce on top. Bake over low heat for 20 minutes.

10) Take out baking pan and let the wraps cool off for 10 minutes. They should be ready to serve.

11) Enjoy your meal. 

Note: as a side dish you can serve with Tostones or anything crunchy.

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