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Sunday, April 21, 2024

At World Central Kitchen, Elyssa Kaplan Provides Relief through Food

Three photos side by side of the same woman, in a black T-shirt and gray chef's apron, chopping, processing, and cooking vegetables in a demonstration kitchen. She smiles in each.

Elyssa Kaplan on the 2022 Smithsonian Folklife Pageant.

Photographs by Sonya Pencheva, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

Based in 2010 by chef José Andrés, World Central Kitchen gives meals in response to humanitarian, local weather, and neighborhood crises whereas working to construct resilient meals techniques with regionally led options. The not-for-profit group has served greater than 70 million contemporary meals to folks impacted by pure and different disasters around the globe.

In 2019, chef Elyssa Kaplan first joined World Central Kitchen’s Reduction Workforce as a volunteer within the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. Bringing along with her a level from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and a decade of culinary expertise, Kaplan is now the Reduction Workforce’s culinary operations supervisor. On the 2022 Smithsonian Folklife Pageant, she led two cooking periods and shared her experiences with the Earth Optimism × Folklife program.

“You are able to do greater than donate all of your canned items,” she advised us in an interview on the Pageant. “You may go and assist instantly locally and begin feeding folks. And we’ll attempt to discover you and take you beneath an umbrella and assist fund you to try this. You don’t want permission to assist folks.”

Since beginning at WCK, Kaplan has traveled throughout the nation and around the globe to cook dinner for these in want. Sadly, there is no such thing as a scarcity of crises, which suggests demand for WCK’s work is at all times excessive.

According to the group’s mission, Kaplan emphasizes how necessary it’s to contain native companions wherever they serve. Not solely does WCK attempt to empower these companions to maintain the program when it leaves, nevertheless it additionally depends on these companions to direct the group’s culinary workforce towards culturally applicable menu objects and meals preparation strategies. As outsiders, Kaplan says, she and her workforce have to acknowledge that they “don’t know something in that specific area and tradition” and should respect native customs and preferences.

“Folks wish to eat the meals that’s comforting to them, not the flamboyant issues that my culinary profession has taught me,” she mentioned. “When you don’t have that form of humility, you then simply miss the mark.”

Whereas within the Bahamas, Kaplan and WCK realized the right way to make legim—a staple stew of Haitian houses and delicacies—from Alicia, an area volunteer who had been evacuated from Abaco Island on account of Hurricane Dorian. Alicia was not solely an important cook dinner but additionally an natural farmer and mom of 4. This dish was the favourite of these displaced by the hurricane. The marinade, epis, can be utilized to marinate something, together with fish, hen, and greens. It can be added to rice throughout cooking.

Two large bowls: one filled with meat marinading in a greenish sauce, and one with a finished meat stew, pieces of orange carrot visible, and a large silver serving spoon.
Elyssa Kaplan’s epis marinade and completed stew

Picture by Katie Reuther

Recipe: Haitian Legim

Recipe tailored by World Central Kitchen

Word that the recipe requires an in a single day marinade.


1 1/2 kilos beef stew meat (or oxtail), minimize into 1 1/2-inch chunks

1 lime, halved

1 tablespoon salt

3 cups water

1/2 cup epis marinade

1 small inexperienced cabbage, minimize into 6 even slices

2 medium eggplants, minimize into 1-inch chunks

1 massive carrot

3 tablespoons water

3 tablespoons tomato paste

Epis Marinade

4 scallions (or inexperienced onion), roughly chopped

1 bunch parsley (curly or flat), stems eliminated and roughly chopped

4 garlic cloves

1 Scotch bonnet (or habanero) pepper

1/2 inexperienced bell pepper

1 stalk of celery

5 sprigs thyme

6 entire cloves

2 limes, juiced

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar

1 bouillon dice (Maggi model)


Day 1: Marinade

To organize the epis, mix all components in a blender and purée till it’s a good consistency. The combination needs to be nicely blended however with some texture, distinct and even-sized items. Place in a coated jar and maintain within the fridge for as much as 2 weeks.

To organize the meat, carry water with salt in a medium-sized pot to a boil.

Whereas ready for the water to boil, rinse stew meat beneath chilly, operating water for 1 minute. Rub the skin of the meat with lime halves, utilizing all juice. Discard rinds.

As soon as the water is boiling, place meat in a colander within the sink and pour the boiling water excessive. Utilizing a kitchen spoon to maneuver the meat round, make certain the water touches all meat surfaces. The surface of the meat will flip a grey colour.

Place scalded meat into a brand new bowl. Add 1/4 cup of epis marinade. Utilizing your fingers, coat all items of meat with the marinade. Use additional marinade if wanted. Cowl the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate in a single day or as much as 24 hours.

Day 2

Place the marinated meat with all its marinade into a big pot, like a Dutch oven. Add the opposite 1/4 cup of contemporary marinade. Add sufficient water to only cowl the meat and warmth over medium-low. Let the meat simmer (don’t boil!) coated for two.5 hours.

In a second pot, uniformly layer the greens: cabbage onto the underside, then eggplant, then carrot. Add 3 tablespoons of water, cowl the pot, and warmth over medium-low. Steam the greens for about 35 minutes or till the cabbage and eggplant are mushy sufficient to mash and the carrot is cooked via. Add extra water as wanted to maintain from burning.

Take away the carrot and set it apart to chill. With a potato masher, mash the cabbage and eggplant collectively till the consistency of cooked oatmeal. Cowl the pot and put aside (off the range warmth).

After the meat has cooked for two.5 hours, add the tomato paste. Combine nicely to include into the cooking liquid. Leaving the pot uncovered, simmer for an additional hour. You may add a tablespoon of water if the stew begins to look too thick or dry.

After the hour, take it off of the warmth, and blend the mashed cabbage/eggplant with the meat. Slice the carrot into 1/4-inch-thick cash and fold delicately into the meat.

Serve with rice!

Katie Reuther is the 2022 Pageant foodways intern and a meals research graduate pupil within the intersection of meals, tradition, and id. Interview by Mioko Ueshima.

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