Callaloo is a lively, pesto-green stew that’s both creamy and spicy, with a rich, coconutty broth studded with leafy greens and other vegetables. The name comes from the main ingredient, callaloo leaves, which are leafy green plants grown throughout the Caribbean. Traditionally the earthy, citrusy greens are enriched with salt pork, chiles, aromatics, and coconut milk. Variations on the stew abound, but we opted to create a vegetarian version to keep the focus right where we wanted it: on the vegetables. First and foremost, we needed to find an appropriate substitute for the callaloo leaves, which can be difficult to find stateside. Swiss chard proved the best option, offering hearty, earthy flavor, a hint of citrus, and a delicate texture. A single habanero chile provided subtle but persistent heat, while some garlic and thyme lent aromatic backbone. Some callaloo recipes call for pumpkin, but we opted to use easy-to-find butternut squash instead. A handful of recipes called for a few dashes of angostura bitters, an aromatic alcohol infused with herbs and citrus. While not a must, the bitters gave the stew a uniquely authentic flavor. We pureed a small portion of the stew to give it a thick consistency and bright green color, while leaving most of the greens and squash in large bites. You can substitute delicata or carnival squash for the butternut squash if you prefer. For more spice, do not remove the ribs and seeds from the chile.
- Yield: 6 Servings
- Total Time: 1 Hour
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 onions, chopped fine
- 4 scallions, minced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 habanero or Scotch bonnet chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or ¼ teaspoon dried
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 3½ cups vegetable broth
- 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into ½-inch pieces (6 cups)
- 1 pound Swiss chard, stemmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup canned coconut milk
- Angostura bitters (optional)
- Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions, scallions, and ½ teaspoon salt and cook until vegetables are softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic, habanero, thyme, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Stir in broth and squash, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Stir in chard and cook until squash and chard are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in coconut milk and return to brief simmer.
- Process 2 cups stew in blender until smooth, about 45 seconds; return to pot. Season with salt and bitters, if using, to taste. Serve.