Morgan Freeman & Friends – Caribbean Cooking for a Cause
Wendy Wilkinson and Donna Lee Introduction
by Morgan Freeman
260 Pages; Color photographs; Hard cover; $35 US, $43 CAN
Rodale, New York, NY 2006
Reviewed by: Lisa Falso for Good Cooking, Inc. December 2006

The review---

Morgan Freeman & Friends is a collection of 75 recipes from the Caribbean Islands. The book was created out of a deep love and concern for the Caribbean, particularly the island of Grenada which was ravaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. With the help of his celebrity friends, Morgan Freeman attempts to take the reader on a culinary tour of the islands. At times, the book reads more like People Magazine, providing opportunity to read about each celebrity’s favorite islands and the food they enjoy while vacationing.

I too love the Caribbean and enthusiastically undertook the testing of several recipes. Off to the kitchen I went, with some island music in the background, I was ready to be taken back to the islands. I started out with the Black Bean Soup with Tostones on page 130. As it turns out I had chosen the only recipe by a chef that had never been to the islands! I was then off to the small island of Anguilla and Blanchard’s Jerk Shrimp on page 149. Each recipe was easily followed and provided my husband and I with a very enjoyable dinner.

While the recipes were clearly written and easy to follow, I felt that some of the ingredients are rather exotic and difficult to find in some of the suburban food stores. It would be helpful if the book provided additional recommendations for substitutions for some of the hard to find items.

Overall I enjoyed being taken back to the Islands with recipes, stories and beautiful pictures found in this book. Morgan Freeman communicates through this book a deep appreciation and indeed shares the islands with us. Some proceeds of sales from this book will be donated to the Grenada Relief Fund.

Black Bean Soup with Tostones
Four Seasons Hotel, Beverly Hills, Executive Chef Ashley James
Makes 8 servings

6 cups (1.4 L) water
1 pound (454 g) dried black beans
1 tablespoon (15 ml) corn oil
1/2 onion, chopped
6 slices bacon, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup (120 ml) chopped cilantro
1 green chile pepper, chopped (see note)
2 teaspoons (30 ml) ground cumin
salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 cups (2.3 L) chicken stock

Vegetable oil
2 unripe plantains, peeled and cut into 1" (2.5 cm)-thick pieces
Ground cumin

Chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons (30 ml) sour cream

To make the soup: In a large pot, bring 6 cups (1.4 L) of water to a boil. Add the dried beans, lower the heat, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to stand for 4 to 6 hours.

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and bacon and cook for 5 minutes. Add the celery, carrot, and garlic and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the cilantro, chile pepper, and cumin and cook, stirring, until the cumin is absorbed. Season to taste with the salt and black pepper. Add the beans and stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for 45 minutes, or until the beans are soft, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Transfer to a blender and process until smooth.

To make the tostones: Heat at least 2" (5 cm) of oil in a large pot over medium-high heat to 360 F. (182 C). Working in batches, gently slip the plantains into the oil and fry until golden brown. Transfer to a rack and let cool to room temperature. Flatten with a spatula or the flat side of a chef's knife, then return to the oil and fry in batches until crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain, and sprinkle with the salt and cumin to taste. Add the tostones to the serving bowl of soup, then garnish it with the cilantro and sour cream.

NOTE: Wear plastic gloves when handling chile peppers, and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching sensitive parts of your body, especially your face. To reduce the heat in the finished dish, use only the sides of the pepper (discard seeds and core).

Jerk Shrimp
Blanchard's Restaurant, Bob and Melinda Blanchard

Jerk sauce is spicy-hot by definition, but you can vary the heat by increasing or reducing the amount of pepper. Blanchard's also serves the sauce spooned over chicken and pork and usually accompanies it with sweet potato puree to balance the spiciness.
Makes 8 servings (2 1/4 cups [540 ml] sauce)

1 tablespoon (15 ml) ground allspice
1 teaspoon (5 ml) dried basil
1 teaspoon (5 ml) ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon (5 ml) ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon (15 ml) dried thyme
1 teaspoon (5 ml) cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon (15 ml) + 1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt 1 teaspoon (5 ml) freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon (15 ml) light brown sugar
1/4 Cup (60 ml) olive oil
1/4 cup (60 ml) soy sauce
3/4 cup (180 ml) cider vinegar
1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons (60 ml) fresh lime juice
1 scotch bonnet chile pepper, seeded and minced (see note)
1 small onion, minced
3 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced


2 pounds (1 kg) large shrimp, peeled and deveined, with tails
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
cayenne pepper (optional)

Preheat the grill or broiler.

To make the sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the allspice, basil, cinnamon, nutmeg, thyme, cayenne, salt, pepper, and brown sugar and mix well. Slowly whisk in the oil, soy sauce, vinegar, orange juice, and lime juice. Add the chile pepper, onion, and scallions and stir to mix thoroughly. Cook until warmed through.

To make the shrimp: Season the shrimp to taste with the salt, black pepper, and a little cayenne, if desired. Grill for 3 to 4 minutes, or until cooked through. Top with the sauce and serve immediately.

Note: Wear plastic gloves when handling Scotch bonnet chiles, and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching sensitive parts of your body, especially your face. To reduce the heat in the finished dish, use only the sides of the pepper (discard the seeds and core).