I’ve never cooked yuca until I went to Nicaragua last February. At first, I was intimidated of it because it looked so rough and hard. But once I cooked it and tasted how wonderful it was, I just couldn’t get enough of it! It was also one of a few vegetables that I could get pretty consistently around my neighborhood in Ometepe Island. Even when I came back to the states, I made boiled yuca several times. It sure beats mashed potatoes any day. And every time I eat it, it brings me back to the beautiful time I had in Nicaragua.

The hardest part of cooking yuca is cutting them through the hard skin in the beginning. It really feels like I am chopping wood. I just have to get a sharp big knife and wack through it. The cooking method of yuca is very similar to potato and other starchy tuberous vegetables. But unlike potato, yuca has a hard fibrous thick string in the middle, almost like a spine of the root which is inedible. It needs to be taken out after boiling the root.

This boiled yuca is a popular side dish in many Latin American countries. You can also deep fry yuca like thick potato steak fries or put it in a stew.



At Thanksgiving, If You Take Sides, Make Sure They’re As Tasty As TheseIt’s Thanksgiving, which means you’ll be seeing Aunt Martha’s sweet potato casserole encased in a marshmallow cloud that has drifted too close to the sun. Cousin Joe, who’s just here for the game, will bring his famous can-shaped cranberry sauce that looks like it’s been attacked by a slinky. Then your sister will arrive with her sad concoction of green beans drowning in cream-of-mushroom soup, flecked with floating onion strings that have been flung like debris from the Titanic.

There’s a certain charm to these standbys, and by golly, you might even like them. But maybe this year you’re ready for a change. Not a big one, like subbing tofu for turkey. Just a twist, you know — one that keeps you from being accused of breaking tradition but also says, “It’s my kitchen and unless you’re helping, go away.” And, hey, wouldn’t we also like to keep it simple so that we actually have some time to enjoy ourselves?

Morning Edition’s Steve Inskeep spoke with chef Mike Isabella, a Washington, D.C.-based restaurateur, about how to tweak that traditional dish into one you still wouldn’t mind bringing home to meet your mother.

At Thanksgiving, If You Take Sides, Make Sure They’re As Tasty As These

Photos: Raquel Zaldivar/NPR

Sweet and Spicy Red Cabbage Soup: It started with “I’ve never had purple soup!” It took off from there.The goal of this soup is not to make sweets or give the tongue a dousing of chili that requires emergency bread. Rather, the sweetness of the apples helps balance the sulfurous taste of cabbage and leaves the jalapeno and cayenne to a mere tongue tickle. Tartness from the sumac and apple cider vinegar keep it from running away into Candy Land. Cabbage is very affordable and nutritious, and using a red one gives you a soup that is the most mesmerizing shade of violet you wouldn’t expect to see in your food. It sounds; maybe, a little strange. If you give it a chance you might find a unique way to consume some leafy vegetables. Any dinner guests would certainly find the color interesting! 

  • 1 medium red cabbage (1-1 ½ lbs), cut into chunks
  • 2 medium granny smith apples, cut into chunks and skins left on
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, diced (seeds and membranes removed if spice reduction is desired)
  • ½ of a yellow onion, cut into chunks
  • 1-2 TBSP of oil (a mild flavor such as grapeseed or canola is ideal)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 TBSP sumac (could be omitted but I love it, paprika would be a good substitute)
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ½ TBSP molasses (or a bit of brown sugar)
  • 1 quart of stock (vegetable makes for a vegan soup)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 -15 oz can of coconut milk  (half and half is fine if dairy is a part of your lifestyle)

Directions: Everything is getting blended smooth at the end, so don’t slave away at delicate knife cuts. Prepare your vegetables and simply cut them into chunks that will allow a lower cook time. Heat the oil over a medium-high heat, then place the onion, apples, and jalapeno in. Allow them to soften and become fragrant. Add a pinch of salt, stir. Add the black pepper, cayenne, and sumac; stir. Allow spices to warm and become fragrant. Bring the heat down to medium-low and add the vinegar, stir, and let the mixture simmer for a minute or two. Add the red cabbage, stock, water, molasses, more salt, and stir to combine everything well. Bring the heat back up to high and bring the contents up to a boil. Once boiling, cover with a lid, put the heat down low, and let it simmer for at least 30 minutes; until cabbage is very tender and shrunk down. Take the soup off the stove and let it cool significantly before blending. Once blended, add the coconut milk and any finishing salt if it’s required. Stir to fully combine or just give another whirl of an immersion blender if that’s what you’re using (best $40, ever).

Black Bean Burger and a Lactose-Free Vegan “Cheddar” and Broccoli Soup: Well, I told you how I’m going to top my burger, let’s make one! Something tells me I need bigger buns. Can hamburger buns do squats? 

Black Bean Burger

Good news! I was finally able to get this mixture egg-free. Who would have thought water was the magic ingredient and cooking the beans longer was so important? Live and learn. I hate using my eggs for things other than breakfast. I know I can buy more eggs and that they’re not very expensive, but it’s just like “can we not?” That also means this recipe is now vegan for those who never eat eggs in the first place! I do have to warn that the prep for this does take some time. So, you’ll want a pretty lazy day at home to do this. It yields high so you can stuff the freezer and have them around for awhile before you need to do it again.

  • 1 1lb bag of dried black beans (soaked and cooked to package instructions)
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 cup of rolled oats (blended into a flour)
  • ¼ of a yellow onion, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ TBSP low sodium soy sauce
  • salt, to taste
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp cayenne 
  • 1 ½ TBSP chili powder
  • 1 TBSP paprika
  • ½ TBSP cumin

Directions: Soak the beans overnight. The next day, cook them to the package’s instruction. Cook them very well, until they’re almost about to turn themselves into refried beans. Drain them and set them aside for a minute. In a food processor, pulse 1 cup of rolled into a fine powder and then set it aside in a dish. You certainly could finely mince your vegetables with a knife, but I’m lazy and since I already have my food processor out I usually just opt to pulse the veggies into a fine mince. Then, I set those aside in a dish as well.

Now, add the black beans into the food processor and slowly feed the water in through the chute as you’re running in on high, you may only need a tablespoon or two. You may even already have enough moisture. What you want is a fairly smooth and wet mixture. If you get fluff, your beans are probably too al dente. If you’re in this situation you may have to break out your eggs or flax eggs. Add the soy sauce, salt, black pepper, cayenne, chili powder, paprika, and cumin into the food processor and set it on high to mix the spices into the bean mixture. Empty the mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add the minced vegetables and oat flour. Fold it all together very well with a spoon or rubber spatula. Cover the mixing bowl with foil and set it in the fridge for at least an hour, or until it’s ready to rock n’ roll in the kitchen.

When ready to cook, form the mixture into patties. This recipe should yield about 12 4 oz patties. Making them much bigger than that could result in them crumbling. Cook them in a lightly oiled skillet, about 5 minutes on each side. I haven’t tried making these in the oven yet. 

Lactose-Free Vegan “Cheddar” and Broccoli Soup

I liked the idea of using silken tofu to thicken a cream soup base instead of roux or coconut cream. I thought coconut cream would be–odd–with cheese. The silken tofu would also replace some of the calcium and protein that Daiya Shreds lack as a “nutritive” cheese substitute. Daiya is pretty much only fat macros, which is fine but I want more. I added a few flavor elements that might be a little unexpected because I almost always do extra. Girl, I’m extra. No worries, the nutmeg will not make it taste like a latte! It will round out some flavors as even a great cheese substitute can only do so much. 

  • 1 quart of vegetable stock (I could only find full sodium, boo)
  • 2 cups unsweetened plant milk
  • 1 16 oz package of silken tofu
  • ¼ of a large onion 
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 jalapeno (optional, deseeded and membrane remove)
  • ½ tsp salt (use more if you have unsalted stock)
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground mustard
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • tiny pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 bag of “Daiya” cheddar style shredded cheese
  • 4-5 crowns of broccoli (stems chopped off)

Directions: This one is pretty easy. Remove the stem parts from the broccoli so mostly florets remain and set them aside for now. In a large pot, pour in the stock and plant milk. Start warming that up over a high heat. Next, add the onion, garlic, jalapeno (optional), salt, black pepper, ground mustard, nutmeg, and thyme. We’re blending this all up after awhile, so no worry about delicate knife cuts. Silken tofu kind of just falls apart too, so let it do its thing. Let this come up to a boil, then bring it down to low to simmer for 5-10 minutes. Take an immersion blender and run it until the mixture is smooth and no clumps of tofu remain. Since we’re not letting it cool down, be very careful of splashes! Next, add in the Daiya Cheddar Shreds. Keep stirring until it is melted and combined into the base. Add in your broccoli and let it simmer for just a few minutes. Give a pinch of finishing salt if you feel it’s necessary, but if you’re stuck with a full salt stock like I was you probably don’t need it. The Daiya is fairly well salted as well. Turn off the heat, cover the pot with a lid, and allow the broccoli to steam with just the residual heat. Makes 10-12 servings.

This classic dish is a low carber’s dream come true. Indeed it’s delightful how just a few fresh ingredients impart such banging flavour! Enjoy!

Cauliflower Mash

A delicious, nutritious alternative to mashed potatoes!

4 servings
Preparation time: 25 minutes

1 head (approx. 2 pounds) cauliflower, cut into florets
¼ teaspoon dried sage
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Lunds & Byerlys Vegetarian Mock Chicken Broth Powder
3 tablespoons salted organic butter
¼ teaspoon white pepper
⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional)


  1. Place the cauliflower florets into a steamer. Cook over boiling water until really tender, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  2. Place cauliflower in a fine mesh sieve and press on cauliflower with a bowl, ladle or plate to squeeze out as much water as possible. Depending on the size of your sieve, do this in batches.
  3. Transfer cauliflower to the bowl of your food processor or blender.
  4. Add dried sage, garlic, Vegetarian Mock Chicken Broth Powder, butter, white pepper and nutmeg (optional); process until smooth and creamy, stopping to scrape the sides as needed.
  5. Serve plain or with your favorite toppings. Suggested toppings: Lunds & Byerlys Zing! Salt-Free All-Purpose Seasoning and/or freshly chopped parsley and/or chives.

Calories: 150 Total Fat: 9g Saturated Fat: 6g Trans Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 25mg Sodium: 350mg Carbohydrate: 15g Fiber: 5g Sugars: 4g Protein: 4g

Nutrition content of this recipe is calculated by a registered dietitian nutritionist. Due to variations in ingredients and measurements, values are approximations. Nutrients provided for this recipe represent values based on the best available information. This information is not intended to treat or diagnose. Please consult your physician for diet recommendations specific to your personal needs.