Archive for the ‘Caribbean’ Category

Minas Style Collard Greens

February 13, 2012

There’s not much of a recipe here, but I really needed a green vegetable to go with the meat and starch in my Caribbean menu.  Collards are a good Winter green and cooking them this way they’re done in 2 minutes!  Kudos to the Brazilians and to Steven Raichlen for including them in his Healthy Latin Cooking cookbook.

The key to these is in the cutting.  Be sure that you get the entire rib about.  You’re not cooking them long so it won’t have time to soften.  Then cut the leaves into ribbons.  There’s an easy way to go about that.  Stack a few leaves on top of each other.  Roll them up together and slice the rolls into 1/2 inch slices.  You’ll end up with beautiful ribbons.  And going with the ribbon them I decided to cut my onions in strings too.  Just cut the onion in half.  Place the flat side on the cutting board and cut slices bottom to top.  The onion layers will separate and when they cook you’ll have onion ribbons.

All you have to do with these is cook the onions and some garlic in olive oil.  Sprinkle the collard ribbons with water.  Add them to the pan and stir them around for a couple of minutes.  I found that tongs were the best instrument for turning the collards.  Take them out while they’re still bright green.  Season with salt and pepper.

That’s it.  Even with the chopping this doesn’t take more than 10 minutes to pull together.  Serve them with a little vinegar if you like.

Good? One of my guests listed these as his favorite dish of the meal.
Easy? Very.
Good for company? Definitely
Special shopping? Nope.


Mashed Plantains (Mangu)

February 13, 2012

This dish was one of the big hits of yesterday’s Caribbean themed dinner.  In the Dominican Republic, where I first had it, it’s typically served for breakfast, but it’s a great substitute for mashed potatoes.  Sadly there are no photos of this meal.  I was so busy getting the food on the table that I completely forgot to take pictures!

Plantains are a lot more readily available than they used to be.  I got these at my local Kroger.  Just be sure that you get green ones.  You don’t want them to be sweet.  You’re using them as an alternative to potatoes, not as bananas, despite their appearance.  They’re more difficult to peel than bananas.  I found that it worked best to cut off the ends; cut the plantain in half crosswise and then again lengthwise; and then slice through the peel lengthwise. 

This dish is really easy.  Just boil the plantains like potatoes.  Be sure to salt the water.  Make sure they’re tender enough to mash with a fork.  The recipe calls for you to mash these with a fork until they’re smooth.  I didn’t have the time or the energy for that.  I mashed them a little with a fork and then put them in the stand mixer.  I added water until they were a little thinner than I wanted them to be in the end because I knew I’d be warming them in the pot with a little butter and some of the water would cook out.

What makes these special is the onion garnish.  I actually cooked the onions until they were soft and fairly brown.  The recipe calls for fruit vinegar, but I used balsamic and it worked fine.  Just a little sweetness and tartness for the top of the dish.

These got rave reviews from the No Football Sunday Dinner crowd so there weren’t many leftover, but I’ll be enjoying them for a breakfast or two and maybe a lunch!

Good? Very good.
Easy? Very easy.
Good for company? All signs point to yes.
Special shopping? You should be able to find plantains in your local grocery store, but if not try a latino market.

Mashed Plantains

Note: this recipe serves 12 so you may want to reduce the amounts


1-2 t salt
8 green plantains, peeled and cut into pieces
8 T butter, divided
1 C water, plus or minus a little
1 T olive oil
3 white or red onions, sliced
1 T balsamic vinegar


Add salt to a pot of boiling water. Add the plantains and boil until they mash easily with a fork. Drain. Put the plantains and 4 T of butter in a mixing bowl and mix until they are mostly smooth. Add water a little at a time until the plantains reach the desired consistency.
Melt the remaining 4 T butter in the cooking pot. Return the plantains to the pot to warm through.

Heat 1 T olive oil in a heavy skillet. Add the onions and cook until they are soft and golden brown. Stir in balsamic vinegar to taste. Serve on top of mashed plantains.

Caribbean Chicken Lettuce Cups

May 31, 2011

I’m on vacation this week.  That means two things:  I’ll spend much of the week in the basement sewing; and I won’t have a ton of time for cooking.  Time to break out the crock pot.  I’ve been a little leery of returning to the Make it Fast, Cook it Slow cookbook since the tragic Crockpot Coq auVin incident, but decided to give it a go today. The other factor is that it’s 98 degrees out today and I can’t bear the thought of cooking over heat.

The cookbook version of this is called “Sweet and Sour Chicken with Mango Lettuce Wraps,” but I’ve made enough variations that I decided to rename it.  Here are the substitutions:

  • Instead of boneless, skinless breasts – organic bone-in breasts
  • Instead of 1 jar of apricot jam – 1/2 jar of apricot and peach preserves
  • Instead of red chile paste – Chile and Garlic Sauce
  • Instead of red onion – Vidalia onion
  • Instead of romaine lettuce – Butter lettuce

So those are the ingredient substitutions. In terms of cooking I used the cucumbers with the mango to top the lettuce cups. The thought of a cooked cucumber really grosses me out.

What I really like about this recipe is that it’s a complete do ahead dinner. The recipe in the book advises you to chop the mango while the kitchen is still dirty from putting everything together. Good advice. I used fresh mango which is obnoxious to deal with. Next time I’ll look for a salad bar that has some already chopped. I love that the jalapenos go in whole. Chopping hot peppers is kind of a pain. The recipe calls for a 4 quart slow cooker on low for 6-8 hours. I don’t have a 4 quart one so I used a 6 quart slow cooker. The only problem there is that the sauce is really shallow so if you’re not careful the chicken will be dry. If you use a 6 quart cooker you can cut the cooking time to about 5 hours and you’ll want to flip the chicken once if you can.

When I tasted the chicken in the crock pot it was fine, but not overly impressive. I was a little worried that I was in for a mediocre dinner. Not so! When you add the mango, cucumber and lime juice this becomes a really good meal. Using the butter lettuce makes a nicer presentation that romaine leaves I think. Resist the urge to use radicchio. You want the lettuce to be a mild counterpoint to the spicy chicken. I’d also say that you don’t need the whole jar of jam. Half is plenty, especially if you’re watching your sugar intake.

I call it Caribbean Chicken because it’s got a kick from the jalapenos and the bright summery addition of the mango and lime. A few steel drums in the background and a Corona and you’re all set. If you can manage an ocean breeze too, good on ya’.

Good? Yep, it’s a keeper.
Easy? Yep, it’s a crock pot.
Good for company? Yep, it makes a lovely plate.
Special shopping? I recommend fresh mango if you can get it.

Caribbean Chicken Lettuce Cups


For the crock pot:
2-3 bone-in chicken breasts, skinned (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 C apricot and peach preserves
3 T low sodium soy sauce
1 T dark sesame oil
1 t Chile and Garlic Sauce
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 Vidalia onion, chopped
2 t minced fresh ginger
2 jalapeno peppers, whole
For Serving:
1 C diced cucumber
2 C diced mango
lime wedges
butter lettuce leaves


Put the top set of ingredients in the crockpot (chicken through jalapenos), chicken on the bottom. Cook on low 4-5 hours. Remove peppers and discard. Remove chicken and discard the bones. Shred the chicken with a fork and return it to the crock pot. Stir it into the sauce.
Put two whole butter lettuce leaves on each plate. Fill with 1/3-1/2 cup of chicken. Top with mango and cucumber. Serve with lime wedges.

Jamaican Pork with Caribe Sauce

February 5, 2011

Well folks, it’s another cold, rainy, gloomy day in Central Virginia.  In this kitchen that means it’s Caribbean night!  Complete with mojitos.  I always struggle to find something new to do with pork chops.  This was a good call.  Hot, spicy, citrusy, sweet – everything a Caribbean dish should be.  And easy!

First, kudos to Ault Family Farm for the fantastic pork.  This is seriously good pork, folks.  And seriously good people too.  I started with a huge bone-in pork chop and this is so good I could easily have eaten the whole thing.  Add a little orange juice and some jerk spice rub and you’re ready to go.  No marinating, nothing.  And then there’s the Caribe Sauce.  Yum.  Admittedly I took the most liberties with the sauce.  It calls for currant jelly and I used red pepper.  It calls for orange juice or rum and I used both.  It calls for a clean sauce pan and I used the pan I cooked the pork in.  You can’t beat de-glazing for terrific flavor.  The sauce rocks.

A few tips.  Bring the pork to room temperature before you put it in the pan.  Make sure the pan is smoking hot.  Also, if you’re watching your sodium intake you might want to make your own jerk seasoning.  There’s a recipe on my spices page.  Pre-made spice rubs tend to be on the salty side.  ALso be sure to let the meat rest about 10 minutes before you slice it.  You’ll be making the sauce so that part will take care of itself.  The recipe recommends serving this with rice, but I recommend couscous.  Marrakesh Express has a great Mango Salsa couscous.  It’s the perfect side. Right alongside a mojito!

Good? So, so, so good.  Really good.  Really.
Easy? So, so easy. And quick.
Good for company? You bet. Throw a Caribbean dinner to warm up a Winter evening.
Special shopping? Nope.

Jamaican Pork with Caribe Sauce


I large bone-in pork chop
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 1/2 Jerk Seasoning
1 tsp vegetable oil


2 Tbsps Pepper jelly
2 Tbsps Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
1 1/2 Tbsps orange juice


Brush pork with orange juice, and rub evenly with jerk seasoning.

Heat oil in heavy pan until it smokes. Cook 6-8 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 160°. Remove from pan. Let rest 10 minutes. Cut pork diagonally into thin slices, and arrange on a serving platter.

Whisk together juice, jelly and mustard in pan over low heat, and cook, whisking constantly, until thoroughly heated and bubbling. Remove from heat, and stir in rum. Drizzle warm sauce over pork slices; garnish with crushed peanuts, if desired.

Caribbean Sweet Potatoes and Black Beans

September 27, 2010

It’s a rainy start to the Fall here in Virginia (thank goodness!) so something with a Caribbean flair sounded like a good pick me up.  And to make it even better this dish has a dozen things in it that are good for you!  Oh, and did I mention that it tastes good?     I had a little trouble pulling it together, but part of that is because I was doing other things at the same time and part of that is because I didn’t exactly follow the recipe.  When you get right down to it this could be a leftovers plus staples dish. Leftover sweet potatoes and leftover sausage mixed with canned black beans and some rice.

Let’s start with the healthy part.  Everyone knows that sweet potatoes are good for you, even when you cover them in something sweet and yummy.  Still they’re full of Vitamins A & C.  Then there’s cinnamon which helps lower cholesterol, regulate blood  sugar, adds an anti-clotting agent to the blood.  And tumeric which is a natural anti-bacterial and helps prevent melanoma.  Add in some brown rice and black beans and you’re covered for fiber, B vitamins and manganese.  This dish has a lot going for it.

Now, on to my many adjustments.  I baked the sweet potatoes since I could stick them in and do other things while they baked.  From the original recipe, it seemed clear that the potatoes needed some sort of sweet sauce so I mixed up a touch of spicy caramel – just melted butter, brown sugar, cayenne pepper and salt – and tossed the potatoes in that.  Then I noticed that the recipe called for me to section a lemon (yeah, right), so I squeezed some lemon juice over the dressed potatoes.  I used sweet Italian sausage because I have more of that than I have hot.  (Special thanks to Rocky Run Farm for the sausage).  I never keep rice mixes in the house so I made brown rice and threw in a couple of pinches of turmeric.  Other than that mine was exactly like the posted recipe.

The cinnamon and turmeric flavors are earthy and warm.  The dressed sweet potatoes are sweet and spicy with a little citrus.  The brown rice is nutty.  The sausage is salty.  The green onions have a bright flavor.  I know it sounds like there’s a lot going on in this dish, and there is, but it all blends together beautifully.  You can almost hear the steel drums in the background.

You’ll have to trust me that this is a pretty dish as well.  The turmeric turns the rice a beautiful shade of yellow.  The rice makes a lovely background for the orange potatoes, black beans, brown sausage and green onions.  And I really wanted to take a photo for you.  Sadly the camera batteries are dead.  I’ll try to remember to photograph the leftovers and add the picture here.

Good? Definitely. And I have a feeling the leftovers will be better.
Easy? Let’s call this Intermediate. Just a bunch of pots going at once. At least the way I did it.
Good for company? Definitely. Beautiful on the plate. Serve it with a citrusy green salad.
Special shopping? Nope.

Here is a close approximation of my recipe with a link to the original from Cooking Light. At the bottom I’ve linked to the original sweet potato recipe.

Caribbean Sweet Potatoes and Black Beans


1 cup brown rice
1-2 pinches turmeric

2 (4-ounce) links sweet Italian sausage

2 teaspoons butter
1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups Glazed Sweet Potatoes
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup sliced green onions
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained


For glazed sweet potatoes: Bake 2 sweet potatoes and cut into 1 inch pieces.  (Or cut them first and then bake them if you’re pressed for time).  Melt 2 T butter in a skillet, add 2 T brown sugar and stir until the sugar is incorporated. Add 1/2 t cinnamon, 1/4 t kosher salt and 1/4 t cayenne. Stir in lemon juice from 1/2 a lemon. Pour over sweet potatoes and toss to coat.

Cook the rice (2 C water to 1 C brown rice) with a pinch or two of turmeric. Keep warm.

Split the casings and crumble the sausage into a small dutch oven and stir over medium-high heat until browned (about 8 minutes). Drain sausage, and set aside.

Melt the butter in pan over medium-high heat. Add thinly sliced onion and garlic, and sauté for 3 minutes. Stir in the sweet potatoes and the next 4 ingredients (potatoes through cinnamon), and reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in sausage, green onions, and beans; cover and cook 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Serve over rice.

Feel free to try the Maple Glazed Sweet Potatoes instead.