The Caribbean

Map of Central America and the Caribbean highl...

My chapters are a little out of sequence here. It seems my folders had gotten a bit mixed up so that Chile came before the Caribbean. However, our stomachs never noticed anything amiss. Also, my husband argued that the Caribbean is only the islands and does not include the coastal countries like Belize. I disagreed. What do you think?

In the Sundays at Moosewood chapter on the Caribbean, Ned Asta says

I learned a valuable lesson: for the most delicious food and the best company, get away from the big, expensive resorts and seek out the native vendors.

For the most part, this has been my experience. My husband always says the best restaurant is the little bistro with a small menu of 4 to 5 plates. I have had a lot of favorite small restaurants go big and lose the quality of food they once served. One restauranteur explained to me once that when you are small you can cook like you cook in your kitchen at home, but when you go big you have to buy and cook in bulk and the food loses flavor. And probably that TLC that gives it special flavor.

What I know of the Caribbean, I learned from friends. Growing up my best friends were from Guyana and a couple of boyfriends came from Puerto Rico. I once worked for a cruise line booking 7-night cruises to the Caribbean. I could pick out the tiny island countries on a map any day. I haven’t been to many of them. I have been to Puerto Rico twice, each time with a different boyfriend which made for different experiences, Grand Bahamas, St. Thomas for a day and last year we took a 50th Birthday trip to Belize. Even my picky-eater son loved the food. It wasn’t as spicy as the islands. We still reminisce about that trip: How I wish I was there now.  Life there is meant to be lived and lived well. There was not one Starbucks or McDonald’s in Belize. I didn’t spot any big box stores at all. The fish comes fresh from the sea, the fruit grow in abundance on the trees. Everything is so lush and green. Nightly thunderstorms would knock the internet connection out, but that could be fixed with a reset button. Yet, I digress. I am not sitting by the pool, next to the beach, where I can order food and drink from the bar alas. No, this dinner will not cook itself.

Here’s the menu: IMG_1739

  • West Indian Rice and Peas with Tempeh
  • Escoveitche de Pescado
  • Trinidad Mango Salsa
  • Sorbet Caribe
  • Classic Rum Punch

In the morning, I prepared the salsa and Escoveitche (their spelling). It is so not like me to get started this early, but both needed to be refrigerated for some time and I was too tired the night before.

IMG_1729
lots of limes were called for
IMG_1730
1/2 c olive oil, 1/2 c water, 1/2 c white vinegar, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/4 tsp salt, 3 sliced onions and 1 small red bell pepper chopped

For the salsa I chopped a mango and put in a jar with 1 minced red chile, 1 minced garlic clove, juice of 1 lime and salt and pepper. I shook up the jar and put it in the fridge. Of course, I kept some mango to munch on while I worked. I squeezed another lime and poured this over the fish and put in the fridge for later. I then added all the ingredients for the marinade in a pot and simmered on the stove for 45 minutes. As you can see from the picture above, I substituted green bell pepper for the red. When I saw the price for the green pepper was 1.99 lb and 3.99 lb for the red, I suddenly became color blind.

The fish is coated with flour and allspice and then fried up in a pan. Sprinkle on chopped Spanish olives, then pour the marinade over the fish and set in the fridge for several hours.

IMG_1731
I ground the allspice for the escoveitche in a mortar and pestle
IMG_1733
Escoveitche de Pescado, from Anguilla

Later on, I prepared the Rice and Peas and roti. Every country has their own version of rice and peas. This one is a Moosewoodized version. The recipe cooks the rice on the stove, but I used my rice cooker. I toasted 1/2 cup unsweetened grated coconut with 2 cups uncooked brown rice and 2 1/2 tbsp oil for 2-3 minutes. I then added it to the rice cooker with water and a cinnamon stick. I then fed the squealing cats who had become annoying.

IMG_1737
I didn’t know that beans came frozen

I cooked up the beans. The sautéed Tempeh is an added twist, but I happened to have some on hand and this was a good way to use it.

IMG_1738
Rum punch with a grenadine substitute

The Classic Rum Punch is orange and pineapple juices, lime juice, grenadine and rum. I went to buy grenadine, but the one I found at Giant had high fructose corn syrup, which I am trying to avoid.  The one at the liquor store listed propylene glycol as an ingredient and that just didn’t sound good to me. A google search came up with a site by Jeffrey Morgenthaler
I came up with an alternative  to the alternative.  He makes his own using pomegranates but I found this pomegranate mixer which I used. I like his style however, its worth checking out his blog!

IMG_1736
I never get through cooking without some damage. This time a burn from splattered oil. Ouch!
IMG_1740
West Indian Rice and Peas with Tempeh, Escoveitche de pescado, Mango Salsa, Roti, and salad

* all recipes come from the book Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant

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