A tropical barbeque

Welcome summer!  It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to update.  What can I say…it’s wedding season!  But finally, a free weekend, and I’ve got a lot of catching up to do!

The summer season began with a HOT Memorial day weekend, and while it has cooled off temporarily it’s looking to reach into the 90s again soon.  It’s been…an adjustment.  But I’m trying to embrace summers in Washington with no AC, and what better way than to bring a taste of the Caribbean to you?  After all, it’s too hot to turn the oven on, and we had to inaugurate this shiny new addition to our backyard:

Thus we came up with a menu inspired by the tropics:  Chicken/tempeh with a jerk marinade, golden steamed cabbage, coconut rice, and fried plantains!

To make the Jerk marinade:

These traditional Jamaican flavors are SPICY and not for the faint of heart!  I rather naively slathered it onto my tempeh, but please, go easy on it if you can’t handle extreme heat.

This can obviously be used for any kind of meat, but tempeh, a cultured soy product, is a great vegetarian alternative for the grill.  It is easy to work with and soaks up flavors fast!

I believe Mr. R adapted his recipe from this one.  Scotch bonnet (habanero) peppers are key, as is allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, sugar…  stay with me here, I know these sound like the ingredients for Christmas cookies, but the flavors meld together perfectly.  Thyme is also important, and sometimes you’ll see various aromatics like onions, garlic, scallions, and ginger thrown in too.  I am by no means an expert so please feel free to weigh in if you are.  Compare and contrast different recipes and see what looks good to you!

Do not try to replace the scotch bonnet peppers, however.  It just won’t be quite the same.  Check out a Latin grocer if you can’t find them at your regular grocery store.

Blend up all the ingredients and rub onto the protein and let sit, in a container or bag, for 30 minutes or so in the fridge.  I will say it again — go easy!  It will be SPICY!

Simply grill the tempeh over direct heat for about 5 minutes on each side. And now your vegetarian friends can join in the joy that is grilling during the summer!

Coconut rice

This recipe is DEFINITELY one I am working into my regular meal rotation — it was fantastic!  Not to mention it smelled amazing during the preparation as well.  It also made a freaking ton of rice and we had leftovers all week.  With black eyed peas worked in — it’s a complete protein!

Ingredients
Adapted from here
2.5 cups long grain basmati rice
1 can coconut milk
1 cup dried black eyed peas
4-6 cloves garlic, crushed
4-6 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3 teaspoons salt
a few sprigs of fresh thyme, or a dash of dried thyme if unavailable
1 scotch bonnet/habanero pepper, minced

Cook the beans as you normally would — soak for several hours or overnight and then simmer for an hour.

Add the coconut milk to the beans cooking in their pot, then bring to a boil with the salt and seasonings, plus the scallions, garlic and pepper.

Stir in the rice and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook for 20-30 minutes, until rice is done, liquid is absorbed, and your kitchen smells like heaven.

Golden steamed cabbage
Adapted from this website.

I love all brassicas — they are my favorite vegetables — and cabbage is no exception.  This adds a pretty note of color to your plate!

Ingredients
1 head cabbage
Assortment of 2-4 sweet and hot peppers, including scotch bonnet
1 medium onion
a few sprigs of fresh thyme (or dash of dried)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste

Thinly slice the cabbage, removing the center core.
Heat a large pan with a generous amount of olive oil or butter and saute the peppers and  onions with salt, black pepper and turmeric briefly, until translucent.  Add about 1/4 cup of water, adjusting as necessary, and then add the sliced cabbage to the pan.  Cover and allow to steam until cabbage is translucent, tender and reduced in size.  Remove cover and allow excess water to steam off if necessary.  Adjust seasoning to taste.  Savor.

Fried Plantains

 

A tropical dinner is just incomplete without fried plantains.  They are simple but taste great with accompaniments such as guacamole.  We followed Alton Brown’s method.  They came out great!

This meal was something new and different for us and such a fantastic way to welcome summer with friends.  I can’t wait to make it again!

-R

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