Dining on the Jamaican Sands

I have returned from my "vacation" in the recording studio. For those of you who are connected with me on Facebook, we have some sneak peak videos posted of the recording process. Trust me there was one day where I went home feeling like I needed a stiff glass of orange juice, and yet it was undoubtedly a very special and amazing experience, requiring me to alternate between intense concentration and passing out on the proverbial studio couch. Hopefully none of us will not see photos or video of the latter activity...

One of the things I also did in the studio (when not required to pay fierce attention) was to make up menus. I had a catering job this morning and a proposal for another event next Sunday. I drew up the top ten menu performers for 7 different cuisines. That was super fun. After typing all that out on my prehistoric smart phone, I was a little spent and had trouble deciding what to make for this week. I remembered that I had posted a photo of a tropical island as a wishful joke as to where I would be this week. Tropical photo... tropical island... tropical CUISINE! That's it! This week's theme is Jamaica. Maybe if we eat enough coconut milk, beans, thyme, and tropical side dishes, we will be able to hear the surf on the shining white sand. Or maybe not, but at least we will have happy tummies.

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(source:Cook Like a Jamaican)

Our grain choices this week are brown rice and

Jamaican Rice and Peas: Apparently beans are referred to on the Jamaican

island as "peas." This "pea" recipe calls for red beans, coconut milk and thyme, which are all quintessential ingredients in Caribbean cuisine. Please do specify if you would like Rice and Peas, and add $3 to your order. Regular orders with brown rice are $8 per 2-cup serving.

This Week's Menu:

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Entree #1 - Dreamy, Creamy Tomato Soup. When I visited the farmers' market the other week and saw stall after stall with all varieties of farm-fresh tomatoes, I so wanted tomato soup for this week's menu. And yet, I was fighting that urge because I was afraid that a tomato soup for 30 people would require WAY too many tomatoes. I worried about advertising it and then not being able to find enough good ones, how to replace the cream that is essential to knock-out recipes, etc. As an answer to my fears, I found this fantastic looking recipe that uses red pepper, cauliflower, and nutritional yeast to add body and flavor. Wha-la! This recipe has plenty of other veggies. It uses the pureed cauliflower and nutritional yeast to make the soup creamy. Together with the fresh basil I have outside in my container garden, I expect this seasonal veggie soup to be explosively flavorful. *GF, soy-free

(source:BlissfulBasil.com)

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(Source: cooklikeajamaican.com)

Entree #2 - Jamaican Corn Soup. I was contemplating the menu and felt like I wanted to visit a tropical island. I had a particular soup in mind and then went hunting for an accompanying Jamaican rice. Several recipes for rice and peas came up. The rice recipe looked so good that I felt compelled to use it for our fancy grain dish. Then the previous soup choice, which calls for both black beans and chick peas, didn't seem appropriate, since the menu would then be way over-beaned. The rice recipe I found was on this lovely and entertaining site, Cook Like a Jamaican, so I went hunting around there for a vegetable-based soup. Corn soup to the rescue! I love the fact that it is also filled with seasonal veggies, including whole chunks of corn. To Americans it may sound weird not to cut the corn off the cob; however, I was familiar with it, as it is commonly done in Fiji. When cooked in a soup or a curry, the cob soaks up the liquid that it is cooked in. Fijians like to suck the tasty juices out of the cob, chew it up and then spit out the fibrous parts. It might sound like a labor-intensive way to eat lunch, but just in case you want to blend in when visiting a tropical island, now you know how to do it - corn soup style.*GF, soy-free


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(source: food-india.com)

Entree #3 - Swadisht Dal. My son was looking over my shoulder at this photo of the three beans used in this dal - mung, toor, and urad, respectively. He pointed to the last image of the urad dal and asked "What are those, googly eyes? What are you making with googly eyes?!" Clearly I explained to him that those are not plastic decorative eyes, but split urad dal beans. I love this dal because of the balanced nutritional profile and creamy texture of the three-bean combo. It is also a wonderful clean-out-the-refrigerator kind of dinner to make because you can use a any variation of vegetables in it. Graced with a rich body of Indian spices like cumin and mustard seeds, chilies, curry leaves, and garam masala, this dal is a true taste of India. *GF, soy-free

Side Dishes:

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(source: bewitchingkitchen.com)

Yucca Fries - $3. When coming to write about yucca (yoo-kah) fries, several campy songs start going through my head, like "Yucca fries won't you come out tonight, come out tonight?" Yucca, or cassava, as it is sometimes called is a long brown root vegetable, that unless you buy it an ethnic grocery, your cashier is likely to ask "What is THAT?!" It is starchy like a potato, yet has its very own, subtle delectable flavor. The only problem with these fries is making them stick around for lunch the next day.*GF, soy-free

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(source: natashalh.com)

Baked Sweet Plantain Chips - $3. Plantains or platanos are an immensely popular snack throughout the Caribbean and all of Latin America. Once you taste them, you will see why. Plantains are related to bananas, but are larger and starchier. When they are green, you can fry or bake them to make excellent salty chips. Ripe plantains are better baked as a yummy, caramelized kind of healthy treat. Que sabroso! *GF, soy-free

We look forward to serving you!

Tastefully yours,

Rangadevi Hernandez