Month: August 2011

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Menu: Japan

Last night I did my first ever live demo while on radio. There were about two dozen people there to try the food. What a rush! What fun! What a late night. So here I am, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, focusing in on Japan. I’m happy to tell you that this menu is going to be both beautiful and delicious. And very hands on. So here’s the menu… What sounds good to you? A Bento for Miss Ava [Recipe] Send your toddler to preschool with the cutest bento lunch in the world. Just be warned – you’ll end up wanting one for yourself. It’s like a hundred delicious smiles in a lunch box. Brilliant. Veggie sushi (futomaki) [Recipe] If you’ve never done it before, you need to do it: veggie sushi. In fact, this is one of my favorite interactive dinner party themes. Colorful and fun, everyone makes their own sushi from an assortment of sliced veggies like avocado, asparagus, bell pepper, cucumber and sweet pickled gourd. Plus, kids love it. The fun is in …

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About the food of Japan

Have you ever noticed how big Japan is? The upper half of Japan has as many cold snowy days as the lower half has hot tropical days. From top to bottom, she’s long, lean and filled to the brim with glorious food. That being said, I’m focusing in. Getting in the zone. Talking about just a couple of  Japanese dishes that make me sit back in awe. Because, there’s no denying it. Japan has some of the prettiest food around. And for good reason: Japanese food is art. Just take sushi [Recipe], for example. The Japanese have long enjoyed this traditional – yet meticulous – preparation of rolled vinegar rice  [Recipe], vegetables and raw fish. While it’s roots trace back indefinitely, the form of sushi we know and love today was developed in the 1800’s by Hanaya Yohei as a convenience food. Even still, each sushi roll is artfully arranged – a mosaic of ingredients. One bite and you’ll get just enough of everything – a balanced experience all around. Then there’s Bento  [Recipe], or the artful arrangement …

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Monday Meal Review: Jamaica

THE SCENE: My lips started off with a low-grade tingle and then flared up into a fire engine burn. Careful not to touch the jerk seasoning again, I put the lid back on the blender. “So that’s what three habeneros taste like.” I said to the faded photo of my Great Aunt, Lulla Rina. She smiled back at me, as she had for decades. She was holding my brother Damien – a chubby baby boy – in her soft, grandmotherly arms. He’d be 33 if he were alive today. And he’d probably love habeneros. I silently promised him I’d be brave. I’d eat my share. I’ve lived longer without Damien than with him, yet he remains one of the most important, influential people in my world. Life’s funny that way. We remember the shooting stars so vividly, even when the sky is full of trillions of other stars. Looking back at the mixture, I considered suiting up with gloves, goggles, and a clothespin to pinch my nose shut. I settled on just the gloves. As …

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Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Serves 4 There’s no way around it. Jerk chicken is supposed to be blacker than a starry night – and more sizzlin’ than that smokin’ hot hotty you wake up to every morning (Hi, Keith!). Typically cooked in a barrel smoker, Jerk gets it’s distinctive flavor and color from low, slow cooking over smouldering all spice wood. The long cooking time gets the jerk seasoning extremely caramelized. Now, for those of you who want to go all out, you can easily get your meat much darker than mine (and spicier), by basting the chicken with extra jerk seasoning as it cooks. I had a toddler to feed, so I kept it a little lighter. Ingredients: 1/2-1 recipe Jerk Seasoning 4 lbs chicken legs and wings, or other dark meat For smoking: 1/2 cup whole allspice hickory wood chips, as needed OR Allspice wood chips, as needed Method: So exactly how black is Jerk chicken supposed to be? Blacker than Jamaica’s Black River. (and tastier, too) To get the most flavor, marinate the chicken pieces for …

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Jamaican Jerk Seasoning

Makes about 3 cups Are you in need of a lil’ pep in your step? Do you want to go beyond your comfort zone? Would you like to make your taste buds burn with the fire of Jamaican delight? I am. I do. I would. Also, a friend’s birthday is coming up, and she loves spicy food. In a pretty bottle, with a cute recipe card, jerk seasoning makes quite the fabulous gift. So, join me friends. Let’s go on a stovetop journey to the clear waters of Jamaica, where we can heat things up for ourselves and a friend or two. Ingredients: Liquid: 1/4 cup soy sauce 1/2 cup orange juice Produce: 3 habenerno (scotch bonnet) peppers 1 green bell pepper 4 green onions 1 onion 4 cloves garlic 1 hunk ginger – about 1 inch, peeled and cut 5 sprigs fresh thyme – leaves stripped from the stem 3 fresh basil leaves 3 sprigs parsley leaves Spices: 1 Tbsp whole allspice 1 Tbsp cinnamon 1 Tbsp nutmeg 1 Tbsp black pepper 1 Tbsp salt Method: …

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Jamaican Sorrel Drink

Makes at least 1 1/2 quarts (more, depending on how much you dilute it) August has drug on too long. I know because the mosquitoes have given up for the summer. Not a one can be found. They’ve been cooked off. I’ve been shriveling up, too. Thankfully a few of our readers suggested I try sorrel, Jamaica’s perky, often spiked answer to iced tea, typically served at Christmastime. Sorrel is better than pouring a bucket of ice down your back. And it’s (literally) cooler than mulled wine (although I like that too). Imagine: It’s December. The sun has her cheery face on. The tin roofs are hot. Cats hide in the shade while people sip sorrel in flip flops. Christmastime in Jamaica. Prime Sorrel drinkin’ time.  I love it! Now, let’s get clear on terminology… (UPDATE: Please check the comments  – I seem to have this mixed up a bit…) Sorrel is the Jamaican word for hibiscus, a flower which grows abundantly on the island. Even though this drink is served on ice, sorrel retains the flavors of …

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Jamaican Escovitch Fish

Makes enough Escovitch topping for 2-3 meals. I’ve long adored the British tradition of dousing Fish and Chips with vinegar. In fact, I like to add enough vinegar for my fish to swim in. Sure, Keith won’t kiss me for days afterwards, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. Well, this week I learned about Jamaican Escovitch, based on Spanish  Escabéche. Escovitch is like taking your fried fish on a trip to vinegar city, on a vinegar boat, through vinegar nation At it’s most basic, Jamaicans briefly cook fresh veggies in spiced vinegar, pile them on top of fried fish, and ladle extra vinegar sauce over the top. The veggies retain some crunch while also making the mouth pucker up. Big time. Oh, and there’s a little burn, too, thanks to hot chili peppers. What’s not to love? Ingredients: 1 bell pepper, sliced in rings hot pepper, sliced in rings (jalepeno, habenero, etc) – to taste 1 onion, sliced in half moons 1 large carrot, sliced in matchsticks 1 chayote, seeded and …

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Menu: Jamaica

“Me only have one ambition, y’know. I only have one thing I really like to see happen. I like to see mankind live together – black, white, Chinese, everyone – that’s all.”  Bob Marley I’m with Bob on this one. I’d just like to add one thing – my vision also includes kittens, rainbows, and puppy dogs. And grouchy turtles. They’re important, too. As I’ve said before, we can’t create peace alone -we have to set a Global Table and invite everyone to dinner. And we’ll need a few animals to pick up the scraps. So, with this spirit of peace and friendship, let’s eat Jamaica! What sounds good to you? Jerk Chicken  [Recipe] Spicy chicken, smoked slowly until tender and perfumed with the floral aroma of all spice. Jerk Seasoning [Recipe] With a quick buzz-whir of the blender, and you have jerk seasoning – made with fresh produce, rich spices, and loads of love. Perfect marinade for chicken, pork, and fish.  Jamaican Escovitch Fish [Recipe] Wake up like a Jamaican -with the tangy, briny blast of Escovitch. …

Sunset on 7 Mile Beach, Negril, Jamaica. Photo by Chaoleonard.

About the food of Jamaica

Seems like everyone I know has been to Jamaica – usually, for a wedding, their honeymoon, or spring break. Or a scary combination of all three. (I shudder to think). While many visitors stick to strolling the soft sands and wading in the clear waters, some seek out other adventures, like ecological river tours, climbing sheer waterfalls, and exploring local museums. While all this sounds fantastic, my stove top Adventure is clear. You see, back when I made the Caribbean Green Seasoning for Guyana, I totally wimped out on the amount of habeneros required. I used 1/4 of a whole habenero, when the recipe called for 6 habeneros. Six. That means I used 1/24th  of the recommended heat. Laughable. Thankfully, my friendly readers from Jamaica told me I could redeem myself this week. So, with that in mind, I did some research. Turns out Jamaicans sure do love spicy food. The people are mostly of African descent, but also European, Chinese, and Indian. They eat everything from curries, to puddings, and from stir fried, to deep fried. Still, no …

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Monday Meal Review: Italy

THE SCENE Many things about Italian cooking involve family. Sharing. Loud conversations while laughing over nothing. But this is not always the case. For example, I waited an entire week to tell Keith ….  a.k.a. Mr Picky … a.k.a. the man with the most hypochondria ever… about the eggs. The raw eggs. In the tiramisu. It was mama’s lil’ family secret all week long. Hear me out – my logic was sound. First of all, I’d made the thing three times. Each time, it became exponentially more fabulous.  My friends at the Girl Scouts practically swooned over the second version – I think the word used was “Luscious” – with a capital L. The third version made our friends Alan and Michelle weep. Well, maybe not weep.  But eyes did roll. And thirds were administered to already full bellies. Right before bedtime. The night before a 6 am fishing trip. Considering the tirimisu contained enough espresso and rum to jump start an entire marching band, this was a miracle of miracles. Anyway – back to Keith and the …

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Tiramisu

Makes one large trifle (Serves at least 8) Your day was hard. Maybe you have a party coming up. Or you are out of ice cream. Perhaps your favorite DVD  got scratched. Or your 20 lb cat left a 1lb hairball on your favorite sweater. I have the answer for everything: make tiramisu. Trust me. After a hard day, tiramisu is easy. It’s the perfect dessert for fancy parties and casual parties. Plus, you won’t ever crave ice cream again. Well… not while tiramisu is hanging out in your fridge. After one taste, you’ll be so in love that you won’t care about the DVD or  the sweater. It’s just stuff, after all. Tiramisu, however, is glory on a spoon. Glory that you can scoop up at midnight, when no one is looking. Plus I have a few little secrets that’ll make it the prettiest tiramisu you’ve ever seen (or tasted). NOTE: Please start this recipe the night before you need it. Also, you can make caster sugar (aka fine sugar) by putting some in a …

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Homemade Pasta Dough

Makes 1 large batch. Enough for at least 150 standard ravioli & more noodles than you know what to do with. Slap. Roll, roll, roll, roll. Slap! My great grandmother, Assunta, made pasta dough with the strength of a hundred Italian sailors. Mom, just a kid then, was not allowed to touch. Instead she was told to sit quietly and watch. She remembers how, as Assunta rolled the dough thinner and thinner, it gradually swallowed up the table and heavy oil cloth covering. Eventually, all you could see was the giant sheet of dough – thin enough for spaghetti, linguine, tortellini or – as was typically the case – ravioli. I’ll tell you right now… The secret is in the slap. By occasionally slapping the dough down onto the table, the gluten relaxes, making it easier to roll out without springing back. That and generously dusting the dough as you go. Ingredients: 5 cups flour 4 large eggs water (about 1/3 cup, or as needed) Method: Find yourself a lovely Italian villa with an outrageously …