POLENTA (TURNED CORNMEAL) WITH TWIST

Got a little excited. And, when I do, culinary storms are liable to develop. First, it started out with my fresh, nutritious, and satiating coconut. It was a good one; full of creamy goodness. It brought back island (Jamaican) memories. Decided to use a portion of nature’s milk in a polenta (turned cornmeal) dish.20160804_083037

FRESH COCONUT MILK WITH HUSK
FRESH COCONUT MILK WITH HUSK

As polenta simmered under low heat, a few leftover loose corn bits were tossed in. These still carried a crispy bite.  At the end of cooking process, an input of assorted sharp cheddar cheese was added. This slowly melted and became part of this mouth-watering dish. Already, I was salivating.

But, I wasn’t  finished just yet. I had a sweet contrast taste in mind. I placed my delectable polenta (tun cornmeal) even over the top by adding dices of roasted pumpkin. Now, that was an excellent choice.

PUMPKIN FOR ROASTING
PUMPKIN FOR ROASTING
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CREAMY POLENTA IN THE COMPANY OF SPICY GRILLED SHRIMP

The flavors, spices, and ingredients were ‘popping’ in my kitchen. Didn’t have to hop on a plane, bus or train to garner a Jamaican, Italian and Southern experience. With the aid of a few relatively inexpensive ingredients, I was able to turn out quite a mouth-watering dish.

My pantry yielded a pack of cornmeal for less than a $2.00. All I needed was a half of a cup to make a creamy polenta. Gave dish my Jamaican input of fresh coconut milk and added water with veggie bouillon, finely chopped onions, a pinch of nutmeg along with sprinkle of salt and black pepper.

After cornmeal slowly simmered in liquid to a thick consistency, I added a pat of butter and a little grated cheddar cheese to finish off the dish.

POLENTA SIMMERING
POLENTA SIMMERING

Decided to serve creamy polenta with grilled shrimp.

GRILLED SHRIMP WITH A SERVING OF SPICY SWEET PEPPERS
GRILLED SHRIMP WITH A SERVING OF SPICY SWEET PEPPERS

Topped grilled shrimp with serving of spicy sweet peppers which included, mini (assorted) peppers, finely chopped scotch bonnet pepper, vinegar, honey, and a pinch of salt/black pepper. A garlic spinach was also served.

SEARED SNAPPER IN COCONUT MILK WITH A HINT OF CURRY

My palate had the craving for  a slightly bold yet creamy taste for my resident snapper fish.  Decided on coconut milk with a hint of curry powder. So glad that I had freshly squeezed coconut milk in freezer. Defrosted same and allowed it to simmer under low heat until it was thick and cream in consistency.

COCONUT MILK WITH A HINT OF CURRY
COCONUT MILK WITH A HINT OF CURRY

Sauce was seasoned with:

  • curry powder (pinch)
  • cumin (pinch)
  • crushed garlic
  • finely chopped onion
  • finely chopped scotch bonnet pepper
  • fresh thyme (sprig)
  • scallion (stalk)
  • grape tomatoes
  • crushed pimento (all spice)
  • salt and black pepper
  • vinegar
  • pinch of sugar

After sauce simmered on low to my preference, seared snapper were added.

SEARED SNAPPER
SEARED SNAPPER

Fish absorbed all the tasty and exotic flavors of curry/coconut milk sauce. Fish simmered in sauce on low heat for an extra minute on each side.

SNAPPER IN COCONUT/CURRY SAUCE
SNAPPER IN COCONUT/CURRY SAUCE

RED BEANS(PEAS) SOUP WITH ROOT VEGGIES AND HAM BONES/PIG’S TAIL

The first day of 2016 found me quite naughty in the kitchen. You see, I blame my childhood friends, Dorna and Clova.

My childhood friend Dorna devouring Red Bean soup (pig's tail on spoon)
My childhood friend Dorna devouring Red Beans soup (pig’s tail on spoon)
ME AND FRIEND, CLOVA
ME AND FRIEND, CLOVA
ME AND MY CHILDHOOD FRIENDS
ME AND MY CHILDHOOD FRIENDS

They requested a Jamaican favorite, red beans (well, we call it ‘peas’ in Jamaica) soup with pig’s tail, left-over ham bone and a medley of root veggies. I’ve consumed this soup numerous time over the years. It’s such a rich and flavorful one. Moreover, it’s loaded with great fibers,proteins, vitamins and other beneficial nutrients that are great for the body.

I couldn’t help myself. As I  fetched my left-over ham bone, I smiled. I felt rather naughty.  After all, it’s still the festive season. I figured we should go out in a succulent ‘bang’. Thus, I also included a fresh squeeze of coconut milk for added flavors and richness.

Of course, no red bean soup is one without a medley of root vegetables (carrots, celery, sweet potatoes, onions, etc.) I also incorporated yellow yam (ground provision) along with boiled dumplings made with a combination of whole-wheat flour, cornmeal and all-purpose flour.

Red bean soup was also flavored and spiced with fresh thyme, all spices (pimento), fresh ginger, garlic, diced onions, scallion, scotch bonnet pepper and dried seasonings. With a packet of noodle soup and  veggie bouillon, my soup simmered on low and came to a beautiful consistency and finish.

Oh, we were on a roll. We chowed down on left-over Jamaican fruit cake served with strawberries and mint. Of course, we had to include a little spirit. And because I feel like every moment should be a celebration, I served chardonnay in champagne chutes. Those chutes are gifts from Dorna. Yeah….I was happy.

JAMAICAN FRUIT CAKE WITH STRAWBERRIES AND MINT
JAMAICAN FRUIT CAKE WITH STRAWBERRIES AND MINT

 

 

ROASTED CITRUS CHICKEN AND BLACK BEANS

When you cook chicken a ‘million’ and one ways, one has to devise  other ways to enjoy the feathery one. Had a few oranges that were heading down south. You see, although the calendar says autumn, the temperatures still feel like summer in Florida. As a result, my precious perishables carry shorter shelf lives. I had no intention of tossing out what I consider ‘big bucks’.

I was elated that to my culinary mind wasn’t in a ‘foggy’ mood. I  was able to come up with a plan. Decided to cook a roasted citrus chicken with a few  thighs and drumsticks. The previous night, chicken pieces were marinated with crushed garlic, minced onions, thyme, black pepper and salt to taste.

About three to four hours before cooking, chicken was soaked in a combination of orange, lemon, and lime juice. These were removed and dried on paper towels; then, drizzled with olive oil. Chicken pieces were topped with orange and lemon slices and then roasted in 360 degree oven for 50 minutes (turning once).

They were then brushed with a simmered citrus sauce which included a sprinkle of sugar and along with salt and drizzle of soy sauce. Roasted citrus chicken was served with black beans, jasmine rice (not in pic) and a corn/sweet potato salad. My stomach and I were quite happy and satisfied.

CITRUS CHICKEN, BLACK BEANS AND CORN/SWEET POTATO SALAD
CITRUS CHICKEN, BLACK BEANS AND CORN/SWEET POTATO SALAD

A SUMMER WRAP-UP #GRILLED AND SKEWERED SHRIMP

With summer on its way out I thought I would fire-up my in-door pan grill. And so I did with the sweet and crispy corn on the cob along with bell peppers and onions.

CORN ON THE COB, ONION AND BELL PEPPERS FOR GRILLING
CORN ON THE COB, ONION AND BELL PEPPERS FOR GRILLING

Corns were brushed with a little olive oil and added to piping hot grill so as to wake up the beautiful flavors within.

CORNS, AND BELL PEPPERS ON GRILL
CORNS, AND BELL PEPPERS ON GRILL

In no time, I got the other veggies into the mix.

SLICED ONION RINGS AND SCALLION ON GRILL
SLICED ONION RINGS AND SCALLION ON GRILL

After grilling I allowed corns to cool; then, I let my knife do the talking in removing the kernels from the cob. I also did a rough chop of all the veggies.

LOOSE CORN READY AND VEGGIES FOR COCONUT RICE
CORN READY AND VEGGIES FOR COCONUT RICE

Grilled veggies were tossed in with steamed coconut rice. Of course, I even got some skewered shrimp in on the action. With a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of salt and black pepper, paprika, and crushed garlic, these were placed on skewers.

On a hot grill under low heat, shrimp were grilled for approximately two minutes per side.

GRILLED SHRIMP ALONG WITH LEMON
GRILLED SHRIMP ALONG WITH LEMON

Grilled skewered shrimp were served on a bed of coconut steamed rice with grilled corn and other veggies.

 

A FIESTA IN MY POT #PICKLED CODFISH ON A BED OF COCONUT RICE WITH KALE/PUMPKIN

I’m not surprised. For the last few days, I’ve been indulging in all the typical protein dishes imaginable. My palate was in search of something different. And so, it led me to a one pot deal; well sort of. It seemed like I had all the colors of the rainbow in my pot. Caribbean flavors were front and center and so I danced to the rhythm.

I’ve been here before; however, instead of calalloo (Jamaican spinach), I used kale which I had readily on hand. Basically, I created a seasoned rice (well, that’s what we would call this dish in Jamaica).

Oh, I love my freezer. It can yield me surprising foods that I somehow forget. And, lo and behold I found a ziplock baggie with cup-up pumpkin. I grabbed same along with a tupper ware of coconut milk. With a quick defrost in the micro wave, I set aside.

In a stockpot, a drizzle of oil was added along with finely chopped onions. These were sautéed until softened then pumpkin pieces were added along with seasoning of salt and black pepper to taste. Then whole-grain rice was added and blended so as to coat grains. To that, coconut milk was poured as well as cold water. Also, chopped kale and scallion. With lid on, this was steamed on low heat until rice was cooked with a creamy finish.

In another stock, pickled codfish (fillet type) was thoroughly rinsed so as to extract the excess sodium. It was and placed in a pot for boiling. I did same twice for approximately five minutes; and, rinsed with cold water in between.

Codfish was flaked in bite-size pieces. However, instead of adding to rice, I decided to saute separately. In a hot skillet, a drizzle of canola oil was added followed by chopped onions, tomatoes, crushed pimento, and finely chopped scotch bonnet peppers. These were seasoned with a pinch of salt and black pepper. Then, flaked codfish was added along with a splash of house vinegar. This was sautéed on low to medium heat.

Pickled codfish was served on a bed of coconut whole-grain rice comprising of kale, pumpkin, tomatoes and other ingredients.

PICKLED CODFISH ON A BED OF COCONUT RICE WITH KALE AND PUMPKIN
PICKLED CODFISH ON A BED OF COCONUT RICE WITH KALE AND PUMPKIN

All the ingredients came together superbly. They caressed and surprised my taste buds in a very beautiful way. And the creamy avocado (nature’s butter) provided a contrasting/smooth balance to the dish. I was super happy.

TREADING ON THE LIGHT SIDE FOR SPRING #PAN-SEARED TARRAGON FLOUNDER/PUREED COCONUT CHICKPEAS

It might not be so in certain locales; however, the calendar is saying that’s springtime. In my neck of the woods, there’s no denying. The temperature on the outskirts are already several degrees up and at interval, there is that cool balance of breeze. For heaven’s sake, even my orchid is acknowledging the changing of the ‘baton’. It has bloomed!

ORCHID IN BLOOM FOR SPRING
ORCHID IN BLOOM FOR SPRING

So, in honor of spring, I’ve decided (well, my palate and I) to go on the lighter side of things. After all, I’ll be wearing a little less during these warm months; therefore, it’s imperative that I start making wiser choices.

As a result, I decided to make use of a stock pantry item, chickpeas (garbanzo). In a small stockpot, I softened a chopped onions along with garlic. To that I added fresh coconut milk along with chicken broth. I made sure to season with salt and pepper to taste along with a pinch of curry powder. All ingredients were simmered on low to medium heat. Then, drained chickpeas were added.

When most of the liquid was evaporated,  chickpeas were cooled and placed in standing blender. These were brought to a pureed finish dish. On this delicious bed of protein/fiber packed dish I added a couple of pieces of pan-seared tarragon flounder.

FLOUNDER FOR SEARING WITH TARRAGON/BUTTER
FLOUNDER FOR SEARING WITH TARRAGON/BUTTER

Fish was seasoned with salt and pepper to taste. Then, fish pieces were lightly coated on one side with bread crumbs and seared in olive oil, butter, lemon and tarragon herb.

PAN-SEARED FLOUNDER
PAN-SEARED FLOUNDER

Flounder pieces were topped with caramelized onions with a generous drizzle of balsamic vinegar. To my dish I also added some garlic/butter spears of asparagus after they were quickly blanched.

FINISHED DISH OF PAN-SEARED TARRAGON FLOUNDER ON A BED OF PUREED CHICKPEAS AND SERVING OF ASPARAGUS
FINISHED DISH OF PAN-SEARED TARRAGON FLOUNDER ON A BED OF PUREED CHICKPEAS AND SERVING OF ASPARAGUS

To finish the dish, a few whole chickpeas were tossed on top. All ingredients, spices and herb complimented the dish in a huge way. Moreover, I was satiated for hours. Hurray, for spring!

 

 

STARBUCKS IS GOING COCONUTS!…##COCONUT MILK

Once again, our neighborhood coffeehouse, Starbucks is testing a new idea; more of a product, coconut milk. Actually, they have tried it in San Diego, California and Washington before and the response seemed to have been favorable. As a result, based on customers’ demand, they have added coconut milk on their menu.

Sometime this month, (February 2015), Starbucks will offer coconut milk on its list of milk options. Based on reports in the media, it will only be in certain territories like Oregon, Ohio and Cleveland. I say bravo to them for taking this step.

It’s not surprising to me that the coffee chain has gone this route. I guess those in charge at Starbucks have discovered that the product is on the upswing. We have all seen a few of the high-profile celebrities, like Rihanna and others toting coconut water. And clearly, someone is doing their homework to know that the health benefits of coconut milk are tremendous.

Studies have revealed by the scientific community that the fat content in coconut includes a large amount of lauric acid which makes it heart healthy. As a result, it doesn’t have any negative effect on cholesterol in the body. Further studies have shown that countries like Sri Lanka and Polynesia where coconut is popularly used in the diet, heart related illnesses are uncommon.

I reckon that Starbucks’ nutritionists have done the research to know that their customers will also reap:

  • loads of fibers, vitamins, minerals
  • a slow absorption in the body which will not spike the glucose level in the body
  • an extra boost of energy, which makes it excellent for physically fit individuals

The question is, “will this test of coconut milk take off?” Already, they have had a positive response in California and Washington. We in Jamaica and in the Caribbean on a whole have been using coconut milk in our sweet and savory dishes for decades.

So far, I’ve  not used coconut milk in my coffee. Maybe, I should do a taste test. Although I love the product in various dishes, I’m sure it’ll be an acquired taste, ‘chasing’ my coffee. Who knows? I’ll have to take a quick swig and determine from a few shots.

Various companies like Grace Kennedy, etc have processed the milk and canned same in different sizes. This step makes it convenient for cooks to use in the kitchen. I do stock same for when I’m strapped for time. However, I prefer to purchase the wholesome product which averages about $1.99. To me, that’s priceless.

When I take it home, I use a hammer and give it a few bangs so as to break the husk. Ahh, it’s always a pleasure to drink that refreshing water within. I extract the flesh from the husk with a dull knife. Coconut pieces are then chopped and placed in a blender with water. A few minutes of blending action will yield perfectly healthy milk from nature.

COCONUT FLESH IN HUSK
COCONUT FLESH IN HUSK
COCONUT MILK AND LEFT-OVER PIECES OF COCONUT
COCONUT MILK AND LEFT-OVER PIECES OF COCONUT

Perhaps, Starbucks should stir awareness by recruiting a few prominent individuals like sports stars and entertainers to promote the coconut milk in coffee and the diet on a whole.That would seem ‘kool’ to their fans and supporters. Starbucks would definitely see a positive on their balance sheet.

Now, the question is, “where will Starbucks access the coconut milk?” Perhaps, Jamaica Coconut Board along with Grace Kennedy. That would be an excellent way to go. However, word out is that they already garnered their supplies from an Indonesian island called Sumatra in a concentrated form.

Will the addition of coconut milk to the menu be a permanent ‘fixture’ and increase sales? Only time will tell.

 

USHER IN THE WARM AND THE EXOTIC FLAVORS ##GRILLED SHRIMP IN A COCONUT/CURRY SAUCE

It seems like the whole world is under a cold spell. The blizzard of 2015 has made its mark on the New England region of the United States and other locales. Even sunny South Florida is experiencing 40’s and 50’s in temperatures. But, I’m not complaining; I’ve decided to go Jamaican with an infusion of Mediterranean spices and flavors.

GRILLED SHRIMP IN COCONUT/CURRY SAUCE WITH JASMINE RICE/WARM KALE/SALAD
GRILLED SHRIMP IN COCONUT/CURRY SAUCE WITH JASMINE RICE/WARM KALE/SALAD

I simmered some fresh coconut milk to a custard-like consistency on low to medium heat. To that I added a pinch of curry power about 1/4 teaspoon, chopped onion, garlic, minced scotch bonnet peppers (optional), thyme, all spice (pimento), a pinch of salt and pepper. Had a few grape tomatoes on hand and decided to toss in with a pinch of sugar.

At this point, my Georgie (George Foreman grill) entered the picture (so glad I decided to pay him a revisit). A drizzle of olive oil was added to shrimp. Then, salt and black pepper were added to taste along with a pinch of curry power and crushed garlic.  After removing garlic from shrimp, they were then placed on heated/oiled grill for 2 to 3 minutes.

Grilled shrimp were then added to coconut/curry sauce (off the burner) in order to soak up all the delicious and exotic flavors.  Shrimp dish was served with steamed Jasmine rice along with a warm kale salad.

Guys, my palate was transported to Jamaica and the Mediterranean isles with the coconut/curry sauce. Now, those are what good things are made.