Cooking on the Go
By Janet Groene, F47166
Here are some offbeat, delicious island recipes to help bring the flavors of the Caribbean to your campsite.
Traditional Jamaican jerk is prepared by rubbing a spice mix onto raw meat, chicken, or fish, then “jerking” it back and forth over a hot fire. North American supermarkets carry several brands of jerk seasoning. Try them all to find your favorite, then make these quick, easy burgers. Instead of rum you can substitute fruit juice or water. Start with 1 teaspoon of jerk seasoning for every 2 pounds of ground meat, and increase the amount in the future if you like. Keep in mind that mixing the seasoning with raw meat makes for a much stronger result than if you rub it only on the outside.
2 pounds lean ground beef (80 percent to 93 percent lean)
1 small onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons dark rum
1 teaspoon jerk seasoning
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
In a bowl, combine the ground beef and the other ingredients thoroughly. With clean hands, roll small balls of the ground beef and form into hamburger patties. Cook the burgers by your favorite method and serve them on buns with your favorite toppings.
There are many versions (and spellings) of this pickled fish and vegetable dish. It can be served at any meal, including breakfast. Make it at home, arrange it in a serving dish, and then refrigerate it overnight. Serve it for lunch with crusty bread, tomato wedges, and cucumber slices. Islanders like to include scorching-hot peppers, but if you leave them out and pass the hot sauce, everyone at the table can add heat to taste.
1-1/2 pounds firm, white fish fillets (mahi-mahi, snapper, grouper)
Seasoned flour for dredging
Oil for frying
2 large onions, sliced into rings
1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 medium jicama, turnip, or chayote, cut into matchsticks
1 medium green bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon whole allspice berries
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
Hot peppers, such as Scotch bonnet (optional)
1-1/2 cups white vinegar
1 teaspoon Caribbean hot pepper sauce
Cut the fish into serving-size portions, sprinkle generously with lime juice, and turn to coat. Let the fish stand for two to three minutes. Pat dry, dredge in flour that has been seasoned with salt and pepper, and fry in the hot oil until it’s golden on both sides. Remove the fish from the oil and drain on paper towels. Arrange the fish in a single layer in a non-metal, carry-and-serve container and allow it to cool for 10 minutes. Distribute the vegetables and garlic over the top and sprinkle with the allspice berries and peppercorns. In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, water, and hot sauce and carefully pour over the vegetables. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Allow the dish to return to room temperature before serving.
Mock Turtle Stew
Although it’s illegal to harvest turtles in the wild or to bring turtle meat into the United States, turtle is farm-grown in the Cayman Islands and is a popular table meat. Here’s how to make a legal version of a popular Caribbean dish. This is a thick, meaty, spicy stew that calls for a side dish of rice, noodles, or mashed potatoes. Long, slow cooking makes it a good choice for cold, rainy days.
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 pound boneless, skinless turkey thighs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons browning agent such as Gravy Master
3 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 medium onions, diced
1 bunch green onions, light green included, sliced
3 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2-cup cooking sherry
2 teaspoons pepper
1/2-teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground allspice
15-ounce can diced tomatoes
Hot pepper sauce
Dice the chicken and turkey and brown them in the hot oil. Stir in the remaining ingredients, except for the hot sauce; cover; and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for one hour or until the meat falls apart. If the mixture gets too thick, add a little more water. If it’s too thin, thicken with a heaping tablespoon of cornstarch made into a paste with a little water. Stir the paste into the hot stew until the mixture thickens and clears. Remove the bay leaves and serve. Pass the hot sauce.
Calypso Breakfast Pudding
16-ounce loaf crusty bread, sliced 1-inch thick
2 tablespoons real butter
1 cup grated, sweetened coconut
8-ounce can crushed pineapple
13-ounce can evaporated milk
Whole milk (enough to make 4 cups liquid when combined with the evaporated milk and the pineapple juice)
1/2-cup white or brown sugar
2 teaspoons rum flavoring (or 2 tablespoons golden rum)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Grease a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish and put the sliced bread in it. Melt the butter in the microwave oven and drizzle it over the bread. Sprinkle with the coconut. Drain the pineapple and add the juice to the evaporated milk and whole milk to make 4 cups liquid. Whisk together the milk mixture, eggs, sugar, and flavorings and pour over the bread. Let stand while the oven preheats to 350 degrees, then bake, covered with nonstick foil, for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes or until it tests done, as for custard. Let the bread pudding stand for five minutes; spoon onto serving plates; and sauce with vanilla or pina colada yogurt.
Variation: Use croissants instead of bread.
Chayote Au Gratin
Once hard to find, chayote is seen in supermarkets everywhere. Other names for it include christophene, chocho, mirliton, or vegetable pear. It has little taste of its own but can be cooked with flavorful ingredients or served raw with a salad dressing or a marinade. This casserole can be made ahead of time to serve as a side dish with meat from the grill.
Approximately 1-1/2 pounds chayote, peeled and diced
1 large onion, diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1-1/2 cups shredded cheese
1/2-cup bread crumbs
Steam or boil the chayote and onion until tender and mix with the butter, garlic, salt, and pepper. Mix the cheese and bread crumbs and add half of it to the chayote, tossing to coat well. Put the chayote in a baking dish, sprinkle with the remainder of the cheese and bread crumbs, and keep cold until it’s time to heat and serve.
Make a real, homemade gingerbread without an electric mixer. To save time, measure the dry ingredients at home and carry them in a resealable plastic bag.
2-1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2-teaspoon ground nutmeg
2/3-cup brown sugar, packed
1 stick butter
1/2-cup dark molasses
1 cup coconut milk
1/2-cup shredded coconut (optional)
Whisk together the dry ingredients. Heat the butter, molasses, and coconut milk in the microwave oven until the butter melts, and allow it to cool to lukewarm. Whisk in the eggs, then dump the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until everything is evenly moistened. Fold in the coconut. Bake in a greased 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan at 325 degrees for approximately 50 minutes or until it is set to the touch and starts to pull away from the pan sides. Serve in squares with vanilla ice cream, whipped topping, or whipped cream.
West Indian Pea Soup
What Americans call beans, many West Indians call peas. Boniato is a yam, not to be confused with North American sweet potatoes. If you can’t find it in the market, use butternut squash instead. In the islands, this soup would be highly spiced with West Indian pepper sauce, but it’s better to pass the sauce at the table for individuals to add as desired.
1-1/2 pounds stew beef
12 ounces ham, diced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 quart chicken broth
6 cups water
2 cups peeled, diced boniato
3 16-ounce cans light red kidney beans
Caribbean hot sauce (such as Pickapeppa or Tortuga Hellfire)
Brown the beef and ham in the hot oil, gradually stirring in the onion, garlic, ginger, and thyme. Add the broth and water; cover; and simmer over low heat until the beef is tender. Add the boniato and continue simmering until it’s tender. Add half a can of kidney beans and mash the rest coarsely with a fork before adding to the soup. Repeat with the next two cans. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into soup bowls and pass the hot sauce. This recipe makes 10 to 12 servings.
To add a Caribbean touch to your meals:
- Use breadfruit instead of potatoes in your favorite potato salad recipe. Garnish with well-drained julienne beets.
- Split a peeled banana lengthwise and roll it in a 10-inch flour tortilla with two fully cooked sausage links and a drizzle of caramel ice cream syrup. Microwave it to heat through and serve for breakfast.
- Serve a block of guava paste and a brick of cream cheese with a dish of saltines. Crackers spread with cream cheese and topped with sweet, fruity guava are a traditional dessert and easy on the cook.
- Peel and slice plantains, then fry them in hot oil to serve as a starch course. Plantains look like bananas but are starchy and less sweet. They are not eaten raw.
- Use rum as part of the flavoring when preparing a butter cake mix. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, poke it with holes and pour over a mixture of 1 cup pancake syrup and 1/2-cup golden rum. Cover the cake and let the liquids saturate it overnight.
Trail Gourmet Seasonings are premeasured spices that stay sealed and fresh in capsules that dissolve when thrown into a hot dish. Or, the capsule can be opened and the spices sprinkled on cold food. The blends include Asian, Italian, Southwest, Cabo, Sedona, and Hatteras. New blends now available include Great Lakes and HabaJala Hot Pepper, with more on the way. One capsule flavors approximately one serving, but it depends on the spice and on personal taste. The capsules are packaged in lightweight, resealable pouches that are easy to carry and stow. Trail Gourmet Seasonings come in packages of 20 or 60 capsules, priced $2.25 to $5. They can be purchased at www.sedonatrading.com.
Books for cooks
One of the best things to take to campground potlucks is cupcakes, and now Julie Hasson’s new book, 125 Best Cupcake Recipes ($18.95, Robert Rose Inc.), provides endless inspiration. French Toast Cupcakes, Chocolate Cupcakes with chili powder (trust me, it works), Green Tea Cupcakes, and Rum Raisin Cupcakes are just some of the tasty, offbeat ideas. Most recipes make 10 to 12 cupcakes and can be halved or doubled.
Bob Mervine, one of Orlando’s savviest insiders, has written Orlando Chow ($11.95, The Intrepid Traveler) for locals and tourists alike. Mr. Mervine takes you inside new restaurants that will soon be national chains. He tells readers where to find excellent theme park food “” dining that Orlando locals sometimes miss. With this handy, compact book you’ll know in advance what to expect, what to budget, and where to phone if you need additional advice on where to park.
You don’t have to be Jewish or a granddaughter to love Marla Brooks’ How to Cook Like a Jewish Grandmother ($15.95, Pelican Publishing Co.). Make wonderful soups and stews that can be frozen and then reheated to warm up on the go. Put together quick sandwiches and snacks with old-world flavor. Find new uses for matzo meal, kasha, lentils, and chopped liver. Make desserts and other comfort foods just the way your grandmother did. Ms. Brooks’ family ran Slobod’s Delicatessen in Philadelphia during the 1930s and ’40s, and the book includes a photo album of wonderful pictures from the good old days.