Roasted Acorn Squash soup

Worries go down better with soup. – Jewish proverb.

What to use

2 acorn squash

1/2 teaspoon dark brown sugar

sprinkle of nutmeg

1 carrot ( sliced)

2 stalks celery (chopped)

1/2 white onion (chopped)

1 tbs olive oil

1 1/2 cups of chicken stock

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

What to do

Wash each squash and cut off the tops.  Remove seeds. Place squash in foil and sprinkle with sugar and nutmeg.  Bake in oven at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.

When squash is done, scoop out insides of squash and set aside.

Saute carrots, celery and onion in olive oil and add salt and pepper.  Add chicken stock and flesh of the squash.  Cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender. Stir occasionally and add salt and pepper to taste.

Remove from heat and puree.

Pour soup into shell of squash and serve.

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Corn on the cob (Tobago style) a.k.a “boiled corn”

A recipe for boiled corn? Surely you jest! But we’re not talking any old boiled corn here.  You see, when Tobagonians prepare corn it’s more than just some salt and pat of butter.  Our corn is boiled in a savoury concoction of herbs and spices giving it a totally unique flavour.  We typically enjoy it as snack rather than as a side to meal.  In Trinidad, you can purchase it from street-side vendors on the way to the beach, on the side of the road after a party and all through the day on Carnival.

What to use

4 freshly husked ears of corn

water

shadon beni or culantro (chopped)

thyme (chopped)

chive (chopped)

1/2 white onion (chopped)

2 pimento peppers (chopped)

parsley (chopped)

4 cloves garlic ( finely chopped)

2 tbs salt

1 tbs black pepper

1 cup coconut milk

1 hot pepper (whole)

What to do

Place corn in large pot  with enough water to cover corn.   Add remaining ingredients and cook over medium heat for about 2 hrs or until corn is tender.   Serve hot sprinkled with some sea salt and chopped parsley.  Enjoy.

Get those toothpicks ready!

Cornmeal porridge

Normally, I have a big decadent breakfast on Saturday mornings to make up for the rushed ones during the work week. Today, however, I was feeling for something light but hearty.  I happen to love porridge in any form.  Oatmeal, Cream of Wheat, rice – you name it, I love it! I love porridge more than Goldilocks!  I have a dear colleague from Jamaica who occasionally brings me a steaming bowl of cornmeal porridge whenever she makes a batch.  I figured it was time to whip up my own batch.

What to use

1 cup fine yellow cornmeal

3 cups water

1 cup milk

1/2 tsp nutmeg

2 tbs honey

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 bay leaf

sweetened condensed milk to taste

 

What to do

Whisk the cornmeal in 1 cup water.   Bring remainder of water and milk to boil and add in cornmeal mixture and salt . Stir well.  Add nutmeg, cinnamon, honey, vanilla and bay leaf.  Cook for about 10-12 mins.  Sweeten with condensed milk to taste.  Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon.  Serve hot.

Variations

My mom usually adds two whole cinnamon sticks instead of the ground cinnamon while cooking.

 

Mmmmm…..just right!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The perfect steak

There’s nothing like a really good steak with a glass of red wine.

I think I’ve finally perfected the art of searing a steak.

The trick is to start off with a high heat and then lower the heat to just above medium cooking the steak fairly quickly on both sides. I find that simple seasoning is best.  You don’t need more than sea salt and pepper. You want to actually taste the beef.

I like my steak medium rare  but you can cook it longer if you like. Try not to overcook it though.

“Red meat is NOT bad for you.  Now blue-green meat, that’s bad for you!” – Tommy Smothers

What to use

1 good quality ribeye steak

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tbs extra virgin olive oil

What to do

Season the steak with salt and pepper on both sides.  Heat cast iron skillet over high heat and add olive oil.  Just as oil starts to smoke, place steak gently into skillet and press lightly with a spatula so that the entire steak is touching the skillet.  Cook to 4 to 5 minutes on each side.  Transfer to serving plate and let stand for 7 minutes.  Serve as is or sliced.  It’s as easy as that.

Start with a great steak with lots of marbling.

 

Look at those juices!

 

Oven “fried” chicken

In the mood for some fried chicken? Here’s a tasty, quick and easy, not to mention healthy alternative guaranteed to satisfy any craving minus the calorie overload.

What to use

4 chicken thighs (seasoned with onion, garlic, chives, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper)

2 eggs

1 cup corn meal

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

salt

pepper

What to do

Leave chicken to marinate in seasoning for at least two hours. Beat eggs and set aside. In a separate bowl combine corn meal, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.  Dredge chicken in eggs and then corn meal mixture and place in lightly greased baking dish.  Bake for about 45 minutes in preheated oven at 400 degrees.  Broil for an additional 5 minutes to add colour.  Serve with condiments of your choice.

Homemade Doubles

Aaaahhh…. doubles! The most popular and revered street food in Trinidad!  How I missed thee! Who would have thought that bara and curried channa (chick peas) would be elevated to such a status?  Needless to say, there are no doubles vendors in the Cayman Islands.  Sigh…  My Saturday routine usually involves running errands, shopping,  getting the nails done etc. If I were at home, these errands would be punctuated by a trip to my favorite doubles man for two with slight pepper.  So in the midst of my running around today I had the bright idea that I would make my own doubles. Three hours, one smoky kitchen and two burning eyes later I am proud to say that I was able to treat myself to three tasty doubles.  Here’s the proof!

First things first, the recipe (taken from my cooking bible, the Naparima Girls’ High School Cookbook).

What to use

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp ground cumin (geera)

1/4 tsp sugar

1 tsp instant yeast

1/2 lb channa (chick peas) soaked overnight ( I used canned chick peas).

1 tbsp vegetable oil

3 cloves garlic (minced)

1 onion (sliced)

2 tbsp curry powder

1 1/4 cups water

inch of ground cumin (geera)

1 tsp salt

1 hot pepper to taste

1 cup oil for frying

pepper sauce

What to do

In a large bowl combine flour, salt, turmeric, cumin, sugar and yeast.  Add enough lukewarm water to make a soft dough, mix well, cover and let rise fro 1 1/2 hours.

Boil soaked channa in salted water until tender.  Drain well.  Heat oil in a heavy skillet or iron pot, add garlic, onion and curry powder mixed with 1/4 cup water; saute for a few minutes.  Add channa, stir to coat well and cook for 5 minutes; add 1 cup water, geera, salt and pepper. Cover, lower heat and simmer until channa is soft; add more water if necessary.  When channa is finished, it should be soft and moist; adjust seasoning to taste.

Punch down dough and allow to relax for 10 to 15 minutes.  To shape bara, take about 1 tbs of dough, pat with both hands to flatten to a circle 4″ or 5″ in diameter; use water to moisted palms of hands as dough mgiht stick to hands.

Fry a few at a time in hot oil; turn once and drain on kitchen paper.

Assemble doubles.

****************

 

So everything was going swimmingly until I tried to roll out the doubles to fry them.  At first the dough was too sticky so I added more flour.  Then the dough would tear apart when I tried to flatten it with my hands. Grrrr…. So  then I decided to resort to my rolling pin.  The first few attempts were not inspiring! It is harder than it looks people!  My first few baras came out looking like  misshapen fried bakes. lol

First failed batch!

Then I figured I better fry them one at time.  It only takes seconds for the bara to be done so you have to move very quickly.  Eventually, I was able to get a decent batch of six. Yay!

They were still looking a little too fat for my liking but they eventually deflated a bit and looked more like the real deal.

 

Then I put together my toppings – mango chutney, mango kutchela, and cucumber.  The cucumber I did myself.  I just grated some cucumber with the skin on and added salt, pepper and minced pimento peppers.

 

And finally, I was able to dig in!

 


 

 

 

 

Salmon with herb roasted potatoes and mango salsa

I found these cute little potatoes today at the supermarket today and decided I was going to build tonight’s dinner around them.  They’re called Peewee Medley potatoes.  Aren’t they adorable?  They look a lot bigger in the photos than they actually are.  They are probably only a little bigger than cherry tomatoes.

 

 

 

Preparing them was a breeze.  I pierced a few holes  and them tossed them in olive oil. I added salt, black pepper, 2 grated garlic cloves and chopped dill and popped them in the oven to bake for about 25 minutes at 400 degrees.

Next, I prepared some mango salsa by combining the follow ingredients.

Mango Salsa

1 mango (peeled and diced)

1 tomato (diced)

1/2 small white onion (diced)

1/2 green sweet pepper ( diced)

2 tbs parsley (finely chopped)

1 chili pepper ( de-seeded and finely chopped)

1 tbs lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

Finally, the star of tonight’s dinner was lovely fat, juicy salmon fillet.  I seasoned it on both sides with salt and black pepper.  I then pureed some tarragon, dill and parsley in the food processor.  I added about 1 tbs of melted butter to the herb mixture.  I melted some butter in a skillet and seared the salmon for about 2 or 3 minutes flesh side down.  I then flipped it and covered the other side with the herb mixture and popped it into the oven to bake for about 8 minutes.

 

Dinner is served!

Sweet, spicy, sesame chicken wings

I’ve had such a craving for wings these past couple of days. I remember attending a house party hosted by some  Korean friends of a friend a couple years ago and they served the most deliciously juicy wings.  It was a serious challenge not to gobble them up!  So I did a little googling to find out what ingredients I would need to recreate the taste and put together this perfect finger food.  Bet you can’t eat just one!

What to use

6 large whole chicken wings

2 tbs sesame oil

5 tbs soy sauce (reduced sodium)

4 tbs honey

2 tbs chili pepper paste

1 tbs ginger (grated)

6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)

handful of spring onions or chives (chopped)

4 tbs brown sugar

1 small white onion ( finely chopped)

salt and black pepper

2 tsps lemon juice

What to do

Clean chicken wings and cut into two removing the wing tips.  Season chicken with salt, pepper, lemon juice and spring onions.  In a separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients and mix until sugar is dissolved.  Add sauce to chicken and stir well.  Cover and let marinate in fridge for about 2 hours (more if desired).

In a large skillet,  brown chicken  for a few minutes on all sides.  Transfer chicken to a baking dish  (lined with foil  for easy clean up) and cover with sauce.  Bake in preheated oven at 400 degrees for 50 minutes.  Turn pieces midway through cooking and add more sauce if needed.

Serve hot.  Strain pan juices into a small side dish for use as a dipping sauce.

 

 

Carrot bread

So it looks I am getting the hang of this baking thing! I’m actually finding it quite therapeutic. And the delicious smells in the kitchen are a fantastic bonus.  After the success of my pumpkin bread, I decided to try a carrot bread.

I dug up the following recipe from my trusty Naparima Girls’ High School cookbook and once again I was not disappointed.  Perfection!

What to use

1 cup flour

1  1/2 tsp baking soda

1  1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 cup chopped waltnuts

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 cup oil

1 tsp vanilla

1  1/2 cups carrot pieces

What to do

Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nuts in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.  Blend sugar, egss, oil and vanilla in blender until smooth.  Add carrot pieces to mixture in blender and puree.  Pour over dry ingredients and mix only until dry ingredients are moistened.   Pour into a greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.  Bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees for one hour or until tester comes out clean.

 

 

Yummy! Next time I am going to add dried cranberries or cherries to add a little extra pop of sweetness.

Lemon chicken breasts

I went to the bookstore this weekend with the sole intention of just browsing.  Who was I kidding? I left with two spanking new cookbooks – The Barefoot Contessa’s How easy is that? and Martha Stewart’s Cooking School.

I could hardly wait to delve in. So tonight I decided to try the Barefoot Contessa’s Lemon Chicken Breasts for dinner since I had all the ingredients to hand.  Can I say how much I LOVE Ina Garten?   Her recipes are so simple with easy to follow directions and gorgeous pictures.

Here’s Ina’s recipe:-

1/4 cup good olive oil

3 tbs minced garlic

1/3 cup dry white wine

1 tbs grated lemon zest

2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 1/2 tsps dried oregano

1 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 boneless chicken breast, skin on

1 lemon

 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the garlic and cook for just 1 minute but don’t allow the garlic to brown.  Off the heat, add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, thyme and 1 tsp salt and pour into a 9 x 12 inch baking  dish.

Pat the chicken breasts dry and place them skin side up over the sauce.  Brush the chicken breast with olive oil and sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper.  Cut the lemon in 8 wedges and tuck among the pieces of chicken.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes depending on the size of the chicken breasts until the chicken is done and the skin is lightly browned.  If the chicken isn’t browned enough, place under the broiler for 2 minutes.  Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest minutes.  Sprinkle with salt and serve hot with the pan juices.

**************

Now I must confess I didn’t follow the recipe exactly.  Firstly, I used skinless chicken breasts to reduce the calories and fat content.  Also, I pre-seasoned my chicken with lemon juice, salt, pepper and green seasoning.  The Caribbean girl in me could not put unseasoned chicken straight into the baking dish like that. Also,  I was distracted by a phone call from my girlfriend so I forgot to add the lemon juice to the sauce.  Oops! I don’t think it made much of a difference since the chicken breasts had been marinating in lemon juice.

I think it turned out pretty great but a little too salty.  I don’t really think it is necessary to add the final sprinkle of salt if the sauce has salt and the chicken is seasoned with salt.  I would definitely advise that you go easy on the salt if you are trying this recipe out especially if like me, you have a tendency towards high blood pressure.

 

Into the oven we go!

 

The finished product.

 

I made a quick salad to go with this using arugula, baby spinach and tomatoes topped with tomato and basil feta cheese, garlic croutons and balsamic vinaigrette.

 

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