Monday, January 25, 2016

A Trip To The Tropics

Saturday's monster snowstorm has us all longing for balmy breezes with a pina colada in hand or a plate full of chicken jerk under a Caribbean moon. Even though we can't visit Hawaii or Jamaica, we can certainly take a culinary trip to their foods. In fact , there could even be a luau planned despite the snow!

Many think Polynesian and Hawaiian is just pineapple and poi.Its much more than that, we have the Hawaiians to thank for sea salt. They were the first to use it along with various fish and seafood. European settlers brought in pork and chicken which are the backbones of the cuisine.Try the Khal Bi an Asian (the cuisine is also heavily influenced by Chinese, Japanese and Korean settlers to the islands) dish of marinated short ribs. Butterfly short ribs and then let them soak for four hours in a marinade of soy sauce and honey , spiced up with garlic and ginger root. Sesame oil gives it its's smoothness Serve with a variation of somen salad, using the ultra thin  Japanese noodles (vermicelli can be subbed in) mixed with kamaboko, processed white fish  and shredded lettuce. You could also add pepper and tomatoes - yes they're grown in paradise too - and dress wit rice wine vinegar  and sesame oil. Torikatsu is another Hawaiian specialty that uses panko breaded chicken breasts served with a tangy side sauce made with A-1, catsup, along with soy sauce and sugar. You can add a dash of hot sauce for true tradition or omit it for a milder dip.

The Caribbean is another great winter destination. It gives us tongue searing jerks and spicy callaloos. Jerks are a blend of the super hot Scotch bonnet pepper, allspice and thyme. It's easy to make at home,however due to the pepper's fieriness, It's highly recommended to use rubber gloves.. Home chefs can sub in a pepper with lesser heat. Lime or orange juice is added to make it into a paste. For a true island zing  use a slug of rum for some kick and sweetness. Jerks can be used on everything from beef to chicken but it is a standard with pork.Some Jamaican recipes call for lamb and even fish.
Callaloo is a type of spinach, popular in Trinidad and Tobago along with Guyana.Luckily it's now found in markets every where and made with garlic and thyme. Scotch bonnet can be added to give it enough heat for a fireplace along with lemon juice. Try it Virgin Island style with eggplant , okra and sweet potato for a kind of veggie stew.For quick snack food , make Jamaican patties.It's a curry flavored crust surrounding a spicy chopped beef or chicken filling. It's a great weekend dish to  make and have with a chilled ginger beer.

Foodies can turn their kitchens into culinary getaways  by cooking foods of the tropics Try a sweet Hawaiian dish or a fiery jerk to remind one of balmy nights  and warm turquoise seas.It's almost like a vacation to your favorite island!

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