ShakeItUp – Papaya-Cantaloupe Delight

Shake it Up! - Papaya-Cantaloupe

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Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today I celebrate the birthday of my mom, one of the dearest persons to me, and to whom I owe the early beginnings of my culinary journey.

mom

Mother dearest

It’s customary for me to take her to lunch at one of Kingston’s finest restaurants. But this time around I wanted something a little different. We had some catching up to do, so I figure we would drive out of town a little, have a few chats, while exploring the natural beauty of Jamaica. And that we did.

Views from the Palisadoes Strip, Kingston, Jamaica

Views from the Palisadoes Strip, Kingston, Jamaica

After about 20 minutes drive from my New Kingston apartment, a few stops and phone calls to confirm directions, and a few guesses of our own, we arrived at Gloria’s Seafood Restaurant. (No, it wasn’t my first time here, but I suck, I repeat, SUCK at directions. Pair that with a sh*tty memory and you have a killer combination.)

And so we arrived. I was excited to see mom’s reaction as it was her first time. She immediately commented on the scenic view of the mountains and sea, the serenity of the sea-breeze, and the welcomed difference of an open-air space as opposed to numerous indoor restaurants we’ve visited prior. I concur.

Views from the restaurant

Views from the restaurant

We went upstairs and got seated, well, took our seats. Two things flooded my memory about this restaurant: the food is good; but the service, well, erm, not so good. At all. Probably I am a little spoilt from the (few) occasions I’ve received good customer service in past restaurant visits. Devil’s advocate at play, it is Port Royal, a relatively small fishing town, where customer service is probably not front of mind.

mom

Nonetheless, mom and I took the opportunity to bounce around a few chats, photo opps, gossip of surrounding patrons, and some photo opps. (Yes I am aware). After a heavy 10 minutes, and after summoning one of the servers, we were finally approached. We placed our orders and returned to our chatter. Did I say two things? Make that that three. The waiter was kind enough to advise us that the food is done to order, and as such will take at least 30 minutes. And that it did. Well, about 40, but who’s counting? Luckily we had ordered some fish soup for appetizers, but those were finished in no time.

Steve

A hungry Stephen

I allowed mom first choice to see what my meal would be.  Truth be told, I was eyeing the steamed fish with steamed bammy, but mom beat me to it.

Steamed fish & steamed bammy

So I went for the curried shrimp, and festival. Not a fan of (white) rice. It didn’t matter really because the rest of the time was spent crisscrossing hands in each other’s plate.

Curried shrimp

The food was as good as I remembered. The only problem I had with the food is that my shrimp was about 1 ½ minutes overdone. Mom commented on the small portion of the bammy, but personally that’s to my liking. I was quick to preach about portion size and ratio of carbs to protein. That quickly took care of that. I didn’t mind my two measly festivals among the sea of shrimp, nor mom’s three sizeable fish beside her ½ bammy. Extra points for protein! #fistpump

protein power!

This post was not meant to be an official review so I won’t delve too deeply into that. Perfectly seasoned, perfectly priced, perfectly portioned. Crappy service and waiting time unfit for the hungry. And impatient.

I definitely would return; for both the journey and the food.

Of course, it didn’t end there. Mom and I took our photo-shoot across the road where we had a good shot of the sea in the background.

I love you mom!

mom photo collage

Steve.

Bruschetta w/ Black Bean Salsa

Tomatoes are in season. My dad, in one of his many trades has been growing a number of produce: lettuce, cabbage, eggplants, string beans, bell peppers, and tomatoes. On his somewhat random trips to Kingston he would bring an assortment of the morning’s freshest harvest. Right now my fridge is overgrown with vegetables of all sorts, awaiting their culinary fate. This morning, being the weekend – and partly due to last night’s fun and frolic – I rolled out of bed a little later than usual. As I walked pass this bag of perfectly ripe tomatoes I pondered on what I could use them for. Of course, my mind wasn’t comfortable enough with throwing them in a sandwich. I walked passed a few slices of bread – whole wheat, of course – and I immediately thought of bruschetta with fresh salsa. But somehow I was a little hungrier for just bread, tomatoes and onions. Then I remebered a can of black beans that I’ve been longing to use but just never got around to it. And so this dish was born.

Ingredients:
3 slices whole wheat bread
1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
2 fresh, ripe tomatoes, quartered
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 tbsp. capers
Fresh cilantro
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
S&P to taste
2 tbsp. EVOO

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Method:
1. Toast bread until crispy and golden brown. Set aside.
2. Soak chopped onions in cold water for 2-3 minutes to reduce bite.
3. Drain onions and combine with tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper in food processor. Process until ingredients are chunky and fully combined.
4. In a mixing bowl combine with black beans and stir in EVOO. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
5. Top toasted bread with black bean salsa.
6. Garnish with capers and enjoy immediately.

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You would realize that I soaked the onions in cold water before adding them in the food processor. I find regular white onions can have a bit of a bite when used fresh; this reduces the kick and makes it more palatable…and reduces the impact on your breath 🙂

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Bruschetta is traditionally done with French bread but it really doesn’t matter. Use what’s at your disposal and make it your own. With brunch the possibilities are really endless. Make it fun. Make it simple. Make it your own. One love, SC.
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“Think.Eat.Save- My Journey” by Meeckel

The need to eat local (and fresh) is even more important given today’s growing concerns of food security, economic instability, and health and fitness fads. Here’s an insightful read from my friend Meeckel on his part in the 2003 Jamaica campaign “Grow what you eat, eat what you grow.”

Think.Eat.Save- My Journey.

I too have made (however small) changes in my selections of foods in the supermarket, but unfortunately my current place of residence doesn’t allow me to plant, or even reap, any foods or fruits. I must admit, I am a little hesitant about going to Coronation Market, or any market for that reason, because of the time and toil that would require; the comfort of a nearby air-conditioned supermarket is a little more appealing. But I must change this. I’ll need company to go to; let me know who’s up for this. I am planning nonetheless to start a small herb garden from my balcony. I’ll keep you posted on this, hopefully sooner than later.

Eat fresh, eat local.

SC.

Warm Chickpea Salad w/ Tomatoes and Fresh Herbs

I just ran home from the gym, in the rain, and I am pretty famished. What can I make that’s quick but hearty and won’t undo what I just spent an hour and a half to achieve? Well, I opened my cupboard and found this staring me in the face.

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And so the light bulb went off.

Ingredients:
1 16 oz. can of fully cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
1 small onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp. fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
S&P to taste
EVOO to saute

Method:
1. In a skillet, saute onions, garlic, tomatoes, cumin seeds and fresh herbs in EVOO over medium heat for 2 minutes.
2. Add can of drained chickpeas and combine. Allow to heat through for 2 3 minutes.
3. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 3.

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I love chickpeas; they’ve been a family favorite from I was a kid. Mom used to make them from scratch (you know, buying them in the pack and soaking overnight and cooking them in the pressure cooker… #aintnoboddygottimeforthat) almost every Sunday for breakfast and she would sometimes add tuna or pink salmon. They are packed with protein and fiber which makes them very filling…perfect for a post workout meal.

Chickpeas are much more versatile…they are the base for the oh-so-good hummus that’s enjoyed the world over, and even make a good curry. There’s even chickpea flour, commonly used in Indian cuisines.

Check back soon for more chickpea recipes.

One love,
SC.

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Keeta Pita – Stuffed Pita Bread with Smoked Chicken Sausage, Melted Cheese and Olives

It’s Friday night and I finally took up the offer to visit my friend Nakeeta along with my twin Daenia.  Before we even begin on the culinary relevance of this post, let me digress to say how impressed we were with Nakeeta’s apartment. The space is all her: neat, clean, minimalist, modern design. The simple yet intricate mix of colours, textures, and dimensions was just perfect. Anywho, I’ll save the details for my design blog. Don’t hold your breath 🙂

So, we decided to download a movie and make a light snack to munch on. Well, we got neither the light nor the snack part right. A quick stop to the supermarket saw us purchasing pita bread and some random fillings we thought would go well. This was the result:

Ingredients:
1 pack garlic flavoured pita bread (6)
1 pack smoked chicken sausage, cut in 2 in. pieces (on the bias)
2 small green bell peppers, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
12 green olives, sliced
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. each dried herbs: basil, rosemary, and oregano
1/2 lb. white cheddar cheese, grated
Olive oil to saute
S&P to taste

Method:
1. Saute sausage until lightly browned. Remove and set aside.
2. Saute bell peppers, tomatoes, basil, rosemary, and oregano for 3 minutes. Remove and set aside.
3. Saute onions and brown sugar for 2 minutes. Onions should still maintain a firm texture. Remove and set aside.
4. Cut slit into pita bread halfway, enough to allow stuffing without falling apart.
5. Stuff pita bread with a bit of each ingredient. Place in sheet tray and allow to heat through at 325°F for 10-15 mins or until cheese is fully melted and pita bread begins to crisp up.
6. Remove from oven and enjoy immediately.

The dish, Keeta Pita, was named in honor of (Na)keeta, whose idea it was. See what I did there?

I also made a green side salad to go with this. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to snap a photo…we were pretty hungry and were a bit excited about how good the stuffed pita breads came out.

Nevertheless, the salad included romaine lettuce, cucumber, sliced green olives, and chopped celery stalks. With a drizzle of EVOO, apple cider vinegar, and a refashioned leftover sweet and spicy tamarind sauce from last Friday’s outing, the perfect dressing was conjured.

Overall the dish was simple but unbelievably tasty. It was the perfect mix of crisp, garlicky pita bread, smokey and hearty chicken sausage cutlets, with rich melted cheese oozing out, and perfectly crunchy veggies. Got to have those veggies.

Of course the night didn’t end without a refreshing cocktail of Schweppes grapefruit and a splash of Wray and Nephew white rum. #cheers!

We had a great time cooking together and sharing a few good laughs. Ok, maybe a bit more than a few. It’s always great to have great friends.

One love,
SC