I love to cook and experiment with new flavors in the kitchen- particularly when I get to try my hand at new flavors from another country. However, the flair of their local fare often comes from ingredients that are easier to obtain there than here. I’m hesitant to shell out a lot of money for some unusual foreign ingredient if I don’t know how to use it very well or even if I will like it!
Such was the case, as some of you may know, when I tried to make Hot and Sour Soup. If not, let’s just say that my inordinately strong pregnancy craving for Hot and Sour Soup was effectively crushed by the resulting swill.
And so, usually, my longing for culinary creativity must simply find another outlet, but somewhere in the back of my mind, I still long to travel the world through the flavors on my plate.
Such longings are sometimes nurtured and coaxed by the wondrousness that is Iron Chef America. Two chefs are given 1 hour to prepare four courses for a panel of judges- but every dish must contain the one “secret ingredient” which is revealed immediately before the cooking battle begins. FASCINATING!
A while back, I had Iron Chef on in the background while I was working. It was “Battle Pineapple” and each chef was doing his best to craft each dish to incorporate pineapple. Very interesting! I wasn’t looking at the tv at the time, so I never saw what it looked like, or what was in it, but I heard the commentator mention that one of the chefs was making a pineapple salsa.
Ahhh, all the culinary gears in my mind started whirring. I knew I was going to make a meal based on pineapple salsa. It just sounded so … gloriously delicious! But what would you eat with pineapple salsa?
Caribbean jerk chicken, of course. I just knew it.
Had I ever made jerk seasoning? No.
Had I ever even tasted anything Caribbean jerk? Nope.
Did I even know quite what Caribbean jerk seasoning was?? Nada.
But I knew it would be perfect with pineapple salsa … which I also had never tasted.
And then – fate. I was at the store, and there were beautiful fresh pineapples at beautifully low prices. I snatched one. My little herb/patio garden has been flourishing lately and I knew I had jalapenos and tomatoes ready to pick, as well as some fresh herbs for seasoning. Pineapple salsa, you are about to become a reality! But that little nagging question was still in the back of my mind- what exactly WAS this jerk seasoning that I was going to make to go with it?
Fear crept in – would I need some strange ingredients? Would it be outrageously expensive? Would I be serving pineapple salsa … with nothing else? I tried to squelch the butterflies in my stomach and started Googling Caribbean jerk seasoning.
What is it? Can I make it???? Will this work?!?! MY POOR PINEAPPLE!!!!!! I don’t think I can convey to you just how agitated I was.
And then … there was some beautiful singing and flowers were blooming and sunlight was streaming down on my face …. I had almost everything I needed either in my garden or on hand already! I only had to buy ginger and brown sugar- both of which I knew I would use in other ways as well. I bounded away to the grocery store.
Because of all my agitation over whether I could reasonably make jerk seasoning, I never had a chance to worry about how it would taste … even though I wasn’t strictly following any recipe- I made my own up based on the various recipes I read online. But somehow I knew it had to work. The only question was what to have on the side.
At the store, I found some beautiful baby portabella mushrooms, and so the meal was complete in my mind. With the crazy zesty, spicy and tropical flavors in the pineapple salsa and the jerk chicken, I wanted something earthy and mellow to balance it out. Knowing what I already had on hand in the kitchen, such as some broccoli that needed to be used, I could picture the final plate in my mind-
Carribean jerk chicken over rice, served with pineapple salsa
Caramelized onions and sauteed mushrooms seasoned with thyme
Broccoli sauteed with garlic
I grabbed the mushrooms, and after a long hunt for the practically hidden basket of ginger root, I headed home.
The night before I planned to have this exciting dinner, I made the marinade for the chicken – and then there ensued the results from forgetting to take my contacts out before dicing the jalapenos. = Ouch.
Then comes the day to eat the long anticipated pineapple salsa. I gathered my fresh ingredients … its so nice to have an herb garden! Fresh ingredients are not only more flavorful and more fun to cook with; they are also just more appealing. Compare:
No, never mind, there is no comparison!
fresh is greater than driedin flourishcafe
The dishes came together and the kitchen was filled with a warm spiciness. If you, like me, didn’t know what was in jerk seasoning, some of the strongest flavors come from hot peppers, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and ginger. Recipes vary, but these were some of the curious and aromatic scents filling the air. The pineapple salsa looked beautiful- just petite dice some fresh pineapple, ripe tomatoes, sweet onions, jalapenos, and cilantro and you will see. Everything came together, and we sat down to eat. For the first time, I was suddenly afraid it wouldn’t go together- it might not taste good! It might be terrible! What have I done?! This is CRAZY!!!!
Crazy, yes. Crazy DELICIOUS! My sixth sense had been right along. The pineapple salsa and the Caribbean jerk chicken were simply perfect together. Tim, my husband, raved. I savored the meal. I traveled to Jamaica and back. It was a lovely trip.
Have you ever had a culinary epiphany? Or a culinary disaster – like my Hot and Sour Soup? Tell me about it in the comments, below!