My husband’s cousin Jane flew in from New York for a sunny break from the miserable weather up north. She came in with David’s sister, Mary Anne, who lives in Connecticut. Mary Anne and Jane are like sisters. They grew up together and get together often as adults. My regular readers know I like to put on the Florida/Tropical/Caribbean dog when the yankees come to visit. I like to make sure my guests know they are not in “Kansas” anymore.
So, in that vein I came up with the following menu for Mary Anne and Jane’s visit:
- Jamaican Jerk Chicken on the Grill
- Mock Coconut Rice or Real Coconut Rice if you like
- Creamy Jamaican Greens (Callaloo)
- Refreshing Agua de Jamaica (Hibiscus Flower Tea)
- Key Lime Panna Cotta
I was doing my no-carb thing, so everything was made with no or very little carbs. For the coconut rice, I used my “mock coconut rice” recipe. It is actually made out of fresh cauliflower that is riced in the food processor. Most people can not tell the difference and are truly amazed when I tell them it is not rice. Jane was no different, she was shocked!
Apparently Jane does not eat vegetables because she hates them. I wasn’t aware of this, so I felt pretty pleased when she absolutely loved my mock rice and – shock of all shocks – she had seconds on the creamy Jamaican greens!
I was wanting to stick as close as possible to my Jamaican theme, so I used Jamaican Callaloo, a hearty and sturdy green native to Jamaica. You can easily substitute Collard Greens, Mustard Greens, Kale or whatever you normally like. The method is to boil the greens with a smoked turkey wing, leg or neck, whichever you can find. The salty smoked meat imparts a fabulous flavor to the greens. Callaloo takes a long time to get tender, so I boiled it for about an hour. I drained it, and drizzled a little coconut milk over it and tossed in some of the turkey meat that I pulled off the bone. It was really delicious. Jane proved it!
The mock coconut rice is a synch to make if you have a food processor. I put the ricing blade on and pushed the cauliflower through it to get the small, rice-like pieces. I pulled out the bigger pieces and set aside for another use. It cooks really fast, so I brought some chicken stock with some coconut milk to a boil and added the cauliflower. I only cooked it for about seven minutes. I drained it, added my secret ingredient, a couple of drops of coconut extract. I seasoned it with salt and onion powder. I added chopped green onion and fresh cilantro, reserving some of both for garnish. I swear, you will fool your guests and yourself with this clever lo-carb side dish!
I found the dried hibscus flower buds at a large Jamaican market in the Fort Lauderdale area called Broward Meat And Fish Company. It is an amazing market! The first time I went in, I was so overwhelmed I left without buying anything. Everything was so exotic, so foreign to me, I didn’t know where to start. But I went back, and now I go all the time. They have tons of specialty food items from Jamaica, Haiti, Brazil, as well as other places.
They have a huge fresh seafood counter, another huge meat counter and a fabulous prepared food counter. You can buy goat meat or oxtails along with the usual chicken, beef or pork. They sell fish I’ve never even heard of! I found a package of what I thought was dried morel mushrooms. When I got them home, I realized the package said, Dried Sorrel – oops! It turns out dried sorrel is Jamaican hibiscus flower buds. So, I did a little research and came up with a very refreshing cocktail made with Hibiscus/Sorrel flower tea and ginger ale. I used Splenda to sweeten the tea and sugar-free ginger ale, but you could use sugar if you like. I offered the cocktail “virgin” or “slutty”, as I am want to do. The “slutty” version had a bit of Jamaican rum added – yummy! As I recall, we were all “slutty” that evening.
When I’m doing the no-carb thing at my house, everyone has to do the no-carb thing. So, for dessert I made a sugar free panna cotta and flavored and colored it with key lime extract. It was very pretty and everyone loved it.
It was great to see Jane and Mary Anne and I hope I may have inspired Jane to eat a vegetable once in a while! Come back soon, gals!