My youngest daughter is from the Caribbean. Well, she is from California now, but her first parents are both from the Bahamas. We blessed baby Nori this week and hosted a small dinner afterwards in our home. In honor of her heritage, I decided to make a Caribbean feast. I did some research and made sure to include the dishes that her first mom told me were her favorites. I wanted this dinner to embrace her past while we celebrated with some of the people who will play an important part of her future.
Caribbean food was really fun. There are TONS of little islands in the Caribbean (70 in the Bahamas alone) and each has a very different signature lifestyle and food. You can find almost every influence on the islands in this ocean. There is the British influence in the Bahamas, the Dutch influence in Aruba, the Latin influences of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, not to mention the African slaves and slave traders, European plantation owners, pirates and local Indian cultures. It is the true melting pot of flavor and culture.
There is one thing that is common to island food. Lime juice. I am only kind of kidding, but it does seem that every recipie I made had fresh lime juice in it. I must have juiced 50 limes this weekend. I also saw lots of coconut milk and fresh fruit like mango, papaya and bananna. I love the combination common in island food of sweet and spicy (like Jerk Chicken) or salty and sweet (pulled salt fish on coconut bread). I also love that things are served with sauces on the side..that is my kind of food. Mango Chutney, Peanut Satay, Coconut Curry Sauce, Mango and Papaya Salsa. Ummm, ummmm.
I have posted the recipies that I used at the blessing dinner. I got a lot of requests. I will add more as we learn more about the food. Almost all of these recipies can be made ahead of time. There is a bit of chopping involved, but that can be done ahead of time and things are just assembled at the last minute. Epicurious.com has a great advanced search option and you can search for Caribbean food (or Indian, or Mexican, etc) and you might find some fun stuff that way too. Also check out “Eat Caribbean” by Virginia Burke or “A Taste of Cuba” by Beatriz Llamas. Both are great starting places for Caribbean food.