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Carribean Spice

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During our winter in South Florida, I had an opportunity to explore the cooking of the Caribbean Islands, a cuisine that is very popular in the Sunshine State.

While we often associate Caribbean cooking with hot, spicy sauces, marinades, and rubs—and the Caribbean has its share of fiery condiments and dishes—there is significantly more depth and flavor than heat in most Caribbean dishes. Brightly seasoned sauces, flavorful rubs and marinades, and complex seasonings characterize Caribbean cooking. A culinary melting pot, Caribbean cooking has been influenced by indigenous people and immigrants from Europe, Africa, India, China, and the Middle East. Our entertaining in Florida featured several sauces, rubs, and marinades that delighted northern guests and even surprised South Florida natives. In this newsletter, I share the recipes for sauces, rubs, and marinades and my April blog (link here?) features a few of my favorite Caribbean sandwiches, salads, and side dishes. In an upcoming issue of PMM, I offer a few Caribbean menus that are easy to make aboard. Get lost in the Caribbean with me!


Haitian Hot Sauce (Sauce Ti-Malice) (Mild)

The name of the first sauce—Sauce Ti-Malice ("soos tee malees") is based on a story from Haitian folklore. Two characters, Ti-Malice ("Little Malice") and Bouki, are good friends but Ti-Malice is a prankster. Bouki shows up at Ti-Malice's house every day around lunchtime. Ti-Malice, being good-natured, ends up sharing his lunch with Bouki every day. One day, Ti-Malice prepares a very hot sauce as a condiment for lunch, hoping to deter Bouki from coming back each day. But the ploy backfires! When Bouki tastes the meat with the hot sauce on it, he runs all over town, bragging, "Come taste the sauce Ti-Malice made for me." This delicious green sauce can be served warm or cold on meat, fish, or rice dishes; eaten with vegetables; spread on sandwiches; or enjoyed as a salad dressing.

1/2 c. vinegar or lemon or lime juice, or a blend of all three
1 medium onion or four shallots, finely chopped
1/2 c. chives, scallions, or parsley, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 or 3 jalapeños or other hot peppers (depending on how hot you want the sauce)
2 T. olive oil
1/2 T. salt
Blend all ingredients by hand or in a food processor. Taste and add more salt if needed. Let sauce sit 2–3 hours before serving.

French West Indian Sauce Chien (Hotter)

Sauce Chien is literally translated as "Dog Sauce," named for the fierce bite of its peppers! Serve with grilled fish, shrimp, or lobster.

3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 medium shallots or a small onion, peeled and quartered
1–3 jalapeño, Scotch bonnet, or habanero chili peppers, seeded and quartered
2 t. chopped fresh ginger
1/2 c. parsley leaves
1/4 c. chopped fresh chives or scallion greens
1/2 t. fresh or 1/4 t. dried thyme
1 scant teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of ground allspice
1/3 c. fresh lime juice, or more to taste
1/2 c. olive oil
By hand or using a food processor, chop the garlic, shallots, chili peppers, ginger, parsley, and chives. Add remaining ingredients and process just to mix. If desired, add more salt and/or lime juice to taste. Let flavors blend for an hour or more. Serve with grilled shrimp or lobster.

Puerto Rican Ajili-Mojili (Hottest)

This garlic and pepper sauce is widely used in Puerto Rican cooking. Ajili-Mojili is delicious with beef, lamb, or pork.

2 sweet red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1–3 jalapeño, habanero, or Scotch bonnet chili peppers, seeded and minced
1/4 c. chopped garlic
2 T. lime juice
1/4 c. vinegar
1 t. salt
1 t. black pepper
1/2 c. olive oil
1 t. cilantro, chopped
Blend all ingredients by hand or in a food processor. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Let sit 2–3 hours before serving.


Lime Pepper Rub

This tangy rub hails from Cayman Brac where it is used to flavor meats for grilling.

1/2 c. sea or kosher salt
1/2 c. course ground black pepper
1 c. dried lime zest or fresh grated lime zest dried in a 150° oven for 24 hours
1/2 c. dried lemon zest or fresh grated lemon zest dried in a 150° oven for 24 hours
Mix ingredients thoroughly and store in a dry, airtight container. Use as a rub for steaks, roasts, or chops. Makes 2½ cups.

Puerto Rican Adobo

Puerto Rican Adobo is a rub used on meats, seafood, and chicken. Widely available in grocery stores in South Florida, I don't often find it in Maryland, so I make it myself to keep on the boat.

4 T. salt
3 T. onion powder
3 T. garlic powder
3 T. black pepper
1½ t. oregano
1 t. cumin
1 t. dried lime zest (or lemon or orange or a blend)
1 t. of achiote powder (optional)
Blend ingredients well and store in a dry, air-tight container. Makes 1 cup.


Anguillan Beef Marinade

This delightful marinade is from the small island of Anguilla where it is used primarily as a marinade for beef. I love it on pork and lamb, too.

1 T. salt
Black pepper to taste
2 T. of molasses
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup wine vinegar (white or red)
Combine all ingredients and marinate meat for 2–3 hours. Grill, broil, or sauté meat.

Cayman Island Pepper Lime Marinade

Said to be a favorite marinade for fish at Chef Tell's Cayman Island restaurant, it is spicy and flavorful.

1 T. paprika
1 T. sage
1 T. marjoram
2 T. garlic, chopped
6 scallions, chopped
1 T. hot peppers, chopped
3 T. black pepper
3 T. lime juice
3 T. olive oil
1/4 t. ground cloves
Combine all herbs and spices. Mix in blender or food processor and let sit for 2–3 hours, or even overnight. Put the spice mixture on the fish and grill or pan fry to taste.