WHAT'S COOKING WITH KURT
This might not have been the best winter for Northwest skiers, but no one I know is complaining about our early spring. I confess we’re already in a tropical mood here, due to tasting dishes inspired by Caribbean cooking. Lots of spice and bold flavors in this part of the world, just what I love! Caribbean cooks have long used pure, all-natural ingredients to create zesty soups, stews and casseroles, so this area was a perfect match for Pasta & Co when we considered what cuisines to explore this year. That’s our commitment to you: everything we serve and sell at Pasta & Co is all natural, additive- and preservative-free. Taste the difference in our spring deli menu infused with authentic Caribbean flavors. These dishes will positively add snap and sizzle to your spring meals. Our ace Culinary Council has also selected some dynamite pantry items you’ll want to try. Who can resist Jamaican Jerk Mustard, Creole Spice or Mango Pineapple Chutney? Their sweet-spice tango will liven up any dish you add them to. We’ve also stocked a genuine jerk paste to kick off the grilling season, the perfect seasoning since some believe barbecue originated in the Caribbean. Read all about these finds farther down the page. Check them out now and be ready when summer grilling season hits. Stop by and take home our best to make dinnertime easy and delicious--Caribbean-style!
Yours in good taste,
CARIBBEAN FOOD & FLAVORS
Have you ever tasted armadillo or turtle? You could if you visit the Cayman Islands, where turtles are a longstanding favorite with native residents. Throughout the Caribbean, native cooking traditions mingle with those of foreign explorers, European colonial nations and African slaves to create a rich and varied cuisine based on fresh, local ingredients.
Stretching 2,500-miles in an arc from Florida to the top of South America, the Caribbean islands are a tropical paradise of white sandy beaches, fertile fields, exotic flowers and lush vegetation encircled by turquoise seas. Divided into the Greater Antilles (Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Puerto Rico, and the Lesser Antilles (the Leeward and Windward Islands, Trinidad, Tobago, Barbados, Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire), these islands are both similar and different in their culinary traditions.
The Arawaks and Carabs, Indian groups from South America, were the islands’ first inhabitants. They grew cassava and corn, used fiery chiles for seasoning, fished for spiny lobster, turtles and crayfish, and trapped and ate wild animals such as armadillos and iguanas.
European explorers brought many ingredients and dishes we now associate with traditional Caribbean cooking: Christopher Columbus introduced sugar cane on his second voyage, Captain Bligh brought breadfruit, and later Spanish seafarers brought pork and meat stews. African slaves, who worked on sugar plantations and in rum factories, grew the foods of their homeland: okra, yams, sweet potatoes, greens and beans. Using iron pots and wrapping foods in banana leaves, both typical of African cooking, became commonplace. Once slavery ended, workers from India and China arrived to work the fields and factories, bringing ingredients such as rice, curry and spices. The cooking traditions and dishes of the Caribbean’s colonial powers--France, Spain, Great Britain and the Netherlands--added another layer of flavor, differentiating foods among the islands. From this melting pot, a complex and flavorful cuisine emerged, one easy to enjoy. We’re delighted to share it with you.
DELI DISHES INSPIRED BY THE CARIBBEAN
No armadillo being dished up at Pasta & Co this spring. Sorry! Instead we’ve prepared some terrific dishes with authentic Caribbean flavors. Boldly flavored and seasoned, they’ll add tropical zest to all your spring meals now through Passover (3/30-4/5), Easter (4/4), Mother’s Day (5/9), and right on to Memorial Day (5/31).
For starters, check out our refreshing COOL PINEAPPLE SALSA. It’s a chunky mixture of chopped cucumber, pineapple and mint leaves dressed with lime juice and honey just waiting for your favorite blue corn chips or to top quesadillas.
Our spring main dishes starring chicken are some of our best ever, and guaranteed to make weeknight dinners extra easy. The Caribbean’s Asian heritage shows up in PEANUT-CHICKEN, which is seasoned with garlic, fresh thyme, curry powder and lemon juice, then seared, and mixed with onions that have been sautéed with tomato and habanero peppers, then simmered with peanut butter. It’s a real crowd and family pleaser. KICKIN’ COCONUT CHICKEN features tender chicken breasts marinated in a mixture of garlic, habanero peppers and spices. Dredged in flour, they’re sautéed, then oven-baked with a coating of honey drizzled coconut. CARIBBEAN FRICASSEED CHICKEN is our version of a Caribbean stew. This hearty dish marinates chicken breast pieces in kosher salt, pepper, habanero peppers, green onions and fresh thyme. The chicken is then seared and added to red and yellow onions, red potatoes, carrots and zucchini simmered in chicken stock, pick-a-peppa seasoning and ketchup. You’ll want enough to have lunch leftovers of this dish!
To round out our spring mains, we’re serving PORK TENDERLOIN WITH PINEAPPLE RELISH, which features tender pork tenderloin medallions that are coated with crushed coriander seeds, then sautéed to make a crisp crust. It’s paired with a sweet-zesty pineapple relish made by deglazing the sauté pan with rice vinegar and rum, then stirring in crushed pineapple, sweet onions, diced jalapeño peppers and fresh thyme. For jerk fans, JERK PORK is the real thing--pork shoulder steaks marinated in an authentic jerk seasoning, then grilled and oven-baked until tender. Always popular, the Caribbean version of TURKEY JOE features ground turkey seasoned with diced onions, red bell peppers, habanero peppers, garlic, curry, turmeric, garam masala, paprika, cinnamon and ginger. The zesty mixture is browned, then simmered with chicken stock and tomato paste.
For sides to accompany the chicken or pork dishes, take home FRENCH LENTILS WITH CARAMELIZED ONIONS AND PINEAPPLE. Tiny French lentils are cooked until tender and tossed with caramelized onions and pineapple chunks to make a sweet-savory dish. We’ve got Caribbean-style salads, too. Our RICE SALAD WITH CURRIED YOGURT DRESSING is a great choice to accompany chicken or pork. It’s a mix of rice, raisins, chopped red onion, red and yellow bell peppers tossed with a curry-yogurt dressing sparked with rice vinegar. CARIBBEAN BLACK BEAN SALAD, blending black beans with chopped red onion, cucumbers, red bell peppers and fresh basil in a dressing of lime juice, red wine vinegar and olive oil, is also a terrific match for meats and seafood.
CARIBBEAN PANTRY PICKS
What are the special flavors and ingredients of the Caribbean? Once again, the Culinary Council selected an exciting selection of spreads, chutney, mustards and more to share the tropical tastes of the islands. From Dulcet, a CREOLE SPICE & RUB captures the piquant blend of the region’s European and African influences, while the award-winning CREOLE MUSTARD combines organic stone-ground mustard with Creole spices in a blend certain to wake up your taste buds. From Earth & Vine, we chose JAMAICAN JERK MUSTARD for its kick that’s terrific for pretzel dipping or brushing onto grilled meats, roast chicken and veggies. Or try the Gracious Gourmet’s TROPICAL FRUIT SPREAD, a blend of small pieces of pineapple, coconut, mango and papaya in a base of passion fruit puree and coconut milk accented with cilantro and a dash of cayenne pepper. It’s a natural with pork, fish and shellfish, or spooned into rice pudding or yogurt. Of course, no Caribbean pantry is complete without jerk, the fiery Jamaican food that’s a blend--the special combination is usually a cook’s secret--of allspice, peppers, onion and garlic and gives grilled and baked foods their hot and wonderful taste. Our pick is JAMAICAN JERK SPICE from Neera’s Cinnabar Specialty Foods. On the sweet side, we couldn’t resist Earth & Vine’s CARIBBEAN BANANA CARAMEL CULINARY SAUCE to drizzle over pancakes, fruit salad, grilled pineapple, chocolate cheesecake or any other treat you imagine. Or there’s the Gracious Gourmet’s MANGO PINEAPPLE CHUTNEY that combines mangoes, pineapple, macadamia nuts and coconut with a subtle ginger finish that’s an ideal accompaniment to seafood, pork and chicken--or simply spread on a ham sandwich. The Marich CURRIED COCONUT CASHEWS are packed with crunch and sweet island flavor.
We’ve also stocked some thoughtful gifts for Mother’s Day (5/9). To add a tropical fragrance to any kitchen, there’s Voluspa’s KITCHEN CANDLES in Satsuma Tangerine, Mission Fig, or Black Chanterelle and Cardamom Flower, and a PROFESSIONAL KITCHEN HAND SCRUB that treats dry hands with natural healing and emollient oils while also removing food odors from hands. And what mom doesn’t love chocolate? Our picks from Saxon Chocolates---individually-wrapped creamy dark chocolate ganache HAZELNUT TRUFFLES, creamy COCONUT BARS and CAFÉ LATTE ESPRESSO BEANS coated in chocolate with cinnamon sugar--are sure to sweeten her day.
KURT'S KITCHEN WISDOM
Pork tenderloin is one of the most versatile cuts of meat I know. It’s easy to prepare and lends itself to a range of marinades and seasonings. For example, we’ve adapted the Apricot-Glazed Pork Tenderloin recipe in our PURE FLAVOR cookbook using CREOLE MUSTARD and MANGO PINEAPPLE CHUTNEY, both Caribbean pantry items. Served with Beecher’s Fresh Kale and Brown Rice Gratin, it makes a complete meal on a busy weeknight.
MANGO-PINEAPPLE CHUTNEY-GLAZED PORK TENDERLOIN
Serves 4 to 6
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds pork tenderloin
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2/3 cup mango pineapple chutney
2 tablespoons Creole mustard
1 cup prepared chicken stock
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Toss the onions with the olive oil and pour them into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes.
While the onions are baking, season the pork with the salt and pepper. Stir the chutney together with the mustard in a small bowl.
Place the seasoned pork on top of the onions and spoon the chutney mixture evenly over the meat’s surface.
Pour the chicken stock around the pork.
Bake 20 to 30 minutes in preheated oven, or until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 150°F to 165°F. Remove from the oven and let the pork rest 10 minutes before serving.
To serve, cut the pork into 1/2-inch to 1-inch slices and place 3 to 4 slices on each plate. Garnish with the onions and any remaining sauce from the bottom of the baking dish.