JESSE’S PINEAPPLE CHOW**
Once you’ve fallen in love with this pineapple chow, do as the Trinis do and try using the same technique with other fruits. Mango chow and portugal chow (made with a relative of the mandarin orange) are also extremely popular in Trinidad. Trinis use the herb chadon beni, but cilantro is a close cousin and makes a readily available substitute.
1 ripe or almost ripe pineapple
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1⁄4-cup finely chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
1⁄4 scotch bonnet pepper, finely chopped (this is just an approximation; you’ll want to adjust it to your heat tolerance)
Salt and black pepper
1. Peel the pineapple and cut out the eyes. Slice the fruit into rings and then cut each ring into chunks (about 1 1/2 inches wide).
2. Combine the pineapple chunks with the garlic, cilantro, half the lime juice, half the chopped hot pepper, and a liberal sprinkling of salt and black pepper. Stir to mix thoroughly. (A master of road food, Jesse combines everything in a plastic container, snaps on the lid and gives it a really good shaking. No spoon necessary.)
3. Taste and add more lime juice, hot pepper and/or salt to suit your taste. The chow should have a nice balance of hot, sweet, salty and sour, with noticeable punch from the garlic and cilantro. Set aside for 20 minutes or so to allow the flavors to develop fully.
Makes 6 snack-size servings.
This smoky fire-roasted eggplant is scooped up with pieces of sada roti — pita bread will work — or served as a side dish with curry. Also a good cocktail-hour snack.
1 eggplant (about 1 lb.)
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp. olive oil
1⁄4-cup chopped onion
1⁄4 scotch bonnet pepper, finely chopped (adjust for spiciness)
1. Preheat barbecue to high. cut 2 of the garlic cloves into slivers. Make slits in eggplant and insert a garlic sliver into each slit.
2. Place eggplant on grill and roast, turning occasionally, until very soft and skin is charred black on all sides (about 25 minutes).
3. Remove eggplant from grill and cut in half lengthwise. scoop pulp, with garlic slivers, into a bowl and mash. Discard skin.
4. Chop the remaining garlic. Heat oil in small frying pan. add garlic, onion and pepper and fry till golden. Pour hot mixture over eggplant and mash. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes 4 servings
Homemade goolab jamoon – like glazed sour cream donut holes, but with a spicy-sweet undercurrent – were a close contender for my Top 10 list. Best eaten the day they’re made – but, frankly, you’re unlikely to have leftovers to worry about.
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cardamon
1/2 cup cold butter
7 oz condensed milk
1/4 cup evaporated milk
Oil for deep frying
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups water
1. Combine 2 cups of the flour and the spices in a large bowl.
2. Cut butter into flour mixture until it has the texture of fine crumbs.
3. Add condensed and evaporated milks and stir to combine. Add remaining flour by the tablespoon until you have a smooth, soft dough. You may not need all of it.
4. Pinch off small pieces (about a heaping teaspoon of dough) and roll between your palms to form an almond shape.
5. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a deep pot over medium-low heat. Deep fry the dough in batches until golden, about 4–5 minutes. (If they get brown before that, your oil is too hot, and the dough is not going to be properly cooked inside.) Remove and drain on paper-towels.
6. In a small, heavy pot, combine the sugar and water, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Boil over high heat until mixture spins a thread – 230˚ on a candy thermometer.
7. Place goolab jamoon in a shallow bowl or pan and pour hot syrup over them, turning continuously to coat them evenly until the syrup crystallizes.
Makes about 3½–4 dozen.