Saturday, November 28, 2009

Oven Roasted Ratatouille


This is a healthy and delicious version of a french classic. It makes a great side dish and is quick and easy. Leftovers can be stirred into pasta for another meal so that you can cook once but eat twice. The traditional method is a vegetable stew that is made on the stove top. It's not complicated but I prefer to make this in the oven. I like that I can prepare an accompanying dish at the same time that this is cooking. Also I prefer the use of olive oil instead of the butter in the traditional version.


Many recipes say that salting melongene (eggplant) before cooking makes it less bitter but I don't bother. Salt your melongene before hand or not, it's to your taste. I have never found eggplant to be a particularly bitter vegetable and the family never complains when I cook it. However I must warn you that I generally don't entertain complaints when I cook. If it's not charred beyond all recognition, it's considered edible. Furthermore, if you didn't stand around in a hot kitchen but sat in front of the television waiting for your dinner - you are not entitled to an opinion. Just kidding, everyone is entitled to an opinion. However, under the aforementioned set of circumstances you are better off keeping your opinion to yourself! Really.

This is one of those dishes where I don't use measured amounts of anything. I just toss stuff together until it looks to be enough. Feel free to use a little more or a little less - whatever. You can't go wrong with this dish and everyone will love it to the extent where they will be compelled not to keep their opinions to themselves and tell you how much they love it:-)


Oven Roasted Ratatouille (serves 6)


* 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
* 3/4 lb eggplant, cut in chunks
* 1/2 lb zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
* 1 lb plum tomato, seeded and cut into 4 wedges
* 1 sweet red pepper, cut in large strips
* 1 yellow sweet pepper, cut in large strips
* 1 red bell pepper, diced
* 1 green bell pepper, diced
* 1 yellow pepper, diced
* 2 red onions, quartered
* 1-2 tablespoon olive oil
* 1-2 teaspoon herbes de provence or Italian seasoning
* salt to taste

Place all vegetables and garlic in an oven proof dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle herbes de Provence or Italian seasoning and salt. Mix well to coat vegetables.
Bake at 400.c for approx 45 mins until vegetables are tender, check after 1/2 hour and stir to ensure even browning and taste for salt. If your vegetables are particularly juicy you may need to drain a bit of liquid off half way through cooking.

Friday, November 20, 2009

I wanted to love you, but sorry I only like you

When you are in love, research has shown that a large part of the cerebral cortex which is responsible for judgement and reasoning is deactivated to the point where you do stupid things. It can be argued that the same thing happens when one is inebriated. In my case it's just my innate weirdness gene and neither of the aforementioned that made me decide to grow my own mint for the sole purpose of making my own mojitos.

mint chocolate chip ice-cream

Years ago, my good friend D introduced me to the mojito and I fell in love. Unfortunately, it isn't very often that I find a place that serves them because fresh mint is only sporadically available here - if at all.

mint chocolate chip ice-cream

Finding a mint plant was easy. The garden shops have a good supply of a few varieties, spearmint, chocolate mint, and ordinary mint. Growing it is not so hard. It doesn't do well in our full Caribbean sun but seems to prefer filtered light. The good news is that if you don't have a green thumb it bounces back easily from periods of drought i.e when you have forgotten to water it.


Why then is this a post about ice-cream and not a highball glass, beaded with condensation from a lovely cold mojito? In short, dear friends, I do not own a muddler. In the event that you even care about my mojito dilema let me describe a muddler for you. As much as I am tempted to use the term to describe a particular Minister who sought to defend his Ministry's purchase of a 2 million dollar flag - a muddler is not a politician.

Our Minister of Sport recently attempted to clarify for the public that the flag only cost $18,000 while the design and engineering brought the total cost to 2 million dollars. The design and engineering of the flagpole should not be considered a part of the cost of the flag. That was a separate cost entirely. Mr. Minister further muddled the issue by suggesting that citizens should not protest the asstronomical cost (not a typo). Instead we should rejoice with the national pride that this flag was meant to inspire. Befuddled are we?

Let me clarify.

This is a muddler
(Sis, you may consider gifting me with one;-)

This is NOT a muddler (though it may behave like one)

As much as one is tempted to think otherwise - a muddler is in fact a doohicky that one uses to bruise the leaves and release the oils of the mint into your drink.

In my quest to become my own mojito barrista, I discovered that chopping the mint leaves in a blender does not work. Additionally, your loved ones don't tell you that you have leaf bits stuck between your teeth, preferring instead to make jokes to get you to smile even more.

Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Ice-cream

2 1/2 cups light cream, half-and-half or milk (whole or skim), or a combination

1/2 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

3 cups of fresh mint leaves (not stems), rinsed, drained, packed

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons cornstarch

3 quarter cups chocolate chips

1. Put the mint leaves in a heavy saucepan with 2 cups cream, half-and-half or milk, in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Heat until just steaming (do not let boil), remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 30 minutes. Reheat the mixture until steaming add the sugar and salt. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let stand for 15 more minutes.

2. Strain the milk cream mixture into a bowl, pressing against the mint leaves with a wooden spoon to get the most liquid out of them. Return the milk cream mixture to the saucepan. In a bowl, blend cornstarch with remaining 1/2 cup cream, half-and-half or milk; there should be no lumps. Add cornstarch mixture to pot. Cook, stirring, until it starts to thicken and barely reaches a boil, about 5 minutes. Immediately reduce heat to very low and stir for 5 minutes or so until thick. Stir in vanilla extract.

3. If mixture has lumps, strain it into a bowl. Chill until cool, When cooled, pour into an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Add chocolate chips according to the manufacturers instructions - usually in the last 10 - 5 mins of churning.

Yield: 1 generous pint.


For the above recipe I consulted with my BIFFL (Best Internet Friend's for life) Mark Bittman, David Lebovitz and Elise Bauer. Awwright, Awwright so these people don't actually know that I exist but I visit their sites often enough. Isn't it strange that social networking has in a sense legitimized stalking? Anyway my BIFFLS inspire me with their recipes and I am in awe of their curiosity about and skill with food. These guys have such a large following of fans, that I am a little bit afraid to be anything less than adoring of their use of fresh mint in ice-cream. Still, friends tell friends the truth don't they? So here is how our conversation went....

Elise :The taste of the ice cream using fresh mint really is out of this world, so if you can get your hands on fresh mint, I highly recommend using it for this ice cream.

Wizzy: Elise, you know you are my girl and fresh ingredients are the best but the next time I'm going for the peppermint oil.

David : Strain the mint-infused mixture through a mesh strainer into a medium saucepan (the milk will be a lovely shade of emerald).

Wizzy: Dav-ee-d, Mah boy! Pants on Fire, NO IT WILL NOT!

David: W - ee -zy, I don't want to say that you are culinary challenged so I will suggest instead that maybe your mint was chlorophyll challenged.

Robin Lee: It couldn't only be for me that eating fresh mint ice cream killed the desire to eat the regular stuff that I grew up on ever again.

Wizzy: Girlfriend, I tried to go there with you and David. You are my BIFFL after all. Sadly it was not to be. Fresh mint tastes like grass. Fresh minty grass but there is the unmistakable grass flavour which in my very unimportant opinion, is just so wrong in any dessert.

Mark: Yield, 1 generous pint.

: Thanks, but I'll not be taking you up on that offer for ice-cream at your house. Your cornstarch ice-cream base has made me a star but when talking ice-cream, a pint cannot be described as generous. It's just a scant two cups, man.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Monthly Mingle - Coconut Sweet Bread


For some reason I always think of brunch as a Sunday meal. Sunday is the one day of the week that I might get to sleep late. This late start to the day rules out breakfast because, by the time I arise, it's near enough to lunch to want something a bit more substantial. For this month's monthly mingle, hosted by Meeta K , I bring to the table a bread that is popular throughout the Caribbean. It's great for breakfast, brunch, tea or as snack anytime. There are as many versions of Coconut Sweetbread as there are islands in the Caribbean sea. Some are, as light as air commercial bakery versions, while others are doorstop heavy. I tend to prefer a heavier old-fashioned homemade coconut sweet bread but not as dense as a brick, thank you. This recipe is just like Granny used to make. It has substance to it without being too heavy. Enjoy.

Coconut Sweetbread Recipe

4 1/2 cups flour
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup chopped maraschino cherry
1/2 cup mixed peel
1/2 cup sultana or raisins
3 cups coconut, grated (not dried or sweetened)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, grated
2 eggs, well-beaten
1/2 cup evaporated milk
2 teaspoons almond essence
1/2 lb butter or margarine (melted)
yields 2 loaves


Mix and sift flour, baking powder and salt four times. Add sugar and fruit and blend evenly. Add coconut, cinnamon and grated nutmeg. Stir well. In another bowl combine the whipped eggs, milk, essence and cooled melted butter. Mix well. Make a well in the flour mixture. Pour the egg mixture into the well and stir with a spoon. Batter will be heavy and mixture will be fairly stiff. DO NOT KNEAD or bread will be tough. Mix entirely by spoon, assisted by a knife. Pile into 2 non-stick or greased loaf tins. Bake at 325 degrees for 50 - 60 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. When done, glaze with mixture of 1 tablespoon sugar and one tablespoon water. Sprinkle with granulated sugar and Return to the oven for 3 -4 mins

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It's-Too-Damn-Hot- to- BBQ- Chicken Recipe

It's true. I love food. I love to eat. But I do not love the daily chore that is cooking. (Gasp!) But wait, you have a food blog, you say. To which I reply, yes the occasional foray into food preparation and creating a healthy, satisfying or at times an extravagant, feast pleases me. Having to do it everyday - does not. The duty bound, run of the mill, everydayness of cooking can be exhausting and as dull as dirt. So like many home cooks, I have developed routines and quickie cheating versions of kitchen tasks that help me cope.


Let's examine a hugely popular cooking method the world over. Some people think that barbecue was transported from the Caribbean to the rest of the world when Europeans observed the manner in which Amerindians smoked and prepared their meats on a grill called a buccan. Wild game was cured with salt and spices, then covered with wet leaves and cooked on a grill of local wood over an open fire pit. This early method of barbecue was called boucan by the by the French and the word boucaniers (buccaneer)was used to describe persons who prepared their meats this way. The term eventually came to describe pirates who I can only surmise found this a convenient cooking method that served their swashbuckling, beach lifestyle.


Convenient though it may have been for early colonial settlers it's a pain in the steer butt or chicken carcass for a working mom of three - maybe four (counting the days when DH might be acting like a kid himself). Here is my big tip for preparing this popular meal: get your significant other to do it for you:-) Easy enough since the modern day grill seems to draw out a man's primal need to rustle with coals and giant slabs of raw meat which must be tamed with secret marinades, spice rubs, slapped with special sauces and then charred, uhmm I mean grilled. Even if the self same guy doesn't know where to locate a fork in his own kitchen (yes M, I am talking about you), he will no doubt be the owner of the Mercedes Benz of outdoor backyard grills(J this is you). What's more he will be more than willing to show you how to use it with swashbuckling flair. "Gas grills are for sissies," he'll declare through a cloud of smoke thick enough to keep all but the dragonfly sized mosquitoes away.

I love BBQ. DH and I tend to get all dewy eyed when we taste meat that has been smoked to a sweet, smoky, succulent, sticky perfection. Spare ribs at Pussers Marina Cay in the British Virgin Islands - we'll be back. Unfortunately, the chances of me hauling out a grill, fanning hot coals under an already sweltering Caribbean sun, getting smoke in my eyes and my hair are really - NEVER! Instead, when friends invite me to a barbecue, I will ask if it's okay to bring extra meat and whatever extra ingredients the cook might need. These extras are grilled and I take them home for later on in the week. Roll your eyes all you want doyenne of etiquette Marguerite Gorden. If you ever taste my friend J's barbecue you would do the same.


Finally, as I say in the title to this post, If I'm the one cooking, I prefer a method that does not sacrifice flavour but at the same time gets lunch or dinner on the table in quick time. Oven BBQ chicken is a very popular cheat version that appears often on the table for Sunday Lunch in many homes. There are many variations to suit personal preferences. The only must here is that your herbs should be fresh. Okay so the purists out there are probably firing up their own grills now to roast me for daring to call my baked chicken, barbecue. All I can say is, so long as you have that grill lit, may I come over with a few extra pieces of meat ;-)?

So here it is my quickie version of BBQ chicken done in the oven, better known as It's too damned hot to BBQ Chicken recipe! Or for those of you approaching winter in your country feel free to swap out the word hot for cold.)

3 1/2 - 4lbs chicken, cut up
1 lime
1 tsp salt
1 tsp minced garlic
6 tbs spoons green seasoning (use more or less to your taste)
2 cups Hunts bold (or your favourite babbecue sauce
1/2 cup ketchup (optional)
a generous splash Lea and Perrin's Worcestershire sauce (or Angostura Bitters or both)
1 tsp ( or more) Caribbean pepper sauce.

1) Wash chicken with lime. Squeeze one lime in 3/4 cup of water. Add to bowl of cut up raw chicken and mix. Pour off the lime water.

2) Season chicken with salt, garlic, green seasoning bitters and or Worcestershire sauce. Leave in the fridge overnight or at least 1/2 hour

3) Place skin side up on a foil-lined, baking dish. Discard marinade. Sprinkle some additional green seasoning over chicken. Mix the ketchup, barbecue sauce and the pepper. Cover chicken with this sauce and bake for 35 - 40 mins at 325 degrees F.

4) Remove from the oven. Coat chicken with additional barbecue sauce and return to the oven.

5) Cook until done about 15 mins more, turning chicken and basting occasionally until chicken has a nice colour and the sauce is a thick gravy. You could always add a little water to it for a thinner sauce. We like a cooked sauce and this saves us the extra step of cooking one on the stove.

Okay lets talk green seasoning.


This is the key to this dish.  Click on here to read more about it. I make my seasoning using chives, celery, Spanish, French and Portuguese thyme, Trinidad seasoning peppers, chadon beni and garlic.

I know my amateur photography doesn't do this justice and there are some of you still doubting that the deliciousness factor of BBQ done in an oven. Well for you doubting Thomas' head over to The Hungry Mouse her technique is slightly different but the result is the same BBQ with less work! Her photos will surely tempt you.