Jamaican cooks make magic with fish. Dishes like run down aren't complicated, but they are definitely more than the sum of their parts. (The name originates from the way the fish is cooked until it falls apart, or "runs down.") When big chunks of fresh-caught fish, tomato, peppers, onion, lime juice, and a bit of hot chile pepper, distinctively Caribbean ingredients that you probably have in your pantry, come together in a coconut milk base, you end up with a fish stew that's hearty but not heavy. Here in New England the fishmongers sell cod loin, a thick cut of white fish; if you don't like cod, or can't find the loin cut, use salmon, halibut, red snapper or mackerel, whichever looks best at the market. Serve run down as a main course, with rice (for a gluten-free dish) or some crusty bread to mop the bottom of the bowl. Remember: food that comes from hot climates really does cool you down in the summer.
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Although this recipe originated in Jamaica, it's popular throughout the Caribbean, and you can see why, can't you? These orange-spiced carrots look happy. That's because they are happy, after bathing in sugar, ginger, and orange or mango juice. The recipe couldn't be easier: Shred some carrots, using a food processor fitted with a shredding disk; cook the liquid and aromatics; dunk the carrots in the liquid; let everything get happy together for a quick few minutes. This dish tastes just as good cold as hot, so you can make it a day in advance. Serve as a side dish to not-too-spicy jerk chicken.
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Good news: you don't have to be a jerk to love this Jamaican jerk chicken. In fact, the name jerk doesn't have anything to do with obnoxiousness, or that Steve Martin character. The term might have originated with the Spanish word charqui, used to
describe dried meat, that later evolved to jerky and then jerk. Or, it might have come from the practice of jerking (poking) holes in the meat to fill with spices prior
to cooking. The hallmark of jerk chicken, most popular in Jamaica but also found in other parts of the Caribbean, is a spicy dry rub that includes fiery Scotch Bonnet peppers and aromatic allspice. From there, the recipe varies, but always includes other spices, such as thyme or nutmeg. Scotch Bonnets lend authenticity, but the jalapeños in this recipe tone down the fire a bit while still evoking the heat of the islands. The chicken tastes best when marinated overnight, so plan ahead when you can. Store cooked jerk chicken in the refrigerator for several days, or make ahead and freeze. Serve hot, over rice, or cold, sliced and stuffed into pita sandwiches.
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To get to the trains in Boston's Back Bay Station, you navigate between two of those famous Northeast donut shops and a vendor selling Jamaican meat patties from his cart. On most days I can resist the temptation of lattes and chocolate glazed doughnuts, but the aroma of curry wafting from that cart pulls me in. The last time I walked through the station, I promised I would make Jamaican meat patties for you. Though I prefer mine with extra-lean ground beef, you can substitute freely with ground chicken or turkey, pork or even goat, which is a Caribbean favorite. The filling comes together quickly from ingredients you already have in your pantry, and to make it even easier, use store-bought discos (empanada dough), another pantry staple, for the wrapping. If you have time, make a double or triple batch. Freeze them after they're baked, and reheat in a warm oven whenever you're ready to serve. These tasty little hand pies make a great take-to-work lunch, and a popular party appetizer.
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