I love snow for about the first month or so. As long as it stays sunny and bright, rather than gloomy and gray, I’m fine with the winter weather. But when the sun disappears so does my cheer and I find myself craving some tropical weather. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to take off for some sunshine every time I feel like it. So, to help improve my mood and remind me of the tropics I have enjoyed, I start adding tropical dishes to my meal plans. It brings back fond memories while adding some internal sunshine to our home despite the blustery weather outside. We all have dishes that we have enjoyed at local eateries while we are away. They often make use of different fruits and vegetables than those that grace our table during the rest of the year. Seafood is another common element to many tropical dishes. I’ve gathered a few of my favourites here for you. Some are from Allrecipes.com while others come from Tropicalfoodies.com – both sites are ones that are contributed to by home cooks like you and I.
1) Stuffed Plantain boats
This is a Jamaican dish from Tropical Foodies, contributed by Linda. Some regular grocery stores carry plantains but otherwise you may need to find a Caribbean grocer for this ingredient.
- 2lb plantains, about 6 ripe and firm plantains ((1 kg))
- ½ cup oil
- ½ cup finely grated cheddar (or other) cheese, grated
- 2 TB olive oil
- 1 TB butter
- 1 scotch bonnet or jalapeno chili, deseeded and minced (wear gloves when handling peppers, leave out if you don’t want it as spicy or substitute some red chili pepper flakes for less scorching heat)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ red bell pepper, deseeded and minced
- ½ green bell pepper, deseeded and minced
- 8 oz ground pork
- 3 spring onions, green and white parts, thinly sliced
- salt and freshly ground pepper
Start by making the filling, in a large skillet, heat the butter and 2 TB olive oil. Add in the chili and garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add in bell peppers and continue cooking for another four minutes, until peppers are soft. Add in the pork and cook until pork is fully cooked. Add onions and season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large skillet, heat the oil (1/2 cup) until it is hot but not smoking. Peel plantains and fry over medium high heat until brown on each side – about 2 minutes per side. Remove them from the pan and drain on a paper towel. Cut a vertical slit from one end of the plantain to the other. Tuck 3-4 TB of filling into each plantain and then sprinkle with cheese. Place plantains on a foil covered baking sheet and bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until the plantain is fully cooked.
2) Baked Coconut Shrimp
I think this is probably a favourite with most vacationers – who hasn’t sat on a beach munching on fried shrimp? I’m not keen on deep frying though, so I’ve gone with a baked version from girlbob on All Recipes here.
- 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1/3 cup cornstarch
- 1 tsp salt
- ¾ tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 cups flaked sweetened coconut
- 3 egg whites, beaten until foamy
Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray. Rinse and pat shrimp dry with a paper towel. In a bowl mix together the cornstarch, salt, and cayenne. Place coconut in a separate bowl, and eggs in a third bowl. Take each shrimp and dredge it in cornstarch, then dip it in the egg whites, and finally roll it in the coconut. Bake until shrimp is fully cooked (flesh will be pink and firm) – about 7-10 minutes per side.
3) Tropical Grilled Pork Chops
This is a great way to liven up a pork chop dinner. The recipe comes from Eve11 on All Recipes.
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp chili powder
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 pod cardamom seeds
- ½ tsp water, or as needed
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 mango – peeled, seeded, and chopped
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tsp cilantro
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, minced
- 1 ½ cups unsweetened applesauce
- 3 pineapple rings, chopped
- 1 pinch white pepper
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
- 6 pork chops
Mash together (use a mortar and pestle if you have one) garlic, chili powder, cayenne pepper and cardamom seed. Add just enough water to form a paste. Heat the oil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add spice paste and cook until it begins to bubble – about 30 seconds. Stir in vinegar and continue to cook (without boiling) for about 2 minutes. Stir in sugar until it dissolves completely. Add in mango, salt, cilantro, lemon juice, and jalapeno and cook at a simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in applesauce and pineapple and simmer for another 10 minutes. Season it with pepper, put it in a bowl, cover it and refrigerate until needed. This is your salsa. To make the marinade, place 2/3 cup of salsa, 1/3 cup of vinegar and the soy sauce in a large, sealable bag. Add pork chops, seal, and marinate in fridge for at least 1 hour. Prepare your grill, remove chops from the bag putting the leftover marinade into a saucepan. Heat it to a boil and use it to baste your chops periodically as they grill. Warm remaining salsa separately and use this to top your cooked chops.
4) Mangolicious Tilapia
Tilapia is a great tasting, versatile fish that is easy to find in most grocery stores.
- 4 tilapia fillets
- 2 TB olive oil
- 1 ½ TB grated orange zest
- ¼ cup fresh orange juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- crushed red pepper flakes to taste
- 1 mango – peeled, seeded and diced
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 1 avocado – peeled, pitted and diced
- 3 roma tomatoes – peeled, seeded and chopped
- 1 lime, zested and juiced
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
- 1 TB minced fresh ginger root
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 tsp kosher salt
Preheat oven to 400 F. In a shallow baking dish combine olive oil, orange juice, orange zest, salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes. Rinse fish fillets and pat dry with a paper towel. Place them in the baking dish, turning them over a few times to ensure seasonings coat the fish. Bake for 10 -12 minutes until fish is cooked through and flakes easily with a fork. While fish is cooking, combine remaining ingredients in bowl to make salsa and let it sit at room temperature until ready to serve. Top fillets with salsa.