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Use Your Bean -- Make a Jamaican Dinner!
March 15, 2002


By Lynne Bigwood, Northarvest Home Economist

Many people from the Northarvest region take a warm winter vacation in the Caribbean.  Hopefully, these recipes and menu suggestions will help both travelers and adventuresome eaters to create a dinner from that region.

Beans and rice is a staple food in many areas of the world, including the Caribbean. The vegetable/grain protein in these two foods is complementary so no meat or other protein source is needed to supply the building blocks to make a complete protein the body can use. Beans and corn work together also, but the best match is beans and rice. Most other vegetable combinations, except soybean products, require a small amount of meat or dairy product to complete the protein.  American menus usually serve beans and rice as a complex carbohydrate with meat but it may be served as a vegetarian main dish.  Black, small red or other dark colored beans may be substituted for kidney beans.  If black beans are used, the bean liquid may be omitted and fresh water or more coconut milk used to cook the rice and seasonings alone, and then add hot drained black beans just before serving. This method will maximize the black and white contrast. 

Coconut milk adds a nice, but not overwhelming, base flavor to the dish. It is available canned.  Dry thyme may be substituted for fresh; use 1 or 2 teaspoons according to your preference.  The type and number of chili peppers used will determine how hot the dish is.  Jalapeno, Serrano or scotch bonnet are recommended. Use your favorite. I use just one fresh jalapeno to make a mild dish that offsets the medium heat of the spicy chicken; again, use the amount you can tolerate.  Milk is an antidote to put out a chili pepper fire!

Marinating the chicken in an entire cupboard of spices gives it a wonderful, complex flavor complemented by the beans and rice. Altering the amount of the three peppers used (red, black and cayenne) by one half will reduce or increase the heat.   

To make a full Jamaican dinner menu, add a first course of drinks and appetizers, a mixed green salad second.  Serve a fruit salsa or relish and fresh, crispy french bread to round out the main course. A banana or other Caribbean fruit dessert with ice cream would make a great finish.


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