A Cayman Islands version of a pepper pot

[caption id="attachment_1149" align="alignleft" width="213" caption="Chef Dean Max"][/caption] As we were pondering how else to use our beautiful Cayman peppers, we were reminded that chef Dean Max is also a big fan. We met him last winter at an "Island Organic" presentation at the Cayman Cookout on Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman Island. When Max isn't presiding over the kitchens of his Miami seafood empire, he's often on Grand Cayman kicking back at the Brasserie, the restaurant he owns with King and Lisa Flowers. For him, one of the pleasures of cooking in the Caribbean is drawing inspiration from local cooks. "I always take the traditional thinking," he said. "We use their technique, but then we add things. Take chicken pepper pot soup. You're making...Read More

Deciphering the traditions for sofrito

There must be as many recipes for sofrito as there are cooks in Puerto Rico, Cuba, Trinidad, Puerto Rico, and even Catalunya. But the mixture is to Latin cooking what the classic mirepoix of onions, carrots and celery is to French. It's the underlying mother flavor of the cuisines. When I asked around the garden, I got very different answers about ingredients. Jamaicans seemed to favor a lot of green sweet pepper, and some suggested ham. Some people add tomato, some don't. But everyone felt that the sweet ají dulce peppers were critical for an authentic sofrito. If they were not available, you could substitute an equal amount of chopped bell pepper. Some folks use only cilantro (or cilantrillo, as some call it), while others...Read More

Cayman peppers come to Cambridge

Back in February I mentioned that our hankering for some of the flavors of the Cayman Islands had led me to introduce the amazing Cayman sweet pepper to the cooler climes of eastern Massachusetts, where I grow at Zone 6. (See Finding seeds for the taste of Cayman.) I started seed from Cayman and Florida sources on March 5 and transplanted seedlings to my community garden on May 5. Other than having richer (and more acidic) soil than they were used to, the plants did just fine. The honeybees loved them. But it quickly became obvious that even with a heavy yield of a dozen or more peppers per plant, the crop would be too small to squander on experiments making Cayman pepper jelly. I...Read More

Rum cake finds a new incarnation

Hot Miami chef Dean James Max (who happens to be up for a James Beard restaurateur award this year) is also the talent behind one of our favorite Grand Cayman restaurants, The Brasserie. Part of what makes The Brasserie so terrific is that Max and his staff use local fish, local produce, and all kinds of goodies they grow in the restaurant garden. The menu is also inspired by Caribbean traditions. Of the restaurant's complex chicken pepper-pot soup, he says, "The peppers you get here on Grand Cayman are just incredible." So leave it to Max to find a fun use for the ubiquitous island confection, Tortuga rum cake. (You might recall that we wrote about the cake in What to buy in a grocery...Read More

Trying to make Cayman pepper jelly

When we visited the Cayman Islands earlier this month, we flew with carry-on baggage, which severely limited what we could bring home. We jettisoned some shampoo and toothpaste and slid some small jars of Cayman hot pepper jelly into our 1-quart ziploc bags, but it wasn't enough to keep us in cracker spread for very long. We thought we'd try to make our own version, almost using up our store of the original to analyze what was in it. (The recipe is a secret, but food labeling laws mean that the packaging discloses the ingredients, if not the proportions or the way they are handled.) Knowing that we didn't have the "assorted West Indian peppers" listed as the principal ingredients, we improvised. Clearly we needed...Read More

What to buy in a grocery store on Grand Cayman Island

The explosive growth of top-flight restaurants on tiny Grand Cayman has jump-started local agriculture on this haven for snowbirds and international finance located west of Jamaica and south of Cuba. At the Brasserie, for example, much of the produce on the menu comes from the restaurant's own gardens and much of the rest from tiny farm patches on the east side of the island. We would love to bring home some of the local fruits and particularly the Cayman seasoning peppers, which have all the flavor of a Scotch Bonnet and only a fraction of the heat. But US Customs would frown. There are, however, a few preserved foods worth tucking into your suitcase. The Foster's IGA grocery stores carry Caymanian products that are impossible...Read More