Tuna Tartare

Sometimes, you have friends.  And sometimes, those friends have access to fresh fish.  And sometimes, that fish is the most beautiful dayboat yellowfin tuna imaginable.  Those times call for tuna tartare, natch.

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I will admit that before I moved to Jamaica, I did not have any of those times.  Frankly, to eat raw fish you have to be mighty sure of its provenance and freshness, and I never found a purveyor that could give me that assurance.  But here in Kingston, we have an incredible resource for fresh, local, sustainable seafood: The FRESHmonger.  An email arrived in my inbox one morning this week announcing fresh, local tuna, and I started dreaming of tuna tartare; later that day, I had a pound of gorgeous yellowtail in my fridge. (more…)

Watercress Salad with Asian Dressing

I LOVE me a farmer’s market. I used to live within walking distance of the Union Square Farmer’s Market in New York, and would pop down every week for gorgeous local corn, tomatoes, kale, peaches, apples, russian fingerling potatoes – food so fresh and beautiful you couldn’t wait to eat it!

So whenever I see a new local farmer’s market in Kingston, it can’t miss me…and when I caught wind of the Ujima Farmer’s Market in New Kingston, I was itching to go.  It promised a host of unusual things.  And, of course, the day ran away from me and I never made it there until mid-afternoon when much of the bounty was gone.  But I still scored: dinosaur kale (my fave), white sweet potatoes, the prettiest pumpkin I’ve ever seen…



Jamaican Cake-in-a-Mug

I had a BLAST on TVJ this morning with Neville and Simone, showing them how to make these delicious and simple little cakes, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

I love this idea for so many reasons.  It’s ridiculously easy and fast.  It’s delicious.  It’s inexpensive.  It’s homemade – and what better than making something delicious for the person you love?  It uses ingredients that you probably already have in your cupboard.  It’s full of local Jamaican flavor – but it’s also flexible enough that you can (and should!) experiment and add and combine flavors to suit your taste.  For example, if you love banana AND coconut, then throw a tups of shredded coconut into the banana cake!  Just make sure your batter fills your mug approximately halfway – so the cake has room to rise!

Did I mention it’s ridiculously easy?  Oh, and by the way, they’re also VEGAN – great for people who don’t (or can’t) eat eggs and milk.

When you’re done, sprinkle some powdered sugar on top to make it look a little fancy!  And get creative with your mug or container – you can use anything that can be microwaved! (remember no metal)

So, without further ado…the recipes:

Coconut Cake-in-a-Mug
serves 1 

4 Tbsp self-rising flour*
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp shredded coconut (unsweetened)
4 Tbsp coconut milk

Mix all ingredients in a mug.  Microwave for 1 minute 30 seconds** – enjoy!

Country Chocolate Cake-in-a-Mug
serves 1 

4 Tbsp self-rising flour*
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp gratered country chocolate (look for these at your local supermarket or market)
1 tsp cocoa powder (optional – just gives it more of a chocolate color)
likkle bit of gratered nutmeg
4 Tbsp coconut milk

Mix all ingredients in a mug.  Microwave for 1 minute 30 seconds** – enjoy!

Banana Cake-in-a-Mug
serves 1 

4 Tbsp self-rising flour*
3 Tbsp sugar
1 ripe banana
1 Tbsp coconut oil (the cold-pressed virgin kind is best)
pinch cinnamon

Mash banana in a mug with a fork.  Add oil and mix, then add other ingredients.  Microwave for 1 minute 30 seconds** – enjoy!

* if you don’t have self-rising flour, substitute regular all-purpose flour and add 1/2 tsp baking powder
** these times are for an 1100 watts microwave, which is pretty standard, but if your microwave is more or less powerful, you’ll need to adjust the cooking times slightly.



Nyamist is back!!

Oh it’s been a looooooong time, dear reader…almost nine months…long enough to have a baby…which is exactly what I did!  Our daughter, Pixie, arrived at the beginning of October, weeks earlier than expected, but healthy and just ready to get out and get going! She is the most delicious thing I’ve ever created, natch – worth every sleepless minute!

And of course, in the ultimate irony, where, for the past nine months I should have been craving all kinds of wonderful, strange foods and indulging in them like it’s my job, I instead was struck with persistent nausea and a complete lack of any craving whatsoever. No pickles, no ice cream…even eggs – innocuous eggs – were rendered off-limits after a chance encounter with a rotten egg which, as you can imagine, was…well, I’ll spare you the details. And my ginger-scallion sauce, which had gained some momentum at Kingston Kitchen and was selling locally? The worst offender – the mere thought of making it could turn me off of all food for hours.  So how to write a food blog when you have no appetite and the mere thought of most foods makes you ill?  Yeah, you pretty much don’t.

But now I’m back – appetite and all – and excited to share recipes and ideas that I’ve been thinking about for the last nine months (even if I couldn’t bring myself to make them!). I’ve been loving the CSA-style boxes filled with an assortment of organic produce from Potosi Farms, and have been working on ideas for how to use all that deliciousness – and more.  Thanks for your patience, and stay tuned!!


Nutella Cheesecake

My first guest post!!  And it’s a winner…easy to declare from the happy reaction at family dinner last night.  I’ll let Shannon tell the story in her own words:

Sitting here waiting for what will hopefully be a delicious cheesecake to bake, I think about the first and only other time I’ve had it.  My Brussels Study Abroad group had a reunion at our professor’s house and we did our best to bring back Belgian delights mixed with American “homey” desserts.  Among the other delectable desserts there was this Nutella cheesecake with whipped topping and chocolate chips.  There aren’t many words to describe my first impression.  Some imagery may suffice: picture an ad for chocolate pudding or something of the sort and the actress who lingers just 1 second too long on the spoon because it’s just THAT good.  That was me.  I did everything short of licking the plate.

I knew I had to get the recipe because my boyfriend would be coming to visit me in a few weeks and Nutella and Cheesecake are two of his favourite desserts.  Why not combine and get some special golden girlfriend stars!

I got the recipe and went to the Publix down the road to stock up.  The ingredients are all really easy to find; no unicorn tears or anything too complex.  It wasn’t until I got back that I remembered that I don’t own a mixer.  No fear, blender to the rescue – or so I thought.

I combined the first ingredients and the blender decided that they were too thick to ‘beat’.  Once I added the egg, it was a bit easier.  Not totally flawless however.  I pour it out into a bowl and hand stirred it for a bit to get more of an even consistency and put it back in the blender for one more spin for good measure.  It came out creamy and so chocolate-y!  The batter tasted great so I can only imagine and hope for the same with the end product! (ed. note: it was delicious)

SO. I realize that this recipe is not really local (save for the fact that you can find Nutella in Jamaica, and cheesecake is practically a national pasttime here), but lawks is it good.  And easy.  I couldn’t resist – and neither should you!!


Kingston Kitchen: February 12, 2012

a few glimpses of the fabulous Kingston Kitchen event…before the crowds arrived!! What a great day – the next one will be a night market on March 31st – promises to be a lot of fun…definitely mark your calendars!!

(Fresh) Pasta with Smoked Marlin

I had a friend in elementary school whose mother was Italian.  Like, REAL Italian, born in Italy, in the last town on the heel of the boot (I’m guessing now, in retrospect, that this was Lecce?).  At Christmas, her family had a party, and her mother would make the most amazing food…that’s the first time I remember eating this dish.  Farfalle con salmone e piselli – butterfly pasta with salmon and peas.  Amazing that I would remember it 25 years later – but it really was that good.

Little did I know then that I would have a love affair with Italy later in life: spending a semester in Padova during college, and a summer in Milan during law school.  And the food – oh, the food!  Some of my fondest memories of Italy are associated with food: eating risotto con gamberi e zucchini at a dinner party in the Procaccini’s castle outside Pavia; fresh, light ricotta at their house in San Sossio Baronia near Naples; piadine with spicy arugula and salty prosciutto late at night in Romagna; lardo in Ferrara; incredible ovoli – a type of mushroom – in Milan with Piero; fritto misto with Tigi in Marina di Ravenna.  My first tortellini in Bologna with Angela were a revelation.  Along the way, I learned some techniques from my roommates in Padova, others from friends’ mothers – but while I never ate this dish in Italy, somehow I figured out on my own how to make a passable replica.

And then I discovered smoked marlin.

If you live in Jamaica, and you’re lucky, you will know someone who catches marlin, and keeps a big hunk of it, smoked, in their fridge at all times, and is willing to share.  If you’re less lucky, you will go to the supermarket and when you find them, you will buy and hoard packs of smoked marlin in your freezer, using them judiciously for appetizers for special people, or with cream cheese on an occasional breakfast bagel for yourself.  Either way, you will quickly learn to stock your pantry with pepper jelly and capers.  Smoked marlin quickly becomes a habit.  You can find smoked salmon here, at exorbitant prices – but remember: Nyamist strives to cook with local ingredients.  And why use imported smoked salmon, when we have an amazing local substitute? (If you are reading this and live elsewhere, feel free to substitute smoked salmon for the marlin in this dish – but then make your way to Jamaica and try some marlin – you won’t be sorry!).  I haven’t seen any local green peas since I’ve been in Jamaica, so I usually omit them – if you find them frozen, their sweetness gives a nice counterpoint to the saltiness of the marlin – but don’t sweat it: this dish is plenty good without.


Lazy Mary’s Lemon Tart (from Food52)

I really wish I could take credit for this one, but I can’t.  I first saw this recipe a couple months ago, when I was looking for something new to make for dessert for Sunday dinner.  Frankly, I’m not really a chocolate fiend – I can take it or leave it.  But I love me a lemon tart, a key lime pie, any fruit dessert that has a bright, acidic burst of flavor – sour, sweet.  So I was on the hunt for something citrus-y when I found this recipe for a Meyer lemon tart, which was intriguingly and tantalizingly simple.

Now, we don’t get a lot of lemons in Jamaica.  This is more lime country: small, finicky and thin-skinned – they have a habit of disappearing from supermarket shelves just when you really need them, and sometimes, despite how pretty and plump and green they look, they can be miserly and don’t yield any juice.

So when I heard that Food Basket, a farm in the Blue Mountains that delivers fresh, local produce to Kingston weekly, had some lemons, I promptly ordered them.  What arrived were behemoth, nubby, thick skinned creatures – about as far from a Meyer lemon as you could get.  And because this recipe is designed for the thin-skinned, sweeter mongrels that are Meyer lemons, I wasn’t convinced it would work.  I confess: I gave up.


Kofte and Tzatziki

A funny thing about lamb: it is best paired with things that, by rights, should make for a disgusting combination.  Take lamb + mint jelly, for example: props to whoever thought up that improbable combination, which is now a classic flavor pairing in the vein of apple pie + cheese (or at least in New England, where I was raised, where the saying went: “apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze”).

Yogurt is another strange-sounding combination with lamb – and yet, I find it totally irresistable.  Particularly when the yogurt is in the form of tzatziki (greek) or mast-o-khiar (persian) – a fresh, tangy, garlicky dip/spread/sauce that, quite honestly, I could eat with a spoon, all by itself, for days.

You have to be careful with this stuff.  Its garlicky goodness has a way of disappearing with itinerant pita bread, or traipsing off alongside other proteins, like a simple grilled fish or chicken. But I like it best paired with lamb – and these kofte are light and tender, owing to a substantial amount of bulghur wheat in the mix.  It’s a trick of one of my perennial favorites, Mark Bittman, who deftly uses grains to reduce the amount of meat we eat, without sacrificing flavor.  The result is a meal that is, improbably, simultaneously rich AND light – almost as unlikely as the combination of lamb and yogurt in the first place!

Turkey Jook

For three out of four* Chinese Americans (my extremely unscientific sample consisting of me, my brother and two friends), the best part of Thanksgiving is turkey jook.  Jook (also called congee for reasons that I will never understand since the word has nothing to do with either the Cantonese (jook) or Mandarin (zhou) pronunciations of the actual dish) is basically a rice porridge.  It is comfort food for Chinese people – a meal-in-one, a thick, rich, satisfying soup, usually eaten for breakfast.  Soul food.  At home, my dad makes it every Thanksgiving; after I moved to New York, the arrival of the brisk, early-dark days of November meant that soon my friend Sandy would leave a large container of turkey jook at the little Spanish restaurant next door to my apartment – the surrogate Chinese mother I never had. (An aside: Sandy also makes incredible jewelry).