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Guides to Caribbean cooking secrets

People with a taste for Caribbean flavors will be glad to know that an increasing number of authors have begun revealing the secrets of island cooking. In the last five years, new cookbooks have arrived that collect the cooking traditions of Cuba and the rest of the Caribbean and the innovative new cuisine based on traditional ingredients and seasonings.

That's welcome news because many mainstream cookbooks don't explain how to prepare plaintains, mangoes or conch or how to use coriander and ginger or how to make jerk seasoning. Until now, many native recipes have been preserved in family collections and oral tradition.

The newest is A Taste of Cuba, by Linette Creen, a cooking teacher and cookbook author who recently returned to Miami, where she grew up, to collect Cuban recipes. Her book includes such classics as ropa vieja as well as lighter, contemporary dishes that would be at home in Miami's nouvelle Cuban restaurants.

Here are some cookbooks to look for, as well as some sample recipes:

A Taste of Cuba, Recipes from the Cuban-American Community, Linette Creen (Dutton, 322 pages, $19.95).

Clarita's Cocina, Great Traditional Recipes from a Spanish Kitchen, Clarita Garcia (Surfside Publishing, 427 pages, $19.95).

The Complete Book of Caribbean Cooking, Elizabeth L. Ortiz, (Ballantine, 432 pages, $4.95).

The Florida Cookbook: A Lighter Look At Southern Cooking, Charlotte Balcomb Lane, (Sentinel Books, 212 pages, $17.95).

Keys Cuisine, Flavors of the Florida Keys, Linda Gassenheimer, (Atlantic Monthly Press, 272 pages, $19.95), to be published in August.

Norman Van Aken's Feast of Sunlight, Norman Van Aken, (Ballantine, 320 pages, $22).

The Sugar Reef Caribbean Cookbook, Devra Dedeaux, (Dell, 224 pages, $9.95).

Tropic Cooking, Joyce LaFray Young, (Ten Speed Press, 288 pages, $12.95).

Growing and Using Exotic Foods, Marian Van Atta, (Pineapple Press, 196 pages, $16.95).

Fruit Salad with Lemon-Lime Dressing

(Ensalada de Frutas

con Alino de Lima-Limon)

1 papaya, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 bananas, peeled, sliced into bite-size pieces

1 mango, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup pineapple, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 pint strawberries, washed, drained and hulled

2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice

2 tablespoons sugar

Handful of fresh mint leaves for garnish

Place all the fruit in a large salad bowl. Pour the lemon and lime juice over the fruit and sprinkle the sugar on top. Gently toss until all the ingredients are well-combined.

Garnish with mint leaves. Chill in the refrigerator, and serve cold. Serves 6.

Note: Mangos and papayas can cause skin eruptions and allergic reactions in some people. Peel them wearing rubber gloves and wash hands thoroughly afterward.

Source: A Taste of Cuba, Recipes from the Cuban-American Community, Linette Creen (Dutton, 322 pages, $19.95).

Fried Sweet Plantains

(Platanos Maduros Fritos)

\ cup butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

Juice from { lemon

Salt to taste

3 ripe plantains, peeled and cut diagonally into 1-inch slices

In a large skillet, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium heat. Add the plantain slices and fry about 4 minutes on each side, moving the slices with a spatula occasionally to prevent sticking.

Remove the plantains from the skillet with a slotted spoon and let drain on paper towels. Transfer to a large, warm serving platter, sprinkle with lemon juice and salt, and serve warm. Serves 4-6.

Source: A Taste of Cuba, Recipes from the Cuban-American Community, Linette Creen (Dutton, 322 pages, $19.95).

Swordfish and Pineapple Brochette

1{ pounds swordfish steaks, cubed

1 large pineapple, peeled, cored and cubed

{ cup (1 stick) butter


{ cup white wine vinegar

Juice of 1 lime

1 small white onion, chopped

{ green pepper, seeded and chopped

1 Scotch bonnet pepper, seeded and chopped (or any other hot pepper such as jalapeno or habanero.)

2 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon ground coriander

Alternate the cubes of swordfish and pineapple on four wooden skewers. In a large bowl, combine the ingredients for the marinade. Lay the brochette skewers in a large shallow dish and pour the marinade over them. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat an outdoor grill. Remove the brochettes from the marinade and set them aside. In a blender or food processor, puree the marinade until it is smooth. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and slowly stir in the marinade. Transfer to a bowl.

Brush the brochettes with the butter sauce and grill for 4 to 5 minutes on each side while liberally basting with the sauce. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Source: The Sugar Reef Caribbean Cookbook, Devra Dedeaux, (Dell, 224 pages, $9.95).

Stolen Jamaican Chicken


\ cup lime juice

\ cup lemon juice

\ cup white cooking wine

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

\ teaspoon ground cumin

\ teaspoon dried thyme

\ teaspoon dried basil

\ teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

\ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

\ cup Worcestershire sauce

\ cup sweet vermouth

\ teaspoon dried parsley

4 chicken breasts, each 6 to 8 ounces, trimmed of fat

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1{ tablespoons butter

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the marinade. Mix well, making sure that the mustard blends smoothly with the liquids and spices. Add the chicken breasts, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade and set the marinade aside. Rub each breast with Dijon mustard and butter and place in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Pour the marinade on top and bake for 45 minutes, basting occasionally.

Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and pour the drippings into a gravy boat and serve as a sauce. Accompany with lots of French bread. Serves 4.

Source: The Sugar Reef Caribbean Cookbook, Devra Dedeaux, (Dell, 224 pages, $9.95).

Salsa Naranja

{ cup sugar

1 cup water

2 oranges, sliced (with rind) and seeded

1 cup orange juice

2 tablespoons dark rum

1 cup chopped fresh pineapple (about half a pineapple)

2 teaspoons cornstarch stirred into 2 tablespoons water

In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and water and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it starts to get syrupy. Add the oranges, pineapple, orange juice and dark rum and simmer on low for about 20 minutes or until the orange rinds are soft.

Remove the saucepan from the stove and strain the sauce. Discard the orange rinds and place the sauce back in the saucepan. Mix in the cornstarch and simmer again until the sauce thickens, stirring well. Yield: about 5 cups. Can be served on grilled chicken or fish.

Source: The Sugar Reef Caribbean Cookbook, Devra Dedeaux, (Dell, 224 pages, $9.95).