Holidays are the most exciting time of the year for any foodie, but when you’re an American of Jamaican heritage, your table literally overflows with the best of both worlds.
Or maybe that’s just my food-obsessed family. I couldn’t tell you for sure, as I don’t know any other way of life. (Though from the look of stunned silence on my American husband’s face as he took in our family’s Thanksgiving buffet table for the first time, it appears we may be a bit extra.) Jamaicans are obsessed with good food in general, but it gets taken to new heights between late November and the New Year.
This Thanksgiving, as always, my family begged me to make jerk vegetables, a recipe I first began traveling with to family functions to ensure that the plant-based-eaters among us would have something hearty and zesty on our plates. Nothing against a good salad, but every now and then you’ve got to bring a little heat. Most people around the world have heard of jerk chicken or jerk pork but, I thought to myself, why should carnivores be allowed to corner the market on jerk goodness?
Plus, though you can find jerk this and jerk that recipes all over the place, I wanted one that would avoid the use of refined sugars, and rely instead on natural sweeteners. Which meant I had to tweak my own by developing a date puree with fresh-squeezed orange juice, frozen mango and frozen pineapple.
This dish is a big hit with meat-eaters and vegetarians/vegans alike, Paleo- and gluten-free-friendly, and is made easier with the help of a culinary shortcut using a good quality, bottled jerk seasoning rub.
(If you’re not familiar with jerk-style cooking from Jamaica and how it originated, check out this History of Food primer titled The History of Jamaican Jerk. It also features a few good YouTube video demos, though you may want to skip those parts if you’re a strict vegetarian or vegan. In the hands of the jerk masters, it does not end well for the chicken.)