Travel

Scotch Bonnet Peppers

scotch bonnet eggs These small, colorful, extremely hot peppers are one of my favorite finds from my recent trip to Martinique. I was initially drawn to them by their bright colors and unique look, as they are even multi-colored at times. However, I decided to experiment with them at breakfast one morning, and I was not disappointed!  I got in a habit of making breakfast while we were on vacation. Martinique is a department of France, so you'll find all of the typical French fare at extremely low prices, such as Emmentaler cheese and lardons.  I was used to making a breakfast scramble of eggs, cheese and lardons, until I got the bright idea to heat things up and add some of these ultra-fiery peppers to the mix. And wow--the flavor was so bold and unique!  I knew this was a dish that I would make over and over again.

I have since learned that scotch bonnets are practically staples of not just Caribbean cuisine, but African cuisine as well. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered these peppers at my neighborhood market; although, they don't taste exactly as they did in Martinique (which is to be expected--just how most tropical produce doesn't taste quite-ripe in New York).

Scotch Bonnets at a roadside market in Martinique

Plantains sauteed in coconut oil

These peppers can be used in more than scrambled eggs.  While eating grilled seafood beachside, I became quite fond of sauce chien, a hallmark of Antilles cuisine that ended up on pretty much all of my plates of seafood. Sauce chien translates to "dog sauce," and if anyone knows why it's called that, please let me know!  It's a salsa-like concoction of scotch bonnets, onion, green onion and garlic blanched in boiling water, then mixed with olive oil and lime juice. It's really a superb accompaniment to pretty much any seafood dish.

Sauce chien

I decided to bring the flavors of Martinique to my studio kitchenette by cooking with Scotch Bonnets.  In addition to making a breakfast scramble with scotch bonnets, I decided to grill some fish and make sauce chien, as well as plantains sauteed in coconut oil and sliced avocado.  Everything I made was super easy and can be quickly prepared.  Just be warned that Scotch Bonnets are super hot. So hot that I always remove all of the seeds before I use them. (Much of the heat in peppers is contained in the seeds.)  But, they aren't too hot, as they are still quite enjoyable!

Martinique Breakfast Scramble

5-6 eggs 1/2 scotch bonnet pepper, seeds removed, finely chopped 1/4 cup Emmentaler Cheese (optional) 2 ounces lardons (optional)

  1. Sautee the lardons in a large skillet until crisp.  Remove all but 1 teaspoon of the rendered fat.  Add the finely-chopped peppers and sautee 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add the eggs and cook, stirring frequently, until eggs are just set.
  3. Stir in the cheese and Serve immediately.
Scotch Bonnet Salsa (Sauce Chien)
Author: Vallery
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 3 green onions, ends removed, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 scotch bonnet pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 lime
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
Instructions
  1. Place 2 cups of water into a small pot with one teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the finely chopped green onions, onion, garlic, and scotch bonnet pepper.
  2. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain immediately.
  3. Place the onions and pepper in a medium-sized bowl. Add one tablespoon of olive oil (or more depending on your preference), and the juice from one lime. Adjust seasoning by adding additional salt and pepper, if needed.
  4. Serve as an accompaniment for any seafood, especially grilled fish or shrimp.

 

 

Toronto Weekend Getaway

facaeeae-0528-4655-b2a8-a122362a0863 O Canada! Ice wine, farm-to-table food, poutine... there's much more to Canada than maple!  After returning from a weekend in Canada a few weeks ago, I have to admit that I have more Canadian spirit than I previously thought.  The fact that I was born on Canada's Independence Day, July 1, was more of a trivial fact than anything prior to my visit. But after this weekend, I feel a lot more connected to our North-of-the-Border Brethren.

I wasn't really sure what to expect from my visit to Toronto.  I also realized that I know practically no Canadian history, as I tried to piece together the cultural and historical questions of the city. Before this past weekend, I considered Canada to be an extension of America. Perhaps a milder version, but an extension nonetheless. However, I now know that Canada has a culture all its own.

Walking around in the Distillery neighborhood

I wasn't quite sure if Toronto reminded me of London or not. I mean, it did have bits of European flair.  I wondered if Canada had an empire, and just assumed that it was once an English colony--just like the U.S.  I also started to wonder about Australia. How different were the English-speaking Anglo-Saxons there?  And Toronto was much more than English-speaking Anglo-Saxons.  The influence from non-Europeans is apparent, as many of its current residents have thick accents and come from far-away places.  In fact, while I was in a cab listening to talk radio, there was a discussion about how to better assist Syrian refugees who made their way to Canada.  At the end of the discussion, there was the truthful, bold admission, We are dependent on immigrants.

America is dependent on immigrants, too. Although the tone of current politics would suggest otherwise.  But all of that aside, most people I encountered were just plain nice. Like, cheerfully-go-out-of-their-way-to-help-you nice. Coming straight from NYC, I found the extreme "niceness" a little jarring at times, but I welcomed it.

We explored a few neighborhoods, ate amazing food, visited markets and just had a relaxing weekend full of clean air and nice people. Toronto is the kind of city I could move to.

Sake tasting in the Distillery neighborhood

Food

Pretty much everything I had was locally-sourced and made from scratch when possible.  When I went to a sake tasting in the distillery neighborhood, they were making the sake on-site. From rice grain to sake bottle (although they sheepishly admitted to importing the rice from California).  Similarly, next door at a chocolate shop, they made the chocolate on-site, from cacao bean to chocolate truffle.  I didn't have a bad meal the entire time I was there.  In fact, I had some downright inspired meals.  Although I couldn't get the hang of traditional dishes involving Canadian bacon (which is basically just ham, at least to me), I did jump on the maple syrup and poutine.

Brunch is definitely a thing there. I visited two seemingly "hole-in-the-wall" eateries, Le Petit Dejeuner and The Beast.  Le Petit Dejeuner would have made brunch proud with its amazing, super buttery waffles. Alternatively, everything on the menu at The Beast was downright inspired home cooking. I ordered the poutine-- a twist on the classic french fries with cheese curds and gravy, as this poutine consisted of fried gnocci, cheese curds, and gravy. The fried gnocci really elevated this dish from Canadian comfort food to something I'll never forget and will probably attempt to make myself.  I also got a donut made with Canadian maple syrup. It was great, but the poutine at The Beast was the real star.

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Ice Wine

If you are a foodie, make sure you visit St. Lawrence Market. In addition to fresh produce and meat, you can find vintners conducting tastings of ice wine.  Ice wine is a personal favorite that I discovered many years ago at some point during my wine travels.  It is produced in very cold climates, and the grapes are harvested in the middle of the night in the middle of winter--frozen.  Ice wine has a high sugar content, is served cold and reminds me a bit of sauternes wine from the Bordeaux region, but ice wine has a crisper and cleaner flavor profile.

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Toronto was more than just good food. The city boasts a number of hip, eclectic neighborhoods. Neighborhoods that are super easy to visit given the high volume of flights, including flights from TAM airlines where you can enjoy international business class and all of its amenities from NYC to Toronto for $99 each way. Just make sure to bring your coat--it may snow. Even in April.