Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Caribbean Inspired Dinner

Recently Gavin and I have been searching tons of travel sites to plan our honeymoon. Although I'm super excited to go on a tropical vacation (probably Costa Rica) for our honeymoon, the four months till that happens seems like a long time to wait. Looking at pictures of beautiful beaches coupled with talking to a friend of mine who set off for St. Thomas today has peaked my desire for hot sun, crystal-clear blue water and maybe even a margarita. Unfortunately, I'm in the middle of a busy quarter at school and Gavin has to save up his vacation days for that actual tropical adventure we are planning to take in the fall. So instead of blowing all of those things off and jumping on the first plane to a beach, I decided to make a dinner worthy of any Caribbean island. I know it's not the same, but it definitely felt nice to spend an hour or so pretending. And with the super hot weather in NC, all you have to do is open a window and you'll feel like the beach is right around the corner. Nothing says island eating to me more than pineapple, so this entire dinner is centered around that delicious, tropical fruit. Play a little Caribbean music, open the window, and pretend for a bit that you're somewhere tropical.

Grilled Pineapple Salsa:
(Can be made up to 3 days ahead. Refrigerate until ready to use.)
  • 1/2 of a fresh pineapple (see below for tips*)
  • 1 red bell pepper, small dice (reserve 1/3 for rice pilaf)
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Salt and pepper
Grill the two slices of pineapple on a grill pan over medium high heat (or better yet, fire up the grill) for about 8-10 minutes per side, being careful to avoid burning.
Let the pineapple cool and slice into small cubes, about 1/2 inch.
Combine the pineapple, red pepper, jalapeno and lime juice.
Season with salt and pepper, mixing well.

*Although you won't need the whole thing for this meal, go ahead and buy a whole, fresh pineapple since it's worlds better (and cheaper) than the pre-cut or canned versions. To prepare the pineapple, first cut of the top and bottom. The flattened bottom will then provide a sturdy base to cut off the outside going from top to bottom. Then cut the pineapple into four quarters, again from top to bottom. To remove the tough core, lay each quarter flat and cut in at a diagonal. Chop two of the quarters into bite size pieces for delicious snacking. The other two quarters will go into the pineapple salsa.

Pineapple Chicken with Sweet and Spicy Rice:
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1.5 pounds)
  • 18 fl oz pineapple juice (3 x 6 oz cans)
  • Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper (reserved from salsa)
  • 1/4 cup onion, small dice
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper
Marinate the chicken breasts in 12 fl oz (2 cans) of pineapple juice, a couple dashes of Tabasco and salt and pepper for at least one hour and up to 8.

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan with a lid over medium heat.
Saute the onions for a few minutes until they start to become translucent.
Add the bell pepper and saute another minute.
Add the rice and stir to coat. Season with a pinch of cayenne and some salt.
Pour the remaining 6 fl oz of pineapple juice into a 1 cup measuring cup and top off with water.
Pour that into the rice along with another 1 and 1/4 cups of water.
Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes.
Fluff with a fork when done.

While the rice is cooking, heat a grill pan over medium high heat, or use an outdoor grill.
Remove the chicken from the marinade, season with salt and pepper, and grill on both sides for about 5-8 minutes or until cooked all the way through.
Serve with the Grilled Pineapple Salsa and rice pilaf.

For a printable salsa recipe, click here.
For chicken and rice, click here.

Grilled Pineapple and Jalapeno Salsa

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