Contessa Lentil Soup

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For every recipe I share, I try to weave in a personal story, if only to tie together the idea of food as an experience outside just the act of eating. I usually think about what this food means or how to best approach it emotionally. This recipe was the opposite. I had to think of how not to approach it. It is tied to too many individual experiences. Whether eating it at my Uncle’s house after school with an ice cold malt, or the ten o’clock phone call I got recently for a friend desperate for the recipe for her and her sick husband, or just one more warm recipe between now and when the weather decides to finally settle into Spring. Either way, this is an all around flavorful soup with a hint of all things Caribbean! Read More

Contessa Conch in Brown Butter Sauce

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The sea is our most valuable resource here on the island. We are literally haunted by its crashing surf and demanding call. There are few places on the island where the evidence of the sea is not in some way visible. It fuses itself into our every understanding, whether we see it on a long drive home in the distance, or witness the ravage of salt rusted fixtures and appliances because it moves so easily with the trade winds across the island.  By definition, all island people are bound to the sea.  It gives us a place to celebrate on its shores; offers us ways to rejuvenate our sick or weary bodies—there are few ailments that aren’t cured by a good “sea soak”; and most importantly it nourishes us from its bountiful depths.  One of my favorite gifts from the sea is the conch. When prepared correctly, the conch transforms itself from a mere bottom-dwelling , sea snail into tender, flavorful, oceanic ambrosia! (Yes, it warrants all those adjectives because it is just THAT good!) Read More

Contessa Brown Butter & Lemongrass Tilapia

I have been working with lemongrass as a flavoring quite a bit lately. It finds itself in ice teas, ice creams, and now in savory dishes like this one. I enjoy the flavor that comes from lime zest, but I find the subtle scent of lemon grass makes the perfect substitute. Also, its grassy undertones elevate the dish in ways that lime zest alone can’t compete with. So, I decided to try it in this fish recipe. Coconut milk, lemongrass, a hint of curry, and other complex Caribbean flavors make their way into this luscious and incredibly simple end-of-the-week, supper dish.

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Contessa Tomato & Feta Salad

There is something about islands that speak to all kinds of commonalities; whether it is the Virgin Islands or the Grecian islands. Any place that is showered in the sunshine will have foods that reflect that brilliant synergy of sun, earth, and water. This simple tomato and feta salad, is not a Crucian dish, but to me it symbolizes much of the “sun” foods that grow easily on our island by many of our local farmers. Cherry tomatoes, culantro, basil, all lend a hand in this promising, beat-the-heat dish. Read More

Contessa Stew Lamb

On the island you will rarely hear the words Beef Stew, or Chicken Stew the “Stewing” generally comes before the meat described. So it will be Stew Chicken or Stew Beef instead of the reverse as is more common in the States. This recipe at its heart a STEW! A thick, rich, hearty, and spicy stew! Read More

Contessa Avocado Egg Rolls

Growing up, I always heard my mother refer to avocados as “pears”.  The version of the avocado I am more familiar with on the island is the larger green avocado, not the smaller, dark purple Hass Avocado. I enjoy the Hass, but I adore the larger “Pear”.  Somehow the good-for-you, fatty, richness of the avocado always complimented, in a very cooling way, whatever traditionally spiced dishes came out of my mother’s kitchen. Read More

Contessa Coconut Mussels

I am such a fan of green lip mussels! They are the perfect light addition to any occasion, as an appetizer or as a meal itself. Whenever we have friends over, it is not uncommon for me to make a bowl of this simple seafood that when properly complimented can prove to be anything but! Visually, its beautiful, green-blue, iridescent shell is reminiscent of every island beach I know. Somehow sun and sea and sky always seem to infuse their colors into every island food and flavor. Read More

Red Bean, Pumpkin & Coconut Dumpling Soup

If there was a definition of a “hearty soup”, it would be in the dictionary in a bowl featuring this soup. Here is my twist on a local favorite, Red Peas Soup (it’s actually made from red kidney beans)! If you are Crucian, or grew up in the Virgin Islands, you know the comfort of a steaming hot bowl of red bean soup with cornmeal dumplings. Yes, even on a hot day! Read More

Salt Fish Cakes…

Holy week in the Virgin Islands is a a sacred time of reflection and sacrifice, with a culminating celebration of the Easter feast. Specifically, Good Friday is a day when there is no meat, or chicken consumed out of religious deference. No distilled alcohol is sold publicly on that day by law on the island. The only protein that most families eat on Good Friday is fish.

One of my favorite “Good Friday Foods” is Salt Fish Cakes. Growing up, this was a go-to breakfast food in our home during Holy Week. It is a crispy and usually incredibly spicy-hot meal. Have something cold and sweet to accompany it!

This recipe is merely a guide. It is a temperamental batter that requires some fiddling. Feel free to add a little more water, a little more flour, or any more “little more’s” that you would like! Fry a few to see what the batter is asking for to be more or less crispy to your taste. Also play with the flavorings, experiment! Try a dash of ground chipotle pepper to liven up the flavor. This is a resilient batter, that will reward your curiosity easily! Read More

Crucian De Gallo

On very hot days, the last thing I feel like eating is a plate of steaming hot food. This is a basic recipe for the Mexican side dish pico de gallo. A guaranteed cooling food filled with local green onions and tomatoes. But instead of using the usual cilantro, I substitute the local recaito or culantro. It has a far more robust flavor than the store bought cilantro, and really wakes up the freshness factor in this salad. Much of this recipe is to taste, so if you like more lime juice, more tomatoes, onions, ADD IT! Some people also add a bit of garlic or jalapeno. I am a purist. This is just fine!

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