Summer officially began a few weeks ago. For the rest of the world, this marks the opening of the summer grilling season. In Haiti, it simply opens a fruity season, one that doesn’t seem to influence our cooking at all.
We don’t really practice seasonal cooking in Haiti.
We don’t have specific culinary traditions for the summer months, or any season for that matter. In contrast, specific events do influence our cuisine. On January 5th, we enjoy our Galette des Rois. We fry up banana beignets during Mardi-Gras season. Easter sees us enjoying a poisson gros sel alongside fried beans and salade russe while Christmas’ must-haves include roasted Turkey and ham, and the inevitable Buche de Noel. Yet, I could not list specific summer dishes. Besides mayi boukannen, mayi bouyi or a fruit salad, our cooking habits don’t change much during that time of the year.
I could, however, leave you with a fruity list of summer bounties to feast on.
This season brings us an abundance of produce. Mangoes, pineapples, melons, quenêpes, Caribbean apricots and avocados take over every street corner through the summer months. They fill most, if not all, street merchant’s baskets.
Yet, these fruits don’t seem to find their way in our cooking.
We tend to either eat them raw or juice them. This encouraged me to try and incorporate more fruits into my cooking. And with many places calling this the grilling season, I had to jump on the bandwagon and fire up a grill, a non-existent practice in Haiti.
While many around the world impatiently await for the hot summer days to throw grilling parties, in Haiti, traditionally we do no such thing. Early summer, you will spot street merchants with their makeshift grills garnished with mayi boukannen. But our traditional hot weather grilling ends there. Our culinary repertoire doesn’t seem to include summer foods.
That said, you won’t find the dishes below in traditional Haitian cuisines. In creating them, I was attempting to bring some fruity and savory dishes to our family table, and give this summer grilling thing a shot.
Eggplants, squash and potatoes are not a summer bounty, but I could not resist skewering them. I seasoned them with cumin, turmeric, chili, paprika and pepper. Paired with my go-to lime and garlic mayo sauce, they complement couscous perfectly.
Piña Colada Bites
These piña colada bites are non other than grilled pineapple chunks with a buttery lime rum sauce and served them with a whipped coconut cream because I had to also jump on the grilled fruit bandwagon. I must, however, confess that it left me unimpressed. The Haitian in me would still rather enjoy the raw fruits.
The title speaks for itself. I grilled some fresh lobster and served them with my homemade cold mango salsa, which recipe you will find here on the blog.
While grilled pineapples on their own don’t really make my palate sing, they do pair well with savory meats. Try these chicken kabobs’ recipe, and let me know below how your taste buds feel about them.
My pineapple avocado salsa, which I shared here last year, brings a sweet and bright touch to an otherwise spicy grilled fish filet.
Rum flambé beef filet with a mango sauce
These skewers just became one of my favorites. I seasoned beef filet chunks with salt, pepper and olive oil, skewered them with mango and purple onion. A simple dish elevated with my homemade spicy mango sauce below.
And there you have it. My summer grilling adventures thus far. I encourage you to take those dishes and make them your own. Use the sauces and fruity salads as an inspiration for your own creations. Swap meat for seafood and vice versa. Go wild. Let your creativity speak. See how far it takes you. Who knows? Your greatest adventure this Covid-19 Summer 2020 may just happen right in your kitchen, or on your outdoor patio…
Grilled & flambé beef filet skewered with mango & a side of spicy mango sauce
For the meat
- 1 lb beef filet cut in chunks
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Olive Oil ( to coat
For the mango sauce
- 1 firm mango cut into chunks
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ onion finely chopped
- ½ bell pepper finely chopped
- 3-4 garlic heads chopped
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- ½ chopped piment bouc
- 1 to mato chopped
- ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
- ¼ tsp powdered ginger or fresh ginger to taste
- ⅛ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 1 juice of lime
For the skewers
- 1 firm mango I used mango baptiste but use your favorite
- 1 purple onion
- Seasoned beef chunks
- ¼ cup of dark rum
For the meat
- Season the meat with salt, pepper and olive oil
- Set aside to marinate for at least 45 minutes
For the mango sauce
- Heat the oil in a pan
- Add the chopped onion, bell pepper and garlic
- Cook until the onions turn translucent
- Incorporate the mango, powdered ginger and pepper
- Cook until the mango start to turn soggy
- Add the tomato, piment bouc and let simmer on low for about 5 minutes
- Drizzle the rice wine vinegar and lime jucie over the fruit and veggies and cook on low about 20-25 minutes more or less stirring occasionally. Careful not to let the liquid dry out
- Your mango mixture is ready when all the ingredients break down easily under your spoon
- Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed
- Turn of the heat and let cool
- Once cool, transfer to a chopper and reduce to a puree
- Set aside
For the skewers
- Cut the onion and mango in big chunks
- On the skewers, alternate beef, onion, and mango until you run out
- Grill to your desired doneness
- Once your meat is cooked to your preference drizzle them with the rum
- Immediately and carefully light it up using a torch and flambe until the flames run out
- Serve with your mango sauce on the side