It happens to all of us sometimes, I’m sure.
I love to cook. I really do. And I’m good at it! But occasionally the culinary muse seems to have gone on vacation. No incoming inspiration. No outflowing “Ahas.”
Sometimes all it takes to start the wheels turning is a trip to my favorite farmers market or natural food store to see what’s there. Sometimes a little game, like “Use Up What’s in the Refrigerator,” or “Cook a Meal Using Only Locally Grown Food,” or “Take Five Unlikely Ingredients and See What You Can Make Out of Them” gets the creative juices going.
But one of my all time fav games is to put on my ear buds, turn up the volume on the iPod, head out to the market and let the music take me. Today’s choice is a selection of Bob Marley classics!
Wait for it . . .
Wait for it . . .
Mmmmm. This could be good. I’ll call it “Rasta Pasta!” Inspired by Reggae music and Jamaican spices and flavors, I created my own jerk spice which can be used as a dry rub on fish. But I am using it today as seasoning for a pasta dish. Not that Rastafarian cuisine includes pasta, mind you. I don’t think it does. Many before me have named their Jamaican-inspired dish “Rasta Pasta” and this is my version!
First you need a selection of spices typically found in Jamaican food. I checked in my natural food store and could find no Jamaican spice combos or Jamaican jerk rub that didn’t have sugar in it. So I made my own this way:
Jamaican-style spicy rub or seasoning
- 1/4 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1/4 tsp ginger powder
- 1/2 tsp coriander
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp powdered stevia
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- chile pepper flakes to taste
Combine these dried spices and adjust according to how you want it to taste. My family doesn’t like extremely spicy food so I used a bit of chile pepper flakes. You could leave that out and add a very hot diced pepper to the dish such as scotch bonnet or habanero. Or you could go with a super-mild taste and include green pepper in your dish.
Next I started the pasta and for this I used orzo because it imitates the shape of rice and a very typical Jamaican dish is “rice and peas” which is actually rice and kidney beans. I decided to use black beans instead because they are slightly smaller and I thought they’d look good.
Rasta Pasta for Four
- 2 TBLS olive oil
- 3 cloves of crushed garlic
- 1/2 cup of diced onions
- 2 cups of orzo pasta [Note this is not a whole grain pasta. It is 100% semolina.]
- 14-16 ounces of coconut milk
- 1 TBLS or more of your Jamaican spice mix
- 14 1/2 oz canned organic whole peeled tomatoes or use fresh if available
- 1/2 cup diced green pepper
- 1/2 cup cooked black beans
- 1/2 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined [I am staying away from Gulf shrimp and Key West shrimp because there are still many problems in the Gulf area due to the oil spill despite what the media would have us believe. I used Thai shrimp for this dish. You can use other seafood or another white fish or don’t add any at all and you will still have pasta and beans which create some protein]
- 1 lime
- 1 scallion sliced thinly for garnish
Put olive oil in a large frying pan or stewing pot. Saute the garlic briefly without letting it brown then add the onions. Add a pinch of salt and saute the onions until they are translucent. Add the orzo pasta and stir it around a few seconds to coat with oil. Add another pinch of salt and add the coconut milk. Stir that in and put a lid on your pot and simmer the orzo on a low flame, stirring occasionally to keep the bottom from sticking. After about 15 minutes, add the tomatoes. Break up the tomatoes in the pan while they cook into the dish. When the pasta is just about tender add the green pepper and put the lid on for another 1-2 minutes. If you need to add more coconut milk while the pasta is cooking, do so. Stir in the black beans and put the shrimp on top. Let this cook with the lid on until the shrimp are pink. Don’t let the shrimp overcook or they will be tough.
When the dish is finished cooking, serve it out with a garnish of sliced scallions and maybe a squeeze of lime and some lime zest if you have it.