Monday, February 28, 2011

The Spice Island

Nutmeg growing on the tree, Grenada's most famous crop.

The best way to kick the prolonged winter blues is to get out of town. Last week, spent in the incredible Caribbean island of Grenada, was completely restorative and beyond inspiring! This charming island hosts a rain forest and is dense with lush beauty. We saw a lot of rain while there which is unusual for this time of year, but the result is a lot of healthy greenery. The people of Grenada are so kind, warm, and gracious my heart was captured the minute I arrived.
The Grand Etang Forest Reserve in Grenada has trails for hiking.
The Seven Sisters waterfalls was a short hike into the forest. The water was really that green and a perfect temperature for cooling off. Too bad we didn't get to see any monkeys.
Pink Gin Beach, a dramatically beautiful beach on the southern tip with billowing clouds worthy of a Turner painting.

Sea shells collected by the 
sea shore

Ahhhhhhh, paradise!
The benefits of rain!
Lest you think all I did was walk around with my jaw hanging open admiring all the natural beauty, let me assure you that my jaw was also moving up and down quite a bit eating all the delicious local delicacies the island has to offer. The smell of nutmeg follows you just about everywhere and that is not a bad thing as far as I am concerned. I had nutmeg waffles, nutmeg ice cream and nutmeg scented polenta, just to name a few spectacular offerings. The resort where we (husband and I) stayed was the incomparable LaSource. The food was fantastic and much local produce was featured. I began to take notice of the braised vegetable dishes that usually contained pumpkin and chayote, two very typical Caribbean crops. 
The green chayote is about the size of a large grapefruit. These whole spices which include nutmeg and cloves are sold strung together as natural air fresheners for your kitchen. I bought mine from a beach vendor. (Check out my friend Pat's blog post about shopping on the beaches of Grenada.)
These vegetables are easy to cook, have great flavor and are very satisfying. Pumpkin has a nice creamy texture and sweet nutty flavor. Chayote (or christophene) has a crisp watery texture and a light bright flavor. The two combined create an attractive dish. I picked up a Grenadian spice mix at the market which is a blend of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and bay leaves. I am going to be using it to season EVERYTHING for a while.

I cannot say enough about the wonderful island of Grenada, it is well worth making a visit to this very special place!

Braised Pumpkin and Chayote with Grenadian Spices

2 Tbs. butter
2 cups cubed pumpkin
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups cubed chayote
1/4 teas. ground nutmeg
1/4 teas. ground cloves
1/4 teas. cinnemon
1/2 cup water (or coconut milk) 
1/2 lime
3 Tbs. toasted peppitas for garnish

Heat butter in a saute pan and add the cubed pumpkin and the salt and pepper. Cook stirring frequently for 10 minutes till the pumpkin is almost cooked through. Add the chayote, the spices and the water. stir to copat all the vegetables with the butter, pan juices and spices. Cover and cook for another ten minutes till the chayote is tender. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 lime over the vegetables and top with toasted pepitas.

To toast the peppitas (pumpkin seeds) lay them flat in a pan, sprinkle with a little olive oil and salt  and place in 350 oven for 5 minutes till lightly golden brown.

Welome home! Sounds (and looks) like you had a marvelous trip! The pictures are gorgeous. I hope you came back well-rested! As for your delectable recipe...I have looked up and down for pumpkin this time of year and have been unable to come across any. Where did you find it? And, is the chayote readily available? That is a vegetable (or fruit?) I am entirely unfamiliar with.
Gewurztraminer would be a very interesting, and I'm sure beautiful, choice for this dish. Typically off-dry, this grape produces wines with astounding floral aromas. Flavors of lychee and passionfruit are common. Gewurz (it's nickname) is incredibly unique and really cannot be compared to any other wine. Loaded with spice, it would complement the Grenadian spices in Deb's dish perfectly.

To find the finest expression of Gewurz, look for one from Alsace, France. Styles range from dry to very sweet. The sweet wines are perhaps among the most delicious I have ever experienced - they are indeed heavenly. But for Deb's recipe, I would stick with dry or slightly off-dry.

And, as an "aside"...20 more days till Spring! Yay! Looking forward to switching culinary gears and loading up on all of nature's Springtime goodies!


  1. What a coincidence that we both went to LaSource in Grenada around the same time and blogged about it at the same time! And that we both shopped on the beach. But you got something for the kitchen, which is very fitting. And I got a sarong, which is loose-fitting enough to cover up the results of eating a little too well. . .

  2. Chayote is a fruit which can be eaten raw or cooked. It most resembles a summer squash and is common in Caribbean and Mexican cooking. It can usually be found in stores that carry plantains and other tropical fruit. The pumpkin can be swapped out for any of the winter squashes like butternut acorn or kabocha.

  3. Hello Deb,

    Great meeting (and eating) with you in Grenada! Loved your very authentic recipe and will try with fresh grated nutmeg from the spicy island (makes all the difference, doesn't it?). Also, for Amanda, I was going to say the same thing: butternut for the pumpkin, and maybe a Chinese winter squash for the chayote.. yumm.


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