It is not every day that you hear the story of a chef who is also a boxer and an actor and this summer he just added cookbook author to his list of accolades. Julius “The Chef” Jackson has quickly become one of my favorite chefs to watch as I read his latest knockout, “My Modern Caribbean Kitchen.” I am a big fan of Caribbean food and his modern take on island favorites he enjoyed while growing up on the island of St. Thomas, allows me to transform my kitchen into a Caribbean pop-up right here in California.
If you know anything about Caribbean cooking and cuisine, you know that both are as diverse as the people who inhabit the various islands. A melting pot of influences that show up in the sauces, selection of spices and ingredients and overall style and technique. This is why we love the food so much.
Jackson’s book offers 70 recipes that are modern yet classic and easy to make. Being visual creatures, just take a moment to flip through the pages and let your eyeballs go from normal to enlarged as you will see that this chef is not playing around when it comes to his food. I am familiar with most recipes based on own my own foodie adventures, but a few that the book introduced me to include dum bread, where the bread gets its name from the Caribbean coal pot that is traditionally called a dum. Jackson's recipe for this sweet and dense bread includes a slice of cheese to take on a slightly different variation of grilled cheese. Also, breadfruit which at first glance on the page may look like grilled pineapples and fungi, a Caribbean twist on polenta that adds okra just got added to my Caribbean culinary memory.
If you love one pot recipes like me, you’ve got another reason to pick up this book asap. From the slow-cooked stewed oxtails and whelks and rice to the tangy Creole fish and “As Seen on TV” Caribbean stewed chicken, let the good eats roll. I love how he uses ingredients that you can easily access or may already have in your kitchen to create meals full of flavor and have a little left over for the next day for the extra flavor bonus.
Although I tend to stay on the savory side, the Down Island Dumplings, with all three ingredients, are going to be the perfect addition to many of my soups come this fall and winter. And speaking of soups, don't close the book without looking at pages 79-98 as this has to be my favorite section of the book. I can cook soup any time of the year and many are perfect all year long.
Serve each meal with one of Jackson’s drinks cleverly called “Vacation in a Glass” that include Not Your Resort’s Pina Colada, hibiscus punch, peanut punch and yes, a recipe to make my own ginger beer. Watch out Reed’s.
Definitely a book I will savor now and for years to come, “My Modern Caribbean Kitchen” comes highly recommended whether you like Caribbean food or looking to try something different at home. For a taste, head over to our recipes for his Saffron Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta.
To learn more about Jackson, be sure to check out our article, “Conversation with Pro Boxer and Caribbean Chef Julius Jackson” and order your copy on Amazon.
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