When I moved back to Washington DC in November 2004 after a couple of months of working in various parts of Africa, I had a bit of a tough time finding a job. Despite all the interesting experience that I'd amassed, it turned out that jobs in the international education field were tough to come by at that particular time in DC, and I had to scrape by doing various consulting assignments and part-time jobs. It wasn't the easiest time, but I did have a lot of fun during those seven months. Among my many gigs was a one-month stint as a server at Ginger Cove/Reef, a now-defunct but wonderful Caribbean restaurant in downtown DC run by the Jamaican restaurateur couple Jimmie & Sharon Banks.
Gorgeously decorated in hues of bright yellow, blue and green (Jimmie was quite the guru of interior design) and split between two levels (the more festive and relaxed Ginger Cove was upstairs, the more formal Ginger Reef downstairs), the menu was amazing. Nobody in DC did island cooking better than Sharon Banks (and the couple had previously operated other Caribbean restaurants in the nation's capital - Red Ginger, Hibiscus Cafe and Wings & Tings). Surf & turf (spicy grilled jerk shrimp with shredded pork and fried plantains), fiery rum-marinated chicken wings, roti, Trinidadian chickpea curry, a duo of (one flavored with coconut, the other with Jamaican blue mountain coffee), everything was insanely good. And not to mention the deceivingly strong rum-based cocktails!
What stands out in my mind though - to this day - is the spicy pineapple chutney that was served alongside many of the dishes. Seven years later, I finally decided to attempt it on my own, adapting a simple recipe from My Gourmet Connection. Along with some jerk-marinated seitan and Jamaican style rice and peas, it was delicious!
CARIBBEAN PINEAPPLE CHUTNEY
Makes 1 1/2 cups
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
3 cups chopped pineapple (fresh or canned)
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 inch fresh ginger, grated
1 bird's eye chili, chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon (or more) chili sauce of your choice (try some good African piment)
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon jerk seasoning
1. In a small pot, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for about 5 minutes, until translucent.
2. Add the pineapple and all the other ingredients.
3. Bring to a near boil, and then lower the heat to low. Simmer for about 30-40 minutes until the pineapple is nice and caramelized and the chutney had reduced.