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Caribbean-Inspired Salad for a Hot Summer Day 

click to enlarge Caribbean-Inspired Salad - ANDY BRUMBAUGH
  • Andy Brumbaugh
  • Caribbean-Inspired Salad

Considering the state of our world right now, tropical vacations likely won't be happening for the foreseeable future. For now, food is a great way to transport your family to far-flung destinations. This light, flavorful salad is the perfect dish for the steamy summer months.

I've never visited the Caribbean myself, but my parents traveled there many times, usually on a mission to collect butterflies — one of my father's passions. They loved the culture, the forests, the natural beauty and the food. Though this salad is not based on a traditional recipe, my mother confirmed it was reminiscent of some of the dishes they had during their travels.

You can adapt this salad based on what you have on hand. I used a mixture of papaya, mango and avocado on a bed of peppery arugula and watercress. The greens did a wonderful job offsetting the sweetness of the fruit. The quick-pickled red onions gave the dish a crunchy tang, and the jalapeño added a hint of heat. (I deseeded mine and only used half. You could use more if your family likes things spicier.) In place of croutons, I used plantain chips, a starchy cousin of the banana that's ubiquitous in Caribbean cuisine. The dressing was entirely my own creation, but the mix of spicy ginger and sweet honey would be right at home in the islands. I served this salad along with simple jerk chicken thighs and coconut jasmine rice.

If a meal could embody sunshine, this would be it. Eat it al fresco, and wash it down with a cold bottle of ginger beer to complete the experience.

(Serves 6-8)

Ingredients

Pickled red onions

  • ¾ cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion

Salad dressing

  • ½ cup strong ginger beer (I used Reed's)
  • Juice of one lime
  • ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup olive oil

Salad

  • 5 ounces baby arugula, washed
  • 1 bunch watercress, leaves only, washed
  • 2 ripe mangoes, cubed
  • 1 papaya, seeded and cubed
  • 2 ripe avocados, cubed
  • ½ jalapeño, seeded and chopped finely (or more, to taste)
  • Plantain chips for garnish

Directions

  1. To make the pickled onions, bring the vinegar and honey to a simmer. Transfer to a jar that contains the sliced red onion, and let sit for at least 30 minutes.
  2. To make the dressing, combine ingredients in a jar that holds at least twice as much as the ingredients (to allow for the fact that the ginger beer is carbonated), cover tightly, and mix well by shaking.
  3. To make the salad, toss the greens together, then top with mango, papaya and avocado. Add the pickled onion, jalapeño, and plantain chips. Toss to mix. Dress before serving.

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