For my mom's birthday this year, I treated her to a Caribbean feast! I slaved away all day in the kitchen. Um, I mean, I went shopping, made the salad and placed it in the fridge, did as much mise en plas as I could until my mom and sister came home from work and I could get the pans fired up and dinner on the table. All the recipes I used came from Modern Caribbean Cuisine by Wendy Rahamut and the entire meal was dairy, gluten and shrimp free. (This book is AMAZING for anyone looking to cook Caribbean food - LOTS of great recipes that are easy-to-follow and accessible.) My sister agreed to try fish as long as it wasn't shrimp, so the shrimp recipes all had to be placed aside for another time. Since this was a birthday dinner and I was left alone to my own devices, I went through the living room and cabinets and took out some of our fanciest dishes (including some that garnered the "Are those ours?" response from my sister) and washed out wine goblets. I set the dining room table with a tropical table cloth and hung an "Island Party" sign across the china cabinet. Since we eat with our eyes first, I was going to make sure this feast was gorgeous! My sister was in charge of making our frozen strawberry daiquiri mock-tails (can of frozen mix + water + ice + fun straw + tall glass = delicious!)
For our salad, we had tomatoes and avocados (with finely chopped green bell pepper, and onion with minced garlic coated with a olive oil, fresh lime juice, and sugar mixture, and garnished with chives and cilantro). Eating the salad (a bursting-with-delicious-flavors kind of dish) from a wine glass was fun! The glass was the perfect size for the job and it was very easy to see all the ingredients inside.
The main course was plantain-crusted tilapia over a rice dish. The rice was made with onion, celery, thyme, garlic, tomatoes, rice, chicken stock, and coconut milk. I'm a big fan of coconut milk - it is an easy way to add a creamy texture to a dairy free dish. And this wasn't even my substitution - it was written right into the recipe! (Non-American cuisines are a gold mine for gluten and dairy free recipes - the United States seems to sneak wheat and milk in everything!) I found plantain chips in the Mexican aisle at the grocery store and they were delicious to snack on while cooking and helped provide a fun flavor profile to the fish.
Dessert was grilled pineapple with brown sugar and rum. This literally spent three minutes in the broiler before it was done. In my family's traditional style - my mom and I had the dessert a few hours after dinner was finished and the dishes were washed.
I had a lot of fun making an event out of the meal and was proud to showcase some of my dicing and chopping skills. I even got my sister to try fish! My mom loved her birthday dinner and I loved being able to create and share such an elegant meal with my family.