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Dinner in Minutes: Jerk brings Jamaica to the table

Mon., Oct. 31, 2011

Jerk seasoning can be found on menus throughout the country, but there’s no place for it like Jamaica, its place of origin.

Jerk chicken, jerk pork, jerk vegetables and even jerk pasta were on the large buffet table at the Grand Lido Resort in Negril, Jamaica, where I attended a recent Food and Wine Magazine conference.

For the following quick dinner, I use it on tilapia, a flaky white fish that is now being farm-raised. Any type of non-oily fish fillet can be substituted in this recipe.

Jerk is a highly spiced combination usually consisting of scallion, onion, thyme, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, peppers and salt. There are several very good commercial brands of jerk seasoning in the supermarket which helps make this dinner a breeze.

Rice and peas in coconut milk, the most traditional of Jamaican dishes, is the perfect side dish to cool the spices of the jerk seasonings. Serve with some lettuce and sliced tomatoes on the side.

This meal contains 554 calories per serving with 25 percent of calories from fat.

Jerk Tilapia

1 tablespoon jerk seasoning

3/4 pound tilapia fillets

2 teaspoons canola oil

Rub the jerk seasoning onto the fish on both sides. Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add fish fillets. Saute 3 minutes, turn and saute 2 minutes for a fish that is 1/2-inch thick.

Yield: 2 servings.

Nutrition per serving: 210 calories (32 percent from fat), 7.5 grams fat (1.7 grams saturated, 4 grams monounsaturated), 84 milligrams cholesterol, 34.6 grams protein, 2 grams carbohydrates, 0.9 gram fiber, 92 milligrams sodium.

Jamaican Rice and Peas

1/2 cup long-grain white rice

1 cup lite canned coconut milk

1/4 cup water

1 cup rinsed and drained canned pinto beans

2 scallions, sliced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place rice, coconut milk and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid and simmer 10 minutes. Add more water if rice runs dry.

Add the beans and continue to simmer 5 minutes or until the rice is cooked through. If there is still some liquid, remove the lid and boil rapidly for a minute or two until it is absorbed.

Remove from heat, sprinkle scallions on top and add salt and pepper to taste.

Yield: 2 servings.

Nutrition per serving: 345 calories (21 percent from fat), 8 grams fat (4 grams saturated, 0.3 gram monounsaturated), no cholesterol, 10.9 grams protein, 61 grams carbohydrates, 6.5 grams fiber, 247 milligrams sodium.

Linda Gassenheimer is the author of 14 cookbooks. Visit her Web page at or e-mail her at

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