When I can't think of what to make for Saturday supper, I always default to Chris Schlesinger. Chris is the chef behind the East Coast Grill, my favorite Cambridge restaurant. He likes his food with a tropical flair - he'll take ideas from anywhere, but his heart lies in the Caribbean and Latin America, which appeals strongly to my boyfriend. John's culinary imagination is fired by hot, exotic places, and Chris is his favorite chef.
Now, my own culinary imagination is geared toward colder climates.
I am, at heart, a New England cook, who was raised on Fannie Farmer gingerbread, baked beans and hotdogs, and cod on Fridays, with a little Julia Child for food-fantasy. Ultimately, I don't think cooks can completely overcome their roots, and when I try to cook, say, Asian food - well, it tastes okay, but you can tell the only Asian food I ate for the first eighteen years of my life came from the good people at LaChoy.(In case you haven't heard, they make Chinese "swing American.") When I browse through cookbooks, I tend to get excited by recipes from cold places - England, Russia, northern France.
But, the hot-climate cuisine that I feel the most comfortable with is definitely Caribbean. (Why? No idea, unless it has something to do with the old rum/sugar/slave trade routes bringing an Island influence on New England cooking. Certainly I used ginger, allspice, and clove, those staples of jerk seasoning, long before I had ever heard of tarragon or fenugreek or anise.) I also tend to like the bold flavors of Latin American food.
So, Saturday I had a top round roast that needed cooking, and I turned to Chris (or, more accurately, to his book How to Cook Meat.) This cut makes a decent, if not earth-shattering roast, so I wanted to spice it up a bit. What I liked about this recipe is that it was a Latin recipe (Argentinian, apparently) that reminded me of something from a colder climate. The sauce is simple, just parsley and capers with a little oil and vinegar. It wouldn't have seemed out of place on an Italian table or a British one, for that matter. But the roast itself was rubbed with cumin, as well as salt and lots of pepper, and the recommended side was roasted sweet potatoes, so there was definitely an exotic edge. It was delicious, and the prep took about twenty minutes total, plus cooking time (about 1.75 hours, though I left it in too long. I think I need to calibrate my thermometer.) Recommended.