CLEAN PLATE: In the heat of summer, try this light jerk

Miranda Beverly

The heat of summer can make meal planning hard. You don’t want to spend a lot of time over a hot oven or stove if you’ve been out in the heat all day, and the thought of big, heavy meals can be a turnoff this time of year.

You may find your appetite is diminished as well, because your body may just be concerned about liquids. But it’s important to make sure you’re getting the necessary vitamins and minerals, and the best way to do that in the summer is to plan light, easy meals with lean proteins and fresh fruits and veggies. The term “light meals” can have a bad rap, but just because something is light and healthy does not mean it must lack flavor.

My friend Sarah Bender has a recipe that is the perfect solution, and you can make part or all of it ahead of time, so you’re not cooking at peak heat times. The recipe below uses a flavorful and spicy jerk mixture to get the most bang for your buck. If you’re not familiar, it’s a common Caribbean flavor, and is thought to originate from the Spanish word, "charqui" (where we get our term "jerky"), strips of dried meat marinated in hot Scottish bonnet peppers and other spices. Jerk spice is thought to have originated in Jamaica in the mid-17th century, created by escaped slaves.


Ingredients: (Part One)

1 1/2 lbs. Boneless, skinless chicken breast and/or thighs

3 T. apple cider vinegar

2 T. coconut aminos or soy sauce

2 T. black strap molasses or coconut nectar

1 medium red onion, halved, 1/2 sliced; 1/2 fine dice (set aside 2 T. for mango salsa)

1 - 3 T. Jamaican jerk seasoning blend

2 t. Jalapeño pepper, chopped fine (optional)

1 t. Himalayan pink or sea salt

coconut oil for sautéing chicken

Directions: (Part One)

1. In medium bowl, combine all ingredients (except chicken and sliced onion) including the diced onion; set aside. (Note: eliminate the jalapeños and use just 1 or 2 T. jerk seasoning if you are not a fan of super spicy foods.)

2. Cut chicken in 3-inch strips and place in bowl of marinade, or in large sealable one-gallon plastic bag; add marinade; refrigerate for at least two hours; overnight is best.

3. Remove chicken from refrigerator and set aside while preparing mango salsa.

4. Heat coconut oil in large heavy-duty skillet on medium-high heat until oil is hot.

5. Take slotted spoon and carefully place marinated chicken in skillet; sauté until chicken is nearly cooked through (about 2 to 3 minutes); stirring often, like stir-fry; add sliced onion and continue sautéing until onion is translucent and chicken is tender, about 5 more minutes; add remaining marinade and heat through. Turn heat down to medium until ready to serve.

Serve over rice, quinoa or Shirataki noodles, topped with mango salsa (below.)

Ingredients: (Part Two)

1 ripe mango, cubed (1/2" cubes)

1 each red and green bell pepper, fine dice

2 T. red onion, fine dice

2 t. fresh cilantro, chopped

dash Himalayan pink or sea salt

juice of 1 small lime

Directions: (Part Two)

1. In medium bowl (with sealable lid), whisk together lime juice and salt; carefully fold in remaining ingredients.

2. Cover and refrigerate, or let sit at room temperature, for at least 30 minutes prior to serving for maximum flavor benefit.

The salsa is a wonderful addition to the chicken strips, as it helps negate some of the heat. Serves about six. Enjoy!

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