Charity dinners in Naples to show off Caribbean cuisine

What: Caribbean Summer Nights — a culinary tasting event benefiting local charities

When: July 14 and Aug. 25. July 14 is Bahamian food; Aug. 25 is Jamaican food. July 14 benefits Drug-Free Collier; Aug. 25 benefits the city of Naples Dog Park

Where: The Dock at Crayton Cove, 845 12th Ave. S., Naples

Admission: $75 per person

Reservations and information: 261-4191; www.dockcraytoncove.com

Perhaps you’re craving a taste of the islands this summer, but don’t have the time — or the inclination — to travel.

Still, the lure of sampling dishes with such colorful names as “Callaloo Soup” and “Chicken Calypso” can be almost irresistible. In that case, mark your calendars for “Caribbean Summer Nights” on July 14 and Aug. 25, two culinary events benefiting local charities to be held at the Dock at Crayton Cove.

The first, on July 14, is devoted to foods from the Bahamas, and the second is devoted to Jamaican cuisine. There will also be a cooking demonstra­tion and a short talk about the history of each island. Even the décor will reflect the theme of the evening’s particular island.

There will also be island-inspired cocktails, rum tastings and wine pairings.

Tickets are $75, and attendance is limited to 36 people.

At both events, authenticity is the aim, ex­plained Dock executive chef Corey Heath.

Rather than serve a sit-down meal ordered from a menu, guests will have a chance to sample a variety of different foods — almost as if the meal was family-style, with diners able to help themselves to the food.

That’s more in keeping with how it might be done if the food were being served in a private island residence, and many of the dishes that will be served represent home-cooked foods, not what would be found in a restaurant, Heath said.

“It brings kind of a traditional flavor to the menu,” he said.

The cooks who would prepare such a meal would be using what ingredients were fresh and not too costly, and often, those ingredients would all go in one large pot, Heath said.

“It’s more whatever they had, whatever would be available to them,” Heath explained.

That ease of cooking could make such recipes appealing to local home cooks, too. Some of the ingredients may not be readily available at local groceries, but it’s possible to make substitutions.

For example, on the Jamaican menu, there is a soup called Callaloo Soup. Callaloo is a leafy vegetable like kale; if local home chefs cannot find callaloo, kale would be an appropriate substitute.

Also on the Jamaican menu are chicken calypso, snapper escoveitch, eggplant rundown, sweet potato pudding and bul jol salad. Bul jol is salt cod.

On the Bahama menu, the lineup includes pigeon-pea soup ’n dough boy, conch salad, slow-roasted pork in banana leaf, grouper boiled in coconut milk and cornmeal coo coo. Heath recognizes he faces some challenges in preparing and presenting these dishes. Availability of the ingredients is only one issue. He’s confronting that by scouring food locally and online food vendors for various cooking essentials, such as mangrove chips, which are needed for one of the recipes.

Heath also is doing plenty of research to ready himself for the events, including reading a lot of cookbooks, including some that aren’t readily available to modern-day chefs.

“I’ve actually been reading some old books from 1965, a series that came out way back when,” Heath said.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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