83.9 F
Charlotte Amalie
Monday, December 4, 2023


I'm sitting in my Brooklyn apartment gazing out at the birdbath. It's 22 degrees, the bath is frozen. I spent a part of the day daydreaming about my annual trip to the islands. Thinking of island friends, hot sun, maubi, Lindquist Beach. Food thoughts, mangoes, papayas and the brilliant colors of the islands surrounding me. Ah! the Caribbean, my home. I was remembering the last Christmas dinner in St..Thomas before I moved to the states. Living above Limetree Beach cooking dinner for friends. I thought I would try something new for this holiday dinner. I went down to the market and found a beautiful tuna. Found some very ripe papayas at the vegetable stand out on Smith Bay Road and got to work. Dinner was cumin encrusted tuna with spicy topping, papaya relish and roasted sweet potato.
My friend Gary who is a food aficionado still says that this was one of the best dinners he's ever had.
Here is the recipe:
Cumin-Crusted Tuna With Lime-Chili Topping-
Time: 30 minutes
4 8-once tuna steaks ( substitute mako or mahi-mahi)
1 cup toasted cumin seeds
2 limes
2 teaspoons crushed dried red pepper
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons canola oil or another light oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
salt and fresh ground pepper
Rub the fish on all sides with cumin, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.Peel the limes, separate into segments. Do not include the membranes, dice. In a bowl, combine the limes, red pepper, cilantro, olive oil, garlic and maple. Set aside. In a large pan over medium heat, heat the canola oil until hot but not smoking. Add the steaks and saute for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Remove fish from pan. Stir the spice mixture and spoon a portion over each fish steak.
Yield: 4 servings
Caribbean Papaya Relish
Time:15 minutes
1 medium(1lb) papaya
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1 roasted red pepper
1 small Spanish(red) onion
2 limes
Roast the pepper over fire. Let cool and remove charred skin, chop. Remove flesh from papaya and dice.. Chop cilantro. Dice onion. Squeeze juice from limes.
Combine all ingredients in bowl and add salt to taste.
Roasted Sweet Potato-Time: 35 minutes Preheat oven to 400
4 sweet potatoes( I love the Dominican Republic variety, the ones with the yellow flesh )
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
Peel and cube then toss all ingredients together and place in baking pan. Bake till golden brown, serve immediately.
Editors note: Raimund Serba lived on St..Thomas for many years and has traveled the Caribbean extensively. He had a food concession in town and cooked at various restaurants on St.Thomas. He relocated to New York City in 1991 where he worked at the Caravan Of Dreams Restaurant in the East Village. Caravan was named the best vegetarian restaurant in NYC by "New York Naturally" two of the three years he was there. Serba is now cooking privately and pursuing various creative interests. He is always on the lookout for good mangoes, papayas and sour sop.

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