Summer's ending, school's starting and it looks like the fun is over. It doesn't have to be. You can spice up your fall with some tropical island magic.

September is both National Chicken Month and National Ethnic Foods Month, and a good way to celebrate both could be a kitchen-chair trip to Jamaica.

Jamaican cuisine is a fusion of the many ethnic groups that have passed through the island. The eclectic tastes of Jamaica reflect the influences of the native Arawak Indians, the West African slaves brought to the island and their English and Spanish masters.

Jamaica's most popular dish is jerk, meat smothered in spicy marinade and barbecued slowly over a fire in an outdoor pit a cooking method the West African slaves brought to the island in the 17th century. From the local Arawak Indians, they added spices such as pimento which we call allspice to season the meat.

Allspice and Scotch bonnet peppers are important in jerk seasoning. The strong flavor of allspice like a bit of clove, nutmeg and cinnamon is the heart of the seasoning. Scotch bonnet peppers the hottest of all add the fire. A slightly milder relative, habanero peppers, may be used as a substitute, either fresh or in a bottled sauce.

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Jerked meat can be marinated with a moist paste, a wet marinade or a dry rub. In the following recipe, the chicken breasts should be cooked slowly, because the marinade can burn easily. Slow cooking also will keep the meat moist.

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Jerk Chicken

Yield: 4 servings


  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 3 scallions, green and white parts, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, or 2 tsp. dried
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh gingerroot
  • 1-3 Scotch bonnet or habanero peppers, according to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 lb. skinless and boneless chicken breasts (about 2 halves)


  1. In a blender or food processor, combine onions, scallions, thyme, ginger, peppers, oil, allspice, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Puree to a pulpy paste. (There will be about 1 cup.)
  2. Spread the paste liberally over the chicken breasts. Arrange chicken on a plate. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator 2 to 3 hours or overnight.
  3. When ready to cook, remove chicken from marinade and wipe off with paper towelling to remove most of the paste. Light the grill or, if cooking indoors, pre-heat broiler or heat a pan. Grill or broil chicken, turning pieces once, until juices run clear.

Nutritional Info Per Serving:
175 calories
5 g. total fat
less than 1 g. saturated fat)
4 g. carbohydrate
27 g. protein
1 g. dietary fiber
184 mg. sodium

Diabetic Exchanges: 3-1/2 Lean Meat