Nigel Spence: A Vegetarian-Friendly Caribbean Grilling Recipe

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - September 4, 2015

Caribbean, vegetarian, delicious

By Nigel Spence
CJ Contributor

As the saying goes, “there’s no place like home”.  In my case, I am not too sure just exactly where that is.  Yes, I am a true, 100% Yardie but having lived more years in New York than I did in Jamaica, sometimes it is difficult to determine where I feel more comfortable.  But, one thing for sure is no matter where I am, as long as I have family around – I definitely feel at home.

So every year, my siblings and I plan a small family reunion/vacation around the July 4th holiday.  Most often, the venue remains in Florida as it is central to all parties concerned and also because beach-going is at the top of the list.

Another very important factor that has never wavered from the top of the list is food.  I don’t mean snacks and juice.  I mean hard core, belly-filling, pot-cooking FOOD.  Folks, let me tell you, when it comes to eating, my family doesn’t joke!  Our Dad made sure to have set that tradition from we were kids – signed, sealed and delivered. If you stood back and took stock of the various dishes prepared and eaten over a four or five day vacay you would marvel. As soon as one dish was presented, it became like a feeding frenzy at the Miami Seaquarium!  We get into such an eating frenzy, even the dish tries to run away with the spoon, FROM US!

Well, in keeping with my focus on eating healthier, I thought for this year’s gathering, I would throw a few surprises in the food mix and see if I would be successful in landing some converts.  I knew I was taking a huge risk, but I was confident that my tantalizing creations would meet with great reviews.  Intent on my healthy mission, I went to town procuring organic veggies, lean meats and delicious, fresh fruits.  The only dish that had to remain as part of our tradition was the curry goat.  That was a must if I was to have any chance of presenting an alternative dish or remaining alive for that matter.

Surprisingly, the first recipe I prepared and doled out was well received and even had a clamoring for seconds.  This was my healthy version to hot dogs – Veggie Dogs, or better yet, Apsaragus Rolls was the fancy name I chose to make it more palatable to the ear Yeah, I know hot dogs are typical for July 4th but I “typically” tend to eat too many and end up gaining what I tried so hard to lose.  However, by using the hot dog bun, it allowed the consumers to feel less cheated.  It is very important to make sure the veggies are not overdone and still have some crunch to it – not too heavy on the seasoning or spices either.

Another change I made was instead of pairing my grilled steak with the usual carbs, I substituted instead, with grilled zucchini and asparagus. I still can’t believe we never used even one potato – no fries either!  Who says you can’t have fun eating healthy??  Well, to the few who I secretly caught squeezing in a slice or two of bacon – don’t worry, your secret is safe with me

Suffice it to say, we had a great time together, as usual, and for the most part, nobodyfelt that guilty about their consumption…of food that is – but the drinks on the other hand…well that is a whole nodda story fah di next time.  

Here is the recipe for my Asparagus Rolls.  Roll this one out and you will have your own converts, then make it a family tradition – your body will thank you, big time. Enjoy!

Asparagus Rolls

You can use substitute baguette rolls, cut to a length just a bit shorter than the asparagus if you prefer, and which stands up to adding a lot more creative ingredients without getting soggy. Think caramelized onions, grilled pineapples, mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, pickles etc.


20 Asparagus spears, hard end of stem removed
2 whole Yellow Squash, sliced lengthwise into 10 individual pieces

10 Hot dog buns
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
1/2 cup Spicy Mustard
1/4 pound Gruyère or other aged hard cheese, grated

1/4 pound Parmesan cheese, grated

1 tablespoon fresh Thyme leaves, picked over to remove any stems

1/4 Cup Olive oil

1 teaspoon Caribbean pepper sauce

Salt & Pepper


Put asparagus and slices of squash in a large bowl.

Add pepper sauce to olive oil and mix to incorporate.

Drizzle olive oil over the vegetables and toss to coat. Add salt and pepper then either grill or sauté the asparagus and the squash slices for about 6 minutes, or until just tender, then set aside.

Mix thyme leaves with the parmesan cheese, then sprinkle liberally over the top of the filled bun.

Place the buns under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes or until the cheese has melted. They are best eaten while still a bit warm and may be cut crosswise into smaller portions if desired.

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