Saturday, July 31, 2010

Day 40 - Costa Rica(San Jose) NA: Ceviche de Corvina, Gallo Pinto and Chorreadas - Up Next, Cote d'Ivoire

Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche
The menu for this meal was suggested by a fellow Cantabridgian and high school friend, Renee. She is one of those rare and inspiring people whose faith seems to sustain her through all of life's ups and downs; a state of being I can only aspire to achieve. A few days ago I got a nice note from her detailing some wonderful dishes she'd had while visiting Costa Rica. Tops on the list was Ceviche, followed (by default) with black beans and rice that accompany almost every Costa Rican meal. Thank you, Renee!

 Costa Rican cuisine is best described as savory. Instead of spicy chili peppers or piquant powders, Costa Rican chefs prefer garlic, herbs and other mild blends to season the nation's favorite dishes. Among these, the prolific gallo pinto – black beans and rice, seasoned with onion, sweet pepper, cilantro and Lizano sauce – is considered Costa Rica's national dish. The protein-rich meal is generally served at breakfast, accompanied by eggs, tortillas and natilla, a Costa Rican sour cream.

Costa Rica is a Spanish speaking country located in Central America. To the north of Costa Rica is Nicaragua, to the south, Panama, to the east is the Caribbean Sea and to the west is the Pacific Ocean. Costa Rica is divided into three parts: the central highlands, eastern Caribbean coast, which is covered with tropical rain forest, and the mountainous pacific coastal strip. The capital San Juan is located in the central highlands.

Gorgeous fresh vegetables from Stillhope Farm in Sherborn - bought this morning at Mudville Market: red leaf lettuce, onions, garlic and cilantro

Ingredients for Ceviche: Scallops, shrimp, lemons, cilantro, onions and hot peppers

Cilantro, onions and celery for Gallo Pinto - Black Beans and Rice

Saute rice with cilantro, green pepper, onions and celery, then add broth. When cooked, add black beans

Perfectly clean corn from my friend Annamaria's farm - thank you!
Cut corn off the cob

Add corn, milk, garlic and oregano in blender - I added about 2 tbsp. of flour to bind the batter

Heat oil and laddle batter into pan as you would pancakes

Super fine, ultra thin tortilla chips for the Ceviche

Ahhhhh...that's what I'm talkin' about!!

Going for seconds!!

Ceviche de Corviana, Gallo Pinto and Chorreadas

Dessert - Costa Rican pineapple and mango
Ian digging in like he does best

The Recipes

Costa Rica Recipe: Ceviche de Corvina
1 lb. boneless fish, preferably White Sea Bass (Corvina)
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1 1/3 cups fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
salt to taste
1/2 hot pepper finely minced (optional)

Costa Rica Ceviche 
Cut the corvina (sea bass) into bite-size pieces and place in a glass bowl or container of at least 2 inches high. Add all the other ingredients, mixing well. The lemon juice should cover the fish.
Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Allow one day for fish to cook in the lemon juice and onions. Serve with crackers or saltines. This is a great light Costa Rica snack, or serve as an appetizer with crackers or tortilla chips. 

Gallo Pinto (beans and rice) Recipe

1 lb (450 gr.) Black beans. Fresh are best but most likely you’ll find them dried.
8-10 sprigs cilantro (coriander leaf) fresh or frozen, not dried!
1 small or medium onion
½ small red or yellow sweet pepper (optional)
3 cups (700 ml) chicken broth or water
2 cups (350 ml) white rice
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) salt
1 Tablespoon (15 ml) vegetable oil
1-3 Tablespoon oil to fry the Gallo Pinto

If beans are dried, cover with water and soak overnight, if they are fresh, just rise them off. Drain the beans and add fresh water to an inch (2.5-cm) above the top of the beans, salt, and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and reduce heat to very low simmer until beans are soft (~3 hours).

Chop cilantro, onion, and sweet pepper very fine.

Add 1 Tablespoon oil to a large pan and sauté the dry rice for 2 minutes over medium high flame then add half of the chopped onion, sweet pepper and cilantro and sauté another 2 minutes. Add water or chicken broth, bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer until rice is tender (20-35 minutes). This is also the recipe for Tico rice used in other favorites like tamales.

Once the rice and beans are cooked you can refrigerate or freeze them. Keep a significant amount of the “black water” with the beans (½-1 cup 120-240 ml). This is what gives the rice its color and some of its flavor. Sauté the rice, beans reserved chopped onion, sweet pepper and cilantro together in vegetable oil for a few minutes. Sprinkle with a little fresh chopped cilantro just before serving.

Once the rice and beans are cooked you can also refrigerate or freeze them. Make up small batches of Gallo Pinto when you want it by simply sautéing them together.

In Guanacaste they sometimes use small very hot red peppers instead of or in addition to the sweet. Some people add a tablespoon or so of salsa Lizano or Chilera to the beans while they're cooking. Our friend Mercedes always simmered the beans very slowly all-day and preheated the water or chicken broth for the rice.

Costa Rican Corn Pancakes

  • 4 cups fresh corn
  • 1/4 cup milk or water
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp. oregano
  • 2 Tbsp. of flour
  • Oil
Whirl everything (except oil) in a blender till smooth. Pour into a bowl and warm oil in a cast-iron pan on medium-high heat. Scoop out 2 spoons full into the pan and spread into a circle like pancakes. Lower heat slightly, let it brown lightly (about 2 minutes), flip it over and cook till golden. Put aside on a plate covered with a towel to keep warm and keep making more till the batter is gone.
It is great for breakfast, lunch, dinner or as a side dish. Serve with cultured sour cream or your choice of toppings! Simple, easy and tasty.
SWEET version: omit the garlic and oregano. Add 4 Tbsp. of your choice of liquid sweetener or 1/4 cup sugar.
CHEESY version: before flipping the pancake, sprinkle your choice of cheese on top and flip it. Make sure your pan is well greased to keep the cheese from burning into your pan.

Final Assessment: I loved the Ceviche, but Liam and Ian thought the lemon marinade overpowered the seafood. I think it'll be even better tomorrow. The corn cakes were great, but definitely needed a little flour to bind the batter and the black beans and rice were tasty and filling. I'll use the leftovers to make empanadas or burritos tomorrow. Great meal!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day 39-Congo(Brazzville)(AF) and Congo Democratic Republic (Kinshasa)(AF)Liboké de Poisson (Fish in Banana-Leaf) and Fufu - Up Next, Costa Rica(NA)

Opening up a fresh package of banana leaves is like Christmas

I decided to make a meal combining Congo and Congo Democratic Republic because I was able to find dishes both countries enjoy, which felt fair.  Locating the ingredients was easy as well, although I did have to go to a tropical market in Framingham to find the banana leaves which my local grocery store was out of.

Awesome tropical market in Framingham - no website available
One of the best things about going on an unexpected adventure is seeing everything with fresh eyes, and that feeling of excitement when finding a new market  full of surprisingly great and unusual food. I could have spent hours exploring every isle in Seabra, but didn't have much time. I'll definitely be going back as this store specialized in Brazilian and Latin American foods.

Congo (Brazzaville)(AF) and Congo Democractic Republic (Kinshasa)(AF):  The Republic of the Congo  also known as Congo-Brazzaville, Little Congo, or simply the Congo, is a in Central Africa. It is bordered by Gabon, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly known as Zaire), the Angolan enclave province of Cabinda, and the Gulf of Guinea.These two countries are seasonally split--half lie above the Equator; half below the Equator. As you can see by the map, the two countries are neighbors. Sadly, both countries are beset by crushing poverty, corrupt and mismanaged governments and constant political unrest. Despite all this, both countries share tremendous ethnic and cultural pride which is reflected in their cuisine.

Congolese cuisine is based on starches such as the cassava root, corn, and plantains; green vegetables, insects, fish and, to a lesser extent, meat. The staple of cassava came from the Americas, and the Congolese grow this important tuber along with a wide variety of vegetables and peanuts.

Congo's staple food, the cassava plant, is not native to Africa, but was probably introduced from South America by the Portuguese 300 years ago. Cassava root is the source of tapioca!

Typical Congolese meals consist of a starchy food with sauce or stew. Cassava is the principal starch, particularly in rural areas. It may be replaced by rice or corn if they are available. These basic foods are served mostly as a thick stew or porridge, flavored with a spicy sauce. If they can afford it, people may add fish or meat to the stew. and
Yams and plantains for fufu - banana leaves for fish
Marinate fish (I used Talapia) in onions, fresh lemon juice, cayenne, tomato and parsley
Cut and stack 3 banana leaves - place fish in center
Fold as you would a burrito

Tie with kitchen string
3 beautiful packets - 3 fillets each
Fufu - boil equal parts sweet potatoes and plantains til soft
Mash with potato masher-add a little butter
Cook packets on grill - my pit was perfect - or in oven
Open packets to reveal beautifully steamed fish!
The Congolese use their fingers to scoop up a ball of Fufu, then dip and scoop the fish - Divine!
 The Recipes

Liboké de Poisson (Fish in Banana-Leaf)

Leaf cookery is common throughout the world's tropical regions. In Central Africa, both whole fish and fish filets are cooked in leaf packets over grills or charcoal fires. Throughout the Congo River area, the Lingala word, Liboké (plural, Maboké) is often used to refer to this method of preparation; Ajomba (or Jomba) is the name nearer the Atlantic coast. Poisson en Paquet is French for Fish in Packet. Leaves of banana or marantaceae (or marantacee) plants give the food a certain flavor that will be missing if they are not used, however aluminum foil can be substituted. Outside the tropics, look for (frozen) banana leaves in International, Asian, and Latin American grocery stores

What you need
  • banana leaves
  • two to four pounds of fresh fish (either whole, or cut into filets, steaks, or pieces); in Africa freshwater fish are typically used
  • one or two onions, finely chopped
  • juice of one or two lemons
  • salt (to taste)
  • black pepper (to taste)
  • cayenne pepper or red pepper (to taste)
  • oil (just a spoonful)
  • one tomato, chopped and crushed (or canned tomatoes) (optional)
  • a few okra, chopped (optional)
  • a bunch of sorrel leaves (optional)
  • one Maggi® cube (crushed) or a spoonful of Maggi® sauce (optional)
What you do
  • If you are cooking a whole fish:
    Prepare a marinade by mixing together the oil, chopped onion, lemon juice, salt, black pepper, red pepper (and any optional ingredients you choose). Clean the fish, but leave the scales on, and cut a few gashes lengthwise on each side. Pour the marinade onto the fish and into the gashes. Let marinate in a glass dish for a quarter hour.
  • If you are cooking fish filets, steaks, or pieces:
    In a glass bowl combine all the ingredients (including the optional ingredients) except the fish and mix well. Add the fish and let marinate for a quarter hour.
  • Warm the banana leaves for a half-minute in a hot oven, or on a grill, or in a pot of boiling water. This makes them easier to fold. Remove the center rib of each leaf by cutting across it with a knife and pulling it off. Cut the ends off each leaf to form a large rectangle.
  • Fold the banana leaves to completely enclose the ingredients in a packet two or three layers thick. (Use something like the burrito folding technique. Depending on how many leaves and how much (or how many) fish you are cooking you may want to make more then one packet. Use oven-proof string to tie them closed.)
  • Cook the packets over an outdoor grill, or in an oven. (If using an oven, you may want to place some aluminum foil under them to catch drips.) Turn them every ten minutes. After half an hour carefully open the packet and check to see if the fish is cooked, if it is not, close the packet and continue cooking.
  • Serve in the packet with some Baton de Manioc (also called Chikwangue) or Fufu.
Note: the banana leaves should not be eaten.


Fufu (Foo-foo, Foufou, Foutou, fu fu) is to Western and Central Africa cooking what mashed potatoes are to traditional European-American cooking. There are fufu like staples all over Sub Saharan Afiica: i.e., Eastern Africa's Ugali and Southern Africa's Sadza (which are usually made from ground corn (maize), though West Africans use maize to make Banku and Kenkey, and sometimes use maize to make Fufu). Fufu is a starchy accompaniment for stews or other dishes with sauce. To eat fufu: use your right hand to tear off a bite-sized piece of the fufu, shape it into a ball, make an indentation in it, and use it to scoop up the soup or stew or sauce, or whatever you're eating.

In Western Africa, Fufu is usually made from yams, sometimes combined with plantains. In Central Africa, Fufu is often made from cassava tubers, like Baton de Manioc. Other fufu-like foods, Liberia's dumboy for example, are made from cassava flour. Fufu can also be made from semolina, rice, or even instant potato flakes or Bisquick. all over Afria, making fufu involves boiling, pounding, and vigorous stirring until the fufu is thick and smooth.

  • two to four pounds of yams (use large, white or yellow yams; not sweet potatoes, not "Louisiana yams"); or equal parts yams and plantain bananas
  • one teaspoon butter (optional)
What you do
  • Place yams in large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook until the yams are soft (maybe half an hour). Remove pot from heat and cool yams with running water. Drain. Remove peels from yams. Add butter. Put yams in a bowl (or back in the empty pot) and mash with a potato masher, then beat and stir with a wooden spoon until completely smooth. This might take two people: one to hold the bowl and the other to stir.
  • Shape the fufu into balls and serve immediately with meat stew or any dish with a sauce or gravy. To eat it, tear off a small handful with your fingers and use it to scoop up your meat and sauce.
Final Assessment: We LOVED this meal! It was extremely easy to prepare, and took very little time. I didn't have sorrel, so substituted parsley from my garden. I also omitted okra, only because I'd forgotten it. The yam and plantain fufu was delicious, and a very nice deviation from rice, which we've eaten a lot of while cooking in Africa. We'll mos def eat this again.

    Monday, July 26, 2010

    Day 38- Comoros (Moroni)(AF) Comoronian Chicken Curry (Poulet à L'Indienne) - Up Next, Congo (AF)

    Teenagers anyone? Going cheap - will barter

    Three great things happened this morning...
    First, my tomatoes are officially in!

    Marty and Jim - Whipping up homemade meatloaf and making it all look easy
    Second, I had coffee and a teen parenting pep talk, with my strong-woman mentor, Marty, at Crivello's Crossing, a restaurant/bar, owned and operated by brothers, Jim (Marty's significant other) and Jeff Crivello. If you like real homemade cooking in a comfortable, neighborhood setting, this is the place for you. Thank you Marty - you have a way of cutting through all superficial stuff and setting me back on course. Jim your hospitality and kindness are greatly appreciated. Crivello's Crossing: 45 Depot Street, Milford, MA.

    Next, I came home to find that my blog and interview had been posted on Public Radio Kitchen. Thank you to Mike Fubini, a WBUR Intern, and Susan McCrory, PRK's Director, for the opportunity and privilege of making WBUR's foodie blog! This is the coolest thing eva, eva, eva!

    About the Country of Comoros
    Comoros (Moroni)(AF): Slightly more than 12 times the size of Washington, DC, the country of Comoros is located in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Southern Africa, between northern Madagascar and Mozambique.

    The Comoros islands have been settled, conquered, re-settled and re-conquered many times over the centuries. Cultural influences on this continent include African, Indonesian, Madagascan, Arabic and Portuguese. All these cultures have left their mark on Comoran cuisines. As a result Comoran cuisine utilizes many different types of spices and exotic ingredients as well as a new way of preparing rice steamed with spices, the usage of cloves, saffron, cinnamon and pomegranate juice.

    A typical Comoran meal usually contains rice and meat, seasoned with one of the many locally produced ingredients like the wonderfully exotic spices of  vanilla, coriander, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Being an island nation the Comoros are also rightly famous for their fish dishes and stews made with lentils. The Portuguese introduced products from the New World to the islands and many dishes include ingredients such as bell peppers, maize, chillies, tomatoes, bananas, pineapples, limes and oranges.

    Saffron, Cumin, Cardamom, cloves, ginger, garlic and hot peppers
    Finding recipes took a little web surfing. This country is made up very remote islands, and there aren't a dearth of recipe links available. However, I did find several at the link above, and settled on a curry dish: cardamon, saffron, cumin, cloves and ginger - how could I go wrong?

    Brown the chicken in a heavy pot
    Cloves and Cardamom - crush the pods to reveal heavenly scented seeds
    I'm just mad about Saffron - okay, it's a Donovan song, I'm dating myself
    Give my Buddy Boy a treat - he's the only guy in the house who does what I ask him to without whining
    The meal - served up on a bed of steamed rice, topped off with slivered almonds and garden cucumbers on the side
    Comoronian Chicken Curry (Poulet à L'Indienne)

    1 large chicken cut into serving pieces
    2 onions, finely sliced
    4 garlic cloves, minced
    9"  length ginger, grated
    8 tomatoes, blanched, peeled and chopped (I used canned, because that's what I  had)
    4 chillies, finely chopped
    6 whole cloves
    6 cardamom pods, crushed
    1 1/2 C natural yogurt
    1 tbsp ground cumin
    Generous pinch of saffron
    1/3 +Toasted slivered almonds
    Salt and black pepper to taste

    Cooking Instructions:
    Fry the chicken pieces in oil until golden brown then set aside. Place the onions, garlic and chillies in the pan and fry until the onion has softened. Add the cardamom and cloves and fry for a few minutes more. Return the chicken to the pan and add the tomatoes. Mix the yoghurt with the cumin and saffron and pour this mixture over the chicken mixture. Season with salt and pepper, cover tightly and simmer gently for 1 hour (add a little water if he mixture dries too quickly). Serve on a bed of rice, garnished with the toasted slivered almonds.

    Final Assessment: I love the smell of the exotic spices: cardamom, saffron, cumin, which scent the kitchen with hints of distant lands. The juxtaposition of the coolness of the yogurt with the heat of the peppers was wonderful; closer to Indian cooking than much of the peanut-based African cooking we've been eating. The guys in my house thought it was good, but it didn't wow them. I say the Hell with them - it was good :)