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!

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