vegetarian

Warm Haba (Lima Bean) Salad

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Have you ever cooked with fresh beans?  Honestly, before coming to Ecuador, I’m not sure I had ever even laid eyes on a fresh bean.  Sure, being a plant-based diet kind of girl most of my life, I ate TONS of beans but to me they were a canned convenience food, an easy way to get some precooked fiber and protein into my life.  Now I live in Cuenca and I’m here to tell you that beans can be SO much better.

Fresh legumes are aplenty in Euador (and I would assume most of South America) and they are a joy to work with in the kitchen, but it all starts in the market.  Sometimes I can’t resist picking up a bag just because they are so pretty.  While some are vibrant in one specific color, others are muted and speckled in a variety of colors, just like buying a beautiful bag of marbles.  Once you get those beauties home they can be refigerated in a paper bag for a day or 2 but I find it’s best to use them as soon as possible.  From there, all that is required is a quick rinse (I usually rinse mine in a disinfecting solution) before you add them to a boiling pot of (sea) salted water.  Different varieties require different cook times which can be anything from 15 minutes to 1 hour.  Sometimes I prefer to cook the beans with longer cook times in a crockpot on high for 3-4 hours.  No matter which way you chose, the result is a super tasty, preservative and table salt free source of plant-based energy.

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The following recipe features fresh lima beans or habas (in Spanish).  Their preparation includes one extra step but their cooktime is especially short.  Even though you can buy habas pre-shelled, I prefer to shell them myself.  The first time I set out to shell a 1 pound bag it took me a whole hour!  Now I have it down to half an hour, give or take.  Given the delay, I would not suggest shelling the habas while hungry for the food you are trying to make!  This will probably just lead to giving up and eating granola for dinner.  Instead, plan ahead and use your time wisely.  You could: call someone back home for a chat, listen to a Spanish course online, dream up your next ecua-adventure or think about how in the world you are going to try to describe haba shelling in your blog.  Ok, I’m going to do my best!  To shell the haba, start by locating the little indented line along the top of the bean.  One side of the line will bulge out more than the other.  Starting at the bulge, use your thumbnail to pull back the shell, following the line.  At this point the haba is shell free on the top.  Now remove the shell, piece by piece, spiraling down the haba.  It should come off in 3 to 4 pieces.  This is the best explanation I could come up with!  If these directions helped you or if you’ve found a faster way, please share in the comments.

There are so many reasons to be excited about my recipe for Warm Haba Salad!  For instance, it’s colorful, it’s packed with nutrition, it’s simple, there aren’t too many ingredients and they are all easily found in Cuenca.  Mine is pictured served over a bed of spinach but it is versatile enough to be served as a side, over a healthy grain or scooped up by a pita.

Buen Provecho!

4 small tomatoes (about a pound)
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup carrot, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnammon
pinch of crushed red pepper
1 lb fresh habas (lima beans)
fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or butter
sea salt

Start by shelling the habas.  Once the habas are shelled, rinse them well.  Add the habas to a medium sized pot of boiling salted water.  Leave them to boil for 15 minutes.  Once the habas are tender, reserve a half cup of their cooking liquid, then strain the habas and set off to the side.  Now coat the bottom of a large frying pan with olive oil or butter and add the chopped onions, cook until soft, about 2 minutes.  Turn the heat down to low and add the carrots and garlic to the pan.  Stir in the cooking liquid from the the habas and bring the heat back up to a simmer.  Now add the cumin and cinammon, a healthy pinch of sea salt and pinch of crushed red pepper.  Allow the carrot and onion mixture to simmer until the carrots are tender, but not too soft, about 5 minutes.  Now add the tomatoes.  Cook and stir the mixutre together for another 5 minutes.  The tomatoes should be cooked through, but not too mushy.  At this point, turn off the heat and stir the cooked habas and a squeeze of lemon juice into the mixture.  Serve over salad greens, with pita bread, or over a healthy grain – the choice is yours but don’t forget to drizzle a nice healthy dose of extra virgin olive oil over top!

Serves 2

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Marinated Cucumber Salad in a Creamy Almond Dressing

 

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When I first moved to Cuenca I remember being on the phone with my grandpa and describing to him what living here was all about – the “good”, the “bad” and let’s say the “surprising” – and he just had one simple comment to make.  He said that it sounded like growing up in New York City in the 1930s.  My grandfather’s comment helped shape my viewpoint regarding the pace of life here and has also helped me to more easily accept the good along with the so-called bad as well as the surprising.  Simply put, if it weren’t for being a little behind, the simple and quite lovely pleasures of Ecuadorian life would be lost.  

Many of those simple pleasures, at the very least, bring a smile to my face every single day and some of those simple pleasures add greatly to my personal quality of life.  For instance, I can’t help but look on in amusement when I’m walking down a crowded city center street and a man with a bunch of very large freshly caught fish hanging from a pole which is balanced across his shoulders passes me by or when I get to catch a glimpse of an intense street soccer match between the neighborhood kids.  And who isn’t tickled by the two older gentlemen all suited-up having their afternoon coffee in the window of the local café?

Something I’ve come to really personally appreciate is the change in how I do my errands.  And what a change it is!  When I first moved here I did what came natural and normal to me, one-stop shopping.  You make your list of stuff you need, you pick a store,  you take a couple of hours, you buy your groceries, the end.  Over the past few years I’ve learned that if you’re looking for a high-quality and trustworthy item, one-stop shopping is not always where it’s at.  Taking the time to slow down, search out a vendor, get to know the product and the person behind the product is not only more cost-effective but it’s so much more fulfilling.  Knowing that I’m bringing home a carefully chosen item from a trusted individual is a slower paced simple pleasure and adds greatly to my quality of life.  So now my once a week errands include a visit to the milk place, the yogurt place, the bread place,  the veggie market, the chicken place, the lady I get my fruit from, the coffee place, etc.  And when we need honey, what do we do?  We call the honey guy and he hand delivers beautiful, golden, fresh, natural honey!  Cause that’s the way we do our Ecuaerrands!  Seem like a lot?  For some, it might be a little too much but it helps me to focus on the positive, slow down and live and learn real life in Cuena.

The recipe I’m posting today features a bit of that all natural, golden, hand delivered honey.  If you’re looking for high-quality honey in Cuenca, I’d suggest looking in and around the markets and even around town.  You will often find a sign in the most peculiar place (like a furniture store for instance) that says they have 100% miel de abeja (bee honey).  Why would you want to buy furniture store honey (or fruit)?  Often the family that owns the store also has a country house where they raise/harvest random things.  Since they are not selling these items commercially, they are almost always, fresh, natural and chemical-free.  It is a delight to get to know the story behind these items.

Speaking of going back in time this recipe is inspired by a cherished family recipe we would often enjoy in the summertime.  The dressing is bright, cool and creamy and as always full of whole food deliciousness.  It’s best to let this marinated salad really marinate for a good couple of hours or more.  That way the acid in the dressing has time to break down the onion a little bit and the garlic has a chance to mellow and meld with the sweetness of the honey and sourness of the lemon juice.

Buen Provecho!!

MARINATED CUCUMBER SALAD WITH A CREAMY ALMOND DRESSING
2 cups baby cucumbers sliced very thin
1 medium red onion sliced very thin
1/4 cup raw unsalted almonds
1 teaspoon raw honey
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (juice from about a quarter of a large lemon)
2 pinches of sea salt
1 slight sprinkle of black pepper
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup of a water

Start by layering the thinly sliced cucumbers and onion in a medium sized salad bowl.  To make the dressing, add the almonds, honey, lemon juice, salt, pepper and garlic to a blender.  Top with water and blend until almonds are pulverized.  Toss the veggies together with the dressing, making sure the cucumbers and onions are completely coated with the dressing.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap.  Place the salad in the refrigerator and allow to marinate for at least a couple of hours.  Serve chilled all on it’s own or with a garnish of fresh snipped cilantro and a scattering of sliced and toasted almonds for a pop of festivity.

Makes about 3 cups of salad

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Flavor Infused Wine and Garden Burger

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I’ve been living in Cuenca for so long now, sometimes it seems like forever.  I’ve been climatized, acculturated and intigrated into Ecua-life.  In other words, I’m pretty much used to it.  So much so that when I actually do go back home, things get weird.  A few of the real problems I’ve had are where exactly to get off the bus, how to greet someone without freaking them out and air-kissing them, and how to successfully cross the street.  But those might be stories for another day…

One thing that has never ever changed are my friends.  They are the BEST friends that a girl could have.  No matter how long I’ve been here, their pillar-like friendship never ceases to topple.  They offer stability and loyalty without compare and it is a wonderful thing to be able to count on.  For instance, last week I finally had the confidence to put this food blog out there, officially let one and all know that this is something I’ve been working on and invite them to take a look.  I’m not one to call attention to myself so honestly it was not all that easy but thanks to my friends, the response was SO reassuring and it meant SO much to me.  That’s why I’m dedicating this recipe to them!

Why this recipe?  Well, one reason is because this recipe is a bit of a labor of love.  There are a decent amount of steps.  You need to precook lentils and brown rice plus take the time to roast up some veggies to carmelized perfection.  It’s a little bit of an investment but all my friends are worth it and I’m sure yours are as well!  Another reason is because these garden burgers just happen to be spicy, complex, full of life and layers of fun!  Qualities of which the “constants” in my life ALL possess.  And last but not least, the secret ingredient that truly make these burgers stand-out, VINO!  That’s right, red, red wine!  I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t love it and if you don’t, you can’t be my friend….just kidding!

I wish all my friends were here to share these burgers with me but instead I’d like to say, thanks!!  Thank you so so so much for all of your support and friendship!

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1 small carrot
1/2 medium red onion
1 small red pepper
1 medium tomato
2 cloves of unpeeled garlic
1 1/2 cups of cooked lentils
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons chili seasoning
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons red wine
1 egg
4 tablespoons quinoa flour (or flour of choice)
sea salt

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Chop the first three ingredients into bite-size pieces. The chopped veggies should amount to 1 1/2 cups all together. Slice the tomato in two.  Place the chopped veggies, tomato and the unpeeled garlic cloves on a baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 good pinches of salt. Roast the veggies until a little brown around the edges, about a half an hour. Once done, remove the peels from the roasted garlic and the tomato and discard. Add the veggies, including the tomato and garlic, to a food processor. Also add lentils, brown rice, parsley, chili seasoning, thyme, paprika and wine. Salt the ingredients with another good pinch of salt. Pulse serval times on a low setting until just combined. At this point you can taste the mixture to see if the salt and level of spiciness are just the way you like them. Adjust if necessary and pulse to combine. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl. If the mixture is a little warm, allow to cool down to room temperature. Make a well in the middle of the mixture and then add the egg. Stir well to combine. The mixture will probably be just a little liquidy. I needed 4 tablespoons of flour in order to firm the mixture back up again. I would suggest adding the flour tablespoon by tablespoon until the mixture is firm enough to make into a patty. Once the desired consistency has been achieved, heat enough oil in a skillet to cover the bottom and adjust the heat to medium. Scoop out a couple of tablespoons of the mixture, form into a patty and place into the skillet to brown. Repeat until you have 4 burgers. Allow to brown 3-4 minutes on each side. Repeat until you have finished off the mixture.

Recipe makes 8 medium sized burgers.

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Baked Ripe Plantain with a Miel de Caña and Orange Drizzle

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I’m not much of a baker.  I think it’s probably for two reasons.  One, I cannot follow a recipe to save my life.  It’s a very real problem.  Even when I try to force myself, I just can’t.  Two, the changes I always want to make are healthy changes.  Sugarless quinoa and avocado cookies anyone…anyone?  So, long story short, when someone asks me to bring a dessert I usually say, “can I just bring a salad”?

Here’s the dilemma.  I LOVE sweet stuff!  I love sweet, starchy, ooey, gooey, warm and saucy desserts!  If it’s a special occasion, it’s just a bite or two of a sweet (usually chocolately) indulgence that I crave to cap off the meal perfectly.  But on a regular day I like to stick to healthy whole foods.  A baked plantain is the answer.

Biting into a ripe baked plantain is like taking a bite of warm banana custard.  It’s crispy and carmelized on the outside and sweet and silky on the inside, all the while maintaining it’s structure to have something to bite into.  And since it does that with just the help of an oven, well, it’s the ultimate whole food dessert if you ask me!  Even though I regularly enjoy a baked plantain all on it’s own, saucing it up with just a few more clean ingredients will take the decadence up a notch!

The sauce for this recipe has only four ingredients but when they come together it is a real pop of flavor.  Miel de caña is something that I’m just recently allowing myseld to keep at home.  Why?  Because it is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.  It is the fine wine of natural sweeteners and since it reminds me of wine, well, I was just a little scared that at some point I’d end up putting it in a glass and drinking it.  But so far, no such incidents.  Miel de caña is technically molasses.  I haven’t tasted or cooked with molasses in years but I just don’t remember it being as complex and having the florally and citrusy notes that the miel de caña of Ecuador does.  At any rate, if you are looking for a substitute I’d suggest light, unsulphured molasses and as usual, please let me know how it goes.  If you are living in South America, please don’t hestitate to start incorporating this awesome indgredient in your recipes!  I’d love to hear from you and all your creative ideas for miel de caña too!

IMG_1846 (3)IMG_1865 (6)1/4 cup miel de caña (sugar cane honey) or molasses
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon real vanilla
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 ripe plantain
coconut oil or butter

Start by wisking together the first 3 ingredients in a small saucepan.  Move the saucepan to a medium flame and stir frequently as the sauce comes to a boil.  Once the sauce has reached a boil, turn the flame to low and stir frequently for 12-15 minutes.  The sauce will reduce down to about 1/2 cup.  Remove the sauce from the flame and transfer to a glass storage container.  Allow to cool.  Once the sauce has cooled down, add the chia seeds and cover with a lid.  Give the sauce a little bit of a shake and place in the refigerator to let the chia do their chia thing.  Keep the sauce in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To make the roasted plantain, first preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Then cut off each end of a ripe plantain and remove the peel.  Quarter the plantain and brush with a little bit of coconut oil or butter.  Bake the plantain on foil which has been placed directly on the oven rack.  Bake the plantain for 25 minutes or until it starts to get dark and crispy around the edges.  Serve the plantain warm with a drizzle of miel de caña sauce.

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Melloco Salad Bruschetta

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My first experience with a South American root veggie called melloco was at a family style Ecuadorian restaurant here in town.  The restaurant atmosphere is quaint and homelike.  It’s traditionally decorated but has such a classy feel at the same time.  Let me just say, you feel special going there.  The server brings you a big piping hot, family sized serving of the main dish along with all kinds of fun salads and sides to accompany it and the delectable sauce it’s served in.  Not only that, he actually serves each individual portion of the main dish directly to your plate.  As for the sides, well, those are randomly scattered around the table and meant to be passed.  Keep in mind this is a family style restaurant and the food is DEEEEE-licious!  So while on the outside you are politely accepting what the person to your left has just passed you and politely dishing out just a small little portion of whatever it is to your plate, on the inside your heart has started to skip beats while your eyes follow your favorite side sloooowly make it’s way from person to person all the way down at the other side of table.  Feeling desperate you try doing some quick math in your head.  If the next 4 people only take one spoonful I think that couscous salad will make it!  You just want to plead, “save some for me”, but since this is not your actual family, that’s not going to happen.

One of the sides turned out to be a melloco salad.  And when it got to me for the first time, low and behold, it wasn’t picked over like everything else.  I had never seen this, what I thought to be, teeny tiny little potato before but I will definitely give it a try!  I was met with something very new to me.  Melloco has a simple earthy taste but it’s uniqueness really comes from it’s texture.   It’s creamy but crisp at the same time.  Even when these little tubers are cooked and cooled down to room temperature they retain a little snap that brings something different to the plate.  I have to say, I was an instant fan of melloco!  But it seems that not everyone feels the same way (must be a texture thing).  While the other sides seem to win out in popularity at the table, these speckled little fingers of earthiness delight me every time!

Melloco is traditionally known for being a frugal and nutritious addition to the family shopping list.  And can I just add, gorgeous?!  They are like beautiful little salad-topping gems!  I mean, who wouldn’t want to add a pop of magenta to a green salad?  I love that color.  For that reason, I slice them before cooking them.  That way the cooking time is reduced and they retain that lovely speckle or bold majenta.  I do realize that melloco is probably not found at your neighborhood grocery.  If looking for a replacement, I would suggest using a very new red potato and increasing the cook time a bit.  If you’re not living in a South American country and you have found melloco, please tell us where.  If you are living here, I’d also love to hear your experience with melloco!  Is it for you?  How do you cook with it?

In this recipe, I’ve added melloco to a vibrant salad that can be layered on top of slices of hard-boiled eggs and served on toasted crusty bread.  The crispness of the melloco constrasts against the silkiness of the avocado in a wonderful way!  And the eggs are thanks to a fond childhood “food memory” of Marcelo’s.

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IMG_1681 (2)1 cup melloco, sliced into 1/4 inch discs
1/4 purpled onion, finely minced
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
a handful of cilantro
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 large avocado, cubed
sea salt
extra virgin olive oil

Add sliced melloco to a small sauce pan of salted boiling water. Boil for 7-10 minutes. Test the melloco around 7 minutes and remove from heat when they are cooked through but still firm. Strain and set aside to cool. Add minced onion, garlic and lemon juice to a mixing bowl. Grab a handful of cilantro and start snipping small bits with kitchen shears, about half or a little more, into the bowl. Toss everything together with a couple of healthy pinches of sea salt. Layer in the cherry tomatoes then the cooled melloco and finally the cubed avocado. Gently toss everything together. Take a final taste and add more sea salt to your liking.  Drizzle slices of toasted crusty bread with a bit of olive oil and top with sliced hard-boiled eggs and melloco salad.

Makes about 3 cups of melloco salad.

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Fresh Pineapple and Cinnamon Tea

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When my husband Marcelo was little, he and his mom were really poor.  They had to make the most of everything they had; wasting food was never an option.  But it wasn’t just a matter of choking down every last pea on the plate just because you had to.  Imagination and ingenuity helped them to create the food experiences lots of people take for granted.  I cherish the stories Marcelo tells me about him as a little boy purposefully serving himself just a portion of the food available so that he could go back for the thrill of “seconds” or even “thirds”.  Sometimes they used just one egg for both the main meal and dessert.  How?  My mother-in-law fried the egg yolk up and served it over rice.  Later the egg white was whipped into a frothy foam made with a tiny bit of liquor and sugar.  Now that is how to make an egg stretch!

Another family favorite, I promise, will never let you see the rind of a pineapple the same way again!   Now, instead of just tossing away the bulky core and rind of a freshly cut pineapple, I literally cannot help but put it to another simple but ingenious use – a deliciously sweet and cinnamon-y tea!  This recipe is not only easy but makes you feel really good because you’re getting the most out of that precious fruit.  Plus I’ve found it’s just the prefect thing to brighten up a chilly night.

Once you try this recipe I’m sure you will never throw another pineapple rind away again!  I’m so obsessed with this drink that even if I don’t have time to make it right away, I toss the leftover pineapple parts in a bag and freeze them for later.  I happen to love the combination of the distinct taste of stevia with the sweet and sour taste of pineapple.  Living in Ecuador, our all natural sweetener choices are a bit limited compared to living in other parts so I like to take advantage of using natural stevia leaves where it makes sense especially since they’re a product grown locally and very fairly priced.

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The rind and core of a whole pineapple
1 cinammon stick
1 T dried stevia leaves, honey or natural sweetner to taste
8-10 cups of water

Place all ingredients in a large pot.  Cover with water.  Bring the water to a boil.  Once it is boiling turn the heat down and let simmer for 10 minutes.  At this point the tea is ready to drink but I like to put the cover on the pot and let everything steep for an hour or more to get a really good infusion.  Once infused, pull out the big chunks of pineapple rind and core with a slotted spoon, discard, then run the tea through an fine strainer and into a container.  The tea can be served hot or over ice. The leftovers can be bottled and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.

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Where Yuca Comes From and a Yuca Fries Recipe

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Everytime I cook with yuca I’m taken back to a very special time in my life.  Exactly a year into my Ecuadorian adventure a friend of mine and I were invited to spend some time visiting our friends who own a cacao farm in Mendez which is a small jungle town located in the southern portion of the Ecuadorian Amazon.  I had been to the jungle before, lots of times, but this time was going to be truly different, something I had dreamed of since I got here, a real experience.  Any other time that I had traveled to or through the rain forest something that always caught my eye were the humble homes made of slats of wood, sitting on their stilts, far off the road, framed by the impressive local flora and fauna.  What would it be like to live there, work there and prepare food there?  My very good friends were about to give me an education that I would never forget.

After a peaceful night’s rest and a hearty country-style breakfast it was off to get dressed up in my work clothes, for today I would learn how to harvest cacao, among other things!  Despite the heat and humidity it was important to protect yourself from the sun and bugs so I started rifling through a big bin of clothes to find some gear, a bandana for my head and neck, a baseball hat, a t-shirt and a collared button-down shirt, sturdy work pants and of course rubber boots.  And with that we were off to find out where chocolate comes from!  Once we arrived to the plantation my friend’s mom got out her machete and got to work.  That’s right, I said MACHETE.  That jungle-mama started wacking and hauling big bunches of cacao over to us.  She split each one in half so that we could harvest the seeds, or cacao beans, but in the mean time we learned that it wasn’t just the seeds that are edible.  The juicy, citrusy, cotton candy-like fruit that surrounds them is simply divine!  So there we sat, on the floor of the Amazon, filling buckets full of organic cacao beans and indulging on the fruit as much as we could.  The beans would soon be sent off to Germany where they would be processed and packaged into a high-quality bar.  But at that moment I couldn’t imagine enjoying that cacao any other way – so close to it’s inception.

After we had gathered enough cacao we packed up the truck and went in search of other jungle delicacies.  As we traveled along, evey once in a while the truck would stop and my friend’s brother would disappear into the forest, with a machete of course, and return a couple minutes later with the loot.  At one point we all stopped and went in search of yuca.  Little did I know at the time that this implied going in search of what looks to be a small tree, the Cassava Plant.  Upon identifying it, my friend’s teenage bro bent down the thick stem and started pulling and tugging on it.  After struggling for a few minutes he eventually cried uncle, or should I say mommy, begging the help of his jungle-mama (that lady was awesome and quickly became my hero)!  Between the two of them, out popped a root network which sprouted several nice-sized yuca tubers, ready to nourish us and replenish the energy we had expended that day in the hot Amozonian sun, not to mention delight us with it’s earthy and creamy flavor and texture.

These days when I get the urge for some yuca I just run up to the market at the corner of my street, but preparing it still takes me back to that day.  I love how a chunk of yuca comes encrusted in the soil it was planted in and how even in my apartment I can still get my hands a little dirty when peeling and cleaning it.  I love how that soil turns into mud in my sink because it makes me feel close to the earth and all it has to offer us, so many edible gems, ready to be explored.

There are some things to remember when chosing and preparing yuca.  First, in my experience, it seems that the thinner chunks of yuca are softer and easier to work with.  You want the yuca to be bright white on the inside and plan to prepare it within a couple days of buying it for the tastiest result.  When peeling yuca, I like to stand it up on it’s widest end and slice down.  Off will come a strip of it’s woody outer peel.  From there you will see a division between the peel and the white edible portion.  When the yuca is fresh you can use a paring knife to seperate the peel from the white portion and from there take the peel off in one piece by hand or little-by-little seperate with the knife and pull secitons off by hand.  The most important part is that all that is left is the white part of the yuca, nothing purple, or any other part of the peel.  Yuca also has a small but visible string running down it’s core.  It is best to chop around the string or remove it when chopping.

Yuca can be used in many different ways but I find this recipe is a great intro to yuca and oh SO satisfying ever single time!

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IMG_1392 (2)Two 8-10 inch pieces of yuca
1 T olive oil (aceite de oliva)
sea salt (sal marina)
black pepper- optional (pimienta negra)

Preheat over to 200° C/400° F.  Peel and rinse yuca.  Chop into medium sized fry-shaped pieces, making sure to chop around or chop out the string at the core of the yuca.  Add the yuca to a pan of boiling salted water.  Boil for 15-20 minutes or until just soft enough to easily smash with the back of a fork.  Drain the yuca and toss it in olive oil and a couple of generous sprinkles of sea salt.  Add a dash of black pepper if desired.  Place the yuca fries on a baking sheet ensuring that they are not touching or overlapping.  After baking for 10 minutes, flip each yuca fry over and continue baking for 10 more minutes.  The yuca fries should be golden and crispy on the outside yet soft and creamy on the inside.  Top with a sprinkle of smoked paprika, fresh flat-leafed parsley and yogurt and garlic sauce.

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Sweet and Spicy Green Pepper Salsa

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Almost everyday somebody asks me if I like living in Ecuador.  My answer is always, “of course!”  Inevitably the next question is, “what do you like most about living here?”  One of my top reasons for feeling so fortunate to live here and for never wanting to leave is the food!

One of the HUGE advantages of living in Ecuador is the awesome availability of so much fresh and affordable produce.  And when I say fresh I mean, sometimes I find snails or other even less appealing creepy crawlies in my lettuce, fresh.  Ok, breathe, it’s just a slug, it won’t bite me and guess what?  It means this stuff is SUPER organic.  It’s fresh picked and trucked into town that morning and packs a nutritional and not to mention tasty tasty punch.  So, you’re at your local organic market and you cannot help but pick up of one of these and some of that and oooooh I think I’ll take one of those too!  And before you know it your shopping bag is over-flowing to the point where you’re losing feeling in your arm lugging it home and the best part?  You probably spent about 5 bucks!  The thrill of shopping locally, organically and affordably will never ever wear off for me…no matter how long I live here!

Most of the local produce, especially veggies, are easily identifiable but every once in a while something sneaks into your shopping bag that is new to you.  For instance, this recipe features a hot green pepper called rocoto verde which is very common in the markets and supermarkets of Cuenca.  Have you seen it around but were usure how to use it?  Something to remember is that it’s spiciness should not be underestimated .  I prefer to work with gloves when chopping and deseeding this powerful little pepper and adding it slowly to my dish in order to control the heat.  Once you have the level of spiciness where you want it this Sweet and Spicy Green Pepper Salsa is ready to drizzle on just about anything you can think of!  Think tacos, fried eggs roasted potatoes or white pizza!  If rocoto verde is not available in your area you can substitute it for jalapeno.

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2 green onions including about half of the green part (cebollín)
2 green peppers (pimiento verde)
1 rocoto verde (or jalapeno)
1 cup cilantro (culantro)
1 cup parsley (perejil)
2-3 cloves of garlic (ajo)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (sal marina)
1 tablespoon olive oil (aceite de oliva)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Rough chop all vegetables except for rocoto verde.  Add chopped veggies, sea salt, olive oil and apple cider vinegar to a blender.  Pulverize these ingredients.  Carefully, with gloves and without touching your face or eyes, deseed, devein and cut the rocoto verde into 8 chunks. Add, 1 small chunk at a time, pieces of the rocoto verde to the blender.  Blend and taste after adding each chunk.   Bring the salsa up to your desired level of yummy spiciness. 

Recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Store salsa in the refigerator until ready to use.  Will keep in a covered container for up to one week.

 

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