Sunday, June 5, 2011

COSTA RICA-3ra. Parte.

MORE… I did mention that Costa Rica lacks of good food, that does not mean Costa Rica does not have good food, it does but the general “Cultural attitude” is very simple and without much flavour, the good thing is that there are lots of Europeans and they contribute to the simplicity of the meals but with a lot of flavour. Costa Rica does have great fruit and great pizza in many places. However, we were really fortunate to have Luis’ family teaching us about Costa Rica’s cuisine.

Here we go…

These are almost like hot cakes and most Costa Ricans use sour cream, jam or cream cheese on top. Very, very tasty but what made them great is that they were prepared by Luis’ aunt.

Snug Harbor Seafoods Pasta.
This is a great memory of our 1st. Anniversary on the Road… Thanks Megon and Kevin for providing us with this wonderful can of salmon prepared precisely by Megon’s family business.
The recipe costs (including the can of salmon) $3.5 dollars and it is prepared as follows.

1 Can of King Wild Alaskan Salmon
Sour cream from Costa Rica (Natilla)
6 Cloves of garlic
1 Small onion
1 Red bell pepper or “Chile dulce”
Olive oil

1) Open the can and enjoy the smell while you cook the rest of the ingredients. Tourists were gathering around at this point, locals were evacuating.
2) Cook pasta al dente, my favourite method as it keeps the taste of the pasta.
3) Dice 6 cloves of garlic as well as a small onion and a red bell pepper. Fry all the ingredients with some olive oil and add them to the cooked pasta.
4) At the end add the can of salmon along with the sour cream (Ticos call it Natilla) and slowly enjoy this wonderful salmon… of course with the addition of salt and pepper to taste.
5) If you do not know Megon and Kevin you can substitute the salmon for something else of your preference.
6) Good luck!!!
Thanks Megon and Kevin, we really enjoy the salmon!!!

Casado Mahi Mahi.
This was the typical casado from Costa Rica but including Mahi Mahi. We were staying at Hotel Verde Mar in Manuel Antonio and had Chef Oman Ramon Gomez Vargas producing this delicious dish for us.

A little bit of background to all this.
Chef Omar took some courses through INA and other Institutions in Costa Rica. Since 1956 he has been practicing the art of cooking and throughout his career he has participated in different activities and festivals, one of them was the IV Festival Gastronomico Internacional in San Jose, Costa Rica. His life has been dedicated to improving himself and staying updated by reading books like “Mi Cocina” by Auguste Escoffier and attending cooking courses constantly.
For Omar, Costa Rican cuisine is nutritious and rich; however the common Costa Rican tends to put together lots of starches in the same plate. For him it is easy to make perfect combinations since he appreciates the variety of fruits and veggies that Costa Rica owns.
He prepared this Casado that is generally found in a popular restaurant or “soda”; this same dish is found in first class restaurants with the name of Platillo Tipico Costarricense: rice, beans, fried or boiled plantains, salad, and meat.
Our Casado was composed of: Mahi Mahi or Pez dorado found in the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica perfectly prepared and juicy, rice, some veggies (chayote and corn), fried plantains, beans and Turrialba cheese. Fish was prepared with a simple recipe of Salsa Lizano, lemon juice and pepper.
This dish normally cost 3500 Colones, Omar made a bigger plate for us for 5000 Colones.
Omar says that his speciality is Gastronomy in general because everything he prepares tastes delicious… he is right!!!
If you are in Manuel Antonio or Quepos don’t forget to stop by Hotel Verde Mar which is located at 200 metres before the heart of Manuel Antonio, Omar will be waiting for you with proper parking and with enough speed to ensure he satisfies your appetite. He is able to prepare a typical Costa Rican dish as well as an International request.

Flor @ San Vito.
Bread is something we enjoy very much. We found a bakery in San Vito, in the South of Costa Rica, that had some spicy tasty baked goods and some sweet queques (cakes). The prices range between 300-1500 Colones depending on size and complexity. The owner and the staff are very friendly and helpful; don’t hesitate to make a stop here since they also have coffee… Enjoy!!!

Liliana’s Pizzeria y Restaurant @ San Vito.
This pizzeria is famous in the country. We were here in 2005 and really enjoy the food and Italian accent. This time we could not forgive ourselves if we missed the excellent service and products they offer while being in San Vito. We had a large pizza (14 pieces) of De La Casa Pizza (meat and tomato sauce, cheese, bacon and mushrooms) and a Bavaria beer from Costa Rica. Pizza was 6700 Colones and beer 1200 Colones. These prices are plus 13% sales tax and 10% service tax. Worth it? Absolutely…

Rainy San Vito.
Yes it is rainy, really rainy but cooking is always a pleasure especially when nothing else can be done. Pasta is a staple but there are always variations to cooking pasta; we recently found this tomatoe sauce that is very convenient because it comes in a small plastic package and it is not heavy. Remember, when on bikes, the lighter the better. I have to say that in Costa Rica we are fortunate to find products in small sizes and light containers, I love it!!!

Salchichon ahumado (kind of sausage)
Salsa de tomate Ranchera Maggi
Cloves of garlic
1 Small onion
Turrialba cheese
Olive oil

1) Cook the pasta al dente and use the hot water to simmer the broccoli.
2) Dice the onion and garlic and with a little bit of olive oil cook these ingredients, add the salchichon (cut in pieces of the size of your preference). Once all these are cooked add the tomato sauce.
3) Add this mix to the pasta.
4) Add broccoli in the side. Brian does not like to mix his pasta with broccoli, that is why is better just to place it in the side. I was really happy to finally find good broccoli.
5) Add cheese to this combination, salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!!!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

COSTA RICA-2a. Parte.

We continue in Costa Rica, gathering some ideas not just for humans…

Happy jumping Alaskan Salmon-Quiche.
This was spectacular and we did not have to go to Alaska to enjoy it, although I would go in a heart bit. Megon cooked this wonderful and economical meal for an evening full of good things… We made the mistake of bringing to the table some bread as an appetizer, totally unnecessary; the quiche was enough and more than enough. She shared with us her recipe and it is basically smoked can salmon, spinach, onions, cheese, milk and salt. It cost her about $5 dollars and the four of us ate 2 pieces each, well served. As usual, I kept a piece of mine for the next day, Brian obviously jealous about my decision got to enjoy Deya’s leftovers the next day…

Shitz’ pot.
Pets are not like family in Costa Rica, it hurts to see this. It hurts even more to see that they only eat once a week in a lot of cases. Why would anybody want an animal, especially a cat, if the animal is going to be ignored? Yes, I understand Costa Rica is wild and that there are lots of things to be eaten in the jungle but cooking for someone or “something” carries a lot of love…
Shitz’ pot is made with a bag of small chicken parts (770 Colones = $1.54 dollars) and some rice (maybe 100 Colones = $0.2 dollars). The parts are boiled with the rice and Shitz has food for a week. How hard can that be? I mean, Brian was insisting that I should keep some of that pot for him and I had to convince him that he gets more than just Shitz’ pot…
I really like and enjoy Shitz, I would take her with me but unfortunately I don’t think cats travel very well on a motorcycle.

Mireya and Eli, our friend’s parents, have been very helpful with us and we have learned from them a lot about Costa Rican food. Here we have a pejibaye, which is a relative of the coconut, is one of Costa Rica's most unusual treats. Pejibayes grow in clusters on palm trees, like miniature coconuts. The part that you eat would correspond to the fibrous husk, while the hard pejibaye seed, when cracked open, reveals a thin layer of bitter white meat around a hollow core. The bright orange or red pejibayes are delicious boiled in salted water, then peeled, halved and pitted and eaten alone or with mayonnaise. Their flavour is difficult to describe, they are not sweet, but more a combination of chestnut and pumpkin with a thick, fibrous texture. I really liked them. They can be purchased at markets or taken from the farm (our case); if purchased they cost between 1000-1500 Colones/kilogram, if cut from the farm then you just need to go out to the back of the farm and find an old grown palmito tree and take some pejibayes.

Palmito tree, pejibayes at top.

Mamón criollo.
This bitter-sweet fruit is kind of weird. I could not find a lot of information about it, I can only tell you that I liked tasting it but I will not buy it in the future. Good experience!!!

Fried yuca chips.
Yuca, which I introduced you to in the last report, can be used to make fried chips; the only difference is that you have to cut round chips because the fibres of yuca are quite hard in its longest side, therefore regular fried chips are not an option. Once you fry them you can add some Tajin (lemon zest) or simply a little bit of salt. Delicious and economical: 350 Colones for a kilogram of yuca.

Pura Vida drink.
This is the typical Costa Rican drink. It is made with a liquor called Cacique (aguardiente), another liquor (melocoton), orange and pineapple juice and syrup. We paid a little too much for this, but we were having our first vacation in our first year of travels. At Baldi Hot Springs we paid $9 American dollars. Crazy eh!

Tom’s Pan German Bakery, Nuevo Arenal.
Brian and Deya are known for liking food and riding anywhere just to try a new item; I know one thousand kilometres are nothing but we will ride that amount of kilometres just to try a piece of pie…
This time we went by a German Bakery but it was raining really hard and getting dark, we were in our way to our friends’ farm and could not take the time to stop because we still needed to find “the place”.
For two weeks we can only think about this bakery and finally we made the decision to go back and find it. I am glad we did because going for 180 kilometres was a breeze and what we got there was unique. I have to say that Costa Rica does not lack of anything but good food. This German Bakery is awesome. We tried couple of items: Bratwurst sandwich, plate of specialty cheeses and meats, bread, baked goods… but there is more… Prices are reasonable and the owner, Tom, is a very interesting fellow and an expert on his field.

Brian making bread with Tom? Yes...

Moya’s, Nuevo Arenal.
We found some amazing pizza in Nuevo Arenal, I can say the best pizza we have ever had. This place, Moya’s, is owned by a Costa Rican who worked somewhere else making Italian pizza and came back to his town to give back to the community. A pizza is 5000 Colones and enough for two people. They have a good selection: Pizza Mayan Blanca (grilled chicken in a creamy white sauce with asparagus and mushrooms), Canadiense (Canadian, I can’t imagine what goes in it), Escupe Fuego (I imagine this one is spicy since the name means Spit Fire), Chismosa (Gossiper), etc.

Happy Brian!!!