Spice things up with Costa Rican cuisine
A few years ago, an artist I had the privilege of working with, a recording artist was inspired to write a song”Road to Los Suenos” after a trip to Costa Rica which he described as”heaven on earth.”After the CD’s release, the song went to number six on the Billboard contemporary jazz chart. When the luxury resort in Los Suenos heard the song, they immediately adopted it as their theme song for their television campaign.
To celebrate, we had a Costa Rican jam session and served up none other than Costa Rican cuisine, which is known for being tasty, yet mild with a reliance on fresh fruits and vegetables. The main staple, known as gallo pinto, consists of rice and black beans.
For lunch, the traditional national dish is called a casado. It again consists of rice and beans served side by side instead of mixed. There is usually some type of meat(carne asada, fish, pork chop or chicken)and a salad to round out the dish. There may also be some extras like fried plantain(patacones or maduro), a slice of white cheese, and/or corn tortillas in accompaniment. Salsa Lizano is ubiquitous as a condiment and as an ingredient in cooking various dishes, including gallo pinto.
In many family gatherings or for special occasions it is very common to prepare arroz con pollo(rice with chicken)accompanied with a Russian salad made with beets, potatoes, hard boiled eggs and mayo.
I have included some delicious Costa Rican cuisine for you to try this weekend at home. So enjoy and don’t forget to play some Latin music to add a little flare to the moment.
Cooking is about sharing and having fun in the process so allow me to share the great recipes from Roscoe’s Kitchen. Make sure to e-mail us at [email protected] with your comments and recipes so that we can share your experiences and creations with our audience.
Gallo Pinto(Beans and Rice)
1 lb black beans, fresh or dried
8-10 sprigs cilantro(coriander leaf)fresh or frozen, but, not dried
1 small or medium onion
?small red or yellow sweet pepper(optional)
3 cups chicken broth or water
2 cups white rice
1 tablespoon 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 rinse them off. Drain the beans and add fresh water to an inch 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(about 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).
Once the rice and beans are cooked you can refrigerate or freeze them. Keep a significant amount of the”black water”with the beans(?-1 cup). 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.
Costa Rican Tamale
2 lbs instant corn masa mix
3 lbs pork shoulder roast or beef roast or boneless chicken
?lb pork lard(or vegetable shortening)
1 cup corn oil
1 batch(5 cups cooked Tico style rice)
8 cloves of garlic
?lb sweet or hot peppers to taste
1 large onion(optional)
2?lbs banana leaves(corn husks can be substituted, or aluminum foil)
Chop the meat into large chunks then brown on high heat in the?cup lard or vegetable oil. Add the chopped garlic, peppers, onion, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cumin,?teaspoon black pepper, and 1 teaspoon salt for the last minute or two of browning, then cover with water and simmer until very tender(2-3 hours). Remove the meat from the broth and reserve the broth. When the meat is cool shred it finely. While the meat is simmering prepare the potatoes and rice.
Peel the potatoes and boil with salt, cilantro, and oregano to taste until soft. Cool and cut into?inch(1 cm)cubes.
1 lb firm white fish
1 small onion
1 clove garlic
4 or 5 sprigs of cilantro(coriander leaf)
1 small hot chili
About 8 limes(enough for at least?cup of juice)
?teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste
Cut fish into 1/2 inch cubes. Mince the onion, garlic, and chili coarsely. Chop the cilantro very finely. Juice the limes and strain to remove the pulp and seeds.
Shrimp can be substituted for the fish.
Mix all of the ingredients and refrigerate tightly covered for at least 3 hours. Serve with corn tortillas, tortilla chips, or crackers.
Arroz con Leche(Rice Pudding)
2 cups rice
4 cups milk
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
?teaspoon ground cinnamon
?teaspoon ground cloves or 6 whole cloves
?teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg
4 oz butter
1 cup raisins
Cook rice uncovered in 8 cups of water for 45 minutes until rice is quite soft. Stir in other ingredients and simmer for 1/2 hour.
Serve warm, or refrigerate at least four hours to serve cold.
Sopa Negra(Black Bean Soup Costa Rican Style)
1 lb black beans, fresh or dried.
8 cups chicken broth or water or a mix
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
salt and black pepper to taste
10-12 sprigs cilantro(coriander leaf)fresh or frozen, not dried!
1 small or medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1 small green, red, or yellow sweet pepper
If beans are dried, cover with water and soak overnight, if they are fresh, just rinse them off.
Drain the beans and add water or chicken broth, salt, and half of the chopped ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and reduce heat to very low simmer until beans are nearly soft(about 2?hours).
Add the rest of the chopped ingredients, and vegetable oil, and cook an additional?hour.
Add eggs for the final 2-4 minutes.
Remove about half the beans and reserve for gallo pinto or to mash and refry(you can leave all the beans in but typically some are removed).
Remove the eggs, peel and place one or two in each bowl before serving with warm corn tortillas
SPICE OF THE WEEK: NUTMEG
The nutmeg tree is any of several species of trees in genus Myristica. The most important commercial species is an evergreen tree indigenous to the Banda Islands in the Moluccas of Indonesia, or Spice Islands. The nutmeg tree is important for two spices derived from the fruit, nutmeg and mace.
Nutmeg is the actual seed of the tree, roughly egg-shaped and about 0.8 to 1 inch long and 0.6 to 0.7 inch wide, and weighing between 0.2 and 0.4 ounce dried, while mace is the dried”lacy”reddish covering or aril of the seed. The first harvest of nutmeg trees takes place seven to nine years after planting, and the trees reach full production after 20 years. Nutmeg is usually used in powdered form. This is the only tropical fruit that is the source of two different spices.