Thursday, February 16, 2012

Lessons from my Costa Rican kitchen

Cooking isn't radically different for me in Costa Rica. It's easy to get many of my favorite ingredients such as pasta and olive oil. The fruits are fantastic and the vegetables, while limited in kinds, can be very fresh—although many of them come to market larger than I would prefer. (The average beet is the size of a large grapefruit.) However, certain ingredients are impossible to find—such as grapefruit. The fun part of the adventure is that some things are really different. These are some of the important things I've learned cooking in Costa Rica:

1. My gas oven has the numbers 1 through 4, indicating the size of flame.  Acting as the human thermostat, I check the temperature often, but fluctuations happen. It turns out that the exact temperature of the oven doesn't really matter as much as cookbooks say. And by the way, having the gas tank run out in the middle of baking something isn't necessarily a disaster. I even had a cake survive a massive drop of temperature when the tank ran out.
   I bake all of our bread because I like it a lot better than bread I can buy here.
2. Fresh home-made tortillas are great, especially when you can buy them at the near-by store when they are still warm. Make a cheese quesadilla, cut up an avocado and have a juice like watermelon and it's a fast and easy lunch.
3. You can make great brownies and cake with cocoa instead of baking chocolate. See my post about brownies.

4. Use what's available. Don't head to the store with a fixed idea of what you want; get what looks fresh or good. There are lots of good ways to cook carrots if that happens to be what you can get.
5. If you have a smaller fridge things don't get lost and don't spoil.

6. Instead of maple syrup, watered down guava jam is really good on pancakes.

7. I really miss tofu. I know it has almost no flavor but I still miss it. Best substitute for the tofu craving: texturized vegetable protein cooked with ginger.

8. Enjoy the fruit and try all the new ones you can. The fruits in this photo are sapote and grenadilla. Sapote is the only fruit I've had that I actually thought was too sweet. Grenadilla is similar to passion fruit and its juice makes a heavenly smoothy with yogurt. Just put the center part in the blender including the seeds, liquify and then strain through a sieve. The seeds are edible so having seed particles go through the sieve isn't a problem. They are ripe when the shell is dry and the seeds move around when you shake the fruit.

1 comment:

Asplund said...

Looks delicious - and grenadilla & yoghurt sounds like a divine combination!