All posts filed under: North America


Monday Meal Review: Panama

A canal cuts straight through Panama, dividing the skinny country and two great continents. Ships no longer have to pass around the southern-most tip of South America to circumnavigate the globe as they once did. They just slip right on through her middle. Each time a ship passes, 200 million liters of water slosh and gush through the opening. Incredible, the effect of a “little divider” like the Panama canal. Keith’s new job means he’s traveling a lot. One week of every month he just … vanishes, while Ava and I muddle through our “normal.” I spend the time he’s gone a little divided, like the canal, trying not to let all my energy rush out with his ship… trying ever so hard not to miss him (I’m a Cancer, need I say more?). It’s always hard to be the one left behind – the one not on adventure. The one living the normal, everyday, here I am, still hanging out life. Yet, after spending a week so divided, there is nothing better than coming back together. For …

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Arroz con Pollo

Pneumonia make cause my heart to race, my nerves to slacken, and my breathing to rasp, but it will never stop me from making my sweetheart his birthday dinner. To celebrate in style, I cobbled together the most unexpectedly glorious arroz con pollo. Unexpected, because I honestly wondered how great could chicken and rice be? Fantastic, turns out. Put your trust in centuries of Latin American and Spanish history; the next time you have a big dinner party, make arroz con pollo. Under a gracious layer of 100% love, you’ll find a one-pot chicken and rice dish which delights in bright bursts of briny olives and capers, blushing rice (thanks to a sprinkling of ruddy ground annato and a whole lot of chopped tomatoes), and a flurry of vivid green cilantro. Arroz con Pollo is traditionally made in a giant pan – something like a paella pan which can go gracefully from oven to table – although a Dutch oven would work nicely in a pinch. I used that $20 pan I got at the Indian …

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Plantain Chips with Sea Salt | Tostones

Fried plantain chips are a slice-it and deep-fry-it situation that you’ll find all over Panama (and beyond). They’re the kind of yummy you can enjoy whether you’re grouchy and glum or over-the-moon happy. Today I made a nice “thick cut” chip – for a little crispy-chewy action, although tostones are often shaved skinny, like potato chip. Either way you’ll find it helpful to use a mandolin for nice, even slices. This is nothing like a sweet banana (looks can be deceiving). This is her savory cousin – full of good fiber and lots of potassium. I like to remind myself of that, as I reach for my second and third helpings. Serves 2-4 as a snack Ingredients: 2 green plantains vegetable oil for deep frying sea salt cracked black pepper Method: For starters, peel your plantain. Tip: Peeling a green plantain can be a little tricky. The easiest way is to cut off the top and bottom and score a line along the length of the plantain. Lift up from this line to remove the peel. If …

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Midnight Mocha Rum Cake

Let’s talk about world peace for a second. Pretty much everyone I know agrees we need a big dollop of it to make the world a happier place, but not many people know what this world loaded up with peace would actually look like. Except for that one image of children holding hands. While the notion of all our children holding hands is a beautiful image, I can’t help but wonder where all the adults are. Why is it always just children? Are we so jaded that we think they’re the only ones who can do it? Are we past the point of no return? Is it really too late to lead by example? I’ve put some thought into this lately. I think world peace will be a lot like chocolate cake. Delicious. Lovely. But definitely not overly sappy or idealistic. Sure, everyone would wear the smile of the dove in their heart (they’re eating chocolate cake, after all) but there would still be varying points of view. Disagreements. People need to be able to have opinions, …

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Menu: Panama (& Giveaway)

I’m happy. Not only did I get to dig into an amazing rum cake this week, I also get to give one of you beautiful readers a nice treat. (More on that in a moment.) For now, I need to focus on one very special man – my husband. This week’s Global Table was Mr. Picky’s birthday luncheon. Happy Birthday, my love! The meal was hearty, delicious and, as always, a bit challenging for him. I must apologize for the fact that his birthday plate included such offenders as cilantro, olives, capers, plantains, rum, and coffee. He really dislikes all of those things. I promise, it wasn’t on purpose. At least there was chocolate. And cake! (Not every country serves cake, ya know…) Right? All recipes and the meal review will be posted throughout the week. Plantain Chips with Sea Salt [Recipe] Long slices of green plantain deep fried and sprinkled with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Finger lickin’ and totally craveable. Make a believer out of your picky eater. Arroz con Pollo [Recipe] A hearty helping of annato-seasoned …

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View of Isla Taboga, with Panama City in the background. Photo by Osopolar.

About the food of Panama

The skinny squiggle in Central America is Panama. Her spine crackles with mountains, while her shores undulate with soft, green hills. This is the tropics and, even in the winter, skirts and flowers flow freely, rum punch spills willy nilly, and banana leaf tamales make an all-star appearance with the likes of arroz con pollo (spiced rice with chicken and olives) [Recipe]. But it’s the butterflies that catch my attention. With more than 1500 species in this tiny country, Panama has the “winged workforce” to fly our dreams into the hills for safe keeping. These butterflies are as plain as can be when resting, but their wings unfold into an electric rainbow of glory in flight. Some say Panama’s namesake is in reference to this “abundance of butterflies.” Friends of ours are potentially moving to Panama, so of course they had lots to say about this week at the Global Table. They assert that ceviche, or fish chemically “cooked” in lime juice is a grand way to spend an afternoon by the seashore.  For those who want …

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Lake Nicaragua, a.k.a. The Sweet Sea and Cocibolca Lake. Photo by Aaron Escobar.

Monday Meal Review: Nicaragua

When I say “toxic,” what comes to mind? Is it a food? Is it a person in your life? Is it a lifestyle led by you or someone you know? This week we ate yucca – a tuber known to have toxic bits of cyanide if processed improperly. In the early days of this adventure, I made the mistake of grating up the tough fibers on the inside of the yucca, where these toxins are concentrated. Several hours later this novice error caused me to crash down onto the floor unconscious, only to awake with ringing ears, vertigo, and my insides turned out. Toxicity. It’s not pretty. The reality is, we all have to deal with toxins, whether they come by way of food, people, or lifestyles. Over the last few weeks I’ve had run-ins with all three varieties of toxins, the latest of which is the yucca in our Nicaraguan Global Table (thankfully I knew better this time around and prepared the tuber properly). Toxins do one thing perfectly: they drag us down and suck our …

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Pineapple Horchata

This summer I’ve seen almost everything. Laughter in sad moments. Tears in happy moments. Life is a bumble-all-over-the place, as it should be when temperatures screech up into the 100’s. What I haven’t seen? Purple-feathered dancing ladies. This Pineapple Horchata is certainly the closest I’ll get to this sort of carnival fun. And every summer should have a little carnival fun, don’t you think? The recipe is a cooked horchata (homemade rice drink), different from the amazing no-cook Strawberry Almond Horchata we made for our Mexican Global Table. In this drink, the Pineapple skin and core simmers with the rice and water to extract maximum flavor. Then I added extra pieces of pineapple goodness to amp up the flavor. Puree with a sprinkling of sugar and you’re done. Welcome to summer in a glass. Makes a gallon 1 pineapple 12 cups water 1 cup rice 1 cup sugar, or to taste Method: Gather your rice and pineapple. Let the sweet pineapple fragrance help you drift away to sunny Nicaragua. Once there, trim and core the …

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Lime & Cabbage Slaw with Yucca | Vigoron

Today we’re taking a bite of Nicaraguan sunshine. This is the kind of sunshiny soul food that satisfies cravings. Bored cravings. Excited cravings. Lonely cravings. I’m ready for winter cravings. I miss my man cravings.  I wish I could sing cravings. It’s like the fairy godmother of salads. This sunshine is magic. So what is it? Vigoron. A heaping mound of comfort, nestled on top of deep green banana leaves. This is Nicaraguan street food, designed to make your mouth happy. First comes cubes of boiled yucca, tender like a potato. On top of that sits the cabbage slaw – seasoned with zingy lime juice, fresh tomatoes, onion, a touch of jalapeno, and cilantro. It’s like… salsa and slaw mixed in the most refreshing way. Wait. Scratch that. Thanks to the happy helping of salt it’s a lot like … a margarita salad. The perfect margarita. Traditionally Vigoron is served with fried pig rinds, or chicharones. I tried this and it was fine, but I really enjoyed it with a vegan version I stumbled across at the Hispanic market down the …

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Menu: Nicaragua

Nicaragua taught me three very important things about life. First, eat more sunshine. To do so, simply pile fresh vigoron on your plate. Soaked in lime juice and a happy heaping of salt, this tastes like the margarita of slaws. Done and done. Second, everything is better with an umbrella in it, especially if pineapple is involved. Third, try, try, try, and try again. This is the only way to succeed.  Those of you who have been reading this blog for a year or more will know about my longstanding battle with yucca. This meal marks yet another try to tame this tricky tuber. Check back to see if I succeed. P.S.  I’m curious… what do you guys think about having a recipe site to share your recipes from your homelands with each other?  Lime & Cabbage Slaw with Yucca | Vigoron [Recipe] Welcome to happy town. Tender, boiled yucca topped with a cabbage slaw,  lime juice, sliced onion, chopped tomatoes, jalapenos, and a touch of fresh cilantro. Serve with crunchy chicharones (traditionally pork rinds, although we provide a …

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Carnaval in Managua, Nicaragua. Photo by Jorge Mejía peralta.

About the food of Nicaragua

Nicaragua is best known for her namesake, which means “surrounded by water.” She boasts great, rolling waves on both shores as well as in the middle. The Pacific Ocean crashes into her western shore – a treat for surfers. Cross over beautiful lagoons, lush valleys, huge volcanoes, tropical rain forests, coffee plantations, and Spanish Colonial architecture…to her eastern shore and you’ll find dreamy Caribbean waters. Oh, and in between? Lake Nicaragua (a.k.a. the “Sweet Sea”) home to the fresh water shark. Here, waves crest tall enough to fool the visitor into thinking they are by the sea. The fresh water shark actually jumps upstream like salmon back and forth from the lake to the ocean. Crazy town. No matter what part of Nicaragua you’re in, you’ll find gallo pinto – or red beans and rice. This hearty, affordable meal is served any time of day, including during breakfast (perhaps with some cheese or eggs). We made gallo pinto for our Costa Rican Global Table [recipe] and loved how easy it was to throw together. Gallo pinto …

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Monday Meal Review: Mexico

THE SCENE: I wipe the sweat from my forehead. “Why is it 92 degrees in March?” I ask the cat. Malky draws his back up into a leisurely stretch, pads lightly onto the floor, and lets out a startlingly abrasive meow. Apparently he doesn’t care. He is ready to go outside. I crack open the door enough to smell the humidity and watch his tail flick out into the sunshine. I shake my head and get back to work. The blender cranks into high gear as I buzz together the homemade rice and almond drink, called horchata.  This summertime sipper will chill all afternoon in the refrigerator, along with a bundle of fresh strawberries, cinnamon and vanilla. And the joyful purpose of this drink is fulfilled in Ava’s happy slurp. Pure delight. In the afternoon I’d wind the blender up again to blast the mole into smooth submission. In mere minutes, 24 million ingredients would become one – a symphony of flavor so complex I’d have no way of understanding it. I simply would have to listen to …

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