Monday, May 30, 2011

First Sunday Lunch: Stuffed Eggplant with Moro de Guandules

On Sunday, our comedor (kitchen table) arrived and the fiance spent the afternoon putting it together.

Two of our friends came over on Sunday for our first big lunch together in the apartment! I made a big lunch with Stuffed Eggplant and Beans with Pigeon Peas (Moro de Guandules), which ended with Santo Libres (rum and 7up) and sitting on our roof, looking out at the ocean.

It was one of those oh so good kind of days.

The rice you see in the first picture is a typical Dominican dish. I love guandules, which are called "pigeon peas" in English. They are small and round beans that are similar in size and texture to lentils.

When the fiance and I go to his aunt's or mom's house for visits, there is always food involved. If rice and guandules are included, I tend to shamefully stuff my face with its delicious goodness. After about a year of desperate intervals in which I would (discreetly?) beg the fiance to request guandules if one of his relatives invited us over for lunch, I decided it was time to learn how to make them on my own. I started practicing in December, and now I have perfected my own breed of Moro de Guandules. "Moro" means that the beans and rice are cooked together, like you see in the picture.

Rice is such a staple part of the Dominican diet that I will spend some time devoting an entire section to different rice recipes. The next time that I make a Moro de Guandules, I will take pictures in every step of the process so you will see exactly how to make it. Consider this an "Introduction to Rice-Making".


Moro de Guandules

1 14 oz. can guandules verdes (green pigeon peas)
2 cups uncooked rice
3-4 cups water
3 tablespoons salt
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil

First, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium-high heat in a medium-sized pot. Here in the Dominican Republic, I use a "caldero" (picture coming soon), with a perfectly fitted top. Add the onions and stir frequently. When they are translucent, add the garlic for about 1 minute. Then, add the can of guandules and salt. Stir so that the onions and garlic do not stick to the bottom of the pot. Scoop your uncooked rice into the pot along with the water and stir again. Let the pot boil on medium-high heat for about 20 minutes, or until the rice has soaked up all of the water. Then, take a large spoon and scoop the rice off the sides of the pot so it is mounded together in the center. Sprinkle the second tablespoon of oil onto the top of the rice, lower the heat to low, and cover. Let the rice sit for another 15-20 minutes. When you take off the cover, the rice should be moist and fluffy.

Don't worry, cooking rice can be overwhelming at first. When I make this recipe again, pictures will be included and the step-by-step process will be easier to follow!

Stuffed Eggplant

3 eggplants
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 egg
1/2 pound cheese of your choice (mozzarella)
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons oregano
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon pepper

First, cut each eggplant in half lengthwise. Spoon out the pulp, chop it up, and set it aside. Reserve the eggplant shells on a large plate, and sprinkle with a dash of salt and oregano. Heat the olive oil in a pan on medium heat and then add the eggplant pulp, onion, tomato, red bell pepper, and garlic. Sautée until the vegetables are tender. Then, remove from heat and mix in the egg, 1/4 of the cheese, and the seasonings (basil, oregano, salt, pepper).

Now spoon the mixture evenly into the 6 eggplant shells. Place each one on a single lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes or until the shells are tender. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the eggplant halves and broil until the cheese has melted. Serves 6.

a buen tiempo!

Garlic, Chives, and Cream Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts with a Green Bean and Chickpea Salad

The fiance and I moved into our new apartment this weekend! It's wonderful, quiet, and ours. Another exciting update has to be mentioned - we now have an oven! Our first night in the new apartment awarded a special oven-made meal, and this is what I made: Chicken breasts stuffed with a filling of cream cheese, garlic, and chives. I made a Green Bean and Chickpea Salad the day before and chilled it overnight. It was truly a special occasion.

P.S. Do you like our new fancy black plates?


Garlic, Chives, and Cream Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts

4-8 oz. light cream cheese (I used 4 oz., but many recipes call for 8 oz.)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
a small handful of green onions, sliced
4 chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons oregano
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper

Before you begin, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together the filling by combining the garlic, chives, and cream cheese in a bowl. Divide the filling into 4 equal balls. Then you can stuff the chicken 1 of 2 different ways. First, place one ball of filling under the skin of each chicken breast and secure the loose side with toothpicks. Or, you can slice the chicken breasts in the center, leaving about 1-2 inches uncut on each side. Do not cut all the way through the to the other side of the chicken. Place the ball of filling in your slit, and secure with toothpicks. Complete this step for each of the 4 chicken breast halves.

Place each chicken breast on a baking sheet. Add the salt, pepper, oregano, and butter on top - spread out evenly among each of the 4 chicken breasts. Bake the chicken breasts for about 30 minutes, or until the juices run clear and the center is no longer pink. Serves 4.

Green Bean and Chickpea Salad

1 14 oz. can of green beans, drained and rinsed
1 14 oz. can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon salt
2 cloves of garlic, mashed
1/4 cup sweet onion, chopped
1/2 ripe tomato, chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1-2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

First, boil the green beans and garbanzo beans with the garlic and tablespoon of salt for about 15 minutes. Drain the beans and remove the garlic. Next, in a large bowl add the onion, balsamic vinegar, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir until it is mixed thoroughly and all the beans are equally covered with the dressing. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving. Serves 4-6.

a buen tiempo!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Roasted Corn Chowder

I wish I had a picture of this Roasted Corn Chowder. This recipe is from the blog Gluten Free Goddess, and I'm obsessed with it.

I really, really, really wish I had a picture.

The fiance and I have been so busy moving and doing a million things that we ate this corn chowder for 3 days, but we kept forgetting to take a picture.

Of all the meals I have been cooking up lately, this is one of my favorites. It's a chunky, creamy, a little spicy and a lotta sweet incredible chowder.

I even ate it cold one morning for breakfast this week. True story.


Roasted Corn Chowder

1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon curry
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 ears of corn
2 cups torn cooked chicken pieces
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk
1 (14 oz.) can tomatoes with green chiles
1 tomato, diced
4-5 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
1 medium white onion, diced
4 oz. chopped green chiles
1 quart vegetable broth
1-2 tablespoons honey
salt and pepper to taste

First, roast the corn! The easiest way to do it without a grill is to use a cast-iron pot and place it on medium-high heat. Let the pot get sufficiently hot, and then add the kernels (shucked and cut from your ears of corn). Do not stir! Let it sit for about 2 minutes, and then stir. Then, let it sit for another 3 minutes. The majority of it will have the roasted color like it's straight from the grill. Roasting it this way gives the corn a nice color and a great CRUNCH in the chowder!

Second, in a big pot add the olive oil and let it heat through. Then, add in the curry and cumin and stir. You want the oil and spices to form a pasty substance. The next step is to stir and sautée the onions and garlic together for 3-5 minutes. It's super important that you never let the garlic burn!

Third, add the roasted corn, sweet potato cubes, canned tomatoes, fresh tomato, and green chiles. Stir for 1-2 minutes, and then add the vegetable broth. Cover and bring the soup to a high simmer, without boiling. Lower the heat to a low simmer and let the chowder sit for about 20 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender.

Fourth, add the coconut milk and cooked chicken. Then, add the honey. Heat it through, but do not let it boil! Taste it, and add salt and pepper to your liking.

Finally, serve it in pretty bowls and add a little lime juice to each serving. Garnish with a lime wedge. Serves 4-6.

a buen tiempo!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mango Salsa and the Upcoming Sweet Sweet Summa Time

What better for summer than a sweet citrus-y Mango Salsa? With a glass of white wine (even though that's red you see in the picture), and a beach, or a pool, or a roof of an apartment building (take your Vitamin D where you can get it) - it's a perfect recipe for relaxation.

Remember the Mango Salsa that I talked about in one of my earlier posts? I made it again, with a few twists, and this is the result. If you are like my fiance, the mix of fruits and vegetables will surprise you. Trust me - the cucumber gives a fresh balance to the citrus, and all the colors together make it really beautiful.

It was nighttime when my friend Jenny and I made this salsa, and the camera did not take the picture as well as I would have liked, but you get the idea. The next time I'll be sure to make it clearer.

The school year is ending and I'll be honest in the fact that I'm relieved. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love most of my students. For example, it's my sister's birthday, and my 5th graders and I just left her a message singing Happy Birthday! These are the fun moments, when we are all starting to relax because we can see the end.

Remember when you were in school and the end of each year brought so many possibilities? Sweet sweet summer is a time to do everything that there never is enough time or inspiration for during the school year. It seems to be an infinite space where anything is possible - from 'exploring new worlds' in my backyard when I was younger, to just sitting by the pool with a drink in one hand and a book in the other (my current daydream).

No one thinks about its end, only in its promise. By the time it's August, its magic has saturated your exhaustion with a new sense of hope, the hope in retaining the peace that summer instilled in you.

Does this sound dramatic? Of course it does! It's time for a break!


Mango Salsa

1/4 red onion, diced
1 ripe red juicy tomato, diced
2 mangoes, peeled and diced
1/2 large cucumber, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 lime juice
1 teaspoon of olive oil
2 tablespoons hot sauce of your choosing (optional)

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Pour yourself a glass of white wine, open a bag a corn chips, call your friends. Enjoy.

a buen tiempo!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dominican Arepitas and a little Julie and Julia Action

I've decided I'm going to cook my way, the best I can, through a popular - or better said - iconic Dominican cookbook: Aunt Clara's Kitchen.

Consider this an intercultural version of Julie and Julia. I'm embarrassed to say I got my idea from this movie, but whatever, I love Meryl Streep. The point is that I'm going to learn how to cook like a Dominican - but hopefully with less of the two scary ingredients that they use the most: salt and sugar.

Food is such an important part of any culture, and I really need to learn how to take advantage of what is available here. What better way to do it than copying Amy and Meryl?

I'll be going back and forth between Aunt Clara and my own recipe adventures, so don't be alarmed if you see something super North American like corn-dogs in the mix!

The recipe for today is simple: Dominican Arepitas. I'm going to dare to compare arepitas to our idea of dinner rolls. They act as a side to the typical Dominican lunch: rice, beans, and meat. They are sweet, addictive, and because I am not partial to what is eaten at what meal, I've been eating them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.


Dominican Arepitas

1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup oil for frying
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon aniseed
2 eggs

Mix together all of the ingredients, except for the oil. In a frying pan, heat the oil. When it is hot, place one spoonful of the arepita dough at a time into the oil. Fry until golden brown on both sides and serve!

a buen tiempo!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Apple Mashed Potatoes: Thanksgiving in...May?

As I've mentioned before, potatoes are a big part of our diet here. I was getting sick of just boiling them, and I didn't want to use all the grease in frying them, so that's why I started thinking about new creative ways to make them tasty. First came the potato salads, and now has come Apple Mashed Potatoes.

This is a recipe I found on the Taste of Home website, and with a few original twists, they are right - it did make me think of home.

The aroma of the apples cooking made me think of how much I loved the cinnamon-cooked apples from Shoney's when I was little. The combination of scents together - allspice, potatoes, apples - reminded me think of Thanksgiving, when we ate together in a restaurant with all the delicacies that we would never make at home! And finally, mashed potatoes in general made me think of the delicious microwaveable bowls of creamy potatoes that my mom always bought as a side for dinner - pre-cooked and a handful of preservatives did not stop them from melting in my mouth. Hmmm.....delish.


Apple Mashed Potatoes

4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 apples, peeled and quartered
1 teaspoon salt
4 turkey bacon strips, diced
1 tablespoon oil
1 small onion, diced
1/4 cup of butter (I never use real butter. Use whatever butter substitute you have - look for the heart-healthy kind!)
1 dollop of light sour cream
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1-2 teaspoons allspice or nutmeg

First, boil the cubed potatoes and quartered apples in enough water so that it covers them both. Then, when the potatoes and apples are tender (after about 10-12 minutes), add the allspice.

While the potatoes and apples are boiling, cook the turkey bacon in oil until it is crispy. Place the bacon on paper towels to drain. Save 1 teaspoon of turkey bacon drippings and use it to sauté the onions.

After the allspice has been added, wait about 5 minutes, and then drain the potatoes and apples. Remove the allspice. Add the butter substitute, light sour cream, cider vinegar, and sugar. Mash it all together until it is smooth. Add a dash of nutmeg, and top it all off with turkey bacon and onions! Serves 4-6.

a buen tiempo!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Jalapeño Honey Chicken

I started thinking about Jalapeño Honey Chicken as a fluke. You see, my mom came up with this idea. She asked my sister and I if we wanted to have a "cooking club." First, one of us gives the others a recipe at the beginning of the week. Then, we all have to make it, take pictures, and e-mail the images to each other. My mom sent us a recipe for Mediterranean Chicken (which I still have yet to make), and as I was flipping through other chicken recipes, I took ideas from here and there. With these tips, along with my imagination, Jalapeño Honey Chicken was born.

Getting back to the point, the shared recipe among mom and us daughters has to be gluten-free and oven-less, for my sake.

However, the fiance and I will not be oven-less for much longer, because we are moving! That's right, we are moving to our first apartment together, where we will be alone, just us. In a few days we will embark on our big transition (basically across the street from where we are living now), to our new apartment with a new stove and oven! I'm thrilled, excited, anxious, giddy, and I have to admit, a teensy bit sad about it all.

I had a bit of a down moment even when I was feeling, and sharing, such joy with the fiance. Sometimes, living abroad brings up the strangest emotions at the most inappropriate times. For example, this will be the first time that my parents will not help me move. In college, I moved an obnoxious amount - at the beginning of every school year, and also at the beginning and end of each summer - and they were always there. I'm ashamed to say that I didn't even think about it until I talked with them yesterday and they wished me good luck.
...Wait, you won't be here? You won't help me unpack and find a good place for everything and then go out to dinner with me and the fiance afterward?
As trivial as it may sound, it hit me smack dab in the middle of my chest that not only am I far from my parents and my sister, but I'm starting a new chapter without them here. How many moments such as these have I taken for granted? Too many to count. After a deep breath, I had to remind myself of something: Even though I'm far away, I'm so lucky to have a good relationship with my family. Creativity and technology bring us together even when we are physically apart. When I am a bit more settled, our virtual cooking club will allow my sister, my mom, and I to share our meals together. Through e-mail I was able to send them all the photos of our new place, and thanks to Skype we were able to gab face-to-face about it. And here, in the DR, I'm already living with my best friend, on the cusp of a new adventure, and the most beautiful part - on the cusp of binding our lives together. My world geographically may be spaced out in an inconvenient way, but it's all there.

It would be greedy to ask for anything more, but I do, every single day. We all do, because even when it seems like everything is falling into its perfect place, there is always something else to reach for and to dream about.

So, just try the recipe. It's _______ awesome. I mean it.


Jalapeño Honey Chicken

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 teaspoons of red jalapeños in its brine, finely chopped (I bought a 8 oz. can of red jalapeños - brand La Costeña)
1/2 cup orange juice
3+ tablespoons honey
3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2 tablespoons sugar
1-2 tablespoon olive oil

Boil the chicken for about 10-12 minutes. While the chicken is boiling, make the Jalapeño Honey sauce. Combine the jalapeños, orange juice, honey, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, and salt in a small bowl. Then, after the chicken has boiled, add the olive oil and sugar to a pan. Let them heat together for up to 1 minute, until the oil begins to change color. This can be a tricky step, because you don't want the sugar to burn. Once you notice the oil changing color, add your chicken. Place the chicken in the pan, on medium-high heat, and make sure to turn it frequently, so that it finishes cooking and turns a golden color. After about 5 minutes, add the sauce. Let it a boil, and then turn the heat down to a low simmer. Cover and let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Serves 4.

P.S. If you are worried about it being spicy, don't be. The honey and balsamic vinegar knock out the extra spice of the jalapenos. If you are not convinced, only chop up about 1 teaspoon of the jalapeños instead of 2 - just in case.

a buen tiempo!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Holy ______, Did I Make That?

Feast your eyes upon this mouth-watering dish: Shrimp and pineapple wrapped in lean turkey bacon. In this version, the juices and flavors from the shrimp, pineapple, and lean turkey bacon combine so magically that I did not add any other seasoning! Nothing!

The only change the fiance and I are thinking about making is possibly to marinate the shrimp in a garlic sauce beforehand. I'm sure it's not necessary, but the additional flavor could take this dish to another level entirely, if that's possible. This dish is called Holy ____ (Enter whatever you feel is appropriate), Did I Make That? due to its surprising simplicity and heavenly flavor.

This would be great as an appetizer, as a tapa, or as party food for entertaining.


Holy ____, Did I Make That?

1/2 lb. shrimp
1 10 oz. package lean turkey bacon (for guiltless eating!)
1/4 pineapple
20 wooden toothpicks (without coloring)
2 tablespoons oil

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan. Hold 1-2 pieces of shrimp together, and nestle a piece of pineapple where it fits the best. Wrap the shrimp and pineapple with 1/2 piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick. Place each bacon-wrapped bite in the pan. Make sure to turn the finger food frequently. Cook until the shrimp is opaque and the bacon is crisp.

Depending on the size of your shrimp, this can make up to 30 bacon-wrapped shrimp with pineapple. If your shrimp is jumbo-sized, it will make closer to 10-12.

a buen tiempo!

A Taste From Home: Potato Salads!

Original Southern Potato Salad

Asparagus Potato Salad

Ah, potato salad, a typical Southern food from the U.S. of A. Well, at least that's what I've been reading. Even though I'm from North Carolina, we did not each much potato salad in my house growing up - probably because of my sister, the picky eater! My sister, Caroline, was notorious for having a love for pizza and pasta when she was younger - and not much else! However, when I told my mom that I was making potato salad as a part of dinner last week, she surprised me by telling me her mother made the most amazing potato salad when she was younger. I don't have this recipe yet, but once I get it, I'll be sure to try it and add it to La Buena Fe.

Anyway, there are always potatoes and eggs in my house in the DR, so potato salad seemed like it could become a new staple for us. I tried one original recipe, and then I tweeked it to add in asparagus. They both turned out really beautifully.

If you normally stay away from potato salad because of the fat content, think again! One thing I have added in each recipe is the option of using non-fat, probiotic plain yogurt instead of mayonnaise. This change is wonderful because it does not take away from the taste, and it makes potato salad manageable in your diet. I used non-fat, probiotic plain yogurt in both recipes. They tasted great, and I felt good about what I was putting into my body!

Enjoy it as a side dish or bring a big batch to a potluck - however you decide, you will not be disappointed!


Original Southern Potato Salad

4 potatoes, peeled chopped into cubes
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped into cubes
1/2 stalk celery, diced
1/4 cup sweet relish
5 chives, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/2 cup light mayonnaise or non-fat, probiotic plain yogurt
salt and pepper to taste

First, boil the potatoes and eggs together for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Chop the eggs. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, eggs, and all of the other ingredients together until everything is sufficiently mixed. Serve warm or chilled!

Asparagus Potato Salad

1 lb. potatoes, peeled and chopped into cubes
1 hard-boiled egg, peeled and cut into cubes
1 15 oz. can of asparagus (Or the equivalent in fresh asparagus! You wouldn't believe it, but fresh asparagus does not exist in the Dominican Republic!)
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
5 chives, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons sweet relish
1/2 cup light mayonnaise or non-fat, probiotic plain yogurt
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

First, boil the asparagus (canned or fresh) until it is tender, which is only about 5 minutes. Second, boil the potatoes and eggs for about 20 minutes, until the eggs are cooked and the potatoes are tender. Chop the eggs and place them along with the potatoes and asparagus in a large bowl. Add the onion, garlic, sweet relish, red pepper, light mayo or yogurt, dijon mustard, salt and pepper and mix gently. Serve warm or chilled!

a buen tiempo!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Fish Taco Salsa-Sauce!

For an accompaniment to the Tuna Tacos from Cinco de Mayo, try this salsa-sauce. I'm calling it a salsa-sauce because it's not quite a salsa, but not quite a sauce. Salsa-sauce seems to fit.

It was Saturday afternoon and we still had leftovers from our Mexican fiesta. We wanted to finish the tuna taco mix, but with a twist. Here is what I invented:


Fish Taco Salsa-Sauce

1/2 cup light mayo
1/2 cup sour cream
3-4 tablespoons pickle relish
5 chives, diced
2 tablespoons hot sauce
Juice from 1/2 lime
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Stir the ingredients together in a bowl. Assemble Tuna Tacos and drizzle the Fish Taco Salsa-Sauce on top of each one!

a buen tiempo!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Shout out to Cinco de Mayo: Fish Tacos

When I think of Cinco de Mayo, I think of margaritas. Natural, lime, strawberry, passionfruit (never had one? Come visit me in the DR and you can try anything with a passionfruit twist) - whatever flavor they come in and as long as they are dipped in salt, they are fine with me.

2 reasons why on this Cinco de Mayo I wanted to stay away from my yearly marg indulgence:
1. Ok, I lied. I have a love-hate relationship with margaritas. The sugar gives me a stomach ache. However, they are necessary part of celebrating Mexico like a real American - with tacos, tequila, and dressed in the obligatory stars and strips outfit. Don't lie, you know you have one.

2. I haven't tried it but I'm assuming that a hangover is not conducive to teaching 1st-5th graders.

During my last planning period yesterday I scoured my brain and the internet for other options. I already had tuna in the house after Tuna Salad...Salad earlier in the week. Thus, fish tacos were born.

I'm finding so much peace in cooking. The world becomes quiet for me in every step of the process: looking for recipes, chopping, dicing, and mincing, sharing it while it lasts, and then writing about it after the fact.


Tuna Tacos

8 corn tortillas
2 6 oz. cans light tuna
2 large ripe tomatoes
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 cucumber, peeled and diced
3/4 cup, lightly packed, cilantro, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of your preferred hot sauce
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Juice from 1 lime
3 ounces of whatever cheese you prefer! Feta would be an excellent choice.

Mix all these ingredients in a bowl. Heat a non-stick pan on low and add the tuna taco mixture for 3-4 minutes. The spices and juices from the tomatoes and vegetables blend together really nicely when heated! Remove the mixture and place aside. Wipe the pan clean and add 2 corn tortillas (without oil). Heat each side for 2 minutes. Repeat this step until you have heated as many corn tortillas as you wish.

This recipe is enough for 8 tacos. The fiance and I ate 2 each for dinner, and we've had the others for lunch and leftovers!

a buen tiempo!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

In the Mood for Indian? "Aloo Baingan a La Loo" It Is!

Dinner last night was finger lickin' good. Ignore how corny that sounds because I'm serious - the bowl you are looking at was wiped clean - first by our silverware and second by our fingers.

Even better, I surprised myself! I was in the mood to cook something, but it was raining (which means walking to the grocery story wasn't an option), I kept telling myself that now I really do have to start following my budget, and I hadn't planned anything for the week ahead of time. It was time to raid the kitchen

Potatoes? Check. Eggplant? Check. Tomatoes, garlic, and yummy spices? Check, check, check. I began by writing the ingredients I already have on hand in Google: "potatoes and eggplant recipe." After sifting through a few dozen different options that appeared for the Indian dish "Aloo Baingan," I took parts of what I liked from many (especially and came up with Aloo Baingan a la Loo.

Until a couple of weeks ago, this kind of ethnic food intimidated me. I had only eaten Indian food a handful of times in my life, and the thought of cooking it sounded terrifying - but I had a point to prove. Mangoes are in season right now, which means they are cheap, delicious, and plentiful. As a surprise one Friday afternoon, I bought tortilla chips, a bottle of white wine, and the ingredients to make a fresh mango salsa for the fiance and I to share in order to start the weekend relaxed. To my surprise, he could not believe I had mixed mango with so many other ingredients: cucumber, red onion, tomato, cilantro, and lime juice. Honestly, over and over again I heard him say my salsa was "loquisimo." He thought that using mangoes in any other way, except for eating them right from the tree (more or less), was, literally translated, "too crazy." And not in the awesome way. Don't worry, he ate it because I made it, and that's one of the reasons why I'm marrying him.

Mangoes are amazing! A luxury food! And I had to get him to understand that they should be celebrated with all types of cuisines, in every meal, and not just alone. I went on a mad search for a recipe that used mangoes that would change his mind, and I found one! I have no words for the Mango Chicken Curry from It was glorious. We ate it with rice first, and then we froze it and ate it with tostones a week later. Anyway, this recipe was of the Indian ethnic variety, and if I do say so myself, I conquered it.

Aloo Baingan a la Loo was another success! What I love the most is that it was unexpected! I feel like I am growing in confidence little by little with each dish. I'm spending so much of my free time reading other food blogs, recipes, and ideas, and my recipe wish list seems to be getting longer by the minute. I want to make everything! From roasted corn chowder and gluten-free snickerdoodle cookies, to every single Mexican meal you could possibly imagine. (I'm inspired by Cinco de Mayo - Happy Independence Day Mexico!)


Aloo Baingan a La Loo

3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb. potatoes, cut into cubes
2 medium eggplants, peeled and cut into cubes
1 green pepper
3 small hot peppers
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small piece of fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon paprika
3+ tablespoons curry
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon of your preferred hot sauce - optional for an extra kick!
1 teaspoon salt
Juice from 1/2 lime

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the potatoes and let them cook for 10-12 minutes. Then, continue by adding the eggplant, peppers, and onion. Raise the heat to high and add the salt. Let these vegetables sautée for about 3-4 minutes. Next, add the garlic and ginger and reduce the head to medium for couple of minutes more. Add 1/2 cup of water, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Let the mixture simmer for 15-20 minutes. The potatoes should be tender and there should not be any left over liquid. If there is, uncover the skillet and raise the heat until it has been absorbed. You should be stirring the mixture occasionally to make sure none of it sticks and burns to the pan.

Finally, stir in the cayenne pepper, cumin, curry, and hot sauce. Add salt to taste. Squeeze the juice from 1/2 lime and stir.

Serve over rice or with tostones! Serves 4.

a buen tiempo!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Vegetable Love, My Own Personal Soul Food

A few months ago I caught a parasite that is feared and loathed here in the Dominican Republic. I thought it was cholera, but to my luck - it was only an amoeba.

This amoeba shredded, pulverized, and elbow-dropped my insides.

I was urged not to eat grease, fat, sugar, or dairy among other foods and liquids. I cannot recall the other food no-no's because everyone and their mother told me to avoid different things. Also, I was scared to eat vegetables because I assumed they were the source of my parasite pain. What if I didn't wash them well enough? What if someone else didn't wash them? WHAT ARE ARE THOSE THINGS? Generally speaking, I was paranoid. Not only that, but the cures were just as obscure - my favorite being that I would be completely healed if only I would eat a puree of pumpkin seeds and fresh garlic. Really?

But, what the hell did I know about amoebas and their cures? Nothing.

When you go to a restaurant in the States and want to order a salad, do you stop yourself because you are unsure of the state of their vegetable washing? No. The difference is that in the DR, I'll either make my own salad by cleaning the vegetables with a few drops of bleach (in water for 20ish minutes), or I avoid them as much as a can without being rude. As a North American, a raw garlic/pumpkin paste sounds like an improbable cure compared to the availability of antibiotics and vigorously-trained doctors. Does that make it wrong?

The medicine I took left me fatigued and weak for almost 2 months. Although I knew I would never rely solely on "green" cures, I realized that I had to start listening. Garlic will make me better, you say? Instead of the 1 clove garlic I added when making rice, I would add 6. I understand this was a bit overzealous of me, but I was desperate, and over time, I began to build my strength back. Whatever the magic cure was I will never know, but something has stuck with me: The fiance and I have to pay better attention to our health.

This soup was was like soul food for me when I was recovering, and it is just as delicious and refreshing now as it was then. It's full of vegetables, cooked to the core, and it explodes with flavor. Served on top of rice, it is comparable to a Dominican "asopao" - which is a Dominican soup with rice in it.


Vegetable Love

1 onion
2 large eggplants
1/2 lb of auyama (pumpkin) or whatever squash is in season
3 medium potatoes
2 medium carrots
1 can of diced tomatoes - I used a can that also had garlic and onion seasonings!
4 cloves of garlic
15 oz. vegetable stock (or a vegetable bouillon cube)
3 cups water
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon cumin
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons oregano
1 tablespoon salt
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 lime or the equivalent in lime juice (2-4 tablespoons, depending on your preference)

Put 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot and when it is sizzling hot, add the onions. Let them cook for 3-4 minutes, and then add the eggplant, garlic, and carrots. Drizzle another tablespoon on the mixture and cover over medium heat for about 5-8 minutes, or until soft. Now mix in the cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin, and oregano. Make sure it covers all of the vegetables!

Next, pour in the vegetable stock, canned tomatoes, and water. Bring to a boil and then add the potatoes and auyama.

Cover over low heat for at least 45 minutes. There needs to be enough time for the potatoes and squash to cook and soak up all flavors. The longer you let the soup marinate, the better it will taste.

Squeeze the juice of 1/2 lime over each individual serving. I prefer to serve this over rice, but of course you can serve it alone! Serves 6. (I love it for leftovers and lunch for the week).

a buen tiempo!

Tuna Salad.....Salad with Fresh Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

This weekend I wanted something light for lunch and I found a healthy recipe for tuna salad - with barely any mayonnaise! Not only are the dijon mustard and sweet pickle relish an uncanny combination with the tuna, but the fresh vegetables and homemade salad dressing make this a great choice for a low calorie summer lunch.

Add your friends, family, and a bottle of white wine and you cannot go wrong.


Tuna Salad Ingredients

2 cans of light tuna (6 oz.)
1/2 cup no-fat probiotic plain yogurt
2.5 tablespoons pickle relish
1/2 tablespoon light mayo
2 tablespoons dijon mustard

Green Salad Ingredients

1 small bunch of arugula
1 tomato, sliced
1 cucumber, sliced
salt to taste

Fresh Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing Ingredients:

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced

Start with making the tuna salad. Measure out and mix the tuna, yogurt, mayonnaise, dijon mustard, and pickle relish in a bowl.

Second, wash the arugula and place it on your plate. Arrange the sliced tomatoes and cucumbers creatively on top of the arugula, and add a dash of salt to taste. Scoop and place the mixed tuna salad in the center.

Finally, combine the ingredients for the balsamic vinaigrette dressing in a small bowl or glass and drizzle on your finished salad! Serves 2.

a buen tiempo!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

How did that happen?

I woke up yesterday morning on the right side of the bed. Coffee, skyping with my mom, and having a relaxed and happy Saturday morning. The fiancé and I made plans to walk to the grocery store and I was going to get a few things to make "Almond Crusted Salmon with a Garlic Sauce."

I had EVERYTHING here already - 2 frozen (and so cheap) left over salmon fillets, almonds, the necessary spices, etc. But, one problem - the sauce called for stale bread crumbs and a food processor.

Did I forget to tell you that I have Celiac's Disease? Don't worry, it's not fatal - it just means I'm intolerant to gluten. This little treasure means I can't eat the suggested bread crumbs. Here in Santo Domingo, there is no Whole Foods-esq substitute, so it's a little more difficult to find all the delicious flours and things that normally act as gluten substitutes. Well, correction: I'm sure it exists somewhere, but it is way out of my price range. So I said, "I'll substitute it with casabe (yuca crackers) and blend the sauce in my blender."


My "sauce" ended up as some sort of dough-thing. Lesson: Casabe is way too dense and sticky to be used a bread substitute! The blender didn't work its magic like it normally does - I'm assuming a food processor really might have done the trick better, had casabe not been in the mix.

Lunch was so gross we couldn't even finish it. When we talked about it later, we shuddered, laughed, and shuddered again. I may or may not have had nightmares about it last night.