For the last 4 months, my food choices here in Costa Rica have centered on fresh products and creative cooking, thanks to my son Gabriel who has an allergic digestive system that must be catered to or all hell breaks loose! I learn something new about fresh-ingredient cooking every time I watch him cook. So here are three results of rapt attention to detail that you might enjoy trying out your own self…
Fried Rice with Seafood
You know those little packets of chilis that come with pizza? Put a packet of that, along with a T butter, in 2 cups of water, add 1 cup rice, bring to a boil, turn down to simmer until the water is cooked off. The trick in warm climates is that rice NEVER goes into the refrigerator. Use of a lid on the pot is enough, and if you eat all the rice in various ways within a couple days, you’re good to go. Just like bread, putting rice in the refrigerator changes the chemistry and it becomes just a lump of starch without any redeeming gastronomical value.
Now finely dice 1 stalk celery, 4 cloves of garlic, half a red onion and half a package of mushrooms. Finely chopped is the key here. To 1 T each of butter and olive oil in a non-stick frying pan on medium heat, add half of the finely chopped items. Stir fry until the garlic begins to get a bit browned. Add 1 cup of your choice of mixed shell and regular small-sized diced fish. The fish I used included octopus, bass, salmon, calamari and muscles. Stir until fish begins to cook, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1 tsp of Tabasco Garlic Pepper Sauce, kosher or sea salt/pepper/dried basil to taste, then transfer everything in the pan to a bowl and cover it with aluminum foil then a plate. It will continue to cook as you finish up with the fried rice.
Now put another 1 T each of olive oil and butter into that same pan and heat on the high side of medium until melted, then adding the rest of the finely chopped items. Stir fry the veggies until they’re looking pretty cohesively warmed with the mushrooms giving off their juice. Now add a little more than a cup of that cooked rice that is at least at room temperature, if not just finished cooking. You want to brown the rice now, so let it cook, then stir, then cook, then stir, until you see the rice has some nice browned pieces throughout.
Pour the rice onto a plate, pour the fish over it, sprinkle half a lime’s juice over it, then about 2 T of chopped cilantro. Fantastic!!! Enough for 2 people, although I became so enraptured with the taste, I ate it all in one sitting.
Believe it or Not: Spicy Pasta
Boil the pasta in salted water with a T of butter until al dente. Leave pasta in water, put a lid on it, then do the sauce.
Coarsely chop half a red onion, as many cloves of garlic as you like (I use 5), and brown in 1T each butter and olive oil. After garlic and onion are beginning to brown, add a small fresh diced tomato and stir until it begins to get limp, then add some meat of your choice – I used about half a cup of hamburger – and cook until the meat’s done. Add salt, pepper, dried basil, dash of cayenne and about 1/2 tsp of Tabasco Garlic Pepper Sauce, stir well. Butter (or not) several pieces of baguette and place atop the sizzling sauce, cover, take off the heat and let the bread warm up for about 2 minutes or so.
Drain pasta, put on a plate, put small slices of some kind of cheese atop the pasta, pour the sauce over the cheese, the slices of bread around the plate and there’s your momma! Again, enough for two, altho if your taste buds govern the “full” meter of your tummy, you might overeat… just sayin’
Fresh Fruit Granita
In a blender, put juice of 2 oranges and 2 limes. Add 1 pint of fresh strawberries and 6-8 packets of Splenda. Blend well. Pour into shallow plastic container or pan , cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight. Take out of freezer and let sit for about 5 minutes before dragging/scraping a spoon over the top of the frozen concoction, gathering sweet mouthfuls of guilt-free deliciousness whenever necessary.
One last thing… consider a fresh peeled beet placed in the midst of cooking red beans. If you use canned red beans instead of making them yourself, dice the beet – fresh beet, fresh beet – into chunks and cook them in the sauce provided with the beans from the can until the beet is cooked. Yummy! Add spices of your choice, keeping the beet in mind… perhaps some processed horseradish and cooked sausage? Double yummy!