Archive | September, 2011

Platano Maduro!

14 Sep

Plantains are a staple food in the tropical regions of the world. In its ‘green’ or unripe stage it  cooks like a potato with a similar neutral flavour and texture when steamed, boiled or fried. Plantains are, as I would say, a cousin of the banana. It is used more for cooking versus how the globally known banana is eaten as a fruit or snack and in its raw form. Plantains are bigger in size. In picking the right one at your local  market always follow this rule of thumb, as the plantain ripens, it becomes sweeter and its color changes from green to yellow to black, just like bananas.

Green plantains are firm and starchy. Yellow plantains are softer and still starchy but sweet. Extremely ripe plantains have a deep yellow pulp that is much sweeter than the earlier stages of ripeness.

Our traditional way to enjoy plantains is ‘tajadas’ which are yellow plantains, after removing the skin sliced on a diagonal and pan fried in corn oil until golden. Platano asado is another great way since you throw it on the grill in its skin and all. Its fascinating to see its transformation as the pulp inside caramelizes and once the natural sweetness starts oozing its a self indicator of readiness.  Cut a slit down the middle and sprinkle with queso fresco. Get creative and kick up the flavor by adding a sprinkle of salt and cayenne pepper.

A traditional dish from Cali is ‘Aborrajado’ which is know as ‘Yo-yo’ in Venezuela. This plantain fritter is made of two short slices of fried ripened plantain placed on top of each other, with local soft white cheese in the middle (in a sandwich-like fashion). The arrangement is dipped in an flour-egg batter with a pinch of salt and cinnnamon and fried again until the cheese melts and it acquires a deep golden hue. They are served as sides or entrees.

I am a firm believer how food connects the world and its fascinating to know that, in different variations, it is a staple in many corners of the world from Asia to Africa, to the Carribean and South America.

A comer se dijo!

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Parba…my favorite subject..=)

9 Sep

What’s for breakfast? Our version of a continental breakfast is parba with ‘cafe con leche’ or hot cocoa. On the regular breads are bland in flavor since they are the base for sandwiches but colombian breads have layers of flavor. To name a few: pandebono, buñuelos, pan-queso or roscon.

Bueñuelos are our version of dumplings. They are fried cheese breads that don’t start off as the perfect round but boy when the hot oil does it magic I couldn’t get a more perfect circle even if I tried!

Us colombians are very patriotic of our regions and love to engage in debate on what is the proper name for foods. So, is it pandebono, pandequeso or almojabana? But research shows the name depends on the region of colombia that you are in. Almojaban for the Pacific side of Colombia, Pandebono for the Valle del Cauca and Pandequeso for Antioquia. At the end of the day the ingredients are the same just that Almojabana is round in shape and has more cheese. Pandequeso and Pandebono are shaped like a donut. The secret ingredient to this recipe is almidon aka yucca starch. Many latin markets nowadays stock the boxed dry mix all you have to do is add the wet ingredients.

Did someone say Roscon? For us it’s ‘go big or go home’! Roscon is our version of a donut, double the size and stuffed with arequipe (dulce de leche) or guava and topped with sugar for a decadent glaze.

Last but not least is Pan-queso which literally is a bakes loaf of bread with a strip of cheese down the center and then topped off with shredded cheese just in case you can’t have enough cheese.

With such a selection of breads and with such depth in flavors we can’t just limit ourselves to enjoying them only at breakfast time. We incorporate them as snacks as well or as ‘merienda‘. Merienda is a snack that is best when it is shared in good company. It could be 7pm, you have some friends and family over you warm up some bread and serve with ‘cafe con leche’ or hot cocoa. Our traditional chocolate caliente is not a powdered version. We use ‘Luker‘ cocoa bars that are dissolved in panela (brown sugar chunks) and hot water on the stove. Once dissolved it is poured in a ‘chocolatera‘ (aluminum pitcher) and beaten with a ‘molinillo‘ to produce a foam. So my friend, pull out the parques, serve la merienda and don’t forget to dunk the bread in the hot cocoa…enjoy!