Cruising through Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica

Let me take you on a boat ride…a picture tour of my recent trip while cruising through Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica.

It has been almost a 1 month already since I am back from a wonderful cruise holiday and I am still finding the return to reality and daily routine a torture. Do you ever feel that way once you get back from a vacation? I have yet to tire of looking at the pictures we took and I am thrilled to show you the best ones today.

Have you been on a cruise before? This was my first real cruise (I did a weird and tiny one with an adventure company years ago). I just loved the itinerary of my recent cruise: the boat left from Montego Bay, Jamaica and we had stops in: Santa Marta and Cartagena in Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica.

1 Boat 1

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Two unexpect-egg cocktails: Green Tea and Apple Harvest Sours

You will crack in love for these two sour egg cocktails which are topped with a frothy egg white foam: Green Tea and Apple Harvest Sours.

The concept of using eggs in a cocktail may sound odd but you will love for the frothy white topping and the protein you will get from a boozy treat. Egg cocktails are nothing new, the most classic one being the Pisco Sour. Here are 2 modern drinks; a nice refreshing one with the taste of green tea and another with crisp notes of fall with apples.

Looking for a bit to eat with these luscious drinks? Here is an unusual quick recipe that will please the taste buds: Banana Cheddar and Cinnamon Pinwheels. Find it at the end of the post.

Green Tea Sour and Apple Harvest Sour

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Maraq Fahfah (Somali Soup)

It’s time for the MENA (Middle Eastern & North African) Cooking Group. This monthly group has for goal to help us discover the culture and cuisine of the countries found in these parts of the world. The host of the month will choose a savory and a sweet dish from the country and the members pick one dish to make.

This month we are exploring Djibouti and I chose to go with the Maraq Fahfah (or Somali soup).

Somali Maraq Fahfah Soup

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Savory Truffle Mini Taco Shooter

I do enjoy a nice occasional taco. But I have to say it is not something I grew up with so I often do not think of making or ordering tacos. In Montreal there are not tons of Mexican restaurants and the ones we do have tend to be fancier than faster(er) food fare. So why would I order a taco if I can try something elaborate. This was the thought process that went on in my head after reading July’s Creative Cooking Crew challenge: Tacos, make it your own … take it someplace it’s never been!

I wanted to make something that was not a taco in a traditional meal setting and I was fine if it did not contain all the usual standard ingredients. But I did want to play with a taco concept and highlight a few typical Mexican ingredients. After a lot of brainstorming I settled on this Savory Truffle Mini Taco Shooter creation.

Savory Truffle Mini Taco Shooter CEE

tomato mezcal cocoa shot glass

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Lemonade Iced Tea Sorbet

A couple of weekends ago I invited a few friends over for a very simple BBQ. I provided burgers and hot-dogs. I told my guests to bring the rest: salads, mergez, sandwich platters and chips. I knew there were going to be a couple of desserts already but I wanted to offer my gluten and dairy free friend a sweet option.

Sorbet was an obvious choice and it was perfect for the warmer weather. Standard go-to flavors in my home are a no-no. I had to find something original. This Lemonade Iced Tea Sorbet fit the bill. It’s thirst quenching and practically doubles as the usual tea or coffee served at the end of a meal.

ice tea sorbet 04

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Exotic Dragon Fruit Flan

Funny how a recipe can travel around the world and take different shapes, take the crême caramel for example. Of European origin, crême caramel was found in most European restaurant’s menus during the 20th century. Sometimes a crême caramel is called a flan.

But the word flan comes actually from an Old German word “flado” meaning cake and around most of the world a flan refers to a tart with a crust and a egg custard filling…except in Latin countries and North America. Sometimes a flan is called a crême caramel. Confused? Wait I am not done yet!

Now let’s look at the Pitaya, also called Dragon Fruit. I had always assumed it was an Asian fruit. After all when it arrived in the markets I frequented it was always in Asian markets or in the pile of Asian fruits at the super market and the name Dragon Fruit kind of screams Asia. Well it turns out the Pitaya is actually native to Mexico and the South and Central Americas. It was only later that they started cultivating Pitayas in Asia which is were it was re-baptized Dragon Fruit.

When I was contacted by the wonderful people at Pitaya Plus for a review I was a little confused as to the big focus on Nicaragua and not Asia. Now I now why! The fruit is in fact native to them. This company offers a unique selection of products made from the Pitaya, or as they would say the Superfruit. The company offers juices, smoothies and dried Pitaya. I think these fruit ‘chips’ are really cool and I love the crispness to it. It is leathery like any dried fruit but there is a distinctive crackle when you take a bite. The juice is not a sweet one but it is refreshing as it is also mixed with coconut water and a touch of lemon. One bottle contains 16% of your daily dietary fiber recommendation!

When the dragon fruit made its first appearance in my local markets it was a ridiculous 8.99$ per fruit so I did not go exploring. I think my first taste was of a catered platter at a function I attended. I never bothered to look into this fruit, just admired the exotic look from afar. Now the store sells them for 2.99$ a fruit. And that is a good thing as it turns out Pitayas are very good for you.

Pitayas from Central America are characterized by a red flesh (unlike the white fleshed Asian Pitayas) and are just brimming with nutrients. Each fruit is packed with natural fiber, protein, vitamin C, antioxidants and Omega-3s. Pitaya has also been known to lower and stabilize blood glucose levels for people who suffer from Type-2 diabetes, while also decreasing levels of bad cholesterol. And now for some odd facts: did you know Pitayas are one of only a few fruits that grow from a cactus, and are the only fruits in the world pollinated by bats?

As of today Pitaya Plus offers the only certified organic pitaya on the planet! Pitaya Plus is also a great story of a social mission, social responsibility and empowerment. The company supports the community by hiring and working one on one with local farmers and single mothers which are all hired above minimum wage. The plant factory is solar powered, a renewable energy. The company is clear in specifying they are not a charity, they just want create something long lasting with benefits for everyone involved. Brava!

Dried Pitaya ‘chip’

I really wracked my brain when trying to come up with a recipe to test out the juice. I spent a lot of time surfing the net for inspiration. That is when I fell on flans. A Dragon Fruit Flan would definitely be out of the ordinary yet I saw it as a perfect marriage of a Latin fruit and a Latin dessert.

 

Ξ Dragon Fruit Flan Ξ

Ingredients

1/2 cup water
3/4 cup  sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/3 cup Pitaya Plus Super Juice
1/2 cup  milk

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Put water and sugar in a pan over medium heat and bring to a gentle boil. Leave it on the flame until the mixture turns into a nice dark caramel color. Do not stir the pan while boiling. Immediately pour into ramekins.
  3. While the caramel is cooking, whisk eggs and sugar together, than add the juice and milk and mix thoroughly. Pour into ramekins over the caramel.
  4. Place ramekins in a large baking dish and fill with hot water 3/4 of the way up the edge of the ramequins . Bake for 45 minutes in the water bath until the flan is set and a knife comes out clean. Allow it to cool in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
  5. Prior to flipping ramekin, run a knife along the sides of  flan to loosen it. Hold your deep plate tight to the ramekins and  flip.

Note the recipe make either 4 small ramekins or you can make one flan with a souffle dish, about 8 in across, like it did. In that case cooking time will be around 65-75 min approximately.

I always had a fear and a need to make a flan. As silly as it sounds single portion crême caramels turn me off but a cake sized Latin flan I adore. In a way by making this recipe I was facing my flan fears because it is very delicate in texture. And my flip was not exactly perfect as some sides broke off a little. The taste however was out of this world. My caramel was intense and a little overpowering but when I took a bite of the flan without the caramel I enjoyed a very light taste with a very subtle hint of Pitaya. It was a nice change from the usual cake or pie.

The Secret Recipe Club: Bloody Mary of the Sea Verrine

This is so exciting, it is my first time participating in the Secret Recipe Club. I came across this monthly club while visiting one of my favorite bloggers. I just had to look into it and joined right away. Basically you are assigned by the organizer a fellow club participant which has a food blog too, from which you pick a recipe of your choice from that blog and make your version of it.

But it is a secret, you cannot reveal whom you picked and what you made until the pre-established posting date….which is today! I can’t wait to see who picked me.

I was assigned Suz’ blog called Thru The Bugs On My Windshield. When I read the title of her blog I was on the floor laughing and rolling my butt off. Awesome name! It took quite some time to look up all her recipes and to finally settle on one to make. I noticed she is also a fellow Daring Kitchen member and her very first participation in the Daring Cooks just so happen to be the one I co-hosted on patés and bread. But did I really want to revisit a recipe I made? Nah!

Finally the recipe found me I think. And it certainly was not a complicated project but I was just inspired. Suz had posted a Bloody Mary cocktail recipe on her post entitled It’s Mary Time. A cocktail that actually makes you consume a vegetable for your health…yum!

But this was not going to be a simple cocktail recreation, oh no! I was hit hard on the head with an inspirational bottle of vodka and ran with my idea. I thought instead of drinking it, what if it is was solidified and served during the meal. I saw several versions of this concept online but this recipe is truly mine and unique.

***Historical note: the actual recipe was only invented in the 1930s in the USA but there are assumptions as to the name of the cocktail, possibly inspired by two gruesome women in history. The first was Mary of Tudor, Queen Mary I of England. She was a Catholic Queen in a Protestant country and she wished to renew bonds with Rome. She had about 300 Protestants reformers burned at the stake under the Heresy Act, quite inspired by the Spanish Inquisition. She was a hated and feared Queen by her people who nicknamed her Bloody Mary after her death. The second Mary which could have inspired the name was the Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Bathory Nadasdy who was reputed to have bathed in the blood of young virgin girls in order to retain her youth.***

My version would make an ideal first course. The liquids are heated with the gelatin to melt it completely and then you add flavors and some chopped veggies. I also added small baby shrimps. It makes a lovely light appetizer with a good doze of vodka. Cheers to your health!

Ξ Bloody Mary of the Sea Verrine Ξ

1 envelope unflavored gelatin
9 oz tomato juice
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/8 tsp coarse salt and ground pepper, each
1/4 tsp dill weed
1/4 tsp horseradish (I used Wasabi)
Tabasco sauce to taste
5 oz vodka
1/2 c chopped, seeded, peeled cucumber
1/2 c chopped shrimp
1/4 c chopped marinated vegetables
1/4 c chopped onion

– In large saucepan, soften gelatin in tomato juice for 5-10 min.

– Turn on the burner to med-low heat and stir constantly until gelatin dissolves as it just boils lightly. Remove from heat right away.

– Stir in lime juice, all the seasonings and vodka. Refrigerate until partially set (keep an eye on constantly it even if it takes about 1 hour).

– Fold in cucumber, shrimp, marinated vegetables and onion.

– Spoon into 4 wine glasses, verrine, or sherbet dishes.

– Refrigerate until firm, 4 hours or overnight. Garnish with marinated vegetables and a shrimp.

If at any time you want to jell a liquid with some alcohol content, with gelatin or agar agar, keep in mind that no more then 30% of your total volume of liquid should be alcohol based or the jelling process may not happen. This recipe is a the 30% mark. I was totally solid but one verrine I took time eating and after a couple of yours at room temp, during a heat wave, the consistency semi melted.