Trying to explain what a latke is to the kitchen staff was a feat. "It's potato food from the people... Jewish? That aren't Catholic? And have small hats and curls near their ears (think: spring potluck charades 2009)?" (this explanation was met with blank stares) "It's like the breakfast potatoes, grated, from McDonald's?" (a few nods- there is a Mickey D's in Managua so a few people got it...
so, I just had to make them. That's right: plantain latkes!
I know it is belated, but, Happy
Guapote (white fish), seared, with beets, romaine, plantain latke & a chilote (tiny corn) vinaigrette
In SF, it 's a hip trend that entails creme brulee, delicious tacos, girls on bikes selling baked goods and jams... people tweet their whereabouts, and most have a sign, clean hands and although technically illegal, sanitation isn't a big concern, even when ordering from a taco cart.
I had to ease into Nica street food. One, much of it is cooked over grill grates resting on what appears to be halved gasoline drums. B., I've seen raw chicken "aging?" in the sun... ah, the smells of Granada! So, I started simple" sliced green mango with salt, vinegar and chiles. not bad! I have learned to ask for solo un poquito sal. "poco" is way too much. Quesillo was my first official hot street food: tortilla, mozzarella, queso crema, onion, chiles, vinegar... delicious! Plus, you can eat it out of plastic baggie, which means it's authentic. I grabbed one with Matt and Walter after work on a weeknight. $10 cordobas (yes, mom, that's a ti83 polo he's wearing).
Thought provoking: oranges sold on the street are all peeled down to the pith. I thought that maybe there was a delicious use for the zest, some Nicaraguan secret. Nope. It is just removed so the fruit can be eaten like an apple. The zest is trashed. Yum, bitter pith. I bought a Nacatamal (which is fun to say, but annoying after hearing women yelling it all day to push their product)... but the tepid temperature of a wrap containing pork and chicken freaked me out- so I gave it to Matt. Some people that sell specialty street food don't have signs, prices or yell about their products. Simply because, "la gente sabe" (the people know). I do not count in this generalization. But I am working on it.
Also, Nicas LOVE "ote dogh." They are sold everywhere. I don't know if it is because of the national sport (baseball), or the fact that they are easily prepared/stored - but hot dogs are everywhere! i managed to eat one covered in cheese (it's in the bun n that photo- was suspiciously more like mayonnaise) for dinner after work at like, 11pm last week. Somehow satisfying, and my body worked through it rather miraculously.
Just got home from work and I am kind of craving repocheta. But I'll get to that in another post.
I know now why I have never seen a lot of yuca options on the menu. In light of the Yuca disaster yesterday, I need to practice with that- because it is so plentiful here! I have only seen the firm yuca, not the soft.
I had a delicious fried yuca with garlic and lime at a fancy restaurant here. They even sell it at Price Smart (like Costco- there's one in the country, it's about 1 hr. away)
Otherwise known as Cassava, it's great in dessert, fried, tapioca... I tried treating it like a potato, and my garlic yuca mash would be great for sealing leaks or damaged walls.
Yesterday the owner of the resort invited the contractors who helped develop it (water guy, plant guy, architect, etc) to a celebration dinner. There are 7 people on staff right now, so we had the morning to clean up/unload boxes, and I was going to begin cooking at after lunch! I'd spent the last 2 days in the capital sourcing food & getting equipment. 2 days. No, not finished.
1:30pm. We have had a good morning of unloading/somewhat organizing, but it’s been tough because there is no water on the island. Some sort of leak or clog with the filter. Every hour I hear that it will be fixed in just a few minutes, hopefully. My sous chef begins cooking family meal for a late lunch, some chicken sandwiches. it is pretty much ready in 20-30 minutes (which is a long time to be making sandwiches), but there is this huge runaround- the basic jist is that when 7 out of 8 people are ready to eat, they will hang out for the 8th to be ready, to, but in the meantime, someone else finds something to do, the cycle continues. I wait with patience for water, so I can at least wash my hands, and food, to get started cooking
2:30pm: everyone sits down to family meal (I have eaten by this point- sorry folks, I was hungry! the construction crew brings their own lunches, so I took note and did the same). All I want to do is wash my hands. Then, I find out that the water tower has a decent flow going! With help, I get a huge (clean) trash can full of water from the water tower down to the kitchen and begin to cook around 3:00. By cook, I mean, make a little salsa while also answering any question that comes my way. Did I mention I speak horrible Nicaraguense? So, things move slowly.
Interim pm: 2 of us are in the kitchen cooking, and the other 7 need to take care of front of house- we grab Elsa, who saved the night, and she becomes out dishwasher. HEAVEN. For a moment. The kitchen is full of people looking for stuff, needing the sink, since we are still missing some things, chaos ensues. I am laughing outside, sweating profusely, and freaking out on the inside. The guests arrive, and thank god there is a wine tasting first. We have two appetizers that go out on cool little plates as finger food, which are a hit. The owner is kind of giving me the eye though- I was scared she didn’t like the food... The girls on staff wanted to help out, so I asked them to make the tortillas. Never assume just because girls are Latina they can make tortillas. They tasted tough, but I wanted to give the guests something to eat! Plus, the salsa was good, so hopefully that masked it? There was mystery water coming in buckets at one point, from where, I didn’t even ask. The electricity goes out when I turn on the electric oven. Ugh. Generator, baby! Phew!
5:55pm. I am told that guests are sitting in 10 minutes. I ask 7 people each 2 times how many people are here to eat- because they keep coming and going from the bar area. 8. do-able! wonderful! AND! We have water!!!!!!! But how am I going to make pastries (without tart molds) to put this lime curd in?
6:15pm. I still have a LONG prep list for the entrees and dessert, plus, I have to make these folks breakfast in the morning? The Yuca Mash is Glue. Elmer’s Glue. Everyone is helping out in the kitchen if needed, and each course goes smoothly. We serve the salads and it is great! With so much staff, everyone takes 2 plates and gets served at the same time, if it weren’t for the flies, you’d think you were at the French Laundry.
6:18pm. Carolina comes in and says we are actually nine. We need another salad. Ah. Ugh. Plating for 8 earlier, I managed to make enough salad for the staff to try, so thank goodness, crisis averted. It’s for the water guy (who, later toasted us to doing such a great job without water), he gets his salad.
The main courses go well, and dessert, somehow, all works out! It was fun, hard, sweaty, a huge mess. I loved it. The owner gave me a big hug at the end of the night with a simple, smiling, genuine, Thank you.
Antojitos: Salsa of onions, chiles, papayas and basil with tortillas & Chilotes (those little corn that Tom Hanks eats in Big) with lime mayo and queso seco
***Judge’s Table Comments would have been***: why didn’t you just make more tortillas? you had more corn meal, right? They are so simple! Typical contestant response: I ran out of time. I should have just served the chilotes.
Salad: roasted beets and cohombro with grapefruit (like a sweet squash)
***delicious - really nice addition of the cohombro. a farm i went to last week gave it to me as a gift. I’d never seen one before
Entrees: Family Style: Sesame Seed Crusted Grouper with Roasted Eggplant and An orange scented chiles & Achiote Braised Short Ribs with Jicaro Seed, Broccoli and Cinnamon Bulgar Wheat
***very good. so glad you didn’t serve the Yuca mash, and instead put the bulgar wheat with the short ribs
Dessert: frozen bananas with Nicaraguan chocolate and cashews, fresh lime curd ***perfect ending!
We all had a champagne toasts with the guests (to what has been created, and to the future of the hotel! And the owner!) before the boat ride home.
Oh. turns out we couldn’t all fit in the boat. So, 3 of us waited another 40 minutes to get the boat home.
Total day: left the house at 6:15 to go to the Mercado. In bed at midnight. Haven’t had a day like that in a while!
For breakfast this morning, a brief synopsis:
Boat was late to get us for a 6:30 ride, 8am breakfast. No problem- everyone is used to that, including our great guests. There was a lot of miscommunication about how to use the coffee machines. My original menu contained: poached eggs with oven roasted tomatoes, potatoes roesti, bananas foster pancakes, homemade granola with fruit and yogurt, fresh juice, smoothies, but, I made QUITE a few changes.
Caramelized Onion Frittata with Tomatoes, Cohombro, Garlic, Queso Fresco
Roasted Potatoes with Chiles and Garlic
Passion Fruit, Papaya, Watermelon and Yogurt
Everyone left happy and exhausted. I wanted to blog about this when I got home earlier, but the electricity in Granada was out until now! Insert canned audience laughter and signature catch phrase here... cue theme music, and, I’m out!
(PHOTOS: end of the night delirium on the star filled boat ride home, fresh chilotes)
Why, hello there!
I tried checking out the Granada marketplace. Interesting spot. Huge baskets of plantains next to a vendor selling lady speed stick, some live chickens, some queso aging in the morning sun...
The quantity of produce, dry goods and trinkets is really fascinating, but I didn't really want to pull out my camera. I get hassled enough being whitey (I am working hard to get a safe base tan going, by the way)... I didn't want to get my camera stolen or whathaveyou. It is hot, gross, and there is not a lot of personal space. I managed to sneak a photo in at a small stand.
However, you can see, what fun produce! Never have to feel bad about eating bananas and pineapple, it's local, baby!
Now that I have started work, the hardest part is finding high quality, local ingredients from reliable sources. Tomorrow I head out to meet some people face to face! Actually, that is pretty much the only way to get good organic goods here, since most farmers don't have phones. I guess they just use twitter.*
As far as home cooking goes, I have kept things fairly simple. The supermarket sells medley of veggies in a bag for under $1, a melange of root vegetables, fruit and a bit of cabbage... I washed them (with filtered water) and cooked it into a curry with some chick peas. Hellooo lunch for the week!
Hola! Here I am in Granada, Nicaragua... after 2 planes flights, a truck ride, some bug spray and a few days of settling in. It is not raining, not cold, not snowing... it is currently about 85 degrees. Not that dry Santa Ana 85 that has a cool wind blowing. The humidity level is like, 70%. That's a fake smile right after I wiped sweat off my face. I am now in the shade.
While I type, I'll put some local noises I hear in parentheses.
It is Purisima, a holiday celebrating the Virgin Mary. The celebration reminds me of my time living in SF's Chinatown during New Year's... various parades (horses trotting by), and firecrackers. But these fireworks are LOUD. Like, gunshot Boom! loud. A band plays while people cart a statue of the Virgin in front of houses and small churches.
I like to think that I (boom) am adjusting slightly to the heat (boom). Granada has shown great displays of history (boom), poverty (stream of crackly fireworks) and natural beauty ( (boom). I haven't exactly plunged into the food just yet because (car blasting reggaeton through subwoofers) I want my digestive organs to ease into it. The people are friendly (church bells) and the city seems improved since I last saw it in 2006.
What I currently smell is used fireworks amongst humid air, and ah, a slight breeze. temporary relief.
It's my last day of the SF Food Bank's Hunger Challenge. I had $28 to spend for the week, and based upon my receipts, spent $3.50 a day instead of $4. That extra cash was reserved for: emergencies, or to cover my basic pantry goods (salt, pepper, spices, oils)
the food still available to me today (i'm going to make veggie tacos for lunch out of some of it!): -1 full baggie of tortilla chips -2 enchiladas (will freeze) -1 cup cooked rice, 1 cup cooked black beans -coleslaw and black bean terrine -1 cooked beet, 1 cooked yam, 1 carrot, a lot of broccoli -1 cooked yam -1 cup shredded cabbage -6 corn tortillas -1 kiwi, 1 banana, 1/2 apple -2 eggs -pint of hummus -2 servings of carrot soup with bacon and white beans (will freeze)
... needless to say, getting enough food for the week was not a problem- the key being: big batches, cooking at home and eating mostly vegetarian cuisine.
The hardest part: being social, going out with friends. Seeing people eating food that I could not have was tough. But knowing that I could go back to it in a week, when others will never get that luxury, was even harder.
2)it was fun to have some creativity on a lmiited budget, and hopefully showed some ideas on how to jazz up the same old thing and make eating meals special with relative cooking ease 2b) to show that eating on $4 a day can still be balanced meals, not just PB&J and preservatives
3)spread the awareness to others
I feel a little disease at my ability to be whisked back into a coffee shop for a latte and bagel... so I might just ease back into SF foodie culture.
okay, so my chicken leg is wrapped in layers of plastic (for odor control) in the trashcan.
with some quick thinking, I remembered that Ii bought way too many black beans for the week (at $.99 a pound dry, i splurged)...
I made the protein portion out of a few scoops to create- bean loaf? beancake?
Black Bean Terrine with Apple Coleslaw
what's inside: terrine: black beans (some have been pureed with one egg), chopped jalapeno, baked in a small loaf pan 'slaw: apples, cabbage, carrot, cilantro, lime juice, homemade mayo (i had an egg yolk leftover from my frittata the other day and whisked in canola oil, vinegar and salt= mayo!)
...now I just hope Mr. B doesn't see the tape of me playing hookey at the Dodger game... rabbi strawberry?
oh, by the way:There are more food stamp recipients in the U.S. than ever before - 32 million. www.hungerchallenge.com
i have been dreaming about my best purchase for the week ... $.77 of chicken leg that I got in the Mission.
Brined in a simple sugar and salt water bath, it would keep for a few days, and, when roasted, it would be moist and tasty.
i forgot about it in the fridge. when i unwrapped it yesterday, it reeked. I thought I'd try to brine the rancidity out of it, but to no avail.
i threw it away this morning. I have plenty of other food, I will have to figure something else out for lunch.
*this is why i saved about $4.50 of my budget for the week. what if i didn't have any extra food here in the work fridge and had to eat an emergency lunch out? I could get a small jamba juice or a subway 6"...
dinner on food stamps tonight was: delicious enchiladadas. I had them at 5 before meeting some friends out for happy hour... it was fun, lively, and I drank water...
but afterwards, got persuaded to join them for dinner. out. I ate the apple and orange from my purse while my friends ordered onion rings, hot capicola sandwiches stuffed with fries and coleslaw from Giordano Bros.
hmm. I felt okay going. I was full, so not jealous, and just had fun hanging out! But if I hadn't eaten an early dinner, I either would have caved and eaten out, or just left and been dismal at home.
60% of the clients at SFFoodBank served last year come from working families.
aahggghhhhh drooling. steak and eggs sandwich.
what's inside: everything delicious.
drinks of friends
my wholesome and free beverage
it is disheartening to think that in 3 more days, when I can be drinking another morning latte, thousands of others will still be living on food stamps and $4 a day.
I often (not too often, really) show up to a bar with friends and leave, hours later, not even looking at the number of the bill... definitely cannot do that this week. I know I can afford 40 ounces of Malt liquor. maybe 2, therefore, have the option to be social at home (Edward 40hands always brings a crowd)...
see ya later, Chimay, Prosecco and Tanqueray. hello, happy hour? I saw Azul had $2 beer specials?
I only have $4 left in my budget for the week! I have plenty of food... but, going out for drinks this weekend is not something I budgeted for.
this meal was a great reheat this afternoon. It was quick and simple to make, too!
Carrot Soup with Bacon and White Beans
what's inside: white beans, 1 1/2 strips worth of bacon lardons that i fried, then cooked the following in that bacon fat: onions, carrots, tomatoes. **the key: while I was pureeing it, i added fresh lemon juice for brightness**
Simple and delicious! Jim Gaffigan might even enjoy it!
The strawberries I bought on Saturday (under $2 for a pint) not surprisingly started to turn rather quickly, so I froze them earlier in the week. Paired with a fast to ripen banana, I have myself a smoothie!
Strawberry Banana Morning Smoothie
what's inside: a big handful of frozen strawberries, a few tablespoons of water and a banana (getting my calcium from broccoli this week)
other fruits I have yet to eat: a kiwi, apple, banana... just snacked on a nectarine
do people on food stamps who eat for $4 a day every week have a blender at home? www.hungerchallenge.com
well, more like, professional cook in a well-stocked kitchen.
-i have pantry goods (ginger, fennel, cumin, vanilla, olive and vegetable oil) -i cook for a living, so i make these fancy-looking yet affordable foods quickly and easily
I highly doubt that most San Franciscans, especially those living on food stamps and working 2 jobs will have time to make each one of the meals I've made/will make each and every week.
The recipes I made are to serve just me but can be easily scaled up to be stored (even frozen) and reheated at a moment's notice. Some of them look nice plated, but are actually fairly simple and fast to prepare.
one reason that I am doing this challenge is because I like inspiring, giving ideas to run with or try out. Maybe make a nice meal IN, rather than going out, and display out how presentation or adding a dash of a different ingredient can make a meal special. and i'll continue to show some!
In San Francisco, 150K people are unsure where their next meal is coming from. www.hungerchallenge.com
I snack. often. I luckily remembered this while shopping for my meals this week. It's great because I cut veggies, boiled/pureed chick peas and fried chips on Sunday so I have nibbles on hand ready to go, rather than making things from scratch all day long. And, not only are they affordable, but they are "healthy"... er, at the very least, all natural!
Oatmeal Raisin Cookies - 12 cookies Homemade Hummus with Fresh Vegetables -1 quart of hummus plus cut veggies Home-fried Tortilla Chips - 4 bags (about 8 corn tortillas)
ps that extra juice on top of the hummus is a squirt of extra olive oil
what's inside: -the oatmeal raisin cookies have stuff i'd been eating for breakfast, plus ground ginger, cinnamon, and some butter i had in the freezer. you can also buy it by the stick at Whole Foods, which is nice. 12 cookies uses about 1/2 stick (4 Tbs.) -hummus: dried chickpeas I cooked with garlic, roasted garlic, vinegar, olive oil - calcium in that broccoli! -tortilla chips: 30-pack, i made chips, enchiladas, and have some left for tacos later in the week
I'm about 1/2way through the challenge and am not concerned with running out of food. I have leftovers of each meal I have made! However, I did an hour of cardio this morning, so my appetite might be larger today...
Poached Egg over Fennel Cabbage Rosti with Broccoli -2 servings
What's inside: poached egg with cracked black pepper steamed broccoli "Cabbage Rosti": I cooked 1/2 strip of bacon lardons with 1/2 onion and sliced cabbage then stirred in a grated potato and 1 egg, a bit of fennel seed, salt and pepper
i realize more and more each day that I eat A LOT.not because I am hungry, but because I am around food all day long. I'm becoming more comfortable with not snacking on extra pumpkin pancakes and the latest spice rubbed chicken. But still, eating frequent, small meals is best for me; to satiate my appetite and eat healthy, too!
*note: quinoa is easy to cook (like rice, with a 1:1.5 ratio grain to water) and a complete protein! *another note: i bought a head of cabbage: CHEAP! and am trying to get the most out of it- so used the outermost leaves for my wraps... we haven't seen the last of that cabbage. *i do have a bag of home-fried tortilla chips in my purse to tide me over before dinner.
So, on $4 a day, I had my usual, oatmeal with raisins for breakfast, a mid-morning frittata snack...
noontime... I was ready for lunch, but afterward, am feeling full and not lethargic. Today's light lunch was tasty and filling! I made extra cabbage rolls... I just might go crazy and have some for dinner!
what's inside: the wraps: blanched cabbage, cooked quinoa, orange zest, chopped raisins, a bit of white vinegar, salt, pepper, cinnamon, coriander, cilantro leaves the salad: thinly sliced carrots, onion, red bell pepper, cilantro leaves, vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper
eating for $4 a day ... this morning i had oatmeal, a portion of yesterday's frittata, and by the noon tasting (comparing a mediocre vendor sample against our scratch Chili recipe), I was ready to gorge on anything my fork could reach.
The simple task of not snacking while working shines some light on how much I actually eat during the day- a taste of soup here, a cookie, a gougere, you know, the usual. Whatever I am making I always taste for flavor (for professional reasons) and then normally continue to snack on it, too (for lack of will power reasons).
Black Bean and Broccoli Enchiladas with Roasted Jalapenos
makes 16 enchiladas
what's inside: -Black Beans, Sauteed Broccoli Stems, Onion, Garlic, Red Bell Pepper -Sauce: Olive Oil, Canned Tomatoes, Onion, Garlic, broiled Jalapeno, Cilantro Stems and leaves -eaten over steamed brown rice (to make a complete protein, hooray!)
I made about 16 of these, so they should be good for a few meals.
i also brought fresh broccoli and some homemade hummus for a snack to have this afternoon (which I will probably dive into right before the Cheesecake tasting).
Made a little brunch this afternoon - oatmeal did not tide me over for too long.
Fresh Broccoli Frittata with Curried Yam Coulis
ooh! sounds fancy! and tastes delicious! I baked them in ramekins so I can portion control a little easier. I had two today and have the rest in the fridge for later in the week.
broccoli, red bell pepper, onion & garlic sauteed in a bit of olive oil
fold in a couple of egg whites, whipped to soft peaks the sauce is made quickly in the blender:
steamed yams and garlic, a bit of the water they were steamed in, curry powder and a touch of olive oil
on Sunday, i woke up craving a coffeehouse crap latte, the kind with caramel drizzled on top. cuh-raving it.
alas, www.hungerchallenge.com started on that day, 9/20/09!
I spent $24.52 on groceries for the week ... under my budget of $28 for all food and drink for 7 days (aka, $4 a day). Safeway was too expensive, as was my local organic haunt, Country Cheese Inc. had prices similar to Whole Foods, but with less selection: so I got my bulk goods there: beans, rice, quinoa, canned tomatoes...
my favorite buy was an unexpected chicken leg purchase: 77 cents at Mi Ranchito market on Mission/17th - a Mexican market stocked by Chinese employees and run by a man from Iran. great combination for a good deal on poultry.
the photo shows all of my food for the week (no, I don't plan on eating 3 square meals at Mickey D's)...
up first: oatmeal with raisins for a quick and easy breakfast.