June 13th, 2008
Rachel loves Real Simple Magazine and we have always found their recipes to, truly, be simple. She picked a couple at random the other day and the wrap was one of them. The wrap is really fresh and seems quite healthy. It has avacado, broccoli, pine nuts, tomatillo salsa, and tomatoes — all really healthy fresh ingredients. We made the recipe from the magazine but halved it and ended up eating it for a few days of lunch and dinner in a row. I sneaked a little sour cream in mine, but don’t tell Rachel! Whip these up on a hot day to save from turning on the oven or stove. Here’s what we did: (…read more and get the recipe)
February 5th, 2008
Above: Coffee Drying operation in the Village of Travesia
Coffee in the Dominican Republic, simply, is a way of life. My wife and I visited many friends in their houses during our two week trip. During every visit to a friend’s house we would be served a delicious cup of Dominican coffee. If you’ve read my last post, you know coffee also comes along with every meal. Needless to say, we drank a lot of coffee while we were there!
How it’s brewed:
Coffee is brewed in an Italian-style espresso maker they call a “Greca.” A little bit of since electricity there is fairly inconsistent — we had electricity about 1/2 the time we water goes in the bottom of the brewer. Some ground coffee goes into the “filter” area and it’s all screwed together. Almost everyone there uses a gas (propane) stove top to cook were there on average. The water is heated and boils through the filter (from underneath) and then up through a little spout into a reservoir.
How it’s served:
Once the water is all boiled into the reservoir it is removed from the heat and often poured into a serving carafe. About one-half cup of sugar is added for each pot (about 2-3 cups). This makes for one sweet cup of coffee! For drinking, you are served one very small cup (about the size of an espresso shot). I really enjoyed sitting on someone’s porch, taking in all the delicious smells, sights and sounds of the Dominican Republic while sipping on my sweet cup of “cafè.”
Often times the ground coffee is mixed with nutmeg, cinnamon and/or other spices during brewing for an extra layer of flavor. It is delicious!
Growing and Roasting:
Fortunately for me, I had the opportunity to visit a village where coffee is grown and roasted! The growing seemed fairly normal in the village of Travesia (a small village in the mountains above the city of Jarabacoa), but the roasting was quite unique.
First off, they grow it under the banana and orange trees all along the hill sides. As we were walking up the trail to the village I saw coffee growing everywhere along the trail. It’s picked and husked using a small husk-removing machine (see photo) . Afterward it’s dried on a cement slab under a plastic covering. It is raked into ridges about twice a day (ridges are alternated between length-wise and width-wise).
To Roast in the village they use a clay-oven top called a “fugòn.” It’s basically a clay base and sides with a small fire (see photos). The coffee and unrefined (natural cane — still brown) sugar added at the same time to a huge cast-iron pot. Its stirred with a wooden spoon and caramelized.
My theory is that this is done because the fugòn and wooden spoon can’t get the beans evenly roasted so the caramelization hides the roast. The end result is a really black bean (on the outside) but a delicious flavor when ground and brewed! I brought some home and it’s sitting in my freezer now! YUM! My mother-in law once brought back about 10 pounds on her carry-on of this stuff and we drank it all year.
I hope you’re enjoying this series on the Dominican Republic. Feel free to ask me questions on the comment sections or just leave comments.
January 31st, 2008
I recently returned from a two-week vacation to the Dominican Republic (D.R.). My wife and I have friends there we visited and stayed with during out trip. This was my second time visiting but my first time really visiting with the people and learning a little more about the culture.
Of course, this being a food blog and all, I have to talk about my food experiences. Over the next couple of weeks I am going to be sharing about some cooking I did while I was there and also cooking I experienced! I can’t wait to share it all and hope that you enjoy reading it!
I want to start with some typical meals that you might experience in some poorer parts of the D.R. I’ve got some photos of the market in La Vega below so that might give you an idea of some of the foods they get to eat (rice, beans, chicken).
The Meal line-up looks like this:
- For breakfast: Hot Chocolate with some really dry bread. The bread is a lot like a hot-dog bun and is commonly found around the country. They have three basic types, large hot-dog bun, regular hot-dog bun, and small. To them, it’s just “pan” (in Spanish) or “bread” (in English). The hot chocolate was really rich and really sweet. Just what you need to kick-start your day!
- Of course, as with every meal, you need some coffee! Coffee is absolutely a part of every day life in the D.R. The coffee is not quite like Starbucks, which is fine by me. They use the italian-espresso making device that they call a “greca.” It looks like you can buy them online. The coffee turns out really strong (like an espresso shot) but you wouldn’t find a Dominican drinking a cup without at least 1/8 cup of sugar in each shot! It tastes SO good with all that sugar, but you just know it can’t be good for you.
- For lunch, which is the most important — and largest — meal of the day, I ate well. Most of the time I had a plate full of rice and beans. They use a red pinto-like bean there and white rice. The rice is steamed (often with a plastic bag over the pan instead of a solid lid) in a ton of oil and a ton of salt. The beans are pressure cooked and then boiled for a bit with seasonings including (but not limited to): a ton of salt, oil, cilantro, garlic cloves, a type of squash and more salt! This meal is full of salt but that’s probably what makes it soooo good! YUM!Often I would have chicken (sometimes scrambled eggs) with this meal which is cooked in all the same seasonings as the beans plus sugar (for color — they say) and soy sauce (or in Spanish “salsa China”).
- Dinner is light, but full of starch. I ate with a few families in their homes while I was there and typically I had one (or more) of the following three boiled: Yuka, Plantains (Platinos), and bananas. Plantains are a very starchy — almost potato like — version of a banana. These are surprisingly good boiled! Along with the starch you had to have a protein which was one of the following: fried salami (again more oil), fried egg, or we even had freshly butchered pork one night.
I hope this gives you some insight into typical Dominican meals. In the coming week or so I will share some recipes (new and old) along with photos of me preparing food in some interesting places! Stay tuned…