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The Dominican Republic: Part 3 (Smörgåsbord)

March 3rd, 2008

Tracy cooking chocolate covered espresso beans

Food and coffee were, obviously, both very enjoyable portions of my trip to the Dominican Republic. Here I am a month later at home thinking back on what else I did there. We tried really hard to visit a lot of friends and even make new friends there. It was so enjoyable to walk to someone’s door and have them shrill ‘entre, entre’ (come in, come in). To have someone sincerely pull a chair out or laugh as they kick a younger brother or daughter out of their seat and say ‘Sientate, Sientate’ is such a great feeling. I was able to see a very different side of people compared to what we typically see in the U.S. For example, I don’t even know either of my neighbors and I’m sure I’m not alone.

Back to the food: My wife and I were able to visit each missionary (including one indigenous missionary) on the T.E.A.R.S. team during the two weeks we were there to cook! I made it my mission to cook a meal for each of them.When I left for the D.R. I felt miserable with a cold. When I arrived Jennifer and Luis Rodriguez(another T.E.A.R.S. missionary couple) had plans to have us over for dinner the night after we arrived. I still hadn’t fully recovered but Jennifer remembered my blog and was fresh out of Taco Seasoning packets. I was volunteered to come up with a substitute with the seasonings in the cupboard. Fortunately I had made this seasoning many times at home using cumin, pepper, salt, garlic, onions and ground beef. It turned out good and we had a great evening of sharing and games.

For Bau (a Dominican missionary living in Maria Auxiliadora, La Vega) we cooked one of my favorites — Unique Chicken Pot Pie. I was also able to share this meal with Tracy, a long-time missionary with T.E.A.R.S. Bau and his wife Adriana had never experienced a “soup” quite like that!

Preparing for pretzels

Tracy and I experimented with my pretzel recipe (and maybe I’ll teach you someday on this blog). That was an experience. Even finding the ingredients in La Vega was a challenge, not to mention baking in a tiny gas oven and kneading dough on a small wobbly plastic table. Good memories.

For Rod Davis (the Executive Director of T.E.A.R.S.), Twila (his wife), and two children I cooked one of my wife’s favorites: Linguine with Spicy Chorizo and Tomato Sauce. I combined this with a feeble (and unsuccessful) attempt to make French Bread for the first time. The bread tasted good, but I didn’t quite follow all of the directions. I forgot to roll out the dough and then roll it up so it just spread out and became very flat. When I got home I tried it again right away with great success. I’ll have to post on here how to do it right pretty soon.

One of my favorite evenings, yet bittersweet since it was our last night, in the Dominican Republic was when we stayed with Joy and Vidal Reyes. Vidal and I (the mighty men of the house) got to cooking. Due to the fact that it was about a perfect 75 degrees every day there Vidal fired up his BBQ. He figured we hadn’t had a BBQ since summer and cooked us up some delicious chicken and steaks. He was correct about that and it was so good to have BBQ. He also taught me how to make Spanish Rice Vidal style. It turned out pretty good and I’ve already experimented with my own back home. I’ll have to get it perfected and then blog about it too!

I was able to use fresh ingredients they already had in their house to cook some of my delicious pico de gallo salsa. I chop into small cubes tomatoes, onion, chilis, bell peppers (optional), cilantro and add fresh squeezed lime juice, minced garlic, and salt. We had a delicious meal that evening and also had a great time really getting to know Joy and Vidal.

Cooking in Travesia

All of the cooking I did there was quite an experience. Often times I was forced to improvise due to lack of a lot of the conveniences we are blessed with here in the states. While baking bread the power went out (as it often does) at the Davis’s house outside the barrio (Maria Auxiliadora, La Vega). Luckily, Rod has a generator! When I was preparing to make the Chicken pot pie the water was turned off (as it often is) to the Barrio. I used a bucket we had filled with water for such an occasion to rinse and boil the chicken. That was … interesting. Also, since hot water (from a tap) is pretty much non-existent in most places I never was able to wash my hands or utensils as I normally would. This sort of sicks you out, but you get used to it, especially after eating at someone else’s house where they’ll cut up chicken with the same knife they use to cut everything else up without even rinsing between. All in all the cooking turned out pretty good. The missionaries enjoyed some American cooking and Rachel and I got to have some great company throughout our trip.

In my next and final DR series I’ll talk about the no-bake cookies I cooked up in Travesia on the Fugon.

Thanks for reading!

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  » By Keith Prickett

The Dominican Republic: Part 2 (Coffee!)

February 5th, 2008

Coffee Drying + The Village of Travesia

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:Fancy Greca
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.

Coffee Growing!

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).

Coffee Drying + Rake

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.

Roasting photo 1Roasting photo 2

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.

Finished Coffee

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.

Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Dinner, Lunch | Leave/read a comment (3)

  » By Keith Prickett