Category Archives: Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic, Part 3

Here’s my final installment of food odds and ends from my recent trip to the Dominican Republic. Janelle’s neighborhood of Montellano has a couple of small restaurants that serve a limited number of items for lunch and dinner – about as close as they get to “fast food”, and so much healthier I’m sure! She likes this place because they serve a good herbed rotisserie chicken.

I ordered habichuelas with rice and guisado (stewed) pork. Really good, typical Dominican meal. The servings of rice around there always seemed to be huge!

Another day, after shopping at La Sirena (an upscale grocery and everything else store in Puerto Plata), we ate at the cafeteria upstairs. I had moros (black beans and rice) and pollo guisado (stewed chicken). And I must have been hungry, because it was mostly gone before I realized I hadn’t taken a photo! :) This dessert was the standout though, called something like pudin ___ pozo(?) (really should have written down the whole name). I need to find a recipe for this! It reminded me of the flavor of those pecan twirls my brother and I enjoyed as kids, and the texture was wonderfully dense and rich.

One day we served a meal at home and invited one of Janelle’s coworkers to join us. We used the broken eggs from the Easter egg dyeing to make egg salad sandwiches. I bought a tayota (also known as chayote or guisquil) and I made a chayote and carrot salad similar to this recipe I tried in Cuban cooking month last year. We cut up some mangos, and fried up some frozen yucca bollitas we had bought at the grocery store to try, filled with cheese. It was a random, but fun meal, followed by watching Pride and Prejudice on Janelle’s laptop while torrents of rain fell outside.

In Puerto Plata, we visited an Austrian pastry store. There weren’t a lot of options, but all of them looked delicious. Since the DR is rum country (they even greet you at the airport with a little shot of rum!), I decided on a rum ball, mmmm…..

 

The local “bomba” (gas station) where you go to catch a ride on public transportation, has a small ice cream shop. One hot day we stopped by for a paleta/popsicle, and I chose to try the local flavor bizcocho (cake flavored) treat – yum!  Another time I had a passion fruit popsicle, both really delicious. Planning to check out my local latino grocery stores to see if any of these exotic flavors are available in NC :)

We got fresh fruit juices twice at this same little shop (colmado). How refreshing to get a big cup of ice-cold sweetened fruit juice, the real deal – I first tried cherry juice, and then pineapple the second time through. Both were absolutely delicious and so wonderfully cold while walking around on a hot day.

Dominican Republic – Part 2 – Cooking with Mercedes

My friend Janelle works with an organization called Health Horizons International, which builds up a network of community workers to help manage chronic illnesses like diabetes and high blood pressure in the poor communities of the Puerto Plata region, Dominican Republic.

One of the community workers, Mercedes, loves to cook as much as I do! So Janelle arranged for us to spend a day cooking together and learning some traditional Dominican dishes. Getting to the rural community of Arroyo de Leche (“Milk Creek”) involved a ~40 minute ride with three of us astride a motorcycle (a common mode of transportation in the DR). The dirt road was washed out and rutted from recent rains, with a couple of large mud-puddles that got our feet wet along the way, and there were a few spots that were so steep we had to get off the motorcycle and walk. I was actually glad for the chance to stretch my legs at those intervals, not being used to riding like this! But what a great way to enjoy the beautiful countryside.

When we arrived to Mercedes’ house, she had already started cooking some beans (guandules) for our lunch. She showed us their brand new kitchen space, with a stove heated by firewood. The little outbuilding next door housed a kitchen table and sink area to wash the dishes and vegetables. It was obvious from the beginning that we were in for a great cooking adventure! Chickens and dogs roamed around while we cooked.

Mercedes immediately offered us a huge “snack”, including a firm white fresh cheese (simply called queso blanco), cooked batata (white sweet potato) and yucca. It was a huge plate, considering we would be eating lunch in a couple of hours, yikes!

We helped (well not really, Mercedes did most of the work) prepare three dishes for lunch, beans and rice, fried plantains and cheese, and a potato salad. The beans were already cooking when we arrived. I unfortunately don’t have any amounts of ingredients for the recipes, but there are a number of recipes out there (like this one) on the web for guandules or habichuelas guisados.

When the beans were tender, we mashed dried oregano, salt and garlic together in a mortar and pestle. A bit of the bean liquid was placed in a smaller pot, and these seasonings were added, along with chopped shallot, peppers, cilantro, and winter squash. While those cooked for a few minutes, we partially mashed the beans in the pot, than added back the vegetables with some water. Some liquid sazon seasoning (sazon liquido, sold under a couple of different brand names) and chicken bouillion were also added to taste. This continued to cook for a bit so that all the flavors could blend. The beans were served with rice.

The next dish we made was a potato and vegetable salad with mayonnaise, a version of the “Russian salad” that I’ve seen in many different cultures around the world. Potatoes were peeled, boiled in salt water, and diced, then we added a can of mixed vegetables (carrot, pepper, and corn), chopped raw onion and pepper. Vinegar, oil, salt and mayonnaise were added to taste to make a tasty potato salad.

Our final lunch dish was fried guineos (small sweet bananas), green plaintains, and white cheese.

A couple of fresh tomatoes were sliced to go along with the meal and it made a lovely and filling plate for lunch.

After lunch, Janelle and I took a walk to the house of another friend in the same community, Corinna, who is a superb gardener and surrounds her house with beautiful tropical plants. We got a tour of all her growing things, including pineapples, coconut, cacao, bananas, and many, MANY more plants. When we returned to Mercedes’ house, Corinna and her two daughters came along to socialize and help enjoy the desserts – arroz con dulce and habichuelas con dulce.

Arroz con dulce is a form of rice pudding, I’m not normally a huge fan. But Mercedes’ arroz con dulce was amazing! The rice was cooked with coconut milk, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and salt until the rice had whitened and was cooked tender. Then evaporated milk and heated regular milk were added, along with vanilla and LOTS of sugar – they grow that stuff around here :). It continued to cook down to a thick and creamy consistency. Before serving, it was tasted to adjust salt and sugar, then served warm. Delicioso!

The last dish that we finished (and the first we started!) was a batch of habichuelas con dulce, a special dish for Easter. Janelle and I helped pick out the rocks from the beans first. Then Mercedes rinsed the beans and got them on the stove to cook, with cinnamon sticks and cloves.

Much later in the day, the beans were mashed manually through a sieve to collect the bean “juice”. Some water was added to the bean solids, cooked a little more, and then mashed through the sieve again. This was repeated 4 times! [in a typical kitchen, this would be done with a blender, but Mercedes’ blender was broken, so she had to do it the hard way!] By the end we had a large pot of bean juice, to which was added milk cookies and raisins. It was served like a hot drink.

This special Easter dish is made in large batches and shared with family and friends. We actually got another batch of habichuelas con dulce from a different friend of Janelle’s during that Easter weekend. It wasn’t my favorite dish, but I’m glad I got to see and taste it – since it’s a major culinary part of their Easter celebration.

Wow, what a day! We rode back on the motorcycle right at dusk, and were definitely too full to need anything for dinner.

 

 

 

Dominican trip – Part 1

I’ve just returned from a visit to see my good friend Janelle, who is living in the Dominican Republic for a couple of years.  So I wanted to share a few of my food experiences from the trip! We ate at a few different restaurants and Janelle also arranged for me to spend a day cooking with her friend Mercedes in the countryside. I’ll share some photos and recipes over a few upcoming blog posts. The following – part 1 – is a description of the food we ate during a day spent in the touristy beach town, Cabarete.

The first place we went on our beach day wasn’t even ‘Dominican’ – but a Belgian bakery. Janelle knows that I’m always interested in bakeries, since my parents own a bakery in Virginia. I was amazed at all the pastries they were able to produce in such a humid climate! I had a lovely and delicious almond pastry filled with chantilly cream.

Janelle enjoyed an eclair and we also split an apple tart. Just a forecast of the carb-fest I would be enjoying during my week in this country :)

After this brunch, we spent the rest of the day at the beach in Cabarete, souvenir shopping and swimming. The most obvious sign of the high tourist presence in Cabarete (other than the hotels and restaurants flanking the beach) is the abundance of circulating beach vendors, selling almost anything you could think of – straw hats, jewelry, cigars, massages, hair braiding – and of course, snacks!

I bought a coconut candy snack from this gentleman, who was selling an assortment of sweets made of coconut and peanuts. The coconut treat was very sugary with the flavor of ginger and thickly shaved coconut pieces. On the beach, we later bought a couple of bananas (or guineos as they are known here), from a woman carrying around an assortment of fresh fruit.

That evening, I asked Janelle if we could eat somewhere with traditional Dominican fare, rather than the oceanside restaurants geared towards tourists that served everything from French seafood to Italian pasta. She knew of a small authentic Dominican restaurant across the street where she had eaten a few times. I ordered sancocho, a stew of root vegetables and meat (chicken and beef), served with a large plate of white rice. This was the “small” or appetizer size, little did I know that would be enough for a meal in itself!

The sancocho was not hot spicy, but nicely flavored with herbs and spices, and contained chicken and beef pieces, yucca, jautia, and batata (I think, my ability to distinguish these root vegetables is somewhat limited). I ended up taking half of the sancocho home for the next day’s breakfast, since I had also ordered mero de coco – filet of grouper in a tomato, pepper and coconut sauce.

I’ll share with you in my next post some of the cooking tips and maybe a recipe or two (if I can decipher enough from my notes to reconstruct recipes!) from our cooking lesson in the campo.