Friday, March 17, 2006

La Cosina Nicaraguense

Nicaraguan cuisine is somewhat like English cuisine, a contradiction in terms. It is doubtful that Nica cuisine will ever take center stage in the world, unlike her fine rum.

The vast majority of Nicas live on beans and rice. Now Nica beans are very good, nice firm red ones, very flavorful and robust. Mixed with rice and a bit of lard and salt and you have the national dish Gallo Pinto. Gallo Pinto is translated as 'spotted rooster" as the dark of the beans contrasts with the slightly reddened rice, much like the bi-colored rooster. The dish is also known as "Moros and Christianos" or "Moors and Christians", contrasting the dark skinned Moors and the lighter skinned Christians of Spain. Gallo Pinto is nothing but versatile, it serves as a breakfast lunch or dinner, sometimes all three. Served with a hand made tortilla and the salty, crumbly curdled milk cheese called Cujada (pronounced more like Gua-hara)it sustains the vast majority of the population.

Luckily I love rice, beans are ok, but I could sustain on rice. Nica white rice is very good.

Saute in a large pot about 1/2 a green pepper and 1/2 onion rough cut with a small amount of oil for about 4-5 minutes.

Add to this mixture the amount of rice as desired according to package directions and lightly toast the rice until it is covered in the oil and just starting to toast.

Remove from heat and add the amount of water and allow to steam until done. DO not remove the onion and pepper, let it steam with the rice.

This is best served with Churrasco, a thin sliced steak broiled and covered with chimichurri, a sauce made of olive oil, onion, parsley, garlic and pepper, all finely diced.

Plaintains, the big cousin of the banana is a favorite staple. Either in tostonies which are crispy fried medallions using the green plantain or the soft, sweet ripe maduros, it is a shame we in the US do not use this wonderful fruit.

Sea food is plentiful on the coasts. Snapper, tuna, dorado, lobster and more can be found in the warm Pacific waters. Nicas love Ceviche, finely chopped raw fish is marinated in lime or lemon juice until the acid in the juice "Cooks" the fish. Combined with onion, pepper, cilantro, and other vegetables. It is served chilled with crackers or toasted tortilla. It is one of my favorites.

The rich volcanic soil in Nicaragua yields sweet, robust vegetables. Onions are ubiquitous in Nica culture, served with everything and eaten with gusto. The carrots are huge and sweet. I was served carrot juice one time and thought it was orange juice, it was that sweet. The watermelons actually have flavor here, as do the wonderful juicy pineapples.

Nica cuisine may not be ready for prime time, but for sure if one looks, no one will go hungry.

Buen Provecho!

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