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Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Midwest Girl Meets Costa Rican Cuisine

Posted Nov 20 2009 2:32pm

I've got something fun and special to share with everybody today! Yesterday I did Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24!

Great! Umm... what's that?

Every month Foodbuzz asks its Featured Publishers (which I am one) from all over the world to submit proposals for their 24, 24, 24 event. Foodbuzz then selects 24 meal proposals. All 24 meal entries will be held on the same day, thus the term: 24 [meals], 24 [hours], 24 [posts].

So, I was super excited when I received an email saying that I was one of the chosen ones!

My proposal was to spend the afternoon preparing traditional Costa Rican food with my added flare. I shared this meal with my family and a few friends of ours (two who are " Ticas") in our 75-year-old farmhouse. Thus the title, Midwest Girl Meets Costa Rican Cuisine, was born.

Before I move on to the delicious food... let me share a little about the cuisine that I've learned to work with over the last year. Costa Rican cuisine isn't very unique or exciting. It consists of rice, beans, choice of grilled meat, fried plantains, pasta salad or coleslaw and is often referred to as "typical" or " casado", but with my personal touch... I've created "A-typical" Costa Rican food in our house.

Here in Costa Rica you find lots of small restaurants called "sodas" serving these dishes, but it is hard to actually find a soda serving GOOD"typical" food. Here's what a typical "casado" dish looks like:

Picture source:Wikipedi

For some of you that might look great, but for me... it's typical and after a few plates of beans and rice my taste buds are left wanting more. So, Friday I went to the market as usual and bought what I needed for this special meal. Come, let me show you around the feria (farmer's market) where we buy our fresh veggies and fruit.

We had a great time talking, laughing and eating the delicious food! I was very pleased with how well everything came out. Before serving the meal, I asked my tica amigas, Marielos and Gily (along with everybody else) to rate each dish on the scale of 1-5...

1-terrible, 2-okay, 3-good, 4-great, 5-que rico!

Marielos & Gily

... and share their comments about the food, its unique style and overall taste. After all, the Ticas know their cuisine and who would be better to judge my food then them? With no further ado I present you the A-typical Tico meal:

Aperitivos - Appetizers

For my appetizers, I chose two that are usually the favorites here in Costa Rica, Chorreadas & Ceviche. I like them too, but always thought they needed something to make it spark.

The Chorreadas are a regular in our house and I usually throw in fresh oregano and garlic cloves into the corn batter to make it more tasty. Here they just use fresh corn, milk and salt or honey... then top it with sour cream. We love it topped with bean paste, cortido (sauerkraut), chopped tomatoes, cilantro and sour cream. To make it more like an appetizer and less like a meal, I made them smaller... "mini-chorreadas".

It was my first time making the Ceviche and it tasted just the way I imagined it would if I added mangos. I found a great recipe in my Nourishing Traditions book, but instead of adding tomatoes... I added mangos. I also used red bell peppers instead of chiles and it was a nice sweet touch. It was light, delicious and you could taste everything without the lime overpowering. I will be making this more regularly now that I know how to make it!

Chorreadas conAcompañamientos
[Corn Pancakes with Toppings]

Ceviche de Pescado con Mango
[Latin American Raw Fish Salad with Mango]

  • 1 pound sea bass, white fish fillets (that's what I used) or mackerel
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp. whey (optional)
  • 1 large ripe, but firm mango
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small sweet red pepper
  • 2-4 Tbsp. cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (optional)
  • sea salt
  • limes, cut into wedges

Cut fish into 1/2 inch cubes. Mix with lime juice and optional whey in a bowl. Marinate in the fridge for 12 to 36 hours, stirring occasionally, until fish becomes opaque or "cooked". Remove from marinade with a slotted spoon. Mix with mango, onion, pepper, olive oil, cilantro, optional lime juice and marinate for another hour in fridge. Season to taste. Serve with lime wedges.


Gily: All the toppings for the Chorreadas were excellent. I really like the sauerkraut (Cortido). The Ceviche was different from the Tico one we usually have; Great! I would just cut the fish up in smaller pieces, but it was great!

Marielos: My favorite was the Ceviche, the best I ever had. I could eat the whole bowl! It did not have an excessive lime or onion flavor like the Tico-style ceviche. The key was changing out the lime juice; it made the flavor lighter and I could eat more! Que rico!

Brooke (my Mommo): Sauerkraut is excellant and I don't usually like it very much. Would've liked cheese with my Chorreadas. Ceviche is que rico!

Casado - Main Course

For the meat, I chose to do Chicken Kabobs with tamarind glaze because here they don't generally spice up their meats and the meat cuts are simple. We've grown to love grilled pineapple and mango on the grill with our kabobs, so I thought it would be a good meat choice. I found several different recipes for Tamarind Glaze online, but didn't find what I wanted... so I made my own. I've never made a tamarind sauce before and instantly fell in love with the tart flavor after spicing it up. It really added up nicely with the pineapple and mango.

A "casado" meal generally serves the rice and beans separate, but I wanted to do the Gallo Pinto ( or gallopinto ). Now, let me share a little bit about the Gallo Pinto... it literally means "Mottled Rooster" and it is the national dish of Costa Rica ( and Nicaragua, who uses red beans ). When the beans and rice are combined, the rice is colored by the beans and it results in specked appearance that resembles the roosters here in CR.

Fuego - My Mottled Rooster

I enjoy the gallo pinto traditionally made here, but felt that it lacked something. Then the idea of cooking it in coconut milk came in after looking at a Caribbean-style rice and beans recipe in my Nourishing Traditions cookbook. I also threw in some cayenne peppers to give it a light spicy kick. Costa Ricans don't usually like their food spicy, but I just had to do it for the flavor and spice. It was delicious! I really love this style of gallo pinto because the sweetness of the coconut milk and the spiciness of the cayenne. I didn't know this, but my friends shared with me that on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, they sometimes use coconut milk in the gallo pinto too.

For the side dishes, I chose to do a simple coleslaw, but spiced it up with my lacto-fermented Ginger Carrots. It was yummy! I threw in raisins and sunflower seeds to give it some crunch and flavor. In Costa Rica they use mayonnaise in their coleslaw, but I tossed it in olive oil, raw apple cider vinegar & raw honey.

Instead of the usual fried plantain that is always served on the side, I did Glazed Pejibayes ( Peach-palms or Pewa ). I've never made this before and it was a perfect fit for the meal... lightly sweet and great flavor and this was my daughter Naomi's favorite :o) I learned that Peach-palms are very nutritional and loaded with fiber. The flavor is somewhat difficult to describe, but some say it's a combination of chestnut and pumpkin while others say it has little flavor. It comes in yellows, oranges, greens and reds... we like the reds the best. It is traditionally served with mayonnaise because it can be dry and fibrous.

Chuzos de Pollo Tropical
[Tropical Chicken Kabobs]

  • Chicken breast, cut into pieces
  • Pineapple, cut into large pieces
  • Firm & slightly green mango, cut into large pieces
  • Sea salt and black pepper

Wash chicken and pat it dry with paper towels. Mix sea salt and black pepper into the chicken. Push chicken, pineapple and mango on bamboo sticks or stainless steel kabob sticks.

Glaseado de Tamarindo
[Tamarind Glaze]

  • 1 cup Tamarind pulp with seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 8-10 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 Tbsp. Honey
  • 1 Tbsp. Dark molasses
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh ginger juice
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp. fresh black pepper
  • 1-3 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. red chili flakes

Stir water and tamarind pulp over medium high heat. Cook till the pulp and water mixes together and starts to lightly boil. Immediately pour into a coarse strainer and push the pulp through with a strong spatulet. Discard seeds. Mix the rest of the ingredients in and stir well. Adjust the sea salt to your taste. Keep in fridge till ready to use. Will stay good for up to a week or two in a sealed container in your fridge.

NOTE: You can use your garlic mincer to make the ginger juice OR if you have a juicer, then you are good to go :o)

Gallo Pinto con Leche de Coco
[Mottled Rooster Bean with Coconut Milk]

  • 1 cup black beans
  • warm water
  • 1 Tbsp. whey or lemon juice
  • 1 can (2 cups) coconut milk or 7 oz. creamed coconut
  • 1-2 cayenne peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, mashed
  • 2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup brown rice, soaked at least 7 hours
  • 1 sweet red pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium red onino, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • sea salt

Cover beans with warm water. Stir in whey or lemon juice (you can add 1 tsp. baking soda to eliminate the gas effects of beans) and leave 12-24 hours in a warm place.

The next day, drain and rinse beans really well and place in a pot. Add enough water to cover the beans, bring to a boil and skim off foam that rises (impurities). Let beans simmer for about two hours slightly covered with a lid and stir occasionally. Add remaining ingredients except rice (if using creamed coconut, stir till it is melted). Cover and simmer till beans are tender.

Drain and rinse rice. Add into the pot. Make sure the rice and beans are completely covered with liquid, if not... add enough water to cover the rice and beans about 1/2 inch. Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered until liquid has reduced to level of rice and beans. Cover and cook on lowest heat for about 30 mintues (or till cooked through).

Turn of heat and stir in pepper, onion and cilantro. Season to taste. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes with lid on to lightly cook the veggies.

Pejibayes Glaseados
[Glazed Peach-palms]

2 lbs. pejibayes
4-6 Tbsp. butter and/or coconut oil
1/2-3/4 cup coconut palm sugar
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp. grated lime zest

To cook pejibayes: Boil in salted water till soft... usually about 2 hours. Let it sit in the water till ready to use.

Peel and slice the pejibayes, removing the seeds. Lightly saute in hot butter or oil at medium heat. Add coconut palm sugar and ground ginger. Stir till until the pejibayes are glazed. Add lime zest and lightly stir.

Make the dish just before serving so they retain their color and luster.

Ensalada de Repollo con Gengibre y Zanahoria
[Ginger Carrot Coleslaw]

  • 1 small green cabbage
  • 1 small red cabbage
  • 1-2 cups lacto-fermented ginger carrots
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp. raw apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. raw honey (optional)

Finely slice the cabbages and toss with ginger carrots, raisins and sunflower seeds. In a seperate bowl, mix together olive oil, vinegar and honey. Pour over coleslaw and toss well till evenly coated.


Jon (my amazing Hubby): The kabobs were amazing, best I've ever had. The chicken was soft and juicy with the tamarind glaze and the fruit was bursting with flavor - especially the mango. I like gallo pinto, but today's was over-the-top good. It was light 'n creamy with a subtle kick of cayenne and I didn't have to add any sour cream. Que rico mi amor!

Brooke: Gallo pinto was amazing and the chicken kabob had a great flavor! The Peach-palms were good, but not a big fan. The coleslaw needs a little more flavor.

Wayne (my Daddio): I enjoy Gallo Pinto here, but what I just had tonight was the best I've ever had. The Tamarind Glaze on the kabobs was delicious! Overall, the food and day was very good... Que rico!

Gily:Que rico! The gallo pinto was unique. The coconut flavor was light and the gallo pinto from the Caribbean usually has a very strong coconut flavor with more rice then beans. Mare did a wonderful job of using a hint of Caribbean flavor in the traditional gallo pinto and balancing the rice and beans. I love it!! The Pejibayes was very unique and great!

Marielos: I loved the Pejibayes! I never thought of them as a dessert. We (Ticos) only eat them with mayonnaise and a cup of coffee. Mare's were great... not too sweet.

Postre - Dessert

Of course, a Costa Rican meal wouldn't be complete without the plantains! I found this yummy dish in my Nourishing Traditions cookbook when we first moved here and made this once in a while when we all had a hankering for plantains. The best kind of plantains to buy are the ones that look almost ready to be thrown out... black and very soft. They are the sweetest at that stage. Unfortunely, I could not find black ones at the feria while shopping on Friday. So, I was stuck with some plaintains that were still yellow with some black around it. This wasn't my best... I've made it better, but it was still really yummy.

I also made homemade coconut ice cream using FRESH coconut and water. I found this recipe in a raw food cookbook and was excited about it. I've been trying different ways of making coconut ice cream, but haven't found the one that I would claim to be perfect. I decided to give this recipe a try with a couple changes. The results: Flavor was perfect, but the texture needed to be creamier and less grainy. Fresh out of the ice cream maker, it was delicious and almost perfect! But after sitting in the freezer overnight it became hard and less creamy. So, I am still searching/experimenting on the perfect combination. Overall, the dessert was very yummy, but admittedly not my best.

Platanos Maduros en Salsa de Naranja y Miel
[Fried Plantains Soaked in Honey Orange Sauce]

5-8 very ripe large plantain bananas
olive oil or coconut oil
2 cups fresh orange juice
1/3 cup raw honey
3 tsp. cinnamon

Peel bananas and cut lengthwise. Saute in batches in oil, transferring to an oblong pyrex dish when lightly browned.

Mix together orange juice, honey and cinnamon. Pour over the bananas and bake at 300 degrees for about 15 minutes. Serve in bowls with ice cream or cream on top.

Helado de Coco Hecho en Casa
[Homemade Coconut Ice Cream]

1 whole coconut
3/4 cup milk (if needed)
1/3-1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
1 tsp. lime or lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. sea salt

Crack open the coconut, save the water and dig out the meat. Put meat and water in a Vita-Mix or strong high-speed blender with everything else, puree until smooth. Chill completely in fridge and then process in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions.

If you don't have a maker. Pour mixture into a plastic sealed container and freeze. Let it sit on counter to thaw a little and put it back in your blender for a creamy soft serve-style ice cream.


Marielos: I loved the ice cream''s light flavor, but I'd like it better if it were creamier. I like the plantains more with less honey orange sauce and not as dry (more "creamy").

Jon: Plantains were very good, but not the best. Ice cream had a delicious flavor, but it was very grainy. Needs to to be creamier to satisfy.

Wayne: Loved the flavors, but the ice cream was missing the creamy texture and the plantains needed to be more ripe.

24, 24, 24 Meal Scores

1-terrible, 2-ok, 3-good, 4-great, 5- que rico!
  • Gily - Ceviche: 4 / Chorreadas: 5 / Main Course: 5 / Dessert: 4
  • Marielos - Ceviche: 5++ / Chorreadas: 4 / Main Course: 5 (Gallo 5, Chi 5, Slaw 3, Peji 5+) / Dessert: 4+
  • Jon - Ceviche: 4 / Chorreadas: 4 / Main Course: 4.25 (Gallo 5, Chi 5, Peji 4, Slaw 3) / Dessert: 3.5 (Coco 3, Plant 4)
  • Brooke - Ceviche: 5+ / Chorreadas: 4 (like it with cheese) / Main Course: 5 (slaw needs more flavor) / Dessert: 5 (Coco 4, Plant 5)
  • Wayne - Ceviche: 4 / Chorreadas: 5 / Main Course: 5 / Dessert: 4
  • Gary - Main Course: 5 (He couldn't eat some of the food due to food allergies)

Whew! It was a busy, but really fun day and we were all happily stuffed. In CR, Ticos say "Mi panza llena corazon contento." This phrase means, "my stomach is full and my heart is happy."

Gily was so cute, she asked if I would want to open my own soda and serve my unique style of Costa Rican food. Hmm, you never know... Buen Provecho!

Gallo Pinto on Foodista

Tabitha: Future Foodie Girl!
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