The Boquete Gourmet | A Panama gourmet's elevated perspective

Simplify, Sparkle and Shop

Every gourmet prides themselves on having a kitchen that reflects their love of cooking and is worthy of their culinary skills. If you have simplified your kitchen and seriously de-cluttered […]

Six Steps to a “Sexy” Salad

It was astonishing when I Googled “sexy salad” and found dozens of recipes to make salads that are not only new and unique, but actually “sexy”. Food icon, Jamie Oliver […]

Come to a Long Italian Lunch

Everyone wants to know what is a Long Italian Lunch. It’s an Old World tradition of enjoying good food with friends and family. In Italy, it is common to have […]
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Dorado Fresh from the Sea

Published on April 25th, 2013no comments

On a clear day, I can see the Pacific Ocean from my kitchen window. Boquete is about an hour and a half from Pedregal, where local fishermen haul in some of the finest seafood found anywhere in the world. On any given day, they pull in huge catches of shrimp, land giant dorado and hook enormous yellow-fin tuna.

Our friend Dan owns a fishing resort near Puerto Armuelles, and the fish caught off this peninsula in Western Panama are simply amazing. Fishermen come from all over the world to fish at “Hooked on Panama”, and for good reason. These guys know how to fish!

Unfortunately, neither David nor I are fishermen, and it’s a far distance to drive to get Dan’s freshly-caught fish very often. If you’d like to go fishing with Dan, see his website at http://www.hookedonpanama.com/.

Much to our surprise, friends Walter and Chris invited Miguel to deliver fresh fish to our house as soon as he was in our El Santuario neighborhood, high above Boquete. You can imagine our surprise when Miguel’s red truck pulled into our driveway loaded with fresh dorado, just ready to be filleted. He showed us his technique of removing the fish from the bones and skin. It looked so easy, but Miguel has been a fish monger around Boquete for many years.

It took us awhile to decide how to prepare this beautiful fillet as we love fresh fish prepared about any way possible. I could bake it, barbecue it or poach it in lemon juice. It was so fresh, I could have made ceviche.

David suggested using our Calphalon grill pan on our gas stove-top, which turned out to be fast and beautiful. I sprayed the pan with Pam and got it hot and smoky before laying on the filets, flesh side down. After a minute, I rotated them half around and cooked them until they were almost done. The last step was to turn them over, sear the skin about one minute and they were ready to serve.

I boiled some fusilli pasta and made fresh pesto sauce in my blender. Dinner was ready to serve, as I added fresh sliced tomatoes topped with Italian dressing.

It’s wonderful to live in Boquete, you never know what new experience may come your way. Because Boquete is so near to the Pacific Ocean, fresh fish are brought up to our markets almost every day. Look for Miguel in his red truck.

No matter where you get your fresh ocean fish, be ready with a simple recipe that will produce a fast, fresh fish dinner in a matter of minutes. You may top off your dinner with a box of reasonable Chilean white wine from Clos de Pirque vineyards.

Very chic! Cora

Upscale Newspaper features Boquete Gourmet

Published on January 14th, 2013no comments

This is the time I’ve been waiting for – a chance to share some “foodie” ideas and events with you in a different format, a regular column in the new and exciting El Bajareque newspaper.

Since blogging for several years as BoqueteGourmet.com, I’ve been concentrating on my kitchen, on hosting professional chefs from all over the world, and on presenting dishes that amaze guests. “What’s your secret to becoming a gourmet?”, I’m often asked. My readers’ enthusiasm to learn new and innovative cooking techniques has inspired me to explore what is happening in this ever-changing field of “gourmet food”, and to share it in a different and informative media.

To see the complete El Bajareque, click here. You’ll find many interesting articles about living in Panama, and particularly about living in the highlands of Chiriqui, the home province of Boquete.

To begin my newspaper career, I looked at my kitchen and thought about how it manages to get rave reviews by everyone who visits it. My cocina is unique in that Boquete Gourmet hosts chefs who present cooking events, so it’s constantly busy. I’ll be suggesting ways to build and maintain a cheery, friendly and efficient space that would beckon anyone to prepare delicious, healthy and beautiful meals with the least amount of work.

The photo below shows the set-up for a cooking event I recently hosted. The counters are filled with fresh ingredients ready to use in tasty dishes to be prepared by our guest chef during the event. Most kitchens won’t have such a busy schedule as mine. It should be fairly easy to make your space more beautiful, and to work more efficiently for you and your gourmet cooking style.

The first tips listed in El Bajareque were to de-clutter your kitchen, to upgrade it, and to stock it with ingredients most frequently used by the home cook. Actually, I began with how my Boquete Gourmet kitchen was created. Everyone who has ever worked in my food prep area remembers how open and filled with light it is. They remember what fun it was to use lovely utensils, how every ingredient was prepared and assembled, and how beautifully each dish was presented.

One of my first projects was to de-clutter the entire kitchen, so it looked like a blank stage. I found or made a place for everything and put everything away. Then, I took down my curtains and painted an attractive mural on the wall that could be seen through the window. Many Boquete cocinas have lovely views, so tying back the curtains would be all that would be necessary to brighten up the space.

These two steps sound easy. There must be a place for everything, which will take some thought and planning, and there must be lots of light, even if it takes installing more light fixtures. The photo above shows you how my kitchen was when I wrote my first column for El Bajareque.

When seeing the first photo I knew I had to clear off my counter tops and put things away once again. More drawer inserts were added, David built extra shelving and spice racks in cupboards, and he installed tool and towel bars to make a place for everything. Then, everything was put in its place, and what a difference it made. The stage is ready for action once more, a gourmet meal is about to be created.

Many readers really like the photo with my counters awash with fresh produce, utensils and all the accouterments of a working kitchen. That’s the way it should look after accomplishing mise en place for your upcoming meal. Then, it’s time to de-clutter and make your space new again.

Which kitchen appearance do you like best?

To read more about upgrading and stocking your kitchen, pick up a copy of the recent El Bajareque at local stores and look for my column. I’ll include tips for kitchen upgrades and stocking your shelves, as well as ideas for planning, preparing and serving gourmet meals your family and friends will enjoy, whether you’re in Boquete or anywhere in the world.
Keep in touch,
Cora

Classic French Baguettes

Published on January 7th, 2013no comments

This is my kind of guy, a typical fellow who loves fine French baguettes and a big glass of rich, full-bodied merlot wine. I couldn’t resist borrowing this image from Yahoo images to include in this blog. There was no credit given to the photographer for taking this photo, but it portrays the exact image that comes to mind when I hear the word “baguette”.

Last summer, David and I took our grand daughter, Dorothy, to France and she fell in love with Paris. While trying to remember what it was that made such an impression on Dorothy during her visit, I think it was the French breads she tasted for the first time. Breads like baguettes, croissants and brioche. Our hotel was situated high above a French bakery, and the aromas drifted up to our room early each morning. It was magnificent!

The first thing we did each morning was to jump into our clothes, descend the 4 flights of stairs that led to the side door of the bakery, and to slip in for our first cup of coffee and one of the warm, crispy buns or breads that had just come from the oven. While basking in the ambiance that could only be found in a small neighborhood bakery in the 14th arrondissement of Paris, we planned our day. We decided which museum we wanted to visit first and where we hoped to have lunch.

The taste and crispiness of a real baguette is a treat to experience. These baguettes were made by local baker, Mort Rabkin, using a recipe he developed over the years he has lived in Boquete. Mort begins by making a “poolish”, or yeast slury It sounds like

On Thursday, January 17, beginning at 10am, artisan baker Mort Rabkin will share his methods for making authentic French baguettes at his workshop in Boquete. This will be a chance to practice basic bread-making skills, from measuring and kneading to forming loaves and baking in Mort’s outdoor clay oven. Learn to vary your ingredients to create “artsy” breads using one classic recipe. A classic French lunch will be served, including French cheeses and wines.

Please go to the calendar at the right, click Jan. 17 to register.
See you there!
Cora

FOR SALE – My “Favorite” Kitchen

Published on October 27th, 2012one comment


Ten years ago, David and I bought the cutest little house with the most beautiful view in all of Boquete. It was located in one of the best neighborhoods with big, well-kept homes, paved streets, a country club, and all the amenities anyone could hope for in a vacation home in Boquete, Panama. The view of the volcano and lush, manicured gardens made this home irresistible.

We only saw the interior through the windows, as the Realtor didn’t have the keys at the time. We could see it was sparsely furnished, and I could see the cutest island kitchen I’d seen in years.

The instant I saw inside the house, I knew this would be my “favorite” kitchen of all time. It was perfect for my life-long hobby of gourmet cooking, and the tiled walls were orange! The cabinets were made of cedar and the island was surrounded with hand-made stools made of teak. This was the perfect kitchen for entertaining.

The 5-burner gas range is made by Bompani and it has a mirrored oven door. I always hoped to be able to cook with gas some day, and to have a burner just for pasta or soup was an extra bonus. Look carefully, and you can see the cabinet pulls are knives, forks and spoons, how perfect for any cook looking for inspiration!

After receiving our title to the property, we visited Boquete time and time again. Before we realized it, we were spending more time in Boquete and I was spending more time in my beautiful kitchen then anywhere else in the world. I use “favorite” because this was my first real “gourmet” kitchen, and one that was more than just a kitchen. It became the center for learning a whole new culture, experimenting with new cuisine, and entertaining new friends.

We couldn’t resist the cool air, clear skies and fresh, wholesome life style this gorgeous picturesque mountain town had to offer. Everyone in Boquete was so friendly to us, prices seemed reasonable for everything. Gasoline was $2.50 a gallon and beer was 25 cents a bottle. Boquete seemed to be open to new development, crying for clean, paved streets, paint on buildings, and good restaurants. This was “our town”!

This last photo shows the view taken from my “favorite” kitchen window. David is sitting on the natural wood bench overlooking the canyon and volcano, watching the clouds roll by. At the time we purchased our little home, we couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. At least that’s what I thought until we found our current home north of Boquete, with a larger kitchen.

It was with sadness and a bit of regret that we decided to sell the little home with my “favorite” kitchen in order to gain space for what was ahead for us.

Now 8 years later, our first Boqute home, along with its’ stunning views, gardens, and my ‘favorite” little kitchen is once again FOR SALE. Any gourmet cook would love this small, gorgeous, 2 bedroom, 2 bath home with all the amenities you would expect in a fine retirement or vacation home. If you’d like more information about this property or if you’d like to see it for yourself, please let me know.

I have the key!
Cora

Slice Up Your Own Corned Beef

Published on October 23rd, 2012no comments

People ask me often what I do with all my free time in Boquete, and my answer is always the same. I get involved with things I love, like hiking, traveling, cooking and entertaining. An upcoming party got me thinking about serving something special to lots of guests and corned beef came to mind. Why not try to make my own corned beef?

We are fortunate to have some of the best beef available right here in Boquete, but the challenge is to know how to prepare it in ways different than simply grilling or roasting. If you love corned beef sandwiches, corned beef hash, or corned beef and cabbage, now’s the time to get started making your very own tender and delicious salt-cured beef.

To begin, I bought a large beef brisket (pulpa blanca) at our local supermarket. At only $2.45 per pound, I got the biggest, thickest piece available. Then, I proceeded to make the best corned beef I’ve ever tasted!

CORNED BEEF BRINE

1 quart water
1 cup salt
1/4 cup white vinegar
4 tablespoons sugar
3 bay leaves
4 cloves of fresh garlic, cleaned and sliced
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon each: ground cloves, ground allspice and dried mustard

Combine the brine ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil. Cool the brine to room temperature. In a large, zip-lock bag, (do NOT use a garbage/grocery bag) place the beef brisket and the cooled brine. Lay the bag flat in a large pan, like my white oval Corningware or a glass lasagna pan, and refrigerate for 6 to 7 days. Turn the bag over every day.

When ready to cook, remove brisket from the bag and discard the brine. Rinse the meat thoroughly in clear water and place in a Dutch oven or other large pot. Add just enough water to cover the meat. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam. Cover and reduce the heat to a low simmer. Cook for at least 4 hours, or until fork tender. If you like your corned beef less salty, change the simmering water to fresh water after 2 hours. You may also cook in your pressure cooker or crock-pot following maker’s directions.

Your own corned beef will now be ready to slice thinly and pile high on freshly baked rye bread, served with a pile of sauerkraut or cole slaw, and a dash brown mustard on the side.

My personal favorite!
Cora

Julie’s Amazing Hand-crafted Foccacia

Published on October 6th, 2012no comments

The Boquete Gourmet has hosted many esteemed chefs over the past few years, and master baker Mort Rabkin has presented his distinctive techniques to over 35 classes. I call Mort a “master” baker because not only does he teach techniques of making true artisan breads, but he instills a sense of confidence in each student that allows them to reproduce Mort’s delicious breads in their own homes, using their own ovens.

Julie is a great example of how, after taking only one of Mort’s classes, she duplicated the ingredients and techniques in her Florida kitchen to make a gorgeous and tasty focaccia any experienced baker could hope to create. It looks like Julie used kalamata olives, big chunks of mozzarella cheese and lots of fresh herbs in her signature loaf. I’m sure her family was thrilled to be able to feast upon Julie’s hot, freshly-baked focaccia, the first loaf she ever made at home.

Mort and I often ask former students to send in their bread-baking experiences after having studied and actually mixed, kneaded, formed and baked dough in one of Mort’s classes. The response has been incredible, as you can see by the photos herein. See Barney’s French bread, Lillian’s festive Holiday Wreath, and Nancy’s luscious-looking Peperoni, Garlic and Onion pizza.

Each one of these doughs are made of different ingredients, but 4 of them are always the same. Do you know which ingredients appear in every one of these recipes?

As Mort points out, the combination of these 4 ingredients in various amounts, plus any number of other items added at different times by different techniques, is what makes the fascinating field of breads and bread-making so intriguing. Once the student becomes familiar with Mort’s techniques, the entire field of creating your own style doughs to make unlimited varieties of breads opens up.

Keep watching this website for more opportunities to participate in one or more of Mort’s upcoming artisan bread classes, including a new weekend series for those who are “serous” about learning to perfect their bread-making skills. If you haven’t guessed which ingredients were used in each of these four recipes, they are flour, yeast, water, and salt.

Keep those photos coming,
Cora

Garnish with a Rose

Published on June 8th, 2012no comments


While in Vietnam last month, David and I took a cooking class to learn more about Vietnamese cuisine. As the days progressed, we ended up taking three more classes, they were so unusual and interesting. We really took a liking to Southern Vietnamese cooking and because we weren’t buying gifts this trip, we decided the experiences would be worth the higher-than-expected fees charged.

The first class we attended was at the famous Saigon Culinary Art Center in Ho Chi Minh City. In three short hours, Chef Mai taught the history of Vietnamese cuisine, how to prepare three basic, classical dishes, as well as how to present each dish with typical Vietnamese flare.

How to create the “flare” was the first lesson. Chef Mai demonstrated how to construct a Tomato Rose to be used as a garnish on one of the dishes just before the class sat down to enjoy our creations. This project was the perfect beginning to this most unusual cooking experience, as it got everyone involved making their own rose.

Much to my surprise, the rose was very easy to make. I began at the top of the tomato and carefully peeled the skin off the tomato in circular cuts. It reminded me of watching my Grandmother peel an apple leaving the skin in one long ribbon. It was easy to do the first time I tried, and no student broke their skin. We were all trying to make the perfect rose, and not to laugh so much while cutting that we would break the ribbons.

Then, we simply rolled up the skin in a circular motion to form our roses. It’s not necessary to join the skin in any way, it just sits up by itself! You should try it before you prepare your next meal, they’re so beautiful when added to most any dish! I garnished my freshly-made Spring Rolls with my lovely rose.

At the end of class, each student was presented with a “Certificate of Excellence” from the cooking school, which was a nice surprise.

This class was only the beginning of our learning experiences in Vietnam. We attended the Family Home Cooking School and Red Bridge Cooking School in Hoi An, and a very interesting “Eggroll Making” class aboard the luxury Halong Phoenix Cruiser while we sailed among the towering rocks in lovely Halong Bay, just north of Hanoi.

I have lots of stories to tell about how cooking classes happen in Vietnam, so please check back often.
Cora

Boquete Loves Pizza

Published on May 27th, 2012one comment

It’s easy to say that Boquete loves pizza, as anyone can see by the number of pizzerias located here. Actually, most restaurants in Boquete serve pizza of various degrees of perfection. Thanks to Brother’s Pizzeria in Nashville for this gorgeous photo of the loving pizza they made for Valentine’s Day this year.

Pizza has been loved throughout the world for 3,000 years and according to Wikipedia, it was actually the Greeks who first developed what we call pizza today. I disagree with that account, because the Greeks used pita as their crust, a very different bread dough than pizza dough. Greeks didn’t use tomato sauce on their “pizzas”, only herbs, onion and garlic.

The innovation that turned flat bread into what we call pizza was the use of tomato sauce as a topping. By the late 18th century, it was common for the poor residents around Naples, Italy to add tomato sauce to their yeast-based flat bread, and so the pizza was born.

The dish gained in popularity, and soon pizza became a tourist attraction as visitors came to Naples just to try this local specialty.

You may know that a pizza “purist” considers there to be only two true pizzas — the Marinara and the Margherita — and they are still preferred by many Italians today.

The Marinara-style is topped with tomato sauce, oregano, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. It is named “Marinara” because it was the food prepared by “la marinara”, the seaman’s wife, for her seafaring husband when he returned from fishing trips in the Bay of Naples.

The Margherita, topped with modest amounts of tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil is widely attributed to “Pizzeria Brandi.” In 1889, three different pizzas were served there to Queen Margherita of Savoy. The Queen’s favorite was a pizza evoking the colors of the Italian flag — green (basil leaves), white (mozzarella), and red (tomatoes). This combination was named Pizza Margherita in her honor.

The “True Neapolitan Pizza Association”, which was founded in 1984 only recognizes the Marinara and Margherita pizzas, set very specific rules that must be followed for an authentic Neapolitan pizza. These require that the pizza must be baked in a wood-fired oven at 900°F for no more than 60 to 90 seconds, that the base must be hand-kneaded and must not be rolled with a pin or prepared by any mechanical means, and that the pizza must not exceed 13.8 inches in diameter or be more than one-tenth of an inch thick at the center. The association also selects pizzerias all around the world to produce and spread their pizza philosophy and methods. If anyone knows a member of this association anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, please let me know.

Does this philosophy apply to any of Boquete’s pizza lovers? We’ll soon find out when Boquete’s first “Pizza School” convenes next month.

On Thursdays, June 14 and 21, Artisan Baker known locally as “The Rye Guy”, Mort Rabkin will bring together residents and visitors of Boquete to learn how to make a classic Italian pizza crust, tomato sauce using local ingredients, toppings and embellishments to make pizza the way we love to eat pizza in Boquete.

Each pizza made in this hands-on class will be a creation of the students themselves, and each baker will add their own special flavors to create a pie exactly to their taste, whether duplicating classic Italian style or not. We are fortunate to have locally-made mozzarella to add to this authentic Italian dish, a real benefit to being in the Highlands of Chiriqui, Panama.

I doubt if any pizza made during Mort’s class will be only Marinara or Margharita, because the style and flavors available in Boquete are endless. Each baker will be able to include any ingredient they can imagine, the possibilities are mind-boggling.

This is one of my favorite “Combination” style pizzas, complete with Italian sausage, onions, green peppers, black olives and anchovies. No pineapple for me.

Seats for Mort’s enjoyable “Pizza School” are available now for this very special event that includes the class instruction, gourmet lunch with beer and wine, Mort’s recipes for classic pizza dough and sauces, gifts for the kitchen and enough dough made by participants to take home to make another pizza in their conventional oven.

See the calendar at the right and click the date most convenient for you.
We’ll see you there!
Cora

Bhutan’s Red Rice

Published on December 8th, 2011no comments

The Kingdom of Bhutan is a small country located high in the magnificent Himalaya Mountains of Asia, between India and Tibet. David and I were lucky enough to be able to visit Bhutan last month, and to experience much of the local customs and traditions. We traveled with our good Boquete friends, Roger and Margaret Pentecost, who love to explore new places all over the world, and Bhutan is just such a “new” place.

We had heard much about this tiny isolated country over the past few years, because the borders were not opened to tourists until 1980, and very few visitors are admitted each year. The main reason visitors are so few and far between is due to the exorbitant “tourist tariff” imposed on every “outsider” who crossed its borders. By exorbitant, I mean $250.00 per day, per person! The purpose of such a tariff is to limit influences from the outside world on Bhutan’s rich cultural heritage, and to maintain a high level of “Gross National Happiness” which is most important to Bhutan’s people. They love the many festivals performed across the country, with dancers dancing for hours in colorful and elaborate costumes, as you can see above.

I believe one reason Bhutanese people are so happy is due to the simple, healthy cuisine that is so plentiful throughout the country. Their diet consists mostly of rice, potatoes, buckwheat pasta, and vegetables, with small amounts of chicken and cheese sometimes included. Our traveling companions, Margaret and Roger, are dishing up a typical dinner always served buffet or family-style in Bhutan. The second dish is red rice, next the curry with tiny bits of pork, and last, hot mixed vegetables with chopped ginger and garlic. Dessert was a small cookie or taste of ice cream.

During the week we visited Bhutan, the King Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun of Bhutan were married. There were festivals everywhere, and everyone was celebrating the royal wedding.

I’m sure the royal couple enjoyed red rice at their royal reception, it’s a daily dish in this very unusual country. I looked forward to having the red rice at almost every meal, it was my favorite Bhutanese dish, like comfort food to me.

BHUTANESE RED RICE

4 cups cooked long-grain rice
3 tablespoons butter
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
dash red pepper, or to taste

Put the rice on a baking sheet and refrigerate it, uncovered, for 8 to 24 hours, until it is dry enough for you to gently crumble in your hands. Midway through, turn the rice to ensure even drying. When ready to prepare the red rice, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add only 2 tablespoons of the butter. Once the frothing subsides, add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently for about 2 minutes, or until the garlic no longer smells raw and is turning brown. Add the rice and stir to combine. Add the tomato paste and stir to coat the rice and turn it red. Increase the heat slightly and cook, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes, until the rice is heated through.
Sprinkle in the salt and soy sauce, and stir to combine well. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and continue to gently fry the rice for another 1 to 2 minutes, to sear in the flavors. Remove from the heat, taste and add extra salt, if necessary. Transfer to a bowl and serve immediately.

The Bhutanese people live high in the Himalaya mountains, which protect them and seclude them from the rest of the world. They are industrious, self-sufficient and beautiful people. We couldn’t help but notice the many smiles that were turned our way.

Bhutan’s ancient traditions are still harmoniously blended into a simple culture with a simple cuisine. The strong Buddhist philosophy of the Bhutanese people helps to make living simply easy. Since visiting Bhutan, I’m wondering how high our “Gross National Happiness” is here in Boquete, Panama. From observing the action in our local market this morning, I’d say it very, very high, as well.

Cheers to the Royal Couple!
Cora

Lauretta’s Madras Curry Powder

Published on October 29th, 2011no comments

It was about 5pm in the afternoon when Lauretta fired up her skillet and began to dry-roast unfamiliar seeds and whole spices from around the world to make her special Madras Curry Powder from “scratch”. Indian cuisine is one of Chef Lauretta Bonfiglio’s favorite ethnic menus to prepare, and it takes lots of loving attention and care to blend the ingredients just to the right flavor she adores so much.

In order to achieve the perfect blend of curry powder, Lauretta gathered twelve very eager students together, along with David and me, for the “Exotic Flavors of India” Boquete Gourmet cooking class in my kitchen in El Santuario, Boquete.

Lauretta also gathered together 13 different spices of widely varying flavors, and she began to work. As you probably know, Curry Powder is a blend of many spices, it’s not just one spice. By the time Lauretta had completed the long, arduous task of measuring, roasting and grinding the Curry Powder to just the right flavor, students were busy “building” their own Madras Cocktails, and preparing classic Lentil Daal, Tomato Chutney, Kachumber Salad, Cucumber Raita, Pulao Rice, Chicken Curry, and Candied Ginger Ice Cream.

The highlight of the class, if you don’t consider the cocktails, was learning to make your own customized curry powder. As we discovered, the exact measurements of each ingredient can be varied according to your taste. This is how Lauretta combined her spices to make her favorite blend.

MADRAS CURRY POWDER

8 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
6 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seed
4 tablespoons ground cinnamon
8 tablespoons peppercorns
1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds or ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon whole cloves
2 tablespoons ground cardamom
2 tablespoons turmeric
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon cayenne (or less if less heat is desired)

In a dry skillet over very low heat, place the coriander, cumin, mustard, fenugreek, poppy seeds and fennel seeds. Roast the seeds gently, shaking the pan occasionally, until they begin to pop. When about half the seeds have popped, add the cinnamon, peppercorns, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, turmeric, ginger and cayenne. Continue to heat and stir gently until the mixture is quite hot but not burnt. Pour into a dry blender or food processor, or use a mortar and pestle. Grind into a fine powder. Pour into a clean, dry jar, seal, and let it cool before using.

For the class, Lauretta doubled the proportions and everyone took home a bag of freshly-roasted Madras Curry Powder, ready to use in any of the many classic or modern curry recipes of their choice.

The group ended the evening by plating and dining on the exotic flavors of Indian cuisine, washing it all down with glass after glass of fine wines from vineyards around the world. To cool everyone’s palate, the Candied Ginger Ice Cream was the perfect ending to this classic Indian dinner prepared and presented with an eye toward sharing our new skills with friends and families soon.

Thanks very much to Chef Lauretta for sharing her expertise with us and to Betty Dabney for capturing the action in photographs.

I recently returned from India with a fresh supply of many spices to use in my own custom blend of curry powder. If you’d like to buy any hard-to-locate spices, please let me know.

I like my curry hot!
Cora

Back-to-Back Underground Dining

Published on October 25th, 2011no comments

Boquete, Panama has a long-standing custom of dining underground once a month, sometimes twice a month. But, this month was a “first” with two successive dinners being held in two different locations, with two very talented, unique chefs preparing and serving two totally different menus to two separate groups of guests.

That being said, I’m not sure that has happened anywhere in Central America before, or for that matter, in any small town anywhere else in the world.

It all began with invitations being emailed to 30 fans of Boquete Gourmet, including a request to place reservations immediately upon receipt of the invite. Within only a few hours, the “Old House” dinner was filled with 24 seats reserved. Then, several other invitees responded with their request to attend the dinner as well. The location, chef and menu was unknown, and the dinner was completely sold out!

What could be done? I quickly added a second dinner at another location, with another chef, a new menu, you get the idea. The diners on the “waiting list” were given the opportunity to dine the night before the “Old House” dinner at a location not revealed.

The second dinner, “The Knight’s Dinner”, filled quickly! The clue was the word “knight”, which relates to a castle, and there was much anticipation about where the second dinner would be held. Nearly everyone invited to either Underground Dinner accepted their invitation with great delight, and waited patiently to discover what culinary delights were being prepared for them.

The day before the dinners, both locations were revealed to the 48 savvy, food-lovers; the “Old House” dinner with Executive Chef Danilo Moran, of Mrs. Monniche’s magnificant diningroom at Finca Lerida atop El Salto, and the “Knight’s” dinner with Chef Lauretta Bonfiglio, at Tom and Caroline Bot’s castle home, high above Boquete in El Santuario.

Both evenings were delightful, with each chef presenting their finest menus.
Chef Danilo’s entrees were Highland Trout or Braised Chicken Breast with Maracuya Sauce, and his dessert was Flan de Cafe’, made with the estate coffee espresso from Finca Lerida.

Chef Lauretta’s entrees were Roasted Pork Loin with Cardamom Sauce or Fillet Mignon with Orange Fennel Crust, and her dessert was Lemon Curd Cake with Whisky Cream.

Which dinner would you like to have enjoyed? How could anyone have predicted they would be spending such an evening in magnificent surroundings and dining on some of the finest cuisines in the world, right here in Boquete, Panama?

I attended both dinners and believe me, it was a “toss-up” as to which was more spectacular. with each having it’s own personality and style. You won’t want to miss any of Boquete’s Underground dinners, and if you’d like to request an invitation to an upcoming dinner, please write to boquetegourmet@gmail.com.

See you there!
Cora

Authentic Foccacia and Antipasto with Pickled Onions

Published on October 25th, 2011no comments

The word “authentic” means “authoritative, reliable, genuine, of undisputed origin” according to Funk & Wagnalls Dictionary, and this is exactly what Host Chef and Artisan Baker, Mort Rabkin offered his baking class recently in Boquete.

The Foccacia recipe took some work to make it exactly right for the weather conditions in Boquete, and Mort got it just right! It was fun to be invited to his home to “practice” his different Foccacia recipes. Each time the bread was baked, Mort used slightly different ingredients, he varied his timing, and he used an assortment of toppings. Finally, it was best Foccacia any of us have ever tasted!

When the Foccacia was perfected, we could plan the remainder of the class. Because there was time during the class to make two other authentic Italian dishes while the Foccacia was rising and baking, I decided the best accompaniments to a hot Foccacia were a fresh Antipasto, and for dessert, Zabaglione. Mort’s wife Barbara, topped the Zabaglione with her twice-baked Biscotti cookies, a real treat.

One of the toppings for the Antipasto would be Pickled Onion Rings, which was a new dish for everyone. The onions are easy to prepare and they cook in only 30 seconds. They’re perfect to serve with Antipasto to give it an interesting, unexpected tangy flavor. This Antipasto was served with black olives, a variety of cold meats and cheeses, freshly roasted red peppers and Green Olive Tapenade. You can see the Pickled Onions in the top dish, ready to be enjoyed along with this very colorful Antipasto.

Pickled Onion Rings

3/4 cup white vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 bay leaf
5 allspice berries
5 whole cloves
1 small, hot, jalapeno or chombo chile pepper, finely diced
1 large onion, peeled, and thinly sliced
In a small saucepan, heat the vinegar, sugar, seasonings and chile until boiling. Add the onion slices and simmer gently for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Transfer the onions and the liquid into a jar and refrigerate until ready to use.

Photographer, Betty Dabney couldn’t resist gathering everyone together for a “photo-op”. The Antipasto with toppings was beautifully arranged on a big platter, and the eight Foccacias were cut into sample-size pieces so everyone could try each of the breads. After lunch, the Zabaglione was ready to taste, the “icing on the cake” for everyone, made extra special with Barbara’s Biscotti. I’ll post the recipe for this luscious “authentic” Italian dessert soon.

Thanks to Betty for photos that captured Mort’s fun, educational and “tasty” class.

Don’t forget the Chianti!
Cora

Is Grilled Watermelon Hot?

Published on September 23rd, 2011no comments

The answer is YES, it’s served hot and it’s one of the newest, “hot” sensations to hit the culinary scene. Fine restaurants around the globe are beginning to serve tiny chunks of grilled watermelon on fancy, little plates and charging huge prices just to get a minuscule taste of this “hot”, food fad.

Author Kirsten of The Hungry Cow was lucky enough to be served an amuse bouche of grilled watermelon at Le Papillon Restaurant in the Red Dot Museum in Santa Clara, California. Can you imagine how much this little tidbit cost?

You can cut and arrange the grilled watermelon in lots of creative ways. Kirstin served her grilled watermelon salad stacked up, and she used mint as her garnish.  You could present your salad many, many ways.

How about making a salsa using grilled watermelon, tomatoes and chopped red onions?

Boquete Chef Dede Basden grilled watermelon at the Boquete Gourmet Cookbook Party recently, and it was a big hit.

I recently served watermelon as part of a skewer of fruit at Finca Lerida’s Underground Dinner and sprinkled it with real maple sugar. It was a huge hit, especially when it sat atop Executive Chef Danilo Moran’s mesclun greens served with 2 dressings. You’ll read more about Chef Danilo and his “Up-to-date Old House Dinner” in a post coming soon. Below is a photo of Finca Lerida’s Old House. Is that a watermelon patch in the foreground?
Thanks for the idea of grilling watermelon Dede, it is a most unusual, very trendy, and “hot” taste treat.
Try it!
Cora

Panamanian Bunuelos de Yucca

Published on September 19th, 2011no comments

On page 61 of the Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook, Chef Juan Linares shared his favorite recipe for Panamanian Bunuelos, made from yucca.  My first question was “What is yucca?” Then, “What is a bunuelo?”

Wikipedia gives the distribution range of Yucca, over 49 species, as covering vast areas of Central America, and it’s very plentiful in Panama.  Just from my experience in Boquete, the growing conditions are perfect here for yucca, subtropical, woodland, and mountainous.  Almost every market carries yucca and it only 29 cents per pound.

This vegetable isn’t very pretty, but when it’s peeled, boiled and shaped into a bunuelo, it’s quite lovely. Bunuelos are similar to beignets, the donuts for which New Orleans is so famous.
At our recent “Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook Party #2″, celebrating the 2nd printing of the cookbook, Chef Juan was one of 12 chefs who prepared and served their recipes to party-goers.

This is the recipe Chef Juan used to make the best yucca bunuelos you can imagine, and he served them with syrup made from block sugar, available in most Latin American markets.

Panamanian Bunuelos de Yucca

3 pounds yucca, peeled and cut into 1-inch slices
1 egg
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon anise seeds, crushed
3 cups dark brown sugar or blocks of panela cane sugar
1 cup water
7 whole cloves
Vegetable oil for frying

Cover the yucca with water and boil for 20 minutes, so it’s tender enough to grate but not too tender. Grate the yucca and add the egg, salt and crushed anise seeds. Knead and let rest. Meanwhile, make a syrup with the water, sugar and cloves and boil until it turns syrupy. Wet your hands and roll yucca dough into 1-inch balls. Fry them until golden brown, about 2 minutes, and drain on folded paper towels. Serve with warm syrup. Makes about 30 bunuelos.

If you’re looking for a fun activity to share with your dinner guests, get some yucca, prepare the dough ready for frying, and place it in the refrigerator. Make the syrup, but keep it at room temperature.

When dessert time is near, heat up the oil, ask guests if they’d like to help roll the balls, and fry away! Everyone will love them! You could also serve bunuelos dusted with powdered sugar or a mixture of cinnamon and sugar, my favorite topping.

Thanks Juan for sharing your recipe, and thanks Betty Dabney, for photographing Juan in action. After thinking about it, why not “eat dessert first”?
Cora

What Color is Mulligatawny Soup?

Published on September 2nd, 2011no comments

I’ve heard of Mulligan Stew, with it’s mixture of whatever was available at the time, sometimes beef, potatoes, left-over vegetables. But, Indian Mulligatawny Soup is new to me.

One of my favorite cookbooks is Betty Crocker’s “New International Cookbook”, which was updated several years ago to include nutritional information. I keep a copy of the book on my shelf for easy reference, it’s full of authentic dishes from 81 different regional cuisines, each with well-tested, easy-to-follow recipes.

Betty includes a recipe in that book for this most unusual, misunderstood and controversial dish. Yes, as I began to research this traditional Indian dish for the Boquete Gourmet upcoming “Exotic Flavors of India” cooking class, I was surprised at what I discovered.

I found the flavor, texture and color are very different in EVERY SINGLE RECIPE I found! It seems impossible for Host Executive Chef, Lauretta Bonfiglio to include any Mulligatawny Soup recipe in her upcoming cooking class. It would be just too complicated to explain how to make this “authentic” dish. It would be controversial, and it might be “off-color”.

Consider a thick yellow Mulligatawny soup shown in the top photo, with lots of yellow saffron, celery, butter, and curry powder cr.

Or, think about the creamy red Mulligatawny soup with tomatoes and red peppers found here.

I even found the smooth green Mulligatawny soup pictured below.  It is made with eggplant and other green ingredients.

Each of these recipes and photo credits can be found by clicking the color of each soup.

After all that research, I really like Betty Crocker’s recipe for “an Indian spice-filled soup adapted to British tastes in the days of colonial strength”.

Indian Mulligatawny Soup

2 1/2 – 3 pound fryer chicken, cut up
4 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon curry powder (homemade, if possible)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon each ground cloves and ground mace
2 medium onions, minced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 medium carrot, sliced
1 apple, chopped
1 medium green pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
Parsley for garnish

Heat the first 6 ingredients in a Dutch oven, cover and simmer until chicken is done, about 45 minutes. Remove the chicken and broth from Dutch oven and add enough water to the broth to make 4 cups. Remove bones and skin from chicken and cut into pieces. Cook and stir onions in butter in the Dutch oven until tender. Remove from heat and stir in flour. Gradually stir in broth, then add chicken, apple, green pepper and tomatoes. Heat to boiling and reduce heat. Cover and simmer until carrot is tender, about 10 minutes. Serve in shallow soup bowls and garnish with parsley.

Would you like to guess the color of Betty Crocker’s recipe? Try it and you may be surprised.

To help make the soup turn out to be the color you would like it to be, you can use your own blended curry powder you make in Chef Lauretta’s upcoming “Exotic Flavors of India” cooking class. See details about the class on the calendar at the right. Click September 22.

Hope to see you there!

Cora

The Rye Guy

Published on August 28th, 2011no comments

Boquete Gourmet Host Chef and Artisan Baker, Mort Rabkin has made a big name for himself among rustic bakers all over the world. First, Mort loves to bake, which is truly a passion with him. Folks from Ohio to Panama know of his love of baking, the attention he pays to details, and his passion for sharing his knowledge with others.

Mort has presented eighteen classes in bread-making in the Boquete Gourmet Host Chef Program, more than any other Host Chef. He has taught bakers how to make sourdough from scratch to use in French breads, pancakes, bagels and foccacia. Mort enjoyed sharing his holiday bread recipes, including challah and festive fruit breads.

Since his arrival in Boquete almost 3 years ago, Mort designed and, with the help of his wife Barbara and many friends, built a wood-fired clay oven behind his riverside home. Ever since completing the oven, Mort’s passion has been fueled for his newly-found “avocation”, baking rustic rye and sourdough breads.

The building and refining of Mort’s oven wasn’t easy in Boquete, as not many locals had ever heard of such an oven. To see actual photos of the building procedure, you may click here.

The oven took many weeks to complete.  A design had to be developed, construction materials assembled, builders hired and supervised throughout the entire procedure. Mort had to  dry the bricks, clay and mortar. After that, it took quite awhile to warm up and “season” the oven so it could be used to get consistent results.

Before he could even think about teaching, Mort had to perfect his recipes so he could produce the most delicious, crunchy and authentic artistic breads possible in Panama, especially at high altitudes. It took many weeks to develop the exact loaf of bread that Mort had been dreaming of baking.

Finally, Mort was really enjoying his new-found avocation, making authentic rustic rye and sourdough breads and teaching others how he does it. Some of Mort’s fellow bakers are helping to check the progress of their newly-created breads. Aren’t they loving it?

Doesn’t this loaf of Mort’s warm rye bread look like the best bread you have every tasted? All you need to add is a slice of tender ham, Manchego cheese and a little Dijon mustard, and nothing could be better!
If you’d like to get a loaf of Mort’s freshly baked bread or to learn about other breads Mort bakes, visit his website at www.theryeguy.com.  If you’re interested to learn how to make another of Mort’s favorite breads, traditional French baguettes, click November 17 on the calendar at the above right for information about Mort’s next class.  You’ll learn how to make baguettes using the classic “wet” method.

Thanks to Mort, Boquete residents are able to enjoy authentic rustic breads, and we’re learning how to create amazing breads at home in our own ovens.  Above all – everyone is HAVING A GOOD TIME doing it.

Come join the fun!
Cora

Bake a Short Cake

Published on August 19th, 2011no comments

Short cakes are not shortcakes, like I used to eat as a child, dripping with mashed strawberries and whipped cream. No, I’m talking about the new craze to serve a small portion of a short, rich cake after a fine, gourmet dinner. Of course, I would serve it with a steaming cup of delicious Boquete coffee!

I just baked a short chocolate cake in a nine-inch round cake pan and frosted it with peanut butter icing. It was easy to make, and everyone really loved the familiar flavors.

Over the last year and especially lately, short cakes are all the rage around Boquete, showing up on dessert menus and at fancy dinner parties. When serving a short cake, make the portions small, they are so tasty and rich, “smaller is better”.

Short cakes don’t need to be served with any garnish, but with a topping of fresh fruits, a sprinkling of confectioners sugar, whole nuts, or a dollop of whipped cream, they will be remembered forever!

This recipe is one of my favorite short cakes, “Date Walnut Cake”. I found it many years ago in Gourmet Magazine and adapted it slightly. It’s fairly easy to make for a large dinner party, and I like serving it with real whipped cream.

Host Chef Renny Kranich taught me to whip cream with my big whisk in a stainless steel bowl sitting in ice water. No sugar is needed when you serve fresh, whipped cream atop your short cake.

Date Walnut Cake

1/4 cup boiling-hot water
1 1/2 cups pitted dates (1/2 lb), finely chopped
1 1/2 cups walnuts (5 oz), toasted and cooled
3/4 cup sugar, divided
2/3 cup Panko or fine bread crumbs
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Generously grease a 9- by 2-inch round cake pan with softened butter or vegetable oil and dust with bread crumbs, knocking out excess. Pour hot water over dates in a large bowl and let stand 15 minutes to soften. Pulse walnuts in a food processor until chopped, then add 1/4 cup sugar and pulse until nuts are finely ground. Add Panko, zest, cardamom, and salt and pulse until combined. Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt in a bowl using an electric mixer at medium-high speed until they just hold soft peaks. Add remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a slow stream, beating until whites hold stiff glossy peaks.

Whisk yolks into date mixture. Fold one third of yolk mixture into whites, then fold in remaining yolk mixture gently but thoroughly. Fold all of nut mixture into batter. Spoon batter into cake pan and bake until golden and springy to the touch and cake just begins to pull away from side of pan, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 30 minutes, then invert onto rack and cool completely.

“Peach Buckle” is another of my favorite short cakes. It’s quick to make and I top it with peaches and cinnamon crunch before it’s baked. No need for anything else! You’ll find the recipe for “Peach Buckle” in the Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook, which is a gift to all ticket-holders at the Cookbook Party #2 – SALE and SWAP coming up on Friday, August 26, beginning at 3:00pm. And, you may be able to taste my “Peach Buckle” at the party.

Get more information by clicking “Register Now” on the calendar at the right above. Chef Renny will prepare her famous “Pico de Gallo”, Chef Juan will cook up some “Bunuelos”, Chef Betty will serve up her “Boquete Tamales”, and Chef Dede will be grilling watermelon at the party, just to name a few.

Yolanda will be mixing “Pisco Sours”, Betty will bring her rich and delicious “Espresso Cheesecake”, David will “Pickle Eggs”, Anita will bake her very tasty “Olive Cheese Balls”, and many other celebrity chefs featured in the cookbook will be there presenting dishes to the party-goers. Live music, free cookbooks, Cookbook Sale and Swap, and lots of other fun activities will be available, so come and party with us!

Cora

What’s a “Cookbook Party”?

Published on August 14th, 2011no comments

That’s a very good question, I haven’t known of another “cookbook party” since the one Boquete Gourmet threw last year to celebrate the arrival of our town’s first culinary collection, “Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook”.

On that occasion, everyone contributing recipes to the new cookbook, plus the entire Boquete community were invited to attend a cookbook party that included samplings of several of the dishes made from recipes published in the book.

The party was a huge success! Most of the fun was in getting cookbooks signed by the contributing chefs, and at the same time, the chefs were trying to get their books signed by all the other chefs, “round-robin” style. The food seemed secondary to meeting and sharing enthusiasm and camaraderie with each other.

This year’s Cookbook Party is quite different. The main events will include cooking demonstrations of many of the recipes from the book, actually being prepared by the contributing chefs. Party-goers will taste dishes as they are ready for presentation, enjoy live entertainment, and have an opportunity to buy, sell, and swap cookbooks of all sorts.

You’re invited to come to this very special party, to be held on Friday, August 26, at 100 El Santuario, Boquete, beginning at 3pm. You may bring cookbooks to sell, trade or donate to charity, if you like. Rare and unusual cookbooks from the The Book Mark Bookstore in Dolega will be on sale during the party, and Irene will bring a special cookbook collection just for this occasion. You’ll be able to pick up new titles not seen before in Boquete.

Five local charities contributed recipes to the community cookbook; Loco por Leer, Buenos Vecinos de Boquete, Animales de Boquete, Lions Club of Boquete, The Handicap Foundation and Unexpected Moments of Magic Foundation. Come and meet representatives from each group, and savour their dishes.

Tickets to the party are only $10 each, and include activities mentioned above, plus a copy of the 2nd edition of “Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook”. Click “Reserve Now” on the calendar at the right of this post, and proceed to order your tickets while they last.

And, if anyone has ever been to another Cookbook Party anywhere in the world, I’d love to hear all about it!
See you there!
Cora

Tabuli Salad for Better Health

Published on August 11th, 20112 comment

Boquete Gourmet Host Chef, Peace Farideh Azad brought a totally different idea of food preparation to our little mountain town in Panama, “Combining Foods for Better Health”. Participants learned unique, “plant-based” cooking techniques, with emphasis on properly combining ingredients to promote optimum health and wellness.

There are many charts that show how certain foods can be combined for better digestion. Peace advocates having certain fresh fruits prior to eating your meals. For instance, papaya stimulates your digestive fluids, so Peace prepared dishes of papaya for everyone to enjoy just before serving her Tabuli Salad.

In the Middle East, Tabuli, also spelled Tabouleh, is a fresh vegetable salad with the green ingredients dominating. The dish’s global popularity has led to new interpretations and regional modifications such as the use of couscous or quinoa in place of bulgur, which is traditional.

PEACE’S TABULI SALAD

1 package quinoa, prepared as directed
2 large bunches parsley, finely chopped
2 spring onions, sliced thinly
2 pounds tomatoes, diced
1 cucumber, finely diced
10 fresh limes, juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste, sea salt is preferred if possible

After the vegetables were carefully prepared, each was placed in their separate dish, mis en place style. It was easy for Peace to combine the ingredients in a large bowl, toss them with flare, and serve garnished with fresh sprigs of mint.

During the cooking process, Peace wanted to simmer the quinoa and water very slowly until it became tender. This is almost impossible to do with the gas-top burners she was using. The lowest setting was just too hot, which is often the case with my burners.

Because this is a common concern with most cooks in Boquete (our gas is bottled), a friend discovered a new gadget to solve this problem, the “Simmer Mat”. This clever device was invented in New Zealand, where cooks must have the same problem as we have in Boquete. 

Carol brought a mat back from the states for me to try, and I love it. The cast iron heat diffuser works perfectly to spread the heat to ensure long slow cooking.

If you’d like to order a Simmer Mat from Amazon, click here, it’s only $14.95.

Peace completed her menu by making a delicious Plant-Based Soup using quinoa, Vegetable Curry with yucca, and two versions of Brown Rice. No dessert was needed following the lunch, because at the end of the afternoon everyone agreed they felt full of energy from the well-combined meal they enjoyed during the class.

The Tabuli Salad was definitely the highlight of the class, as there were no salad leftovers at all!

Thanks to all the “souz-chefs” for making each ingredient so beautiful, as you can see. Thanks to Peace for showing us another way to improve our overall health and well-being, and in such a delightful manner!

Salud!
Cora

Lemongrass Martini – Chef Juan’s Style

Published on August 7th, 2011no comments

The word is out, “Chef Juan is making Lemongrass Martinis!” Anytime someone hears those words, it’s time to head to his house, to a party or dinner featuring his drink, or to his Panamanian cooking class!

What makes Juan’s martinis so AMAZING??? The taste, of course.

We are lucky to have a lovely clump of lemongrass growing in our garden, and we’re able to pluck nice stalks of lemongrass the year around. This is how we learned to make this very tasty and habit-forming drink.

LEMONGRASS MARTINI

4 oz vodka or seco
1 oz lemongrass extract
1 oz lemongrass syrup

Place ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake well. Serve in a chilled martini glass with a lemongrass stirrer. You can alter these measures to your taste, if you like a stronger drink add more vodka or seco, if you like it less sweet reduce syrup, if you want more lemongrass flavor add more extract.

LEMONGRASS EXTRACT: in a blender place 1 cup of lemon or lime juice, 2 cups of chopped lemongrass stalk (no leaves, no root). Blend at high speed to liquefy; strain blend through a fine sieve or cheese cloth or similar; put in a container, a plastic squirt bottle is ideal; chill extract.

LEMON GRASS SYRUP: boil 2 cups of water with 1 cup of sugar until it reduces about 1/3; add 2 cups of chopped lemongrass root and 1 bark of cinnamon , boil 2 minutes, turn off heat and let cool completely. Strain into a container and chill. Lemongrass root is the woody part below the stalk, it must be scraped clean with a knife and washed before using.

LEMONGRASS STIRRER: cut a stalk (no root, no leaves) lengthwise and peel sheets from around the lemongrass stalk. These make lovely stirrers to garnish the martinis.

Once you have your extract in the fridge you can make martinis any time, the syrup is very good to sweeten coffee. To harvest lemongrass with the stalk and root, grab the stalks at the base and pull; discard leaves and any sheet of the stalk that is dried or damaged. You can use green leaves to make tea, it will help you sleep. You can chop the leaves to dry and keep for tea.

This drink will relax you and it actually is good for you, as lemongrass is loaded with antioxidants and vitamins. But, Juan warns us not to drink too many of these martinis, two are just right.

Thanks for your recipe, Chef Juan! On August 26, you will be able to watch Chef Juan prepare one of his recipes from the Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook in the kitchen of the Boquete Gourmet, in Boquete, Panama. See details on the calendar at the right, click August 26 to register. You won’t want to miss the upcoming “Cookbook Party #2″, which includes cooking demonstrations, tastings, live music, and a copy of the cookbook, 2nd edition.

You can also read more about Chef Juan’s recipes and upcoming classes at www.latinamericancook.com.
See you at the party!
Cora

Mixing Fine Foods with Pure Silk

Published on July 28th, 2011no comments

Boquete Gourmet Host Artist, Barbara Rabkin and I presented a full day of creativity, including learning to paint luscious, pure silk scarves and tasting fine, gourmet foods each hour throughout the day.

Barbara gathered nine very talented ladies together in my El Santuario, Boquete Cantina, and the day quickly turned into non-stop fun, full of creative ideas put down on silk. Everyone’s appetite was satisfied with a variety of healthy, tasty dishes served with teas, wines and fresh, sparkling Boquete water.

Let’s begin at the end, with the beautiful, colorful hand-painted scarves, including three scarves that were still on the frames.

The patterns painted included designs from abstract to detailed realism. Each artist became mesmerized by their work, and could hardly take a short break to taste each gourmet dish as it was presented. This was “tough work”!

The days menu included a warm Peach Buckle, steamy Roasted Pumpkin Curry Soup, colorful Nicoise Salad with Smoked Tuna and Pickled Eggs, Artistic Day Parfait and the finale was a Chocolate Silk (scarf) Pie with real Whipped Cream, of course.


This was a first-time effort for everyone involved. Barbara and I enjoyed working with the nine artists and we were gratified with the results. Several of the recipes served came from the Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook, on sale now at various locations throughout Chiriqui, Panama.

Betty and Kaye photographed the day-long event, and thanks so much for their expertise.

Who would believe that pure silk and fine dining go together? We just proved that they do . . . with wonderful results!

Try something new yourself, why not???
Cora

What Do You Mean “Thai Food”?

Published on July 25th, 2011no comments

Thai food is the national cuisine of Thailand, which borders Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and Myanmar, formerly Burma. It’s no wonder I had to look up its location, I thought it bordered China, and therefore “Thai food” was basically Chinese cuisine. Oh, no!

Thai cuisine places emphasis on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components. This cuisine is known for being spicy. Balance, detail and variety are important to Thai cooking.

Thai food is known for its blend of the four fundamental taste senses in each dish, or in the overall meal: sour, sweet, salty, and bitter. And, it also can be quite hot and spicy.

Host Executive Chef Lauretta Bonfiglio, owner of Boquete Bistro knows all about Thai foods and how to prepare authentic Thai cuisine. She brought together 12 excellent cooks, all very eager to learn her techniques to bring real flavor and spice to their tables here in Boquete, Panama.

The menu for our “Thai Won On” evening of preparing, tasting and dining on cuisine originating half-way around the world began with making “Pineapple My Thais”, of course.

Lauretta’s recipe for this exotic drink includes pineapple juice, orange juice, lime juice, dark and light rums, triple sec and grenadine, all mixed to perfection and served over ice. If you’d like to try a “My Thai”, stop in The Bistro Boquete and ask Lauretta to mix one for you.

This is Karen very carefully laying out the fresh ingredients on a rice paper wrapper. You can barely detect the wet wrapper in the photo. The results were magnificent, as you can see from the finished work. Along with the Spring Rolls, the cooks enjoyed blending ingredients to make 3 authentic Thai dipping sauces that complimented the taste of the fresh, colorful rolls.

Chicken with Green Curry was the main entree dish, served with Coconut Rice. Finally, Thai Fried Ice Cream was removed from the freezer and fried.

Yes, each participant fried their own ice cream for dessert, and then topped it with chocolate syrup and toasted coconut, a very popular dish in Thailand.

The completed dishes were served with flare, with Chef Lauretta and all the cooks enjoying this fine, very special cuisine of Thailand. All the flavors were there; sour, sweet, salty and bitter, with a bit of hot peppers thrown in.

Nancy is having fun adding chombo hot sauce to her Thai Peanut Butter Sauce. The combination of hot and sweet was new to most of the cooks. and so delicious!

The only photo not included here was one of everyone finishing off their fried ice cream, a very unique experience, indeed!

Thanks very much to Sandy and Betty for these perfect shots of this eventful evening. We hope to have more International cuisines presented in Boquete soon.
Keep watching!
Cora

Panama’s Abundant Harvest

Published on July 17th, 2011no comments

When it comes to food prices these days and the manner in which they are becoming more expensive, Panama is the place to be. It’s especially nice to be in Boquete, the “market basket” of Central America, where fresh produce, poultry and livestock are bountiful.

Boquete Gourmet Host Chef, Juan Linares, designed a creative and delicious menu around the many accessible and reasonable ingredients available in these Highlands of Chiriqui, Panama. The resultant Underground Dinner was exquisite. Chef used ingredients that he found in Boquete’s local markets, ones that are stacked on displays, or easily found behind glass meat counters.

This was Chef Juan’s premier dinner, and guests were very delighted with each dish as they were presented throughout the evening.

Panama Harvest Underground Dinner

Lemongrass Martini
Curvy Queen on a Chip
Black Bean Soup with Mini Toasted Cheese Sandwiches
Plantain Slaw
Coconut Fish Moqueca with Lemongrass Rice
Black Roast Beef
Passion Fruit Torte
Handmade Natural Mint Liqueur

The menu speaks for itself, lots of nutritious, low-priced vegetables and fruits, dried beans at pennies per pound and imported vodka priced at $10.00 liter, duty free. Of course, everyone won’t be able to create truly gourmet dinners from these ingredients. It takes a fine chef like Juan to work his magic and bring to the table some of the finest, most elegant and tasteful dishes available anywhere.

Plantains, lemongrass and mint grow everywhere in Panama. It only took a minute to pick them fresh from our gardens. Chef Juan taught us how to make liqueur from the mint and extract from the lemongrass, both served at this month’s Underground Dinner.

You can see how Chef Juan approved of his Lemongrass Martini, it was a tasty treat to get the evening’s festivities started.

To make the Plantain Slaw, Juan boiled the plantains whole, then they were peeled, shredded, and mixed with a snappy, creamy dressing. The sweetness was all natural, no sugar added. Many guests remarked that the slaw was the favorite dish of the evening, not counting the mint liqueur, of course.

Chef Juan prepared the local corvina fillets with lots of fresh vegetables and herbs, and served them over lemongrass rice.

The final dish of this month’s dinner was Juan’s Passion Fruit Torte, made with natural yogurt and local Graham crackers. The actual recipe can be found by searching this Boquete Gourmet site, using “My Passion for Passion Fruit”. Once you make this beguiling dessert, you’ll know how to make it by memory, and passion fruits are easily available everywhere in Panama.

It’s amazing to watch how many local, plentiful ingredients can be made into a very elegant, gourmet dinner. Panama truly has an abundant harvest all year around. It’s wonderful to be able to enjoy preparing and eating the world’s freshest, most reasonable foods that are available everyday in Boquete.

Thanks Juan, for sharing your talents with everyone, to our daughter Kirsten Peck as sous chef, to David as sommelier, and to Betty Dabney for capturing the abundance of fun on film.

Thanks, guests!
Cora

Grilling in the Highlands of Panama

Published on July 4th, 2011no comments

Living in the high mountains of Panama has lots of advantages, especially when it comes to outdoor grilling. It’s easy to stop by the fresh, open markets, then fire up the gas grill, and prepare the best backyard meals imaginable anywhere in the world.

My shopping list is short, a whole chicken or rack of baby-back ribs, whatever fresh vegetables are plentiful, and a pineapple.

The weather is always pleasant for firing your grill, even if it’s a rainy day, because the temperature is usually just right, about 72 degrees in the late afternoon. A 5-dollar gas tank will last for months of grilling, and they’re available at almost every mini-market in Panama.

Our favorite meat to grill is chicken, it never fails to please everyone. Chicken is low in calories, high in nutritional value, and very reasonable in Panama, as everyone knows. David loves to buy a can or two of Panama beer, punch holes in it along the top rim and perch the whole chicken atop of it. It cooks in about an hour on the closed grill, just in time to have your vegetables grilled and ready to eat.

The vegetables can be pre-cut and ready to toss in a grill pan.  Any kind of vegetable can be sliced thinly, tossed in a bit of olive oil and your special blend of herbs and set above the flames. Each time you glance into the grill, give the vegetables a little stir. The top photo shows our favorite grilling pan to use for any small ingredients. They cook slowly and never fall on the flames.

Dessert is easy when you’re grilling in the Highlands of Panama. Just slice off the bottom of a juicy, fresh pineapple and stand it on end. Holding the green top, slice off the skin from top to bottom. Divide in half from top to bottom and lay on cut side. Slice lengthwise again into quarters and remove the core.   Cut each quarter into 2 or 3 long pieces, depending on the size of your pineapple. Lay the long pieces on the hot grate after you remove the chicken. Wait for grill marks to appear, then turn over to brown.

You will have a luscious, grilled finish to your fresh, healthy and tasty dinner. Boquete Gourmet Host Chef, Greg Henry, on Sippitysup.com, inserted a skewer into the ends of his spears of grilled pineapple and placed them on a dessert plate with a small dish of dipping sauce similar to Dulce de Leche.

The sauce is easy to make the day before your dinner. Simply boil an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk for about an hour and a half. When you’re ready to serve your pineapple, open the can and fill small dishes with your “homemade” Dulce de Leche sauce.  You may need to thin it with a bit of white wine.  Shave chocolate or sprinkle coconut flakes over your pineapple and serve.

You can enjoy this spectacular grilled dinner wherever you are, but it’s especially good when you’re in the Highlands of Panama!

Cora

What to Make with Dick’s Limes

Published on June 24th, 2011no comments

It was my lucky day when blogger, Richard Detrich phoned me to say he had lots of fresh limes and asked what he could do with the hundreds of little, juicy limes he had picked on his property. He asked if we wanted some limes and if so, would we come to his house to get them.

I couldn’t think of a more enjoyable afternoon, then to drive out to Palmira, about a 20 minute ride from Boquete, to visit with Dick and Nikki, and to return home with gobs and gobs of beautiful, shiny, sour and juicy Key limes. Key limes are about 1-2 inches in diameter and are yellow when ripe but usually picked green. It is smaller, seedier, has a higher acidity, a stronger aroma, and a thinner rind than that of the Persian lime we usually bought in Florida. It is valued for its unique flavor compared to other limes, with the key lime usually having a more tart and bitter taste. The name comes from its association with the Florida Keys, where it is best known as the flavoring ingredient in Key lime pie.

It is also known as Bartender’s lime, which is probably why my first thought was to make Margarita’s using Dick’s limes. But, because I prefer rum to tequila, I decided to make Mai Tais instead. There are many, many recipes for Mai Tais, so I guess you can make them to your own taste, which I did. In a shaker, I combined 1 jigger each of Panama’s Abuelo dark rum, orange liqueur, cranberry juice, and lime juice. Then, I added 2 jiggers of pineapple juice with crushed ice and shook it well. It looks really good, doesn’t it?

The obvious way to use Dick’s limes was in Guacamole, which we have often in Boquete. Our avocado trees are producing enough fruit to supply our entire neighborhood. While wearing my braces, (they come off in August) I’m eating avocados every day because they are so buttery soft. I’ve read that avocados are very high in calories, but I’m certainly not gaining weight during these months of mushy foods.

After pondering the many ways to use Dick’s limes, something struck me as our “Beer-Can Chickens” were roasting.

Why not make a white barbecue sauce to serve with the chicken, it doesn’t always need to be red, right?

While in England many years ago, I was served a white sauce along with my fish and chips and I loved it. The sauce was spicy and a bit limey tasting, I remember it well!

With a little experimenting with Dick’s limes, I found this really good version of my own white lime sauce I call;

White Barbecue Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon white pepper
3 tablespoons white vinegar
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons sugar

Mix all ingredients together and stir well.

You’ll enjoy having this sauce ready to use anytime. Try it on salads, dip French fried potatoes in it, it’s excellent on sandwiches, and it’s great on onion rings!

Actually, after making all the recipes above, including lots of Mai Tais for guests, I’m out of limes. The obvious Key Lime Pie will need to wait for a fresh supply of Dick’s limes, as will the Margaritas, Frozen Daiquiris, Cosmopolitans, Mojitos, and Caipirinhas.  Did you know there is a “Key Lime Pie Martini”?

Thanks for the limes, Dick, but I need some more – lots more!

Cheers!
Cora

Upgrade Your Kitchen to Elegant

Published on June 18th, 2011no comments

If you are a “foodie” and love to cook like I do, make sure you have these up-to-date items in your kitchen.  You don’t need to spend a lot of money – just aim for a collection of things that make you feel like you can prepare anything.  You probably have what you need now, but why not upgrade?

These items and utensils will make kitchen time easier, more distinguished, and more fun!

Pepper Mill

There’s a massive choice of pepper grinders and it’s tempting to go for the one that looks fancy or has better form than function. Unless you want to be continually replacing pepper mills, choose one that’s durable and is easy to fill.  Foodies recommend the Unicorn Magnum or Peugeot models.   Don’t bother with a salt grinder, they won’t work in Panama because of the moisture, but a cute little dish filled with salt can be used on your table for a nice touch. They are easily available, sometimes for less than a dollar.

Sharp, Good Quality Knives

At Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School last summer, I learned that the best knives, according to master French chefs, are made by Wusthof.  I noticed that every student had a roll of these expensive knives, the ones with the red square on the handles.  Why not just buy one Wusthof Chef Knife?  You’ll be using it every day and feel like a “real” chef.  I don’t know where to buy this brand in Panama, but they’re available on Amazon, click here to see them, they’re magnificant!

Stainless Steel Cookware

The arguments about peeling non-stick surfaces and the potential danger to health are many, and although it’s not clear what the impact might be, it’s far better to err on the side of caution and buy stainless steel pans. I love having glass lids that show what’s happening inside. I just found Rachel Ray’s new set of cookware at the Arrocha Department Store in David, and that set would be a perfect way to upgrade my kitchen – and, the handles are orange!

Hardwood Cutting Board

Living in Panama provides us with the opportunity to get really high-quality hardwoods for using as cutting boards, and they’re so reasonable! My husband David, has made several boards for me that get used often, I love them. Sand your cutting board often with fine-grit sandpaper. Buy a bottle of cutting board oil, mineral oil, or olive oil and rub on a thin, even coat regularly. You’ll love the look in your kitchen!

Blender

This should be a standard piece of equipment in any gourmet kitchen. Be sure to buy a stainless steel model, and one that is powerful enough to make peanut butter.  The Breville model linked above is the one I would buy.  But, my first purchase will be cookware, then I can think about my new blender.

Stainless Steel Gadgets

Forget the “As seen on TV” gadgets, a cooks kitchen needs high-quality, well-made, stainless steel equipment.  Our kitchens are no place for plastic, miss-matched, ugly gizmos.  I’m talking about amassing real chef-standard tools.  Upgrade to a real Microplane grater, colander, swivel vegetable peeler, wine opener, and 2 or 3 sizes of whisks.  From now on, try to make sure everything you buy is stainless steel.

Hand Mixer


A stainless steel hand mixer like this one, or even a hand whisk can complete your equipment collection. The big Kitchenaid stand mixers are magnificent, but if you have a good quality hand mixer, you can save lots of space and expense. Reaching for this hand mixer would be much easier and more fun, don’t you think?

In the beginning, I said that upgrading your kitchen to elegant doesn’t need to cost a lot of money, but a couple upgrades listed might be out of your budget for now. You can begin with just one item and upgrade as you can.

TIP: Whenever you’re in David and you want to have some fun shopping to upgrade your kitchen, go to the “cheap streets” and see what you find for a couple dollars. The stores near the central park in David have some amazing merchandise, many things are made of stainless steel and come in sleek designs. You may need to ask directions to Daisy’s Department Store, Piccadilly, The Shopping Center, Podoroso, or Jackies, but you’ll be happy with what you find, and you may want to return again and again, like I do.

Happy hunting!
Cora

Why Men Like Dining Underground

Published on June 13th, 2011no comments

Not that women don’t enjoy the Underground Dinner events in Boquete, but I think that men like them even more than the ladies, and I’ll tell you why.

I’ll try not to offend anyone by sharing my thinking with you, but after talking with many male guests at past dinners, I’ve come to these conclusions on my own, just my own “educated” opinions.

First. men don’t have to make the decision of where to go to dinner. Usually, men need to think about how far they want to drive, how rough the roads will be, or whether there will be a proper parking space. They usually need to consider the weather conditions, if they want to dine outdoors, or how much money they will need to pay the bill. The location of the underground dinner isn’t known until after the decision is made to attend the event, so where the dinner takes place is irrelevant. The prix fixe gourmet dinner is $18, all inclusive.

Then, the choice of what to order is simple. Men will only need to make one choice between two entrees. It’s very easy; it’s either beef or fish, or it could be pork or chicken, or maybe shrimp or lamb. There’s no menu to read, so it’s never necessary to ponder and decide among many, many choices of fancy dishes, with descriptions so detailed that it’s confusing. I like to read the item by item descriptions, but it’s just too much trouble for men.

Men also like to spend time with the wives in an atmosphere of friendly conversation, enjoying fine foods served efficiently, and not being annoyed by loud music, constant interruption by servers, or sounds of clanging dishes.

One thing men really like are the five, full-size courses served throughout the evening, there’s plenty to eat and drink. There’s no concern about whether to have an appetizer, whether to order dessert, or even if you’ll have enough to eat.

Lastly, and us gals really like this part as well – diners can bring whatever and as much as they would like to drink, no charge for corking, with glasses provided! If a guest would like to bring their favorite wine for any occasion, they bring it along and enjoy it with dinner.

All in all, Underground Dining is a very different experience for every guest. It’s lots of fun, for all the above reasons. The host chefs can show what they can do, which is truly gourmet dining at its best. Thanks to Host Chef, Renny Kranich for her delightful dishes she so lovingly prepared for our latest dinner. And, thanks to Betty Dabney for capturing a glimpse of the mystery of this popular, world-renown dining experience, which is held from time to time in Boquete, Panama.

Seats are now available for the next Underground Dinner on July 2, location unrevealed! You may reserve your seats now at the calendar on the right.

Hope to see you there,
Cora

My Passion for Passion Fruit Torte

Published on June 3rd, 2011no comments

We are lucky to be living in a tropical country where passion fruit is not only abundant, but very reasonable, about 20 cents each. In Boquete, Panama, we can purchase them in at least three colors.

The passion fruit is round to oval, either yellow, green or purple at maturity, with a soft to firm, juicy interior filled with pulp and numerous edible seeds. The fruit can be grown to be eaten or for its juice, which is often added to other fruit juices to enhance the aroma.

David and I grew passion flower vines in Gulfport, Florida, but we never saw them produce fruit. The delicate flowers are magnificent and there is a legend that relates the passion flower to Christ’s life, as told on Wikipedia. I always loved to show guests the vines and unusual flowers, at least they are unusual in Florida.


The fruit in this photo is mature for juicing and culinary use. For eating right out of the fruit, the fruit should be allowed to wrinkle for a few days to raise the sugar levels and enhance the flavor.

Passion fruit can also be cut in half and the pulp easily scooped out with a spoon. Passion fruit-flavored syrup is a popular topping for shaved ice, it’s sold in Boquete off push carts in our local parks.  Ice cream can be flavored with passion fruit, as well as many other desserts such as cookies and cakes. I really enjoy passion fruit juice at 99 cents a quart, mixed with our local rum, it’s a very “passionate” drink!

This unique recipe came to me from Boquete Gourmet Host Chef Juan Linares, and it’s one of my favorite desserts.

Passion Fruit and Yogurt Torte

1 can sweetened, condensed milk
1 can natural yogurt
1 can passion fruit pulp, strained
3 rolls Maria galletas (cookies) or 3 packages Graham crackers

Open and empty the can of sweetened condensed milk into a large bowl. To prepare the passion fruit, cut the fruit in half and scoop out the pulp into a blender. Blend and strain enough pulp to fill the empty milk can and empty it into the bowl with the milk. Fill the empty can again with yogurt and add to the milk mixture and combine.

Then, cover the bottom of a 9″ X 12″ pan with whole cookies or Graham crackers and pour some of the mixture over the top, then layer more crackers and mixture until you have several layers. Press and smooth the top of the torte, as shown in the photo. I kept a little of the passion fruit pulp with seeds to pat on top to make a nice, shiny top “crust”. Chill for at least 3 hours, cut and serve. You may garnish with whipped cream, a cherry and sprinkle with crushed graham crackers. A sprig of fresh mint brings yet another color to the dish, yum!


This dessert is very easy to make, especially when passion fruit is so abundant in Boquete. It can be made a day ahead, in case you have a busy day preparing the other dishes for your dinner. Actually, David and I had Juan’s Passion Fruit and Yogurt Torte for breakfast the day after serving it for dinner. It was even better then.

“Eat dessert first”, don’t they say???
Cora

Like Fine Dining? – Try It Underground!

Published on May 29th, 2011no comments

The Republic of Panama offers many fine restaurants across the country, if we only know where to find them. I would guess the reason for this is the easy availability of fresh fruits and vegetables, abundant poultry, pork and beef products and an atmosphere that attracts diners with sophisticated palates.

We new residents living in Panama have come from all over the world and we bring with us a desire to enjoy enriched life styles, including access to multi-cultural events, products that are available in Panama and some of the finest cuisine available anywhere in the world. It’s difficult to give you any specific examples of what I mean by “fine cuisine”. But, after living in Panama for over eight years, I’ve found some very delightful, 3-star quality dining facilities across the country.

The world-famous Michelin Red Guides have not come to Panama. If they had, they would be surprised at the high quality of fine dining available here. Michelin critics carefully critique restaurants and award 1 to 3 stars, depending on their impression of the cuisine, strictly by the quality of the cuisine.

If I were to award 1 to 3 stars to any restaurant, I would also consider the quality of service, ambiance, creativity and presentation. I would mock Michelin’s excellence stars: 1 for “very good restaurant”, 2 for “worth a detour”, and 3 for “worth a special journey”.

With my new system in mind, I’d go out of my way to visit The Rock in Boquete. I’d “make a detour” over the bridge to get the fine cuisine, excellent service and to enjoy their outstanding and friendly ambiance. I love their Salmon with Risotto, it’s beautifully presented and cooked how you want it. The Rock deserves 2 stars!

If I were wanting a special treat, I would “make a journey” to Panama City to dine at The New York Steakhouse Restaurant in the Veneto Hotel. The creative menu, tender USDA prime steaks, and gorgeous ambiance make this the place to enjoy fine dining in Panama City. This restaurant rates 3 stars from the Boquete Gourmet.

Quickly becoming a fine dining sensation in Boquete is “Underground Dining”, offered by the Boquete Gourmet’s fine host chefs. These dining events are presented at locations unknown until the day prior to the event, and the menus aren’t announced until diners arrive. The cuisine and ambiance are up to the standards of any 3-star restaurant under Michelin’s criteria. This is truly a reason to “make a journey” to experience an evening of fine dining. The experience will thrill you.

Look on the orange calendar at the right, and you may register now for the June 11 Underground Dinner in or near Boquete, Panama.

Hope to see you there,
Cora

Taking Beef From Tough to Tender

Published on May 18th, 2011no comments

Panamanian beef is tough, we all know that. I’m wondering if any other country has beef as tough as we have in Panama.

The chicken and pork available in Boquete is amazingly fresh and tender, but the beef cuts are truly challenging. The first problem is how the cuts are named. Most all meats are sold the old fashioned way, over the counter. Of course, if you don’t speak Spanish, the names in the meat cases are different and you can’t pronounce the cuts of beef, even if you knew what you wanted to buy. For instance, punta de palomilla is rump tip.

But, Chef Juan Linares changed all that for the students at his on-going class, by teaching them how to buy, age and prepare tough cuts of beef to make them tender. Doesn’t that sound really special?

First, two butchers from our local Romero’s Supermarket showed actual cuts of beef the way they look in the meat cases of the supermarket. One butcher watched as Chef Juan explained how to prepare lomo redondo, see photo above. Some of the cuts were huge, not at all like they look in markets in other countries.

Falda, punta de palomilla and lomo redondo became familiar cuts of beef to us. We learned how to order exactly the cuts we would like to prepare, whether it was prime rib roast or stew meat.

Then, Chef Juan shared his methods of aging, marinating, and preparing three economical, readily-available cuts of beef. To everyone’s delight, each dish, Shredded Beef with Black Bean Sauce, pressure-cooked Black Roast and Beef Roast in Herbs Crust, was made tender and delicious.

Side dishes included an unusual Causa of Yucca with Cilantro Sauce and Papaya Avocado Salad with Pink Pepper Dressing . Chef Juan did admit that using papaya in the appetizer or salad prepares your stomach for enjoying the taste and tenderness of Panamanian beef. Papaya can also be used as a tenderizer for beef.

The final course of the dinner was an easy-to-make Maracuya and Yogurt Tart using local Graham Crackers called Galletas Maria.

To make this dessert, simply empty a can of sweetened, condensed milk into a bowl. Fill the can with plain yogurt and empty it into the bowl. Then, fill the can again with your favorite fresh fruit pulp and whisk the three ingredients together. Layer graham crackers, then the fruit mixture in a rectangular pan until you have 3 or 4 layers. Chill for at least 3 hours, cut and serve cold.

The surprise at the end of the evening was when Rose shared with everyone her gorgeous painting, “Three Happy Chefs”. The three chefs reminded us all how much fun it is to get together and learn new techniques for preparing gourmet meals at home. If you’d be interested in seeing Rose’s artwork, please let me know and I’ll send you more information.

If you’d like to learn more about how to convert tough Panamanian beef into tender and tasty main course meals, Juan has just opened another class to be held on Thursday, June 9, beginning at 11AM. This early start allows for daylight hours. You may click on the green and orange calendar at the right and reserve your seat now.

Special thanks to Betty Dabney for her delightful photos, see more at http://infinityglimpsed.blogspot.com/2011/03/coras-garden.html, including some photos of my garden.

Hope to see you soon,
Cora

All About French Bread and More

Published on May 11th, 2011no comments

It was the day before the Royal Wedding when Artisan Baker, Mort Rabkin gathered his class together to share his many secrets for making French bread from scratch.

The plan for the day was for each participant to begin making their own French bread dough using measuring techniques, mixing methods, and kneading procedures that Mort has developed over the years of living in Boquete.

At the end the day, hot loaves of freshly baked French bread, made completely from scratch and baked in Mort’s clay oven, would be taken home to enjoy.

Mort got busy showing how to make the dough, then how to carefully stretch and shape perfect baguettes.

Fourteen-ounce balls of dough were shaped into loaves about 13 inches in length.  Everyone had a chance to practice. Baguettes are generally made with a series of folding and rolling motions and then raised in rows on a flour-impregnated towel, called a couche.

The method for rising was unique to most of us, as heavy linen was laid out in waves that held the baguettes snugly side by side.  Kathy gently rolled her baguette into the couche to rise.

After the dough had risen, it was slashed in “baguette” style, as Nancy is showing below.

Then, the bread was baked directly on the hearth of Mort’s outdoor clay oven. 

No pans are used in artisan-style baking, only in the Americanized version of the traditional baking process are pans used. Generally American style “French Bread” is much fatter, generally meaning over-proofed, and also scored incorrectly according to French baking tradition and not baked in brick or clay ovens. The resulting loaf is much larger, softer, less chewy, and possessing a much more even crumb structure, in contrast to the traditional baguette, which is slender, chewy, and has an uneven and holey crumb structure, and crispy crust.

French bread can be glazed with egg wash, if desired. The wash gives a much browner and shinier crust, as the final bake shows in the photo above. The choice of whether and how to glaze your baguettes is one way to make your authentic French bread so special. Don’t all the loaves look marvelous?

But, as the last group of baguettes were baking, it was time to celebrate the impending Royal Wedding. A Royal wedding cake emblazoned with “William y Kate”, and a fine cup of English tea, probably exactly what the happy couple would be enjoying at Buckingham Palace after their wedding, were served.

Everyone learned to make French bread that day, thanks so much to Mort. And, we were led by Brandy in singing the British National Anthem, we tasted Royal white wedding cake, and we sipped hot English Breakfast tea. Mort’s wife, Barbara, poured!

Cheers to the new Duke and Duchess!
Cora

Book Your Tickets Online Now!

Published on April 15th, 2011no comments

Finally, you can get your seat confirmed now for any Boquete Gourmet event right on this site! It’s easy to select which activity you wish to attend, including Host Chef cooking programs, Underground Dining in Boquete, as well as upcoming field trips, lectures or other special events.

You are now able to click into the Boquete Gourmet calendar and find all scheduled events. With a double click you’ll find further information and the opportunity to book your seat NOW! This program is all new to me, but after the first person tried the system and it worked easily, we decided to offer this service on a permanent basis.

Follow these easy steps:
1 – Move your browser over the calendar on the right to see each event offered. A pop-up will name the event. You may advance to the next month by clicking the arrow next to the month shown.
2 – When you find the event you wish to attend, click on “Register Now!” and you’ll find complete details.
3 – Follow directions to make your payment to Boquete Gourmet’s PayPal account.
4 – You’ll receive ticket(s) to print instantly, and I’ll receive notice that your seat(s) is taken.

As soon as I see your reservation, I’ll send you personal confirmation and any other information that might be helpful. It really isn’t necessary for you to present your ticket to any event, as your name will appear on my roster.

All transactions are “money-back” guaranteed, of course.

You will also see more information about new events on the Boquete Gourmet Home Page. Be sure to check this site regularly so you don’t miss getting your tickets. As seats fill, we hope to be able to offer similar classes, trips, or dinners in the near future. So, if you’d like to attend any particular type of activity, whether it’s scheduled or not, please let me know.

If you have any questions or concerns about this new process, please don’t hesitate to email me at boquetegourmet@gmail.com.

I hope you enjoy this new service!
See you at an event soon,
Cora

Second of Three “Terrific” Brunches

Published on March 10th, 2011no comments

It’s been fun to read the comments that are coming in about Host Chef Alie MacArthur’s “Bring on the Brunches” recent cooking class. This wasn’t the same style class where lessons are learned and recipes are duplicated.

Although these dishes on the left are beautiful, none of them were prepared in Alie’s “three-in-one” class. Her recipes were much different, as you can see by the menu below.

And, it was a Sunday morning filled with learning new and different ideas about brunch planning and preparation. There were endless possibilities for designing the perfect brunch.

Upon reflection, participants filled my Gmail Inbox with wordy, thoughtful comments, like “Alie’s terrific”, “I learned that presenting food is both an art and a science”, “dishes were beautiful and full of flavor”, and “what a wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning”.

Alie’s #2 brunch, “The Kitchen Brunch” was prepared in my kitchen by 5 lucky cooks who drew #2 out of the basket at the end of the orientation and instruction period. It was their chance to show what they knew and to practice what they had just learned.

“THE KITCHEN BRUNCH”

Frozen Banana Smoothies
Mushroom-crusted Spinach Quiche (see the crusts ready to be filled)
Baked Brown Sugar Bacon
Scrapple
Lemon Chess Squares

Remember the “Rules” of a brunch which British inventor, Englishman Guy Beringer used when creating this new, late-meal of the day? The dishes should “wake-up” your senses after a night of “carousing”, or something like that. The foods should be varied, sweet, savory, spicy and mild. Some hot, some cold, and some in between. With that in mind, what do you think of brunch menu #2?

Patricia spun rich and flavorful Banana Smoothies and she used the last of one huge bunch of bananas our gardener cut down last week. Trish remarked that the bananas were so sweet, no extra sugar was needed in her smoothies. A bit of rum, maybe, but no sugar.

Probably the most unusual dish of this menu is the Scrapple, not often seen outside Pennsylvania. The beauty of this dish is that it can be made the night before and simply sliced and browned just before brunch. It can be served with syrup, but it was so good that no one even tried to slather anything on top of it.

Mike knew how to fry Scrapple and he was delighted when he drew #2 out of the basket. This dish would surely be easy for him. It was everyone’s good fortune to have Mike show them exactly how to prepare a fine Scrapple.

SCRAPPLE

1 pound pork shoulder or butt
1 teaspoon salt and/or Liquid Smoke to taste
2/3 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoon onion, finely chopped
black pepper, finely ground

Place pork in a large pot or pressure cooker and cover with 1 quart of water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until the meat falls apart. Remove the meat and reserve the broth. Grind the meat in a food processor. Add cornmeal to the broth and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes. Add ground meat and onion and place in the top of a double boiler and cook over simmering water for one hour. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pack into a small loaf pan that has been lined with plastic wrap. Chill until set. To serve, cut into ½ inch slices, coat with flour, and pan-fry in a small amount of vegetable oil until quite crispy and very brown. Serve with syrup, if desired.

Many of the other recipes included in “The Kitchen Brunch” can be found on the internet, but Alie put a unique touch into every dish. Thanks to Alie for all your great ideas!

The last in this series will be “The Cantina Brunch”, which will include a “hot” watermelon drink, you won’t want to miss it.

Special thanks to Betty Dabney for her artistic photography in this post.

Enjoy your brunches, especially after a night of “carousing”!
Cora

Updating Panamanian Market Cuisine

Published on February 5th, 2011no comments

As Chef Juan Linares was designing his new cooking class to include fresh and different ways to use ingredients found at most markets in Panama, he began thinking about the rich supply of farm products we have here in Boquete, often called “Panama’s market-basket”.

So many of Boquete’s newer residents and visitors see these various ingredients in markets, and they can’t imagine how they would ever learn to use them in their daily lives the way most locals do.

We commonly see otoy, tree tomatoes, plantains and tiny red peppers offered on menus in local restaurants. Achiote seeds, culantro and packs of panela fill the shelves of our local markets, but so many of us don’t know how to use them.

With that in mind, Chef Juan opened up his second series of classes offering techniques and tips on how to prepare more of these common foods to make our local Boquete cuisine even richer and more appealing.

Twelve lucky participants gathered in my kitchen to help Juan prepare Tropical Cosmopolitans, Plaintain Chips, Ceviche, Red Sweet Chili Rice, Round Salad with Fresh Tomato Dressing, Fish Moqueca, and Corn-Coconut Pudding. Each dish was made using farm-fresh ingredients such as those listed above.

Well, not every ingredient was found in the local market. The Herrerano Seco comes from Panama City, Boquete’s favorite alcoholic beverage. Juan and I both demonstrated how local residents use it with tree tomato syrup to make a very appealing and tasty cocktail.

It was fun to see Juan’s Round Salad take shape as eager participants assembled the variety of ingredients into gorgeous, colorful towers and then topped them with fresh tomato dressing and chiffonade of culantro.

To my good fortune, photographer Betty Dabney joined in on the fun, and she graciously contributed all the photos in this blog.

Thanks very much for your photos Betty, you captured the essence of the evening.

We understand that you’re an excellent cook as well as a photographer, having attended a couple of the finest International culinary schools. It’s so nice to have you join in some of our culinary events here in Boquete.

This little mountain town has so much to offer, especially when it comes to sharing talents of its residents and visitors. Chef Juan and Betty, two very talented friends, are busy doing just that.


Enjoy the markets in Boquete, they’re bountiful!
Cora

THE ROCK Declares Two Top Winners

Published on January 26th, 20112 comment

THE ROCK, a “Food for Senses” restaurant, sponsored the “First Annual Recipe Contest” yesterday in Boquete, Panama.

The contestants came with their carefully-designed creations, and using the restaurant’s professional kitchen for finishing and serving, presented their dishes to the judges, Executive Chef Heiner Gellenberg and me. The winner(s) will be featured in The Rock’s new menu, as well as in 9°80° Magazine.

It was a surprise and honor to be asked to help judge such worthy recipes in this very important restaurant, located on the banks of the mighty Palo Alto River.

Georgiann Evans, Irene Bentley, Juan Linares, Jennifer Sayers and Bev Walker submitted their recipes to the panel, knowing they were to be evaluated based upon creativity, flavor and originality.

The panel was amazed by the entries, a complete Ceviche Bar, Chocolate Box Cake, Baked Rosemary Onion, Salmon and Spinach Shell and Artichoke Cakes, just to name a few of the recipes designed by these very talented chefs.

After much admiration, tasting and consideration, the undisputed winner was Georgiann’s beguiling Grown-up Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Even after naming each contestant a winner, Heiner and I kept thinking of that sandwich, along with Irene’s Chocolate Box Cake. We decided that both of these recipes rose above the other winners to be the top dishes in the contest.

Every contestant listed above will enjoy their recipe being featured on The Rock’s menu over the next few months. Maybe the two top winners will remain there for many months to come, I certainly hope so. Both recipes far exceeded the judges’ expectations, each one truly titillated our senses!

Be sure to visit The Rock in the near future, their acclaims have been heard throughout Boquete, Panama and Internationally. You won’t want to miss tasting Georgiann’s Grilled Cheese Sandwich, for grown-ups, of course.

Thanks Heiner, for including me in this most challenging of assignments, especially when we had to choose a winner from all these delightful, eye-catching entries. It was difficult!

Don’t miss tasting them at The Rock soon.
Cora

What Panamaians and I Eat at the Fair

Published on January 22nd, 2011no comments

This is the final week of the Flower and Coffee Fair in Boquete and it has been a very busy week for everyone anywhere near the fair grounds.

Each year, vendors come from all over Central and South America to sell their wares and locals showcase their home-grown flowers and coffee.

This year was quite different in that the town father’s decided to eliminate street vendors, reduce the volume of the bands that entertain throughout the fair and spruce up the grounds by developing gardens for each and every square inch of fairground.

But my favorite part of the fair is the food available along the midways.

All the dishes are hot, fragrant, beautiful to look at and reasonably priced. Because David and I have visited this annual fair for the last 8 years, we always end up on a bench drinking a local beer and munching on yucca, the local delicacy that reminds me of dry French fried potatoes, but with more flavor.

Whole chickens are cut and grilled to order. The photo just to the right shows chicken pieces and yucca sizzling on the grill. The cook sprinkled some garlic oil on the grill while they were warming up – a good tip.

Folks were ordering fresh smoothies made in an instant, and candied apples were being dipped on the spot.
A double-dip ice cream cone or a cup of Boquete’s finest coffee, I think the best coffee in the world, is only 50 cents.

Now you know what Panamanians are eating at this year’s Flower and Coffee Fair, and it’s all fresh and delicious.

But as many of you know, there are only two of these wonderful foods that I could eat this year, much to my disappointment Because of my new braces, I could only have a smoothie and a double-dip of ice cream in a cone, David ate my cone.

However, along with a couple bottles of Atlas beer, that made for an excellent visit to Boquete’s biggest event of the year. Actually, it was just exactly right for me, I was tired of eating mashed potatoes.

You won’t want to miss it!
Cora

What is “Southern Mexican Style” Cooking?

Published on January 19th, 2011no comments

In February, Boquete Gourmet is hosting two very talented local chefs, Sharon and Dave Langham, who will share their knowledge of Southern Mexican cuisine with 24 very fortunate Boquete residents.

When this “Cooking Southern Mexican Style” class was first offered, curiosity ensued. I was asked several times how the south of Mexico was different in their cuisine compared to the rest of Mexico.

Wikipedia explains that there are six regions of Mexico that differ greatly in their cooking styles. In the Yucatán, for instance, a unique, natural sweetness (instead of spiciness) exists in the widely used local produce along with an unusual love for achiote seasoning. In contrast, the Oaxacan region is known for its savory tamales, celebratory moles, and simple tlayudas while the mountainous regions of the West (Jalisco, etc.) are known for goat birria (goat in a spicy tomato-based sauce).

Central Mexico’s cuisine is largely influenced by the rest of the country, but has unique dishes such as barbacoa, pozole, menudo and carnitas.

Pueblos or villages have their own style, cooking more exotic dishes in the Aztec or Mayan fashion with ingredients ranging from iguana to rattlesnake, deer, spider monkey, and insects.

Southern Mexico, on the other hand, is known for its spicy vegetable and chicken-based dishes. This cuisine has a considerable Caribbean influence due to its location. Seafood is commonly prepared in areas that border the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, the latter having a famous reputation for its fish dishes, à la veracruzana. Southern Mexico is about as far away from Texas as you can get and still be in Mexico, and Sharon promises that her menu won’t be Tex-Mex style, for sure!

Now that we have all this knowledge, everyone is wondering what the menu will be for the Langham’s first class in Boquete. Sharon and Dave are excellent chefs, as visitors to the Tuesday Morning Market know very well. Their tamales, sauces and pates are very popular, making it sometimes difficult to find the exact dish you are wanting to serve, unless you come to the market early.

To learn more about this “trendy” cuisine, you will want to join one of Sharon and Dave’s upcoming classes offered in Boquete, beginning February 4 – 24. Please email boquetegourmet@gmail.com for more information on this spicy class.
Ole’
Cora

Holiday Breads to Make All Year Long

Published on January 11th, 2011no comments

Mort Rabkin is a very talented artisan baker who moved to Boquete a few years ago, and he’s sparked a whole new “bread culture” in our little mountain town. Before Mort’s arrival, there were very few artisan bakers in our entire Chiriqui Province, if any.

It wasn’t long before Mort built a real clay oven on his back patio and the availability of fresh, home-baked bread began.

As most of us know, it’s not easy to produce good, wholesome artisan breads without adding lots of love and care. Those skills are evident when biting into a slice of Mort’s special bread, available at the Tuesday Morning Market in Boquete.

Because many of Mort’s customers began asking him how he is able to produce such fine-quality breads, he decided to offer classes on the subject. These classes are very informative and lots of fun, as you can see from these photos.

Former students have made French breads, rustic breads, challah and other holiday yeast breads. They have filled rosta and wreath breads with lavish amounts of fruits and nuts and drizzled them with white, sparkling frosting.

The photo at the top includes some very talented bread-makers at work mixing and braiding breads for holiday giving. Mort’s wife Barbara demonstrated braiding techniques taught at the latest hands-on class, including one with 4 braids. The gorgeous loaf of challah shown above is ready for the oven.

Why can’t any of these wonderful, rich breads be baked anytime during the year? Why not?

On Thursday, January 27, Mort will present an advanced class on making and using sourdough and other natural starters. Folks with basic bread-making skills or those who have taken a prior bread class are eligible to join this very special class.

Participants will be able to pick up a sourdough starter a week prior to the class, “feed” it until time to use it to make and bake their own loaf of sourdough bread in Mort’s oven. As part of the class, a second type of starter will be mixed to be used in future bread-making. A gourmet lunch with wine will be served during the class, as well.

For more information about this class, stop by Mort’s table at the Tuesday Market, or email me at boquetegourmet@gmail.com and I’ll send you more details.

We hope you come and enjoy the fun of baking in Mort’s clay oven, it’s a very special treat!
Cora

Christmas Dinner at The Gran Hotel

Published on January 9th, 20112 comment

The first thing to know is that I got braces on my lower teeth last month, December 7 exactly. I’ve been suffering ever since then, especially when it comes to dinner time.

My teeth began to bother me several months ago. It seemed that every time I wanted to chew something, my lower lip would get caught between my teeth and it became a big concern. I know this is way more information than you wanted, but that’s why I decided, along with my dentist, that something had to be done.

Well, the solution was easy – - get braces to straighten my teeth so I wouldn’t keep chomping on my lip. No problem – I thought the price charged by my orthodontist was reasonable, so I decided to get the job done. If you want to know any particulars or to see a photo, please let me know.

Anyway, the braces went on quickly and they didn’t hurt at all during the first few days. The only problem was that I couldn’t chew anything!

I could not have imaged how difficult it would be to find foods soft enough to swallow without chewing. As of December 7, cream soups and mush became my regular diet. The braces will stay on for eight months, so I’d better get used to them, right?

Sometime after December 7, David and I decided to go to Costa Rica for the Christmas holidays. I didn’t think of how it may be difficult to get foods I could eat in Costa Rica, especially when I couldn’t chew. The only foods I could eat had to be pulverized, such as cream soup, mashed potatoes, guacamole, milk shakes and soft dishes like that.

For Christmas dinner in San Jose at the restaurant of the Gran Hotel de Costa Rica, I brought a pouch of prepared mashed red beans and took it to the hotel’s chef. I asked him to prepare my Christmas dinner using my beans and his mashed potatoes. This is how it turned out, a wonderful, tasty holiday dinner!

I’d say I was very lucky to find such a talented chef in a far-away country on Christmas day. Notice that the fresh basil the chef used to decorate the presentation was micro-wave dried, a very clever chef, indeed!

“When given lemons, make lemonade”, right?
Cora

Difference Between Herbs and Spices

Published on January 2nd, 2011no comments

For centuries, herbs and spices have been used to make food more exciting and tasty. Everyone interested in becoming a gourmet cook is very familiar with what these long-treasured ingredients can do to the flavor and scent of each dish.

This photo shows a typical spice market in Morocco, one like David and I visited several years ago. I still have some of the exotic spices I purchased on that trip. According to the Wikipedia article about spices, the spices I bought are way too old to hold much flavor or color. However, I use them often and enjoy the Mediterranean flavors they still impart.

This is a typical bunch of herbs, shown fresh and green. I’m sure you already know the difference between herbs and spices, it’s very evident here. Herbs are the green, leafy part of the plant and spices come from any other part, the seeds, bark, flowers, roots, stigmas or buds.

However, there are at least two plants that are both an herb and a spice. Can you name them?

While roaming the shelves at The Bookmark Bookshop in Dolega recently, I couldn’t resist picking up Jacqueline Bellefontaine’s book, “Microwave Herbs & Spices”, written over 20 years ago in Surrey, England. The book suggests that herbs can easily be dried in your microwave, on HIGH for 2-4 minutes.

Lay the herbs in small quantities, about 1/2 ounce at a time, on paper towels. Turn them every minute and they are dry when they become crisp. They can be stored whole or crumbled. I was served whole dried basil leaves in Costa Rica recently. It was a big surprise to see the chef using this technique.

Jacqueline bunches her list of herbs and spices together, rather than separating the leafy herbs from the spices that come from other parts of the plants, like the seeds, berries, roots or bark. She points out that both herbs and spices should be kept in airtight containers, not in the cans in which they are packaged.

It’s your turn to use your spices and herbs any way you would like. No recipe is needed. Look at this sweet potato dish and use your imagination. Just clean and slice your potatoes, brush them with a little olive oil, sprinkle them with spices, herbs or both. I used ginger, nutmeg and 5-spice, but use whatever you have on your shelf that may taste good.

Grill slowly on your barbecue grill turning every couple minutes until they are soft. Then, enjoy the finest, most memorable dish you’ve have so far this year!

OK, which two plants are both herbs and spices? Coriander and dill are each an herb and a spice; coriander leaves and seeds, dill weed and seeds.

Have fun with your spices and herbs this year.
Use them liberally to “spice up your life”!
Cora

You Can’t Miss Dolega’s Book Store

Published on December 22nd, 2010no comments

Dolega is about 20 minutes south of Boquete, a small, hot town with an amazing book store, The Bookmark. Owner-operator, Harold Munn is the guru of all books written in English. These books have been hand-carried to Panama by world travelers seeking to learn everything they can about what the world is like from every perspective. His assortment of titles is amazing!

Harold gives a credit for each book turned in to be sold at The Bookmark, and the credit can be exchanged for new books, or otherwise very used books.

The Bookmark is a very cozy house converted into a multi-room “Barnes ‘n Noble” style reading room-book store with areas well marked in order of interest.

Of course, the section I love are the shelves containing the cookbooks that have made their way into the highlands of Panama, by being carried in some explorer’s luggage, or shipped down to Chiriqui in a huge container along with everything the new resident could pack inside.

These shelves are packed with real treasures. The prices are very reasonable, from $1 – $22 for a classic, including Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.

I found Louise Price Bell’s “Kitchen Fun, a Cookbook for Children” for $1.50. It’s full of simple, delicious recipes, including Rice Whip, made with whipping cream, crushed pineapple and cooked rice. Louise’s Fairy Gingerbread recipe will be in an upcoming blog. It’s a recipe you won’t want to miss.

Harold also offers my “Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook” at a reasonable $8.00, including a limited edition bookmark.

Be sure to stop by Harold’s Bookmark Book Store the next time you’re driving through Dolega, Panama. If you bring Harold a book, you get a credit toward your next purchase. A real “win-win”, the spirit of Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!
Cora

Choose a Gift for Your Kitchen Now!

Published on December 10th, 2010one comment

Would you like to choose a gift for your kitchen this season? If you live in Panama and you know someone coming to Panama soon, maybe they would be happy to bring your gift with them when they come. Maybe you will be visiting friends or family during the holidays, and you could have your gift sent to them in time to bring it back to Panama with you.
expressomachin
Anyone on your gift-giving list would like any of these delightful, culinary gifts for these holidays. Just click on any item highlighted in blue for a complete description and follow the instructions to have your gift sent anywhere in the world.

1. Expresso Coffee Machine This is the best buy of all five gifts. I’ve listed it first because you can stop right here and order this fine DeLongi Retro pump-driven expresso machine, an original $210.00 value for only $81.75. It has a swivel-jet frother for creamy cappuccinos or lattes and all the features a connoisseur of fine coffee would appreciate.
cakestand
2. Glass Covered Pedestal Cake Stand Every cook needs a 13″ pedestal cake plate with an 11″ high glass dome to showcase their treats. I recommend this one because the 2 pieces can be reversed to become a punch bowl. The price is right at only $23.73. If you have seen Martha Stewart making or presenting her cakes, you have seen her collection of cake stands. Try serving guests pies, sandwiches, cakes, cheeses or snacks on this stand and listen for their righcompliments!

3. Fondue Pot This Rival stainless steel fondue pot makes the perfect gift. Reduced to $29.99, it’s reasonable enough to send to friends you think would love cheese or chocolate fondue, who wouldn’t? A fondue pot is always fun at a party. My granddaughter loves to dip fruit into the melted chocolate. This 3-quart pot comes with 8 long, colorful forks. fonduepot

4. Pizzelle MakerCuisenart Papa Rico uses this Cuisinart pizzelle press to make his special dessert treats. Everyone loves eating them, especially when they are dusted with powdered sugar. I am thinking how good they would be with a light dusting of my Christmas Green Orange Dust mixed with sugar. Papa Rico uses his secret recipe for his batter, but here is mine. The reduced price is right at $37.83.

5. Pizza Pizzazz Pizza Oven Pizzaz Your family and friends would really enjoy having this unique kitchen appliance and it’s so much fun to use. The lucky recipient can easily prepare the exact pizza to their own tastes. For only $42.99, it will bring hours and hours of fun and delicious, “designer” pizzas. Don’t miss my blog with the best crust recipe to use in this oven.

Whenever a special occasion arises, remember these suggestions and your gift giving will be so easy. Click on the links highlighted in blue and go directly to Amazon to order your gifts today!

AND – - if you’re in Boquete, Panama or nearby, stop at LaReina Department Store, Sugar & Spice Bakery, Cacique Souvenir Shop, The Bookmark Bookshop, or Felipe Motta Wine Store and pick up copies of Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook, the best gift of all!!

Thanks, Cora

Quick – Vote Again for Sippitysup.com

Published on December 8th, 2010one comment

Yes, SippitySup writer, artist and Boquete guest chef, Greg Henry is still in the running for Food Blogger of the Year. The grand prize is $10,000.00 and Greg just might win it all!

His site is http://www.sippitysup.com/.

If you would like to see one of the best food bloggers on the web, please check out Greg’s site. He won Round #8, and has entered #9 as one of the 12 best food bloggers on the internet!

Greg has received 8 trophies so far, including one for his Chocolate Pumpkin Tart, that won Challenge #8.   Click here to see his new entry, “The Hollywood District is on My Beat”, which tells about Greg’s visit to the famous District Restaurant in Hollywood. His critique is very intriguing to read, and it includes lots of menu items, prices and descriptions of what Hollywood’s ordering these days.

This is Greg’s entry into Challenge #9, after which there will only be 3 bloggers remaining.  Will you help SippitySup.com win this 9th Challenge?  He needs our support from down here in Boquete, where Greg presented his “Golden Age of Hollywood” cooking class last December.

You may find several of Greg’s recipes in the Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook, on sale at Sugar & Spice Bakery, La Reina, and several other locations in Boquete.

If you like Greg’s site, and you like what he has done so far in the Foodbuzz Competition, please go to www.foodbuzz.com, and click on Greg’s heart in the box with the black and white photo of the District Restaurant.  The heart will turn red with your vote.

This is the same competition I was in for the first 2 challenges. Thanks again for everyone’s vote. Since my second challenge entry, Greg continued to win trophies week after week, and now has just entered Challenge #9!

Best of luck to Greg, he’s my favorite food blogger ever. And Greg, please plan to come to Boquete again, we’d love to have you share more ideas with us down here. We’re all rooting for you!

ora

Vote Now for SippitySup.com

Published on November 30th, 2010one comment

Yes, SippitySup writer, artist and Boquete guest chef, Greg Henry is still in the running for Food Blogger of the Year. The grand prize is $10,000.00 and Greg just might win it all!

His site is http://www.sippitysup.com/.

If you would like to see one of the best food bloggers on the web, please check out Greg’s site. He has received 7 trophies so far this year, including one for making a very creative food video. You can see his video by clicking http://www.sippitysup.com/foodbuzz-challenge-7-foodie-film-festival/. It’s quite professional and really funny.

You might like to try his crab cakes after you see him make them. They look easy to prepare and really good.

As many of you know, Greg was a host chef at my kitchen a few months ago. He presented “Golden Age of Hollywood” recipes from several of the famous Hollywood star restaurants, including Romanoff’s Chocolate Souffle.

This photo was taken in my kitchen during his class, and it shows Greg’s expertise by making Panamian Patacones, only Greg served them with caviar and sour cream, Hollywood style. You may find several of Greg’s recipes in the Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook, on sale at Sugar & Spice Bakery, La Reina, and several other locations in Boquete.

If you like Greg’s site, and you like what he has done so far in the Foodbuzz Competition, please go to www.foodbuzz.com, and click at the top of the page where it says “Project Food Blog”.

This is the same competition I was in for the first 2 challenges. Over the past several weeks, Greg has won trophies for the first 7 challenges in this contest and has just entered Challenge #8!

So, once you get into the competition section of the Foodbuzz site, click on Challenge #8 Piece of Cake – CAST YOUR VOTES. Find Greg’s entry for SippitySup, see his photo of Chocolate Pumpkin Tart, and click on the heart in Greg’s box and it will turn red. Doesn’t his tart look like a dessert you’d love to taste?

Best of luck to Greg, he’s my favorite food blogger ever. And Greg, please plan to come to Boquete again, we’d love to have you share more ideas with us down here. We’re all rooting for you!

UPDATE! At 3pm on Dec. 3, we find that SippitySup.com WINS AGAIN!!!
Congratulations Greg!

Keep checking foodbuzz.com for Greg’s next entry!

Cora

Gobbles’ Best Year Ever!

Published on November 28th, 2010no comments


This has been a great year for Gobbles, my little turkey who likes to travel, and loves being the centerpiece of my Thanksgiving tables as the years go by. He sat on fancy tables on that special day for many years, but this year was different.

On Thanksgiving Day last year, he visited the Las Olas Beach Resort near David, Panama and entertained friends from Boquete and towns nearby by his bright and cheery presence. He was amazed by the huge turkey being served so elegantly at the white linen tables in The Abigail Restaurant.

This summer, Gobbles was lucky to travel to France to see some of the sights around Paris. Here is a photo of him visiting designer Georgio Armani’s fashion house on the Champs Elysee. He went with me to Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School and the Arc d’ Triomphe, as well.

Gobbles even visited the Palace of Versailles, seen here being held by our grand daughter Dorothy. The horse statute is of King Louis XIV, one of the French kings who lived in the palace back in the 1700′s. If you look carefully, you can see Gobbles in Dorothy’s hand.

This photo was taken when we were just about to enter this historic palace, built in 1664 with over 700 rooms. Can you guess how many kitchens and dining rooms there must be in the Palace of Versailles?

Gobbles can’t imagine how many varieties of dishes that must have been served at Versailles, but probably never turkey. There’s no Thanksgiving in France, or is there?

This year was different for Gobbles, he just stayed home on Thanksgiving Day and watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on television in Boquete, Panama. He and Mickey Mouse had a wonderful time joining millions of viewers who enjoyed this most famous Thanksgiving event.

Maybe next year Gobbles will visit other lovely sights as he travels the world in search of beautiful places and unusual cuisines. I remember the year that Gobbles climbed to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro with David and me. Our Dinner was only macaroni and cheese that Thanksgiving.

Keep watching for my little turkey as more holidays approach. He’s likely to find some wonderful cuisines to share with you as he explores the world.

Happy Holidays,
Cora

Rolling Sweet Potatoes

Published on October 31st, 20102 comment

Have you ever rolled a sweet potato, carrot or chayote? It sounds a bit silly, but I tried it and it was really good.

It’s a bit difficult to find sweet potatoes in Boquete, but they are usually available in the nearby city of David.

Because the holidays are coming soon, I thought I’d try a new way to prepare one of my favorite vegetables, by rolling them around a flavorful filling of apples and cheese. Inspired by Martha Stewart’s Sweet Potato Cannelloni, this is my version of this very creative dish.

Rolled Sweet Potatoes
3 medium sweet potatoes
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 apple, diced with skin on
3 tablespoons chives
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 375F degrees. Pierce one potato with a fork, wrap in foil and bake until tender, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, peel the remaining potatoes and slice them lengthwise with a mandoline, about 1/8 inch thick.

Partly fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add half the potatoes and cook about 2 minutes, lift out with tongs, and lay flat on a plate to cool. Repeat with the remaining slices.

When the baked sweet potato is tender, remove it from the oven and lower the temperature to 350F degrees. Slit the skin of the potato and scoop the flesh into a food processor. Add the ricotta cheese and puree until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and add chopped apples, chives, grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste.

Spray a 9 X 13 inch baking dish with Pam and the interesting part begins. Holding a slice of potato in your hand, put a large spoonful of the potato mixture in the middle of it and roll up to form a cylinder. Place the roll in the baking dish along one end of the dish, seam side down. Continue with another roll, placing it in neat, even rows until the dish is filled with beautiful, bright orange rolls.

Brush your rolls with canola oil and bake 20 minutes. Sprinkle with walnuts and Parmesan cheese and serve. This menu included roasted stuffed pork chops and scalloped squashes, paired with Liberty Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2008.

Now that I made these delicious, unusual rolls, I’m thinking of making them using carrots rolled around chopped raisins, grated cheddar cheese and crushed pineapple topped with toasted coconut, or slices of chayote rolled around shredded carrots, cottage cheese and diced onions, topped with tiny mint leaves.

If you think of any other combinations, please let me know and I’ll try your suggestion.

Get rolling creatively!
Cora

Underground Dining with the Stars

Published on October 19th, 2010no comments

It was easy to plan this multi-faceted dinner. The location was overlooking a huge, deep canyon in the highlands of Panama, and the menu was prepared by two very talented chefs.

As the hosts enjoyed their amazing view a few weeks ago, and the stars began to twinkle, the theme immediately became apparent – “Dining with the Stars”. Such a dinner would include dining under millions of bright stars that light the tropical skies over Boquete, as well as with famous movie stars of the past and present.

The gracious hosts, Renny and Austin, opened their home to one of the finest Underground Dinners that has ever been presented in Boquete. The menu included five courses, each building upon the other to make a crescendo of flavors, colors and glamour. To add to the glamour, each guest chose a framed photo of a movie star to mark their position at the table, and to alert the servers as to the entree they were to be served. Red frames were served roast pork and yellow frames indicated grilled white fish. It’s a fun idea that can be used for any such gathering.

The full menu included:
Fusion Consummé
Croistini topped with Eggplant Relish

Green Salad with Shrimp

Intermezzo: Beer-soaked Green Grapes

Roast Pork with Cherry Liqueur Sauce
or
Grilled White Fish with Asparagus-Bacon Sauce
Broccoli & Garlic Pasta
Cucumber-wrapped Zucchini
Fried Black-eyed Peas

Tres Leches Cake with Blackberries & Beer

Chef Renny, assisted by Chef Marvin Pupino, instructor at the prestigious Instituto de Alto Cocina, assembled each dish moments before serving, and plated each course on a unique serving piece. Diners were delighted with the sparkling decor and new tastes as dish by dish appeared before them.

The movie stars added an extra touch of charm to this unique gourmet dinner. It was fun remembering the films, lives and history of Hollywood, even when such a fine dining experience was happening far away in Boquete, Panama, high upon a canyon ridge and under the brightly lit night sky.

More Underground Dinners are planned in Boquete in the near future. The themes will be different and the locations are always a surprise. The lucky diners won’t discover where the dinner will be held until the evening before the event.

Renny and Marvin’s evening of “Dining with the Stars” will be remembered by everyone who attended. It was a most delightful and “star-studded” event.

Thanks very much to the hosts and their entire staff,
Cora

Layer a Tart for Dinner

Published on October 10th, 2010one comment

Are you ever at a lost to know what to fix for dinner? That happens to me often, usually the evening after I’ve prepared a really nice, delicious dinner the night before.

“How can I top last night’s dinner tonight?”, I often ask myself.

Well, make a Colorful Layered Tart using your own creativity. This is one way to serve a fantastic dish using what you have in your refrigerator, and it’s even GOURMET!

It’s a fairly, easy four-step process:

1. Make a pizza dough, your favorite recipe or use the best pizza dough recipe I have ever found, listed in my Pizza Pizzaz article. Roll it out and line a straight-sided tart pan with removable bottom. If you don’t have one, buy it now.

2. Gather together ingredients from your refrigerator that would make each layer in your tart a different hue, such as mashed potatoes, rice or pasta for light color, greens could be green beans or broccoli. For reds, think fresh, thinly-sliced tomatoes, roasted red peppers or cooked carrots, or any number of possibilities available in your refrigerator. Why not add a layer of caramelized onions or kernels of sweet corn, you name it, use what you have.

3. Layer your ingredients, one colorful layer after the other, spreading each one evenly across your tart.

4. Whisk together 3 eggs and add 1 1/2 cup milk. Pour over your tart and bake at 350F degrees for one hour.

Herbs and spices can be added to your taste, I didn’t use any special seasonings, as each layer had it’s own flavor.

It’s smart to prepare your tart about 2 hours before dinner, so the dish can cool a bit before serving. You may want to serve a fresh salad while you’re waiting for your tart to cool.

Carefully present your layered tart on a lovely serving platter. If you have a tart ring like mine, just slide the tart off the cookie sheet and your results will amaze even you. Slice and serve your Colorful Layered Tart on beautiful dinner plates and await the raves.

While visiting Paris last summer, I took a class at Le Cordon Bleu and learned to make a Chocolate Raspberry Tart. This is a photo of the actual fancy, finished sweet tart I made in that very famous cooking school.

I’m wondering whether it would be proper to serve a slice of Chocolate Raspberry Tart as a dessert with Colorful Layered Tart for dinner. It might be too many tarts at one meal, or would it? What do you think?

Go for it, I say!

Cora

Your Invitation to The Captain’s Table Awaits

Published on October 7th, 2010no comments

Participating in the 2010 Project Food Blog has been a dream to me. Last night, I dreamt that I, the Boquete Gourmet from Panama, wasn’t eliminated for the contest, but actually participated in this third challenge, which was to design a “luxury dinner party”.

In my dream, I was asked by Executive Chef Todd English, of the Queen Mary 2 to prepare a menu for a Luxury Dinner Party for twelve buyers of the new, luxurious Buick LaCross, who will be guests of the cruise line for an unprecedented party at The Captain’s Table.

These lucky owners of the most recent model of the Buick LaCross have been asked to accompany the ship’s Captain, Commodore Bernard Warner at his table in his private dining salon for this very special pre-cruise event.

And, to my good luck, there are six seats to be filled for this most luxurious dining spectacular, all expenses paid. If I sent you an invitation to this party, would you RSVP?

Oh, I forgot to tell you that there will be a very special couple also invited to The Captain’s Table that evening, a “royal” couple from the country where the ship will be docked the evening of the dinner party.

This is your engraved invitation with my menu designed for the finest ocean liner in the world, Queen Mary 2.

LUXURY DINNER PARTY INVITATION
First Courses
Chilled Cranberry Soup with Aquavit
Napoleon of Smoked Salmon with Caviar
Peach and Champagne Sorbet

Main Course
Roast Ducklings à l’Orange
Haricots Verts, Braised Leeks and Thyme

Finale
Fresh Fruit and International Cheese Cart
Baked Alaska with Almond Mousse Cake
Amaretto

You might like to know a few things about this opulent menu and why it was created for The Captain’s Table on this most auspicious occasion.

First, the overall presentation is sparkly and colorful, full of new and exotic flavors. Each dish is served on fine white china, each diner being served at the same precise moment.

Then, special attention is given so that each dish is served with a taste all its own, yet each dish relates to the next in texture or color. Notice the variety of aromas, sounds, and visual delights included in the menu, flowery aquavit, fizzing sorbet, and flaming baked Alaska, to be served with a flourish. This dinner promises to be a treat for the nose, a feast for the eyes, and titillating to the tongue.

Lastly, this unforgettable dinner party was planned for efficiency, both in the availability of the ingredients and the high level of care that is expected on a luxury ship such as the Queen Mary 2. Most of the dishes will be prepared in the afternoon, easily ready for presentation at the exact moment the signal is given to begin the service.

If you’d like to be one of the guests at The Captain’s Table for this most luxurious dinner party, please RSVP now, and I’ll take care of everything else.

Whoops, I think I’m out of my dream and back to reality. This event couldn’t really happen, could it? With the creative minds at work producing the gorgeous Buick LaCross, they might just come up with such a promotion. I’d really love to plan the actual menu, and to meet the Prince of Monaco.

Keep your fingers crossed that I’ll be a contestant again next year!
Cora

I’m Ready, Set & Blogging to Be a Star!

Published on September 19th, 201010 comment

As you’ve noticed, I’m competing to be the 2010 Foodbuzz Blogger of the Year, which is a big stretch for me. It’s really quite amazing!

These folks look amazed, but they’re having fun learning new food skills together and getting to know each other – they are Boquete Gourmet readers!

Sure, I’ve been blogging for almost a year, it all began on September 30, 2009. It was then when I realized that this new life-style I was living at the top of a mountain in Boquete, Panama, opened up a world of opportunity in so many ways.

But, a year is such a short time to learn not only the ins and outs of blogging, but also how I could make a difference in my new Panamanian community by sharing my experiences with others.

The purpose of this blog is to share what defines me as a food blogger and to explain why I think I should be the next Food Blog Star.

First, my goals of blogging are not just to relate new, innovative recipes to my readers, but I want to communicate the whole, new life-style I’ve been living for the past 8 years. And, I want do it though the hearts of my readers. How is that possible? EASY – - through FOOD!

I’m passionate about food, it’s been my hobby all my life. I can’t visit a new place without trying the local cuisine and attempting to reproduce it in my own kitchen as soon as possible.

There are lots of ways Boquete Gourmet is different from any other blog on the web. My subject matter includes as many aspects of living in a foreign country as possible.

Not only do I blog, but I’ve tried to include as many of my readers in food-related activities as possible. These are all photos of Boquete Gourmet readers, the “real stars” of this blog.

Boquete Gourmet readers visit unusual, unfamiliar area restaurants, travel to neighboring communities together, enjoy Underground Dining events and participate in cooking classes taught by local cooks, bakers and International chefs.

Boquete Gourmet readers are getting involved in their new, foreign community, they try new foods, contribute recipes to the Boquete Community Cookbook and shop in stores unlike anywhere else in the world because of reading my blog.

Boquete Gourmet readers see what it’s like to share experiences across cultures, to dine out of their comfort zone, and to build a new, blended community together.

Everyone in Boquete enjoys pure, mountain water that makes the finest cup of coffee in the world. We all enjoy clean, cool air year-round, and the freshest, home-grown foods the rich, volcanic soil can produce. But, to learn each others customs and life-style through a food blog, is truly unique.

Finally, why should I be the next Food Blog Star? I’m passionate about getting people involved with each other, about sharing each others skills, and about “developing community” not only in Boquete, but in little communities everywhere!

As a “Food Blog Star” I will be able to invest $10,000 promoting “Build Community – Dine Together” throughout the world, helping to foster understanding and peace through man’s basic need, food!

Wish me luck -
Cora

Explore the New Kitchen Store in David

Published on September 16th, 20102 comment


La Cocina has recently opened their doors in David, offering low-cost housewares of all types, lots of plastic containers and cookware.

To get to La Cocina, take the first left off the highway and drive past Romero’s until you get to one of the 3 traffic lights in David. Elmec is on the left and the new La Cocina Kitchen Store is on the far right corner, right across from Elmec.

The owners are very helpful, and they have items that are not readily available in other shops. Actually, I believe this is the only exclusive kitchen store between here and Panama City.


The first thing I noticed was the huge selection of mixing bowls beginning at only $1, the stacks of aluminum cookware and good-quality 5-piece wooden spoon sets for $2. I bought a set of spoons, which are just right for mixing up some artisan bread dough. I painted orange stripes on the handles to match my kitchen and to make them easy to find in my drawers.

If you are looking for plastic containers, pitchers, plastic and ceramic plates or bowls, La Cocina is the place to visit.

You won’t find any electrical appliances at La Cocina, which is unfortunate. I’d really like to find a place to buy an electric juicer, a big electric fry pan and a milkshake maker. With Lauretta’s “Gourmet Burgers & More” cooking class coming up, I know I’ll need a milkshake maker.

The owners were very glad to have us visit their shop. They are trying to bring items for the kitchen together into one place, making it easy for cooks like us. I asked if they handled wooden cutting boards, and the response was “Yes, we will be getting them soon.”

A very nice stainless steel thermos bottle was $4, just what I needed to keep a delicious cup of Boquete’s fine coffee hot to drink anytime. It fits perfectly into my car’s console.

I love kitchen gadgets, and La Cocina has a limited supply of basic gadgets. In the photo below, you can see their selection of gadgets on the back wall.

I’ll keep checking back to see the new items La Cocina will be offering and pass along interesting acquisitions to you, as they appear.

Upon leaving La Cocina, I turned left and walked one block to the new Cuidad De David Hotel, the perfect place for lunch!

Don’t you just love David?
Cora

What’s Better Than Bacon and Eggs?

Published on September 6th, 2010no comments

It’s a good question and one that’s about impossible to answer. But lately, I’ve gone back to some of my old recipes for “new” ideas for Sunday breakfast.

During my school-teaching years, on special “Teacher Training” days when we had to report in early, many teachers would bring a breakfast dish to share during our first break. Usually it was donuts or danish rolls.. But, one day Carmen, a fellow teacher brought in a classic, old-fashioned Quiche Lorraine cut into squares.

When I say “old-fashioned”, I mean this was 1960, and quiche was “upscale”!

Do you know if the dish called “quiche” is originally French or German? You’ll find out after you read this delicious, fantastic recipe for Carmen’s “Classic Quiche Lorraine” from 1960. Believe me, it’s better than bacon and eggs!

6 bacon slices, cooked crispy and diced
1/2 cup Swiss or Colby cheese, shredded
3 eggs
1 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup onion, minced, optional
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 9″ pie shell
Preheat oven to 400F degrees.

Sprinkle bacon and cheese in the bottom of pie shell. Beat together eggs, cream and seasonings and pour mixture into pie shell.

Bake for 15 minutes and reduce temperature to 325F degrees and continue baking 20 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

The photo at the left appears in Wikipedia in the article about the history of quiche. The first quiche originally appeared in Germany, then it was adopted by the French. In the photo you can see that today’s quiches are baked with spinach, crab, and just about anything the modern chef can imagine.

I hope you can duplicate this beautiful dish that’s just as popular in France today as it was in Florida years ago. This classic remains my favorite Sunday breakfast treat.

It’s even better than bacon and eggs!

Cora

Your Grandfather’s Artisan Bread!

Published on September 3rd, 2010no comments


This bread is very special, not only because it’s baked in an outdoor clay oven, but it’s made by your grandfather, or should I say “grandfathers”.

Last week, Rudy, Jim, Jerry and David tried their hands making artisan bread, under the watchful eye of instructor, Grandpa Mort Rabkin.

The results were amazing, beautifully mixed, kneaded, shaped and baked by these very talented grandfathers.

One of the first questions that was asked in the class was “What is artisan bread? “Good question”, was Mort’s eager reply. “Does anyone know what makes bread “artisan?”

The gramps thought and quickly came up with lots of replies, including the fact that each loaf is hand-crafted, not mass produced. Artisan breads are made with few and all-natural ingredients, no chemicals, and baked in “masonry” ovens.

The characteristic I love about hearth breads is that they are so beautiful, crusty and luscious looking, like the ones pictured below.

Step by step, the gramps weighed, measured, mixed and kneaded their dough until it had just the right feeling. It’s a bit of a trick to learn when the dough is smooth enough to rise, but after the first experience, it’ll only take a bit of practice to get it exactly right.

Using Mort’s handmade wooden peal, Jerry loaded the wood-burning oven with his final creation, his very own loaf of home-baked hearth bread.

Jim and David had just pulled these loaves out of the oven when I took the photos below. Gorgeous, wouldn’t you say?

Now that these gentlemen have learned to bake artisan breads, here’s an interesting way they can use it to dazzle their children and grandchildren.

Panzanella is a “show-stopper”, especially when made with grandpa’s old-fashioned rustic bread cubes. If there’s any bread left the day after baking, gather together the following ingredients and toss them together in a large salad bowl.

2 cups day-old artisan bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and lightly toasted in broiler
1 large tomato, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium cucumber, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium red onion, 1/4 inch slices separated into rings
1/2 cup green or black olives, pitted
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
10-12 fresh basil leaves, torn

To make the dressing, whisk together the following 4 ingredients in a small bowl. Sprinkle the dressing over the salad, toss and serve.
3 minced anchovies
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Artisan breads are available regularly at Boquete’s Tuesday Morning Market, held from 9am-12pm every Tuesday at the Event Center, just over the bridge from El Parque Central. If you’d like to taste some of these rustic breads, Mort brings a variety of his clay-oven breads on most Tuesday mornings.

Now, you can enjoy his fresh, one-of-a-kind breads and use any left overs, if you’re lucky enough to have any, to make a unique, old-world Panzanella salad, just like grandpas are making in Boquete.

Happy baking!
Cora

From 65 to 95 Degrees in 45 Minutes!

Published on August 18th, 2010no comments

This unusual phenomenon happens every time I go to David, just 45 minutes from Boquete, Panama. The mornings up here on the side of Volcan Baru are cool and the landscape is often spotted with bajareques, tiny puffs of white clouds. This morning, the Pacific Ocean can be seen from my kitchen windows and Volcan Baru from the terrace, it’s a lovely day.

Most folks up here don a light jacket in the early morning, and sometimes a knit cap to fend off the morning chill. It’s about 60-65F degrees when David and I decide to make our way down the mountain to do some specialty shopping, visit my dentist, and get the car tuned up.

Our little town is quiet at about 8:30am, as most shops here don’t open until after 9am, nothing seems to be a set routine for opening or closing. But, by the time we get to David, the capitol of Chiriqui Province, everything will be up and running.

No air conditioning is needed in our car up here in Boquete, it’s still a bit chilly as we begin our journey. But slowly, I can feel the heat creeping into the car, just about the time we get to Dolega, a small town about half way to David.

This morning I dropped off some “Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbooks” with Harold at The Bookmark Bookstore in Dolega. The bookstore is open early, set with tables of bargain books on the front patio. Harold has enlarged the store with several small rooms stacked with hundreds of books in English, nicely organized for easy shopping. My autographed cookbook is available there for $8, including a collector bookmark, of course.

Then, it’s time to turn on the air conditioning for the remaining 20 minutes of our trip down the mountain to David. We slow down through Algarrobos, drive over the Chiriqui River, past a couple waterfalls, and we’re soon entering the lush residential neighborhood of El Terronal in David.

Yes, the temperature is now 95F degrees, the sun is beating down in the city and people are everywhere. This place is alive! As we pull into the Cuidad de David Hotel parking lot in the center of the city and open the car door, the heat hits us like we’re in a totally different part of the world.

The streets of the city are teeming with happy shoppers dressed in light-weight clothing, some carrying umbrellas to protect themselves against the tropical rays. The new city park is full of residents going about their busy lives.

The day is mine to enjoy, I can “shop ’til I drop”! It only took me 45 minutes to totally change my environment from cool, quiet and laid-back to hot, vibrant, and hustle/bustle.

I’ve noticed that the meals offered at restaurants in both locations are quite different, as well. In David, we can have nachos at a casino, fast-food at KFC or McDonald’s, or eat in an open-air cafeteria. Could choices like that be coming to Boquete one day soon?

David is fun to visit, but I like our little mountain town up in the clouds best.

The cool view from the top is awesome, wouldn’t you agree?
Cora

How to Throw a Tapas Party

Published on August 11th, 20103 comment

Do you like to throw parties? Boquete is the perfect place to throw a party, with it’s cool mountain air to create the ultimate atmosphere, and with lots of folks living here who love to socialize. What better party to throw than a Tapas Party?

Panama is a Spanish country, and tapas is the perfect food to serve when friends and visitors get together. No one knows that better than Foodie Couture Chef, Dede Basden, visiting Boquete from Dallas, Texas.

During her visit to Boquete, Dede hosted a huge tapas party in my kitchen, one that included the guests preparing drinks and intriguing tiny dishes, laughing and munching throughout the evening while listening to Latin music. What a fun party!

Foodie Couture Tapas Party Menu

Red and White Sangria
Cayenne Shrimp Chips with Spicy Sriracha Aioli
Spicy Tuna Crisps
Corvina Ceviche in Egg-roll Cups
Mushroom Ravioli with Balsamic Brown Butter
Grilled Steak with Caramelized Onions and Blue Cheese
Chocolate Banana Egg rolls

The formula for a Tapas Party is simple: invite 12 good friends, get together ingredients for sangria and six tapas dishes, provide a recipe to each couple, put on some Latin music and let your guests do the rest.

Tapas are eaten throughout the party, as each dish is completed. It may be necessary to stop and make another pitcher of Sangria, no problem.

Be sure to have plenty of small plates on hand, plastic works just fine. And, include an easy dessert such as Dede’s Banana Eggrolls with Chocolate Syrup.

12 small eggroll sheets
6 bananas, cut in half
2 Hershey’s chocolate bars, cut into squares
1 cup shredded coconut, toasted
1 cup vegetable oil
Chocolate syrup, whipped cream, vanilla ice cream and coconut for garnishes

Place one eggroll wrapper diagonally on the counter and center a piece of banana on the lower half of the wrapper. Top with chocolate squares and coconut flakes. Roll the wrapper up over the banana and bring sides towards the middle so the extra dough is in the middle, forming a packet. Lightly wet the end of the wrapper so it will stick together. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat and when oil begins to bubble slightly, add the eggrolls and brown on all sides until crisp. Remove from pan and serve with chocolate syrup, ice cream, whipped cream and coconut flakes.

Dede has a standing Invitation to return to Boquete anytime and, if she has time, we’d love to have her host another one of her delightful parties! If you might be interested in partying with Dede, please let me know or check out her website at www.foodiecouture.com.
Enjoy the party!
Cora

Fine Chocolate Available in Boquete

Published on August 7th, 2010no comments

Boquete’s Sugar & Spice Bakery Pastry Chef, Richard Meyer has presented two very successful cooking classes for Boquete Gourmet during these last few weeks. Richard’s dishes were decadent and many students enjoyed the class so much chocolate, they became real aficionados of this fine delicacy.

The question asked in each class was where to buy fine, gourmet-style chocolate, the type found in France, Belgium, Holland or Germany. Many new residents in Boquete are yearning for the day when they can make chocolate delicacies from fine, imported chocolate here in Panama. And, now is the time.

The finest Belcolade Chocolate, imported from Belgium, is now available at the Boquete Tuesday Morning Market, beginning this Tuesday. The market is held in the Event Center, just over the bridge in the town center of Boquete, and it opens at 9:00am every Tuesday.

This fine, 70% cacao chocolate is bagged in pieces as they break from the huge, original bar. Pieces vary from 2 ounces to about one pound in weight. It is priced at 60 cents per ounce and comes with a recipe for Boquete Gourmet Chocolate Truffles, a very easy to make chocolate candy that requires no special skills to make. The truffle recipe is also included in Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook, available at locations listed on the right of this article.

There are many, many sweet treats that can be made from this fine chocolate, including some pictured here.

But, if you’d like to make something different with your chocolate, try this chicken recipe made with chocolate. Chocolate and chicken might not sound like the tastiest combination, but chicken mole marries these two unlikely foods together and the result is culinary heaven. This dish mixes common spices with chocolate before cooking it with chicken. If you’d like to make something unusual with your fine chocolate, try this dish.

CHOCOLATE CHICKEN
6 chicken breasts, skinless and boneless
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 cups broth
¼ cup almonds, slivered
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon. cumin
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
2 oz. unsweetened Belcolade chocolate, chopped

In a large, ovenproof skillet, heat the oil and cook the garlic until just soft, not brown, then add the chicken and brown. Remove the chicken and add the chili powder, blending it in well. Use less chili powder or omit if you don’t like spicy foods. Add the broth, almonds, raisins, and seasonings. Simmer this, covered, for about 30 minutes. Add the chocolate to the mixture, stirring until melted and return the chicken to the skillet, spooning sauce over the chicken. Cover and bake at 350F degrees for 1 hour, or until the chicken is tender. Serve with some chopped cilantro and buttered egg noodles on the side

Pick up some fresh Belgian chocolate at this Tuesday’s Boquete Market, you’ll love cooking with it!
Cora

Getting Ready for Chef Juan

Published on August 2nd, 20103 comment

Our next Boquete Gourmet cooking class features Juan Linares, Professional Chef and exceptional teacher, presenting “Famous Historic Dishes”. Juan will tell stories about six historic dishes and he will demonstrate how to make them, explain how they figured in history and share how they can be replicated today in Boquete and in your kitchen.

The class is totally filled at this time, and a waiting list of eager participants are standing by, in case someone is not able to attend. The dishes are unusual; Beef Wellington, Antipasto, Crepes Suzette, and three other unique dishes, making a full-course dinner for the attendees. This is culinary history revisited.

I have received the recipes from Chef Juan and they are all very interesting, full of unique techniques and blends of ingredients to be prepared on Thursday.

One of the tips we’ll learn is where to get ready-made puff pastry, right here in Boquete. There are two main dishes, Beef Wellington and Chicken Marengo, each of which have interesting and unique histories.

My shopping list is now complete and it should be quite easy to find everything the chef needs. Almost everything is available within 5 minutes of my kitchen. Juan uses ingredients that are mostly found locally, except for one.

The item that may be a bit difficult to find is real French foie gras, or fat goose liver pate’. We have a small delicatessen on Boquete’s main street, so I’ll begin my search there. If I can’t find it here, I may need to go down to David, a city about 45 minutes from Boquete. Almost everything can be found in David’s many huge supermarkets.

If you’d like to read more about foie gras, go to Wikipedia for the complete history, methods of preparing and serving this delicacy. Wikipedia provided this idea of serving it with pickled pears, it really looks delicious.

The entire menu from the class will be posted soon, along with one of the recipes from Juan’s recipe book.

Please keep checking this site for more details on this one-of-a-kind, historical class, and especially of how Chef Juan plans to use the foie gras.
Wish me luck shopping!
Cora

My Wild and Wonderful Lime Squeezer

Published on July 31st, 2010no comments

In 1998, David and I were in Finland over the holiday season, exploring the Arctic Circle, dining in an igloo and studying Finnish design. At that time, I discovered what looked like the most unusual kitchen gadget I had ever seen, the “Jucy Salif’ lemon/lime squeezer, designed by Philippe Starck.

I wanted to get it at the time, but it seems way too pricey at over $100. It was made of aluminum and was one of most innovative kitchen gadgets I saw in Helsinki. The photo above was taken by John Watter, and it makes my new squeezer look very glamorous, which it is.

Last week, while touring Paris, I spotted the same tool again, the only time I had seen it since Helsinki. This time, I bought it and brought it back to Boquete with me, to my huge delight! I love it – - – isn’t it beautiful?

It works exactly like you would imagine, the lime juice follows the grooves in the squeezer and drips perfectly into the glass, no squirting or splashing. Can you see the drop of lime juice in my photo?

Philippe Starck designed the juicer for Alessi back in 1980, and there is an abundance of information available about this creative French designer at www.wikipedia.com. You can now buy one at Amazon.com for $94.00.

Now, what to make from our prolific limes that grow in our garden? Easy and fast, simple and luscious, would be my adaptation of Aurora’s Avocado Ceviche, from my new book, Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook.

1 avocado, peeled and cubed
4 small limes, juiced
1 large dill pickle, finely diced
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 tablespoons green onion, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Place avocado and lime juice in a small bowl and marinate about an hour. Combine all other ingredients in another bowl and add marinated avocados. Note that the amounts of some of the ingredients are changed slightly from the original, as I wanted to use it as a salad dressing. Stir lightly and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve with crackers or as I served it, a dressing over chopped lettuce.

In France, I paid about half the stated price as Amazon’s price, but I’m sure the trip over to Europe wouldn’t pay that difference for you.

If you have a lime/lemon squeezer you love, please let me know about it.

Happy squeezing!
Cora

Everyone Loves Snickerdoodles!

Published on June 21st, 2010no comments

My grandmother Sadie, baked Snickerdoodles since she was a child. She remembers having them all during her childhood home in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a favorite with her mother. She served them regularly in her boarding house near the old paper mill.

Trying to find the origin of this peculiarly-named cookie, my research revealed that the first time the name was used was in Iowa in 1902. Many similar recipes appeared as early as 1700s, but the first known cookies called “Snickerdoodles” were made from Mrs. John Montgomery’s recipe.

Mrs. Montgomery was one of the Estherville Housewives, in their published cookbook collection entitled “1902 Cookbook: A Collection of Tried Recipes”, Mrs. Al Barnum and Mrs. S.I. Delavan editors. On page 80 of the book appears this Snickerdoodle recipe: Three cups of flour, two cups of sugar, one cup of butter, two eggs, two teaspoons of cream of tartar, one teaspoon of soda. Drop in a pan and sprinkle a little sugar and cinnamon over each. Bake in a quick oven.

Since then, modern writers have claimed all sorts of origins for this recipe, as you can see if you Google its name. I’ve always loved my grandmother Sadie’s Snickerdoodles and I make them often in my own home. Her recipe is a bit different from the original recipe, but they always get rave reviews. I baked a batch of tiny Snickerdoodles for a recent party, and 69 cookies disappeared in minutes!

SNICKERDOODLES
1 cup shortening
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 3/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Cream shortening and sugar, add eggs and beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt. Blend mixtures together and refrigerate 15-20 minutes. In a small bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon together. Shape chilled dough into walnut-sized balls. Roll balls in cinnamon sugar and place on a cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Bake at 400F degrees until cracks appear, 8-10 minutes. Makes 5 dozen cookies.

This is a popular, old family recipe passed down to me by my Grandmother. Similar versions are found in many cookbooks today.

Savor a Snickerdoodle with a delightful cup of Sitton coffee. They just seem to go together, Sitton coffee and one of Sadie’s Snickerdoodles! The results are irresistible, always garnering rave reviews.

How could I resist including my grandmother’s Snickerdoodle recipe in my new cookbook, “Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook”, available at the Bookmark Bookstore in Dolega, just south of Boquete. At an upcoming Tuesdays Morning Market, you may be lucky enough to taste one of these delicious little treats and at the same time purchase a copy of this very unusual Boquete cookbook that includes recipes from 46 local residents. It’s sure to become a classic collection of Boquete cuisine.

Enjoy a Snickerdoodle today!
Cora

Pacific Rim Cuisine – Underground

Published on June 18th, 2010one comment

The second underground dinner was held in a pouring rainstorm, high on the side of a Volcano in Boquete, Panama. It was a thrilling event, filled with lots of laughter, great food and friendly people. The dinner was overbooked, but everyone seemed to find a seat and to enjoy the 5-course gourmet dinner presented by Bistro Boquete Chef Lauretta. Diners found it to be truly world-class.

Tables were set with tiny shirts, bright flowers and twinkling candles and the affair began with drying off umbrellas, uncorking wine and getting to know each other. Guests were very adventurous, coming to a dinner with an unknown menu at location only disclosed the day before the event. Their excitement was tempered by knowing the chef, renown for her expertise for preparing many world cuisines, and her desire to always bring forth the finest available in culinary circles.

This night was extraordinary, not only because of the lavish menu, but it rained and the dinner was held on an open patio, deep in one of the finest coffee plantations in Boquete, Panama. The atmosphere was cool and cozy with the fire roaring.

Lauretta presented her menu beautifully, serving course after course in perfect rhythm. This was her menu, including dishes from six countries around the culinary “Pacific Rim”.

PACIFIC RIM – UNDERGROUND
Sushi California Rolls with Spicy Mayonnaise and Wasabi

Thai Coconut Ginger Chicken Soup with Fresh Mint

Chinese Noodle Salad
Sesame Peanut Dressing

Hawaiian Grilled Fish Filet with Asparagus
Basmati Rice

Korean Barbecue Pork Chops
Hot Pot Vegetables

Green Tea Mousse with Sake-marinated Dried Plums

Country cuisines represented from the Pacific Rim were Thailand, USA, Japan, China, Hawaii and Korea.


The Green Tea Mousse with Sake-marinated Dried Plums was a dish from Ming Tsai’s “Blue Ginger” cookbook, an example of “where east meets west”, as Ming says. Lauretta’s twist on Ming’s recipe used dried plums instead of dried cherries, as the original recipe prescribed. This photo shows Lauretta plating these luscious, rich, little desserts.

You can see how beautifully the patio at this famous coffee plantation was decorated, but you must have been there to truly appreciate the fine food, impeccable service and friendly atmosphere of this second-ever underground dinner in Boquete.

If you’d like to enjoy one of Lauretta’s extravagant, gourmet, 5-course dinners, please let me know and I’ll send you an invite soon.

Happy dining!
Cora

Make a Necktie Cake for Father’s Day!

Published on June 14th, 2010no comments

As you know, the USA celebrates Father’s Day June 20. I’m not sure whether Panama sets a day to honor fathers here, does anyone know? Anyway, I just received a very unusual email from a very clever young college student, Matt. I was so impressed at his creativity that I had to share his idea with my readers.

Matt offered this small blog to me to publish on my site, he said he just “ran into my site on the internet” and decided to offer me use of his blog. This is his Father’s Day idea he wrote about in his website, www.tiepedia.com. Thanks, Matt, it’s the first time I have received such a gift, I like it! Here is Matt’s blog and his idea for this year’s Father’s Day.

“It may surprise some of you to hear what I am about to say, but it must be said. Not all guys want a tie on Father’s Day. GASP! I know, I know, it sounds crazy… and I certainly am not one of those guys, but apparently it’s true.

Listen to what Joseph Hurtado has to say, “there are only two types of men: those who hate ties, and those who grudgingly accept them as part of the job.”

Blasphemy as far as I am concerned, but if you’re Mrs. Hurtado you may want to think twice about getting Joseph a tie for Father’s Day. How about baking him a delicious necktie cake instead? I don’t think many men could resist that. Here are some sweet examples for you to consider!”

If the creators of these cakes are offended by your work being appreciated on this site, please let me know.

Thanks for sharing your inspirations with us, Matt. They are truly works of art!

The Mocha Walnut Cake recipe in my new “Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook” would be the perfect cake for your necktie creation.
Happy Father’s Day!
Cora

Anne’s Pie Crust with Squirt’s Fudge Pie

Published on June 11th, 2010no comments

Anne's Pie CrustOne of life’s greatest pleasures is the aroma and taste of a big, luscious piece of Mom’s warm, homemade pie, together with a cup of fine robust coffee from Boquete. During our busy days, why don’t we bake more pies? Maybe it’s because the crust seems so difficult to make. Maybe we think it will turn out tough or soggy, or we think it won’t be able to roll out easily.

For me, it was all of the above and it just took too much time – until David’s sister Anne brought forth her “easy as pie”, “never-fail”, “super-dooper” pie crust recipe that includes an egg and vinegar, yes vinegar! Last year, I made pumpkin pie with Anne’s pie crust, and last week I made Fudge Pie with Anne’s crust and it was really decadent! Here are Anne and Squirt’s recipes.

ANNE’S PIE CRUST

Wisk 4 cups flour, 1T sugar and 2t salt in a large bowl.
Add 1 3/4 cup vegetable shortening with a fork
Beat 1 T vinegar, 1 large egg and 1/2 cup water in a small bowl.
Combine with a fork and divide into 4 portions, shape each portion into a round patty, wrap separately in ClingWrap and freeze the patties.

The fun part of making a pie is putting it all together and with Anne’s recipe it actually becomes a pleasure. First, I take out a patty from my freezer and while it’s thawing, I decide what kind of pie to make by visiting my favorite foodie sites or researching my specialty cookbooks. A trick I learned from Rachel Ray is to always have ingredients on hand to make my favorite dishes, so I have lots of pie filling possibilities in my pantry.

Any time you feel like making Squirt’s Fudge Pie, defrost a patty, roll it out between two pieces of waxed paper, transfer the crust to a pie plate and bake at 350F degrees until slightly browned. Fill it Squirt’s recipe and bake as below.

SQUIRT’S FUDGE PIE

10 tablespoons (! 1/4 sticks) butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

The oven should be 350F degrees. Melt butter in a large microwave-safe container in the microwave. Cool slightly and add vanilla and eggs, and mix thoroughly. In a separate bowl, stir together with a fork sugar, flour and cocoa powder. Add dry mixture to the butter, vanilla and egg mixture and mix thoroughly. Pour mixture into baked pastry shell and place in oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the center seems gently set. It should give a little when you touch it and should not be liquid. Let pie cool and spread with unsweetened whipped cream, if you wish.

Anne and Squirt met each other during Anne’s visit to Boquete last month. What a team!
Find these two recipes and more in the all new “Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook”, available next week.
Cora

Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook is Here and You’re Invited to the Party!

Published on June 8th, 20103 comment

Many residents and contributors to the new “Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook” have been anxiously waiting the arrival of the published books themselves. Attendees of Boquete’s Tuesday Morning Market have tasted some of the sweets that are included in the Sweet & Savory Coffee Mates chapter, including Chocolate Truffles and Mounds Drops.

Several recipes are included that have been contributed by Host Chefs participating in Boquete Gourmet’s “Host Chef Program. The world-famous Rumaki first appeared at Don the Beachcomber restaurant in Hollywood, and Host Chef, Greg Henry traveled from Los Angeles to share this delicacy with us here in Boquete. He planned the “ultimate” Hollywood party for students attending his “Golden Age of Hollywood” cooking class, and 3 of Greg’s recipes will appear in the book. Above, Leisure Chef Squirt James assists students in making her unique French bread, see recipe in the cookbook.

Speaking of parties, one chapter is dedicated solely to Fancy Town Parties that have been thrown in Boquete over the past few years. Hosts and hostesses have contributed some of their favorite recipes to the book, you’ll really like making Georgianne and Barry’s Breakfast Casserole. Below, Jane set a lovely party table for a special get-together with friends.

Several Local Charities Helping Others have contributed recipes that connect with some of the good work that is helping to develop lives in Boquete. You’ll enjoy making Aida’s Arroz con Leche and Anayansi’s Empanadas with Ripe Plantains.

One chapter contains many Highland Favorites written by long-term residents and native Boquetenos. The favorite Sancocho Soup is written by my friend Julia, complete with her twist on this old-time Panamanian recipe. This photo is of the otoy she prepared for her soup.

Of course, two chapters are dedicated to coffee, Boquete’s foremost product. Coffee Comes First features dishes made with coffee as the main ingredient. The Coffee Mates chapter includes sweet and savory side dishes to be served with locally grown coffees, such as Bourbon Balls served with Cafe Dos Jefes.

Now, the books are in Boquete and the “Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook” Signing Party is scheduled. Everyone is invited to the party, which will be held in our Cantina in El Santuario on Wednesday, June 16, 4pm-6pm. All the contributors have been invited to come and to bring their favorite pens to sign books for everyone.

The party will be lots of fun, a chance to taste some of the dishes from the cookbook and to get copies of this first-ever Boquete cookbook signed by the author and many of its contributors. The cost of the book is $8.00 and if purchased at the party, books will include a collector bookmark and you’ll have the opportunity to get books autographed by the contributors.

The party is complimentary, only a reservation is needed by email to boquetegourmet@gmail.com.
Please RSVP as soon as possible.
Hope to see you there,
Cora

Boquete’s First “Underground”

Published on May 19th, 2010one comment

Everyone was atwitter as news of the location of Boquete’s first underground dinner was sent to confirmed invitees only. This was a private affair and an event that has unending possibilities in Boquete.

Years ago, I hoped to receive an invitation to this most misunderstood and adventurous form of dining experience. Friends in Florida had invites to local events such as this, but never me. Because the guest list is private and I didn’t know many people who attended such events, I didn’t know much about them. I only knew they packed a bottle of fine wine into their fancy wine totes and went to some “mysterious” place for a gourmet dinner.

But on Saturday, I attended my first “Underground”, and the first such event in Boquete’s history. As you can tell by the photo, the guests and the location will remain undisclosed, but I’ll include the menu and a couple “chef moves” below. It’s difficult to describe an indescribable event, but here’s a glimpse.

The evening was fun-filled and a bit glamorous. The crowd was amazing, people who have lived in Boquete for years and folks who were visiting here for the first time. Young and not-so-young, dressy and smart-casual attire, all types of gourmands. Three things we all had in common; a love for adventure and fine living, a yearning to do something different, and a desire to meet new friends for the first time.

To have a renown chef, Lauretta Bonfiglio, to present the dinner, was icing on the cake!
Chef Lauretta’s “Six Tables” were moved to the dining site from the Bistro Boquete, closed for a few months for renovation. They were arranged in neat fashion, draped in matching tablecloths and each setting was arranged in a formal design with shiny tiles, crown-shaped napkins and a scroll marking the menu, as listed here.

Lauretta’s Six Tables
“Nouvelle Creole – Underground”

Tomato, Mozzarella and Roasted Garlic Tart

Carrot and Leek Soup with Fresh Thyme

Garden Fresh Greens, Walnuts, Pears and Blue Cheese
Berry-Balsamic Vinaigrette

Caribbean-Style Chicken with Brown Sugar and Peanut-Spice Rub
Cajun Au Gratin Potatoes

Pan-Seared Filet Mignon with Dark Rum, Red Chili Sauce
Wild Mushroom Rice

Chocolate-Almond Ice Cream Torte with Ganache, Whipped Crème and Fresh Mint


The guests enjoyed being served at the same time, course by course, table by table. Each place setting was coordinated in style and color, and each dish seemed more interesting than the last. The conversation grew as the dessert was served, topped with whipped cream and a birthday candle. As guests lit their candles and sang “Happy Birthday” to Roger, Lauretta and her staff appeared to huge applause, bows and flashbulbs.

This is what Underground is all about, enjoying a special evening with good friends, great food, and memories that will last forever. Boquete is a magical place with stunning rainbows, rich full-bodied coffee and world-class restaurants. Now, Boquete has opened a whole new dining style, one with a bit of mystery included. I understand “Six Tables” are moving to an elegant coffee finca for Boquete’s next Underground.
Can’t wait!
Cora

World’s Largest Hotel Chain is Here!

Published on May 17th, 2010no comments

In my attempt to find gourmet connections in Chiriqui Province, I found one of the “World’s Largest Hotel Chains”, David’s new Best Western Hotel. It’s a beautiful 7-story remodel of the old El Panama Hotel, that was built back in the early 70′s. Over the years, the old hotel became a bit scary. Then, in the last few months, it morphed into a fine, beautifully-located, modern, upscale hotel in mid-town David.

This wasn’t my first visit to the hotel, I’m returning because it is a friendly, quiet, cool place to have a light lunch. When it first opened, Matt, one of the managers, welcomed us to the very nice bar and reception area. Below, Matt and David are enjoying the waterfall wall in the Wine Bar. They both have much in common, as they each have experience building and remodeling large construction projects, and in solving concerns relating to such projects. A lot can be settled over a glass of wine!

Surprisingly, Matt had read my blog previously, and he was happy to meet David and me “in person”. I must say that Matt was one of most gracious innkeepers I have ever met. He showed us several of the rooms, and he shared his adventures in updating this old building into the “state-of-the-art” facility it is today. All the furniture, decor and appliances were especially designed and manufactured for this hotel.

All modern conveniences are available in the new hotel; 108 luxury rooms, 7 are equipped for physically challenged, Itanello’s Grill and Wine Bar, meeting rooms that accommodate 150 people, a fully-equipped fitness center, lots of secured parking and so many amenities, they can’t be listed here.

The rooms are modern with sleek fixtures, flat-screen TVs and high-quality linens. The color scheme throughout the hotel shows how much the new owners paid attention to every detail, making sure guests find comfort and convenience during their stay in David. The service and quality are up to world standards, as set by the Best Western Corporation.

Chef, Carlos Taylor, prepared grilled ham and cheese sandwiches especially for us. If what you want isn’t on the menu, ask Chef Carlos to prepare it for you. The French fries served with the piping hot sandwich, were the BEST I have EVER tasted, and David agreed!

I would like to include a stay at the new Best Western on a “Gourmet/Jazz Tour of David” soon. Please check back to find dates and details of the “first-ever” Boquete Gourmet’s overnight outing in David. We may be able to spend the day and night at the new Best Western Hotel, enjoy one of Itanello’s gourmet dinners, as well as to attend some of David’s fine entertainment offered after dark.
Keep watching!
Cora

Bread Dinner of La Mancha

Published on May 15th, 2010no comments

Do you remember the movie, “Man of La Mancha”? It was written by Miguel de Cervantes and filmed in 1972 and was about the hero, Don Quixote and his beautiful wench, who fell in love and lived “happily ever after”. Peter O’Toole played Don Quixote and a very famous Italian siren played the wench. Do you remember who played her part?

This is one of the displays I designed for the new Conway Department Store in David, based upon Don Quixote and my paella recipe. The recipe cards were available for shoppers to the housewares department on the third floor.

Castilla La Mancha is a large province south, west and east of of Madrid, Spain, and Toledo is the capitol. David and I visited La Mancha last year and we love it very much. I snapped this photo of some of La Mancha’s windmills from our fast-moving car. Remember “tilting at windmills”? It’s a lovely part of Spain, where Manchego cheese is produced, one of the finest cheeses in the world.

While there, I picked up a cookbook full of popular Spanish recipes. The shiny-paged book included maps, famous wines and typical dishes from every province, and it is full of beautiful, full-color photos of every recipe. One recipe caught my eye, MIGAS MANCHEGO or “Fried Breadcrumbs from La Mancha”. The author of the book gave this recipe 2 complete pages and claimed it was made practically all over Spain, with slight variations. For some reason, I just couldn’t see Don Quixote and his wench eating such a dinner. So, I made it myself, and it was really surprisingly delicious, once I got over the health issues.

MIGAS MANCHEGO

10 slices dried bread, or equivilant
1 cup chorizo, salami, ham, serrano, bologna, or solid fish
6 slices bacon, cut into squares
1 whole garlic bulb, peeled and left in cloves
1/2 cup olive oil
salt water
salt

Place bread in large bowl and sprinkle with salted water. Cover and leave in refrigerator overnight. I used it as as soon as the bread got mushy and it worked fine. Heat oil in a large skillet and fry the chopped bacon and meat until it begins to turn light brown. Remove, drain and put aside. Place the garlic cloves in the skillet and fry until golden brown. Add the bread and stir until it is soaked in fat. Yes, soaked in fat!

Cut up the bread by beating it with a spoon or whisk. When the bread is completely broken into small pieces, return the meat and bacon and continue beating. Add salt to taste and when the dish is ready, leave it in the pan without stirring to allow the bread to rest and a nice crust to form. Garnish with grapes, grated Manchego cheese, Spanish green olives, fresh parsley, rosemary and serve in slices.

Now, I can see how Don Quixote would love this dish, think of all the calories, cholesterol, energy, protein, fat, flavor and fullness he must have achieved eating this very popular dish from La Mancha. Try it in your own variation, it’s really very good, extremely economical and a bit weird! I’m sure Sophia Loren enjoyed it also.
Viva Espana!
Cora

For Kitchenware, Try the New Conway

Published on May 11th, 2010one comment

It was a huge surprise to open this month’s Bajareque Times and see a photo and article about the 4 displays in the housewares department at the new Conway store in David. Thanks to the Bajareque Tiimes for including a visit to the Conway store in their quest for interesting and unique events to cover for the newspaper. The exhibits were part of the “Gourmet Tour of David”, that happened last month.

The display the Bajareque Times chose to feature in their article was the Asian-themed Sukiyaki exhibit. Complimentary recipe cards were displayed, along with items from the 3rd floor departments, including linens, bath, silver and glassware, furniture, accessories and home decor. The plan to arrange these displays was presented to the floor manager, Mr. Taylor, and it was approved immediately. Language was no barrier to his decision, we both practiced our “Spanlish” and the details were easily worked out.

The day of set-up came a couple weeks later and I was given free access to any items on the floor from which to make the displays. An assistant, Roberto, helped find many of the display items and the 4 tableaux were soon constructed.


In addition to the Asian, Sukiyaki display with a white stone mat and bonsai tree, there was the Italian Chef’s exhibit showcasing Eggplant Parmesan. The place-setting featured Venetian blue and gold hand-blown, glass dinnerware and a huge mirror-studded wine goblet. This display was especially fun to do as it had 3 shelves and lots of room for unique Italian pieces to come together, including a painting from the Vatican!

The French table was the one closest to the entrance of the housewares department and the largest of the displays. A huge table was cleared of white dinnerware, covered with a lush moss-green cloth and set for an afternoon “French bread, wine and cheese” get-together.

The French kitchen rooster was the center of attention, never missed in any French kitchen. The take-home recipe was for French bread, and if the baker needs just the right baking pan for making bread, Conway has it. Notice the bread board and beautiful bread knife, just awaiting a piping loaf of fresh bread. The cutlery selection at Conway is excellent, the quality is high, and the prices are reasonable.

Finally, I knew immediately how I wanted to create the Spanish table, it had to be centered around my legendary hero, Don Quixote. The model of Don is gorgeous and I couldn’t resist making him the center of attention, along with his side-kick Sancho Panza. The duo brought attention to the Paella recipe and just the perfect pan needed to make this famous Spanish dish. The red Spanish motif on the striking dinnerware reminds me of the bright, festive atmosphere that often surrounds a really good Paella.

Shortly after the displays were completed, a large group of folks from Boquete visited Conway as part of Boquete’s “Gourmet Tour of David”. The participants gathered the recipe cards as mementos of their visit. On the back of each card, they found suggestions of wines that would make excellent pairings to each dish.

I’m hoping that many customers enjoyed the exhibits, collected the recipes and savored the dishes with a favorite glass of wine. If anyone needs kitchen equipment, serving dishes or table linens, they will be sure to find them in the new Conway housewares department, just down the road from Boquete about 45 minutes.
Happy cooking!
Cora

Juan’s Clever Panamaian Cuisine

Published on May 8th, 2010no comments

I asked for an innovative menu for using local Panamanian ingredients for a future cooking class, and Professional Chef, Juan Linares designed just the right dishes to showcase. Chef Juan is seen weekly at the Boquete Tuesday Morning Market serving his delicious soups, chili and regional dishes.

When I received the list of local ingredients Juan needed to use for the class, I found most of them were available in Boquete. How to use them to make a full-course dinner for Juan’s cooking class seemed a mystery to me. These are vegetables I see every day in the many markets in Boquete, but I couldn’t identify them by name. So, I asked for yucca by name, and the shopkeeper pointed to yucca. Same for plantains, raspadura, guandu and chayote.

I found the prices varied greatly, depending on which market I visited. It was interesting to find many of Juan’s vegetables on the bottom shelves in most markets, in unmarked bins. The blocks of raspadura were also found in among the vegetables. I usually pass up the things in the bottom bins, because I don’t know what they are or what to do with them.

That all changed last night.

Juan arrived in my kitchen a couple hours before the class was to begin. He quickly sorted, peeled and prepared many of the ingredients for the dishes he had planned to present. He began with the Guandu Dip and the Platanos Chips for dipping.

The Frozen Papaya Smoothie with Ginger Root and Light Rum went exactly right with the appetizer. After a smoothie, most of the students wanted to help with preparing yucca, chile powder, adobo and chayote.

Students brought their favorite knives and Juan demonstrated his expert knife skills to an eager group of onlookers, then everyone got into the act, even me.

As you look at these photos, do you see how much fun Juan had watching his students prepare “fancy” Panamaian foods? They stir-fried Chayote and Shrimp and made Yucca Bunelos with Raspadura Sauce. We all enjoyed the evening, thanks so much to Juan for sharing his very clever ways of using common, inexpensive ingredients to make a full-course, delicious, nutritious and beautiful dinner.

Most all Juan’s recipes for using these local ingredients will be included in the new “Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook”, to be released next month in Boquete. Look for it soon! Cora

Mounds Drops for Coconut Lovers

Published on May 5th, 2010one comment

Many people love Mounds Bars, and they are difficult to find in Boquete. David is such a person and he’s always looking for these candy bars when we visit a new store that carries candy. He’ll buy a Mounds Bar and eat it all within a few minutes.

What we do have in Panama and in Boquete is coconut and excellent chocolate, both available at most supermarkets. El Rey Supermarket in David has a large display of shredded coconut, that caught my eye. I couldn’t resist buying a bag and trying to develop a recipe that David would love. Any cake I bake, he loves with white icing coated with shredded coconut. After I frost the cake, I take fingers full of coconut and press it against the surface of the icing so it sticks out, big and fluffy.

Lately, I’ve been working on the “Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook”, and in it is a recipe for Chocolate Truffles. Last week, I made the truffles with guava centers, which were delicious. Why couldn’t I make truffles with coconut centers? So, this is the way I made an easy treat our of 3 simple ingredients.

Mounds Drops

1 cup sweetened fancy flake coconut
2 tablespoons honey
1 3.5-ounce bar dark chocolate, I used Villars 72% cacao

In a medium bowl, mix together the coconut and honey, stirring to coat all the coconut with honey. With your thumb and 2 fingers of each hand, press clumps of coconut into a small ball. Place on a tray and freeze for 30 minutes. With dry fingers, press the balls again to make the surfaces smooth and freeze again. While your balls firm up, break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a small, heat-proof bowl. Set the bowl into boiling water and heat until melted. Using a small fork, quickly drop the frozen coconut balls into the chocolate and place them on waxed paper to cool. It’s not necessary to completely cover the coconut with chocolate, your choice. Makes about 25 drops.

How easy it is to make this sweet treat. The ingredients are readily available and can be kept in your pantry for months. Some rainy afternoon, if you want to make an impression on your family or friends, make some Mounds Drops, everyone will love them. Now my question is whether to serve my drops with a delicious, steaming cup of Boquete’s finest coffee, or with a tall glass of Famiglia Bianchi, Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 from Argentina.
So yummy!
Cora

Red & Orange Sauerkraut – Very Nice!

Published on May 3rd, 2010no comments

Last month, David and I traveled the new road to Volcan, on the other side of the volcano, and found some beautiful and fresh produce to bring home with us. We bought 3 large, red cabbages and 50 pounds of carrots! You can read about what I did with some of the carrots in an earlier blog.

Oh, yes, I used up all the carrots. I also researched how to make sauerkraut. Then, I carefully sliced the cabbages very thinly, added some grated carrots, and made the most delicious sauerkraut we have ever tasted!

Handmade Red & Orange Sauerkraut

3 large heads of cabbage, red or green, finely shredded
3 cups carrots, finely grated
1 cup salt
large crock, jar, or plastic, food-safe bucket
round, “cover-plate” to fit inside the fermenting container
large, clear-plastic, food-safe bag
dish towel as final cover

Remove outer leaves and any undesirable portions from firm, mature, heads of cabbage and wash. Cut into halves or quarters and remove the core. Use a food processor or sharp knife to cut the cabbage into thin shreds. In a large bowl, thoroughly coat the shredded cabbage and grated carrots with salt. Let the salted cabbage stand for 20 minutes to wilt slightly.

Pack about half the salted cabbage mixture firmly into a large, clean crock, jar, or plastic food container. Several local bakeries have white, food-safe buckets for sale that work perfectly for this purpose. Using a wooden spoon, pound down on the cabbage mixture firmly until the juice comes to the surface. Pack the remainder of the mixture on top of the first half and pound down again.

Insert the “cover-plate” into the plastic bag and partly fill the bag with salty water. Twist the top of the bag and wrap with tie-wrap to seal. Set the bag inside the container, making sure the plate rests firmly on top of the cabbage. The bag seals the cabbage from air, yet allows for fermentation.

This photo shows the bucket I used and the white plate inserted into a clear, plastic bag, which was the cover. Drape the entire container with a clean cloth that matches your kitchen decor, a dish towel works fine. The amount of water in the plastic bag can be adjusted to give just enough pressure to keep the fermenting cabbage covered with brine. Keep the sauerkraut on your kitchen counter, so you can look at it every day or so. Wipe off any mold from the bag or sides of the container with a folded paper towel, lift out the bag, stir the kraut, press down and return the bag to the top of the kraut. No need to change the water inside the bag. You’ll love the aroma in your kitchen as your cabbage ferments!

Fully fermented sauerkraut, which takes 4-5 weeks, may be kept tightly covered in the refrigerator for a few months, or it can be frozen in sealed freezer bags. If the finished kraut seems too salty, rinse with clear water just before using. You may like to add a bit of sugar to the kraut while heating to serve. You will find more sauerkraut variations in “Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook”, coming in June.

This kraut is especially good served with Berard’s bratwurst, “Chorizo de Ternera”, Dijon mustard, and garlic mashed potatoes. This menu makes a “fancy dinner party”, as Martine and Mark hosted recently in their lovely home high up on a mountainside, overlooking Boquete.

Recipes for using sauerkraut are easily found on the internet. Enjoy this easy, nutritious and delicious dish, especially when made with Boquete’s plentiful, fresh, firm and beautiful cabbages, and served with an ice-cold bottle of Panama’s Cerveza Balboa.
Very nice, indeed!
Cora

Boquete’s Expanding Underground!

Published on April 29th, 2010one comment

You won’t hear much about it, unless you’re lucky enough to be invited. Dallas, Detroit and Denver have gone underground, so why not in Boquete? It’s a dining trend that is spreading around the world and will likely be with us for a long while. “Underground” is not subterranean, in this case. It can take place out in a field, on a finca or anywhere.

Underground dining happens in unusual locations, on dates and at times least expected. What is it exactly, and how can folks in Boquete get invited to such affairs?

If a chef is between restaurants and would like to host a meal in a private home or a warehouse, an “underground” event is scheduled. Often it gives chefs who don’t own their own restaurant a chance to show what they might do if the menu were under their control. The location of these events is not disclosed until the day before, and then only to the guests with confirmed reservations.

Because there is “little overhead”, prices are kept low. Diners bring their own bottles and set-ups are usually provided.

Invites are sent by email, only. Seats are reserved strictly by return email, on a first-come, first-served basis. Sometimes, only previous underground diners will be invited, or people referred by previous diners. No money changes hands until the event, cash is paid at the door. No-shows are removed from the “guest list”.

The “Underground Dinner”, by its nature, is elegant and gourmet, consisting of at least 5 courses. The menu is left totally to the chef, who is eager to please the guests. There may be entree choices offered, sometimes not. Many websites further explain this type of event, and some sites give actual menus that have been served at such “underground” affairs.

World-class, fine dining has been available in Boquete for many years, as most residents and visitors know. Now, the options are expanding. BYOB? I like it! Cora

City of David is Going “Gourmet”!

Published on April 27th, 2010no comments

Forty-five minutes south of Boquete is the City of David, the provincial capital of Chiriqui, Panama. The city is sprawled out for miles, with streets going every direction inside the “U” of the Pan-American Highway. Whichever way you drive, you’ll end up at this wide Highway, it’s very confusing. Until recently, there were no traffic lights of any kind, anywhere in Chiriqui, but now there are 3! There were no “5-star” hotels, large department stores, mega supermarkets or an International airport. But, that has all changed.

It was fun to arrange for 30 “recent” residents of Boquete to tour some of the new and developing areas in David, which we did last week. Touted as the “Gourmet Tour of David” was quite surprising, especially when being deprived of anything “gourmet” west of Panama City for years.

Ely’s Bakery isn’t exactly “new”, they have been supplying supermarkets in David and Boquete with fine baked goods for years. What was surprising, were all the varieties of breads and fancy cakes that are made in such close quarters, so quickly and so tasty. Owner, Danilo and Pastry Chef, Chomp, gave everyone a close-up tour of the facilities, including a giant, walk-in oven and each of us took home a loaf of his specialty bread. We’ll all be back for some of Ely’s delicate, gourmet pastries, and more.

We toured the Cuidad de David Hotel and inspected some of the beautifully decorated, “high-end” rooms and suites. One had a sunken whirl-pool tub, elegant fixtures and “5-star” amenities.

Chef, Jose Valdes, showed us some of his world-class cooking skills and everyone enjoyed a full “dinner” for lunch, including 3 delightful desserts presented by Swiss-trained Chef, Nicole. Thanks to Idu and staff for such a fine afternoon in this gorgeous, world-class hotel.

Another surprise was the huge housewares department on the 3rd floor of the new Conway Department Store. Thanks to managers, Mr. Taylor, clerks Roberto and Viedna, I was able to arrange 4 of the housewares department’s displays to depict French, Spanish, Italian and Asian cuisines, including recipes from each country. This is a photo of the Asian display, complete with a stone place mat. Everyone enjoyed seeing the extensive inventory of “gourmet” cooking items now available in David.

The final event of the day was a wine tasting at the new Felipe Motta Wine Store, located in the same shopping area as the Conway store.

Manager, Gina, provided the wine room of the store and 5 interesting wines for us to taste. The plum saki seemed to garner the most raves, but when Gina asked which was my favorite wine, she presented me with a bottle of Mouton Cadet Bordeaux 2007 from France. What a delightful way to end the perfect day in the upcoming City of David.

I can’t wait until David and I have a nice, fresh salad, a filete of beef to grill, and twice-baked potatoes for a candle-light dinner some evening soon. Of course, the star will be my “Bordeaux” wine from Felipe Motta. Talk about “gourmet”!

Cheers!
Cora

Panama’s Coffee Cup – Cafe Ruiz

Published on April 24th, 20103 comment

These past few months, I’ve shared some information about coffees grown in and near Boquete, the coffee growing capital of Panama.

Since I live in Panama, and I enjoy writing about what it’s like to live in Boquete, sharing my experiences relating to coffee and the coffee industry here seems to be a natural.

The very first day I arrived in Boquete, I knew I was in “coffee heaven”. Smelling the aroma of coffee roasting everywhere was invigorating, almost exhilarating. The locals were drinking it on the streets and the general conversation centered around the coffee-growing business in Boquete.

It wasn’t long before I became a bit of a devotee of fine coffee. I buy and taste every brand name I can find, read every book and article I see on the subject, and visit as many coffee growers as possible. Finally, I developed my own way of enjoying the many varieties of Boquete-grown coffees, which I’ve set out below.

Designer Appearance – Beginning with Café Ruiz, one of the oldest and most famous Boquete coffee, I looked at the bag and how it appeared to the consumer. The Ruiz designer gave their bags an honored red, white and blue coat of arms and red ribbon, to denote a traditional look. To me, it looks like a well established brand showing lots of pride.

Varieties Available – Café Ruiz grows Typica, Geisha, Magarope, Caturra varieties, and is now producing coffee in a variety of flavors. Cafe Ruiz sells their coffee in many different roasts, and in whole beans or ground medium or fine.

Label Information – Ruiz boasts their coffee is strictly mountain grown on century old plantations, roasted and ground with the most modern techniques in Boquete. “A whole new coffee experience”, according to the bag. To make a cup of Café Ruiz coffee, they recommend using 1 teaspoon coffee to 6 ounces of water; for stronger coffee, decrease amount of water and for smoother, increase amount of water.

My View
Fragrance out of the bag – medium, fresh sensation, especially when I grind it myself!
Aroma when water hits grounds – filled the kitchen with gusts of coffee essence, intense enough to travel to the bedroom.
Body look – thin with clear edge, I could see the white cup through the coffee, almost translucent.
Acidity sharpness – this is a special bright, snappy taste, full of rich coffee flavor that lingers.
Flavor – “Ah, ha” at the first sip, this is fine coffee, one of the very best you can buy in Boquete.
Memory – I remember this cup, one to share with my best friend. I refer our guests to the Cafe Ruiz Coffee Shop to take a coffee tour of the Cafe Ruiz fincas and processing plants.

Price – $4.48 per pound for whole beans, Tueste Latino roast.

This is a photo of Dr. Maria Ruiz, showing us an especially heavy branch of green coffee beans. They won’t be picked until they turn red, only 2 cherries are ready to pick here. We live near the Cafe Ruiz processing plant, and often smell the wonderful aroma of their coffee roasting, lucky me. I have gotten to know the owners and a few of the employees. They are all proud to work in this amazing industry, and are constantly trying to improve their brand of coffee, their processing techniques and their place among the world coffee markets.

By developing better ways of growing and harvesting the finest coffee available, Cafe Ruiz will remain one of my top favorite coffees. The www.caferuiz.com website carefully explains their complete operations and is full of valuable information about the coffee industry here in Boquete.

Try a steaming cup of Ruiz coffee as soon as you get a chance. The new Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook suggests serving Cafe Ruiz coffee with Coconut Coffee Squares, how decadent!
You’ll love this coffee!
Cora

Musicial Duo “Mickey & Squirt” Cook and Entertain

Published on April 21st, 2010no comments

Since I’ve been hosting chefs from around Panama and other parts in the world, the response to my “Host Chef Program” has been overwhelming. The chefs love to cook in my kitchen, the views are spectacular. Everything is provided for them, so they can relax and have fun doing what they like to do best.

Residents and visitors to Boquete want to take cooking classes while they’re here. They not only learn new ideas and techniques from the chefs, but enjoy a full dinner with drinks, get a book of the recipes presented, meet new friends, and other nice “take-home” surprises, depending on the subject of the class.

In my quest to find the most talented and fun-loving chefs to host, I “discovered” Mickey & Squirt at their own dinner party on Christmas Eve. It was a wonderful party, fine friends and delicious dishes, including Squirt’s home-made lemon meringue pie. If Nashville stars can cook as well as they can sing, my “Host Chef Program” made a whole new discovery, “Musical Fun in the Kitchen”, with Mickey & Squirt!

Classic Lemon Meringue Pie
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3 egg yolks
1 (9-inch) baked pie shell or crumb crust
3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream or tartar
1/4 cup sugar

In a medium bowl, combine milk, lemon juice, and zest. Stir in egg yolks and pour into cooled crust. Preheat oven to 325F degrees. Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the sugar until stiff. Spread over filling, being sure to seal to edge of crust. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until meringue is golden brown.

Boquete was lucky when Mickey & Squirt moved here several years ago. Since then, they have written and produced two very successful musical theater productions, “Postcards From Paradise” and ‘Fat Katz and Ex-Patz”. This is the perfect clipart to show Mickey serenading and singing with Squirt. They really look like this. Can you imagine these country-music stars floating down the Chiriqui River in the Highlands of Panama?

Squirt has developed her own special techniques to cook “under pressure”, using a modern, stainless steel pressure cooker. Once you learn how to use this cooker, you’ll want to get one for yourself. Her menu will also include several accompanying dishes, French Bread from scratch, a rich chocolate dessert, a sip of Tennessee Jack Daniels Whiskey to remind Mickey of Nashville, and a few delightful songs by the duo, live and in the kitchen.

This is a not-to-miss cooking class, dinner and musical evening at $25.00. Save the date, Friday, May 21, beginning at 5:00pm and make your reservations now, at boquetegourmet@gmail.com or by commenting on this blog. Squirt is a featured writer in the new “Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook”, coming out next month.
Don’t miss it!
Cora

My 100th Blog Post – A Milestone!

Published on April 19th, 20108 comment

As a new blogger, I’ve had lots of fun writing about what’s important to me, living and growing in Boquete, Panama. Eleven thousand, eight hundred fifty (11,850) visitors have opened my site. It’s really astounding!

Thanks to all of you for peeking at our lives here in Boquete, it’s an amazing place in which to live. The rainbows are spectacular, the air is clean, and coffee grown here, is the best in the world!

In a nutshell, the first 100 posts were mostly about the people I know and love, the folks I see every day, and the neighbors who give so much to our community. There have also been fellow food bloggers and readers from around the world whom I call friends, although I’ve never met them face-to-face. I’ve mentioned lots of famous people who have impacted my life in some way or another. The nearly 100 people named in my blogs are named again below, and I really appreciate the contribution each person has made to my life since moving to Boquete, nearly 8 years ago.

Would you like to guess the most popular article of the 100 blogs I have written? How about guessing the average amount of time each visitor spends on the site at each visit? The answers are given below.

Thanks so much to the real stars of the past 100 blogs! By name, they are: Lauretta Bonfiglio, Sharon James, Juan Linares, Renny Kranich, David Kent, Jon Day, Kurt & Norman, Erik Carrera, Charlie Collins, Alison Holst, Anne Necker, Maritrini, Joyce and Nick Newton, Tom and Caroline Bot, Richard Detrich, Tammyjo Eckhart, Danilo, Jerry Wager, Elvin, Dorothy Lamour, Jorge Ortega, Liz Lees, James Cagny, and Tova Speter.

Thanks to Nelson, Calixto, Belisario Torres, Kelly Herring, Jim and Cindy Eickhoff, Julia Quiroz, Cesar, Doris Day, Idu, Papa Ricco, Giovanni, Carrie and Jonathan, Violet, Patricia Martinelli, Carlos Williams, Amy Adams, Greg Henry, Gobbles, Clyde and Phyllis Stevens, Ruby McKenzie, Eddie Cantor, Marian and Ethan Becker, Hershel and Mikey, Grandma Gates, Zorida, Lee Zelter, Axel Schob, Kirsten Peck, Judy Garland, Gale Cellucci, Drick Perry, and Anayansi Menendez.

I so much appreciate David Necker, Eric and Jane, Lori Lynn, Dave and Erin Ross, Groucho Marx, Rachel White, Martine Heyer, Richard Meyer, Mickey and Squirt James, Frederic Chopin, Mario Batali, Edgar Castillo, Vasco Numez Balboa, Irma Rombauer, Julia Child, Craig Claibourne, Barbra Streisand, Michelangelo, Diego Rivera, Bill Streit, Bing Crosby, Emeril Lagasse and Steven R. Covey.


You can still guess the top blogs, these photos will give you a hint. The top, broad category is “Boquete Living”, including blogs about daily living in the Highlands of Panama.

The #1 blog in my first 100 articles, is “My Fiestaware Collection”, written October 8, 2009. The blog you visited almost as many times, at #2, is “Panama’s Coffee Cup – Cafe Duran”, dated January 8. The #3 blog is “Hollywood’s Golden Age of Dining”, written January 3.

At each visit, the viewer stays on boquetegourmet.com site an average of 2 minutes, 37 seconds, quite an amazingly long period of time, especially when there are millions of other sites to visit.

I’m so very grateful to all of you for your time these past several months, and I hope to make my second hundred articles even more interesting and fun! If you’d like to suggest a particular subject, please let me know. Thanks again for your support!

Hugs,
Cora

Learn Panamanian Market Cuisine

Published on April 11th, 2010no comments

Living in Boquete offers more than gorgeous views, perfect weather and the finest coffee in the world; the food basket available in these fertile highlands is incredible. The soil is so rich here and land has turned into the miles and miles, rows and rows of some of the most varied and nutritious farm products you can imagine.

Many fruits and vegetables in marketplaces in and around Boquete I’ve never seen before, much less know the names of, or know how to prepare them. A couple years ago, our gardener brought us a huge basket of otoy he had just dug from our garden – yes, OUR GARDEN! I had no idea what it was or how to eat it, and I was growing it right at home.

My friend Julia, told me that the black, hairy root vegetable was much like a potato, with thicker skin, which makes otoy a bit more difficult to peel. The inside is purple and takes longer to cook than potatoes, see the contrast here. It takes knife skills to prepare some of these foods, and mine need sharpening!

I love to make mashed otoy, with butter, salt and milk, just like mashed potatoes, they are tastier and very delicious! This is “Panamanian market cuisine”, taking what is found in local markets and preparing gourmet dishes with whatever you find, using creative techniques.

Popular Boquete Chef, Juan Linares, will present a hands-on cooking class in my kitchen on Friday, May 7, beginning at 5:00pm. Juan has Latin American roots, and he has been preparing otoy, yucca, name, papaya, chayotes, and guandu, just to name a few, for many years as a professional chef. He has lots of tricks to share with us about Panamanian cooking and he’ll help refine our knife skills.

Juan knows how to blend his own special adobo and chili powder and we’ll each blend our own mixes to suit our tastes.

This $25 hands-on class includes a full-course dinner, knife skills lesson, recipe book, blend-it-yourself take-home spices, blender cocktail and a glass of wine. Bring your favorite knife and apron to my kitchen in El Santuario, Boquete, Panama on Friday, May 7 at 5pm. Class is limited to only 12, so make your reservation now at boquetegourmet@gmail.com, you may call Cora at 6614-9514 or comment on this blog.

Come on a Gourmet Tour to David

Published on April 6th, 2010no comments

On Thursday, April 22, 2010, a large, air-conditioned Coaster bus will leave Alto Boquete for a “Gourmet Tour of David”. This “gourmet adventure”, all-inclusive tour, will leave the high school parking at 9:00am and will make 4 very interesting stops in David throughout the day, all relating to fine dining, gourmet cooking, and fine wines.

This 7-hour tour will begin with a stop at Danilo’s, Ely Commercial Bakery, where we’ll be treated to a cup of boutique coffee, a personal tour of the bakery facilities, and a take-home loaf of Danilo’s specialty bread. This is a very popular bakery, one that bakes most of the breads and fancy cakes for large local supermarkets, both in David and Boquete. Ely’s distinctive truck may look familiar to you.

The second stop will be at the new Cuidad de David Hotel, for a private tour of the guest rooms, Business Center, Fitness Center and Stylo Restaurant. While visiting the Cuidad de David, Executive Chef, Jose Valdes, will conduct a tour of the hotel’s two kitchens, and present a special cooking demonstration for us.

We’ll enjoy a full-course lunch, with a large soup and salad bar, hot entree of the day, non-alcoholic drink, and 3 desserts.

I would rate this hotel for service, quality of food and elegant atmosphere, among the top hotels in the world. Their stated goal is to “offer you an exceptional experience with hospitality, friendly service and high technology”, and they are meeting that goal every day at the Cuidad de David Hotel.

We’ll continue traveling to David’s newest mega-store, Conway Department Store. While there, we’ll browse the new house wares department and collect recipes and ideas for preparing gourmet meals at home. Four International cuisines will be featured there.

Our final stop will be at the new Felipe Motta Wine Store, where we will be tasting wines from 4 different wine-making regions. This wine store is so new that they will bring in wines from Panama City just for our tasting.

We plan to load the bus about 3:00pm for the return trip to Boquete, scheduled to arrive at the high school a bit before 4:00pm.

The day will be one of adventure, learning about facilities available in David we may not have known before, enjoying world-class dining, exploring new International cuisines and the wines that match them, as well as improving our culinary skills.

The cost of this full-day “Gourmet Adventure Tour” is $35, including everything mentioned above, plus a travel bag and souvenir wine glass. There are only 20 seats remaining, so make your reservations now at boquetegourmet@gmail.com, call me at 6614-9514, or comment on this blog.

Hope you can join us,
Cora

Why Buy Fifty Pounds of Carrots?

Published on April 1st, 20102 comment

That’s what everyone is asking me, as I’m sharing my carrots with friends in the neighborhood.  My first thought upon seeing the carrots in a roadside stand was that I had to buy them, I just had to get them and make some of my favorite carrot recipes for the cookbook I’m writing.

The “Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook” is almost finished, I have a few more recipes to perfect before I send them to the publisher.  The purpose of the cookbook is to share with the world some of the bountiful foods available here, as well as the natural abundance found in the Highlands of Panama.  The cookbook is full of dishes that people have been making in Boquete for over two hundred years, as well as some “nouveau” recipes brought here by recent immigrants.    This blend of the old and new makes for an amazing, world-class cuisine, as shown by the many gourmet restaurants that have recently called Boquete their home.

Last week, David and I drove across the new road to the other side of the volcano, to the town of Volcan. The road just opened and we were a couple of the first travelers to arrive by going the new route through the canyons.

You can see the old foot bridge in the top photo, which was previously the only way to get to Volcan without going all the way south to the Pan-American Highway. This is adventure traveling, seeing new ground for the first time. We found the route very picturesque, and it opens new avenues of extreme sports, bungee jumping and swimming in new water holes not accessible before. Once on the other side of the mountain, we found an abundance of vegetables not harvested in Boquete.

One of the very plentiful foods there is carrots, as you can see by looking closely at the rear of the pickup truck being loaded with freshly-picked local vegetables, onions, yucca, and celery.  Yes, the bags of large, colorful squash on the ground beside the truck were loaded, also.  How could I resist buying 50 pounds of carrots for only $9.00, or 18 cents per pound?


The choice of how to begin using my carrots was easy. First, I’d grate them into my salmon salad sandwich for lunch, juice them for breakfast and use them every way I could think of raw.  I looked back at my old article, “Lose Weight Now, Eat Lots of This” for ideas I may have forgotten.

I made carrot, pineapple and raisin slaw with yogurt dressing, carrot curls, and grated carrot sauerkraut, the choice is never-ending. I’ll let you know how I have been able to use my 50 pounds of carrots in other articles soon. Oh, the possibilities! If you have some ideas, please send them to me.

Love that orange color!
Cora

Building My Gourmet Kitchen

Published on March 27th, 20107 comment

Building a gourmet kitchen is a broad subject for sure, but I’ll begin with the basics in this article.

I’m not talking about gathering the finest olive oils, exotic spices, or the most ingenious, expensive kitchen equipment. I’m talking about outfitting my kitchen with the finest, most efficient equipment possible, at a reasonable price. I’d like to create a place where cooking, chatting and spending time with friends happens almost daily.

We all know of artists, wood workers, sports contenders, and truck drivers who wouldn’t think of applying their trade using anything but the finest, most efficient equipment, and neither should a gourmet cook. My kitchen needs some help, as you can see. Actually, I started building it when we first moved to Boquete, Panama, and I’m making progress quickly. I began by studying some of the most famous gourmet cooks’ kitchens.

This is an old file photo of Craig Claibourne, one of the finest chefs in America. Craig is wearing an attractive apron and he’s surrounded by his personal cooking tools.  The thing I notice about Craig’s kitchen, is that it looks much like mine, but seems much friendlier. It’s one place I’ve always wanted to visit.Craig’s kitchen has been my inspiration for kitchen design for many years. He wrote over 20 books and hundreds of articles as a food columnist for The New York Times.

Upon all my study of Craig, James Beard, and many gourmet cooks over the years, one theme runs true. A gourmet cook should never try to cut with dull knives, or make sauces with a wooden spoon rather than using a wire whisk. Looking at it from a practical angle, setting up a new kitchen requires lots of thought and planning. The budget must be considered and whether to spend thousands of dollars on building a “professional” kitchen must be decided. With all the upscale equipment available, that could easily be the result.

If you read “Julie and Julia”, remember how elaborate Julia’s kitchen was?  Her kitchen is probably the most famous kitchen in the world.  Notice Julia’s mix of cookware in the photo at the right, which is being cleaned and replaced in the museum.  Everything has a place where it belongs. Julia’s husband, Paul made a chart for her to follow so that everything got back to it’s original position. That’s not a bad idea, but it doesn’t suit my style right now.  You can visit  The Smithsonian National Museum of American History and actually see Julia’s kitchen on display.

Let’s start with nothing and build from there. When I first arrived in Boquete, Panama, I bought 2 of the finest knives available, a 7 inch Santuko knife and a sturdy paring knife.  Must they be of the same manufacturer? No.

Then, a large stainless steel mixing bowl and a small, oven-proof glass bowl were purchased.  A medium-sized skillet, 2 saucepans and a stock pot, all with lids were added. I tried to buy the finest, stainless steel cookware possible, ones with glass lids to make peeking easy. Other pieces were added later, as just the right pot was found.

After bowls and cookware, I added a 3-quart casserole dish, something that goes from oven to table, and a set of Pyrex glass baking dishes. Lastly, I invested in a few gadgets to make preparation easy and fun. I always buy stainless steel. I found a swivel-bladed potato peeler, wire whisk, large, plain spoon, large slotted spoon and 2-pronged fork.  A sturdy stainless steel colander, measuring spoons and cups, 2-cup glass measuring cup for liquids, can opener, beer can opener for David, 4-sided stainless steel grater, spatula, tongs, and a marble rolling pin. When I started to splurge, I got a salad spinner.

At this point, I found that only one appliance was really needed, a Mr. Coffee coffee maker, since coffee is a must in our household. Most other appliances are used very seldom, so I waited until I knew exactly what to buy. That $1,500 espresso maker is still waiting.

That’s it, my gourmet kitchen was equipped with the finest equipment my money could buy and it will last me my lifetime, if not beyond. If you’re ever in doubt about which piece of kitchen equipment to buy, my advice is to get the best quality item, even if it’s the only one you get for many months.

This last photo is another view of Julia Child’s kitchen.  Soon, I’ll post a more recent photo of my kitchen and tell you about putting the finishing touches into my fabulous, stainless steel, fun-loving gourmet kitchen.

Enjoy the fineness and sparkle,
Cora

Red Cabbage Makes a Comeback

Published on March 23rd, 2010no comments

When I asked Caroline if she would like to contribute one of her favorite recipes to the new “Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook“, she immediately said “yes”. One of Caroline’s very favorite recipes is for a dish that she and her mother have made for years, Traditional Braised Red Cabbage with Apples.

Red cabbage is very plentiful in Panama and especially in Boquete, where large fields of cabbages can be seen the year around. The photo above shows a red cabbage that must be growing in alkaline soil, as it’s a bit greenish in color compared to our deep red ones. According to Wikipedia, acid soils are needed to produce the beautiful red cabbages that are grown here in Boquete. We have the perfect moist, cool weather it takes to grow such a gorgeous, nutritious vegetable.

When choosing a cabbage, I buy the firmest, heaviest, most colorful head available, one without many loose outer leaves. Cabbage, whether red or green, is low in saturated fat and cholesterol and is a good source of protein and fiber. It’s also mildly anti-inflammatory.

I used my new Cuisinart food processor and my largest bowl when preparing Caroline’s cabbage dish and mixed all the ingredients together first.  By reading Wikipedia, I discovered the vinegar in the recipe is not only for taste, but it helps to keep the red color during the cooking process. Don’t you just love Wikipedia?

Traditional Braised Red Cabbage with Apples

2 pounds (1kg) red cabbage
1 pound (450g) onions, chopped small
1 pound (450g) green apples, peeled, cored and chopped small
1 clove garlic, chopped very small
1/4 whole nutmeg, freshly grated
1/4 level teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 level teaspoon ground cloves
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon (15g) butter
Salt & freshly milled black pepper

Preheat the oven to 300 F (150 C). First discard the tough outer leaves of the cabbage, cut it in four quarters and remove the hard stalk. Then shred the rest of the cabbage finely, using your sharpest knife, mandolin or food processor. Next, in a fairly large casserole, arrange a layer of shredded cabbage seasoned with salt and pepper, then a layer of chopped onion and apples with a sprinkling of garlic, spices and sugar. Continue with these alternate layers until everything is in. Now pour in the wine vinegar and lastly, add dots of butter on the top. Cover tightly with foil and let it cook very slowly in the oven for 2 – 2 1/2 hours, stirring everything around once or twice during the cooking. Red cabbage once cooked, will keep warm without coming to any harm, and it will also reheat very successfully. It does freeze well. You may use more spice, it’s a matter of taste.

This colorful and delicious dish compliments fresh, steamed red snapper and rice with garbanzo beans so well. All three of these recipes will be featured in the new “Boquete Gourmet Community Cookbook”, coming out soon.

Cabbage is becoming popular lately. At a recent dinner party, hostess Martine Heyer, served homemade sauerkraut, it was really good. It was made with green cabbage, also grown in Boquete. I wonder how sauerkraut with red cabbage would be. I’ll use a “traditional” sauerkraut recipe, like Caroline does with her “Traditional Braised Red Cabbage with Apples”. Why not?

I’ll try it!
Cora

Coffee Recipe Roundup

Published on March 19th, 2010no comments

Boquete Gourmet is writing and compiling recipes for the first “BOQUETE GOURMET COMMUNITY COOKBOOK”, to be available this June. The developing and collecting of interesting, useful, local recipes has begun. I’m “rounding-up” the best recipes available for this new cookbook and I need your help.

It is hoped that the book will bring about a greater understanding and appreciation of the natural resources available in Boquete, Panama, including fine coffee, bountiful foods and lives full of plenty. The air is cool and clean here, the water is pure and plentiful, the soil is rich, and the views are incredible. The lushness is seen everywhere you look.

Many residents have shared their historic recipes, new-comers have added ‘nouveau’ recipes brought with them for all over the world, local restaurants have contributed, and several Boquete charities have entered recipes that have a special meaning to them. This will be a very collectible cookbook, a unique group of recipes folks will want to use regularly. This is a “sneak preview” of a superb drawing by artist David Necker, which will be used on the title page of the book.

Boquete produces some of the finest, if not THE finest coffees in the world. This is a photo of some of our coffee beans we just finished roasting. I love the dark color and the aroma is amazing. We have a few coffee trees on our property and it’s fun to have fresh coffee available year round

Because Boquete is known for growing fine coffee, one chapter in my cookbook will contain recipes using coffee as the main ingredient. So, I am “rounding-up” original recipes that use coffee in the title or that relate to coffee in a major way.

If you know of such a recipe and would like to share it with our readers, please forward it to me at boquetegourmet@gmail.com, along with your full name and contact information. I will send you a reply as soon as possible and let you know the status of your recipe.

Thanks for your thoughts, and I hope to hear from you soon.
Cora

(more…)

Chocolate Truffles with Wine!

Published on March 16th, 2010no comments

These truffles are extraordinary, make them and you’ll see why. The first thing to do is to buy really fine chocolate.

At the new Felipe Motta Wine Store that just opened in David, I was able to find Villars 72% cocoa chocolate. One hundred grams of this delectable chocolate was $5.50, compared to Lindt 70% cocoa chocolate, half the price at El Rey at $2.49. The richer the chocolate, the higher the price.

I will buy both chocolates to see which is the very best, the one I will use for “Crazy for Chocolate” cooking class on April 7. See a recent blog for more details.

The recipe is something really special, one that I developed over the years using the finest chocolate I can find. Now, I call it “Boquete Gourmet Chocolate Truffles”. The sommelier at Felipe Motta Wine Store in David will pair my truffles with just the right wine for the upcoming chocolate class.

Boquete Gourmet Chocolate Truffles

2 100-gram bars good-quality dark chocolate
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Abuelo rum, 12 year old
cocoa powder

Chop the chocolate into small bits, about 1/8″ or finer and place into a heatproof bowl. Set aside.
Combine cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring slowly to a simmer, stirring to keep the butter moving and to prevent the cream from boiling.
When butter is melted and cream forms bubbles around the surface, almost scalding, pour hot mixture over the chocolate. Cover with GladWrap and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk until all chocolate is fully melted and the ganache is smooth and fully combined, about 2 to 3 minutes and blend in the rum. Cover tightly with GladWrap and refrigerate 8 – 12 hours or overnight.

When ready to make truffles, put cocoa powder in a small plastic bag and line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Using a teaspoon, scoop out bite-sized amounts of the filling and roll into balls between your palms. If they’re not perfectly round, egg-shaped will work fine. Carefully drop the balls, one at a time, into the bag and roll to coat truffle.
Lift truffle out with fingers slightly spread and transfer to waxed paper. Cover and chill truffles at least 30 minutes. Serve at room temperature. Truffles can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks and frozen for up to 2 months. If I made a mistake in this recipe, it was making the truffles too big, they are so decadent!

To learn more about the art of chocolate, stop by Sugar & Spice Bakery on the Main Street of Boquete. Pastry Chef, Richard Meyer will be sharing his recipes using chocolate as the main ingredient in his cooking class on April 7, and Felipe Motta will share their wines paired with Richard’s creations.

Love that chocolate!
Cora

How to Juice a Watermelon

Published on March 14th, 20108 comment

We enjoyed the breakfast buffet at the new Cuidad de David Hotel this morning, it was full of “typical” Panamanian dishes like corn cakes, salchicha and thinly-sliced white country cheese.

One item I’ve never seen before took my eye. It was a beautifully salmon-pink colored drink served from a frosty, shiny stainless steel juice dispenser. I couldn’t resist pouring a glass and sipping it as I stood before the buffet. I couldn’t wait to carry it back to our table, it was that luscious looking. The taste was fresh, rich and flavorful, not at all watery, like the orange or pineapple juice can be down here. No, this juice was a bit thick, colder than most juices and it reminded me of passion fruit, it was so unusual.

The flavor was obvious, but the form was shocking to me. After my second glass, I asked if it were part watermelon. “Pure watermelon juice, nothing added”, explained the server. “How do you juice a watermelon?”, I asked. Here’s how you do it:

Watermelon Juice

1 watermelon (sandia)
1 blender
1 chinoise

First, you buy a watermelon. On our way back up to Boquete, I bought a lovely ripe watermelon with a few small brown lines on it from our local pick-up truck. Each sandia is $1, there were no huge $2 melons available. The brown lines are marks from honey bees, showing a sweet watermelon must be inside.

When I arrived in my kitchen, I cut the watermelon in half, then into 8ths. It was easy to cut off the rind and to cut the fruit into slender strips. I piled the strips into my blender and added a little crushed ice, which is optional. A quick whiz and it turned to juice. Then, I poured it into my chinois and out drained all the juice, really very easy. The results you can see here, but you miss the naturally sweet, fresh, cool flavor of this freshly-squeezed fruit.

Thanks to Idu and the new Cuidad de David’s Stylo Restaurant for the recipe, it’s excellent!.
I am freezing some of the juice to make watermelon sorbet. David asked how watermelon juice would go with vodka over ice. Good question, I think I’ll try it.
Cheers!
Cora

Lose Weight Now – Eat Lots of This!

Published on March 11th, 2010one comment

Panama has the perfect climate to grow fruits and vegetables of almost every variety. Many long-time residents of Chiriqui Provence and Boquete make their living growing, harvesting and selling these luscious fresh foods in outdoor street markets. These markets are plentiful everywhere in Panama. They remind me of growing up in Michigan and seeing the corn and cherry stands along the farm roads during the summer.

Not only are these fruits and vegetables beautiful to look at, but by eating them, you can see the pounds melt away. The more your eat, the more weight you lose. “How can I serve fruits and vegetables in innovative ways?”, you ask.

Buy anything at one of these many street markets, whether fruits or vegetables. Buy lots of them, pumpkins like shown over the peddlers head, ripe-red tomatoes you see piled high on his stand, peppers of every color, piles of carrots, stacks of melons, bananas and papayas, cases of potatoes, limes and plantains, and long strings of ripe and luscious pineapples. Eating lots of these fresh foods every day makes it easy to maintain a healthy diet, whether you live in Panama or anywhere else in the world.

First, try to serve them raw by preparing them in 12 easy ways. Can you name the different ways?

You can always steam them, boil them, candy, bake, dry, stir-fry, saute, or grill them on your barbecue grill. How about cooking them in a pressure cooker? Fruits and vegetables are so good steamed and mashed, stewed or microwaved. Try canning them, pickling or making fruit fritters. Make vegetable dumplings, compotes of mixed fruits, or make snows or sorbets of all sorts. You won’t need a recipe to prepare most of these dishes.

Using these fresh vegetables, why not make a nice tomato and basil sorbet or cucumber and mint sorbet? It’s easy, just find a recipe on Foodbuzz.com, learn how to make sorbet, and you’ll make it over and over. And remember, the more you eat fresh-from-the-market fruits and vegetables, the more your body will love it!

Now the 12 easy ways to serve raw fruits and vegetables:
– sliced and stacked high on a bed of bib lettuce,
– diced and tossed with vinegar and oil,
– juiced and served in a tall, thin glass over ice,
– chopped and mixed with lots of fresh herbs,
– julienned and sprinkled with shaved Parmesan cheese,
– grated and coated with yogurt,
– broken into segments and drizzled with agave nectar,
– mashed into a green goddess dressing,
– cut into wedges and topped with toasted sesame seeds,
– scored or semi-peeled, slice thinly and topped with sour cream,
– peeled using a peeler, then make curls to scatter over any salad,
– and Number 12, break into flowerets, add whole cherry tomatoes and top with ginger vinaigrette.

Make and serve lots of these foods using your imagination. Be creative and watch those pounds drop off!

Have fun!
Cora

Boquete’s Sushi Madness

Published on March 8th, 20103 comment

The nori was flying in my kitchen the last three days, as students patted sticky rice, sliced raw salmon and julienned perfect avocados. It was “Sushi Madness” time in Boquete, Panama, an unlikely place for sushi artists to gather.

Bistro Boquete’s Executive Chef, Lauretta Bonfiglio, has lots of experience in making fancy, one-of-a-kind sushi rolls and she shared her skills with 35 eager students ready to try their hand at it.

Most of the fresh ingredients came from local Boquete markets. Specialty items such as the nori seaweed, bamboo shoots and straw mushrooms were easily found in David at Casa Lisa’s Oriental Market, just past the old vegetable market in the David town center.

Each student was greeted with a taste of plum wine, a handmade sushi stand for presentation, rolling bamboo mat, chop sticks and a finger bowl of rice vinegar and water. A tiny dish of soy sauce, the essence of Japanese cuisine, pickled ginger root and miniature “volcano” of wasabi, Japanese horseradish, made each setting complete. The sticky rice was indeed sticky and ready to roll.

Sushi Rice

3 3/4 cups Japanese rice, such as Nishiki (or 5 rice maker cups)
3 3/4 cups water (or 5 rice maker cups)
1/2 cup rice vinegar
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, add rice and cover with lots of water. Stir rice in water with your hands, then pour off most of the water, and agitate 10 to 15 times by quickly moving your hand back and forth, swishing rice against side of bowl. Rinse the rice several more times, until the water that drains off of the rice is almost clear. Transfer the rice to a colander and let drain for 15 minutes, undisturbed. Transfer the rice to a rice cooker, add the water, cover, and cook as per manufacturer’s directions.

While the rice is cooking, bring rice vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan, add sugar and salt and stir until dissolved. Allow to cool to room temperature.

When rice is done, transfer it to a large shallow glass dish (traditionally a wooden tub, called a hangiri), so it forms a mound in the center of the bowl. Using a diagonal slicing motion, gently cut into rice with a wooden paddle (called a kijakushi), and pour cooled vinegar mixture over top. “Cut” rice several times to evenly distribute vinegar mixture. Spread out rice in the shallow pan and allow to cool. Gently turn rice over from time to time with paddle so that it cools evenly. You might want to consider using a fan if time is of the essence. When rice has cooled to body temperature, it is ready to use for sushi rolls. Can you see my paddle standing up in our perfect sticky rice? Ready to roll!

Chef Lauretta demonstrated several sushi techniques, including a fresh salmon hand-formed nigiri sushi, a popular California roll and a cream cheese, wasabi and shrimp maki roll.

Then all at once, the “madness” began. Everyone carefully patted the flavored sushi rice on the crisp nori seaweed atop their bamboo mat and designed their rolls using a variety of color, texture and flavors. There were dozens of bowls of fresh ingredients from which to choose, including crab, shrimp, wafer-thin cucumber, spicy mayonnaise, toasted, white and black sesame seeds.

The creativity was infectious, as just the right combinations were rolled into perfect, gorgeous and delicious sushi, as you can see. A little saki helped to make the evening even more "authentic" Japanese. Thanks to David for hand-making a sushi stand for each student and to Lauretta for sharing the "essence of Japanese cuisine" with all of us.

Itadakimas!
Cora

Are You “Crazy for Chocolate”?

Published on March 5th, 2010no comments

Several years ago, David and I went to Sarasota, Florida to a “Chocolate Convention” and I’ll never forget it. We each had a card with 20 numbers on it and each numbered station offered servings of a different chocolate treat. We stayed at the convention until all 20 numbers were punched on our cards! It was an incredible experience and we’ve been “crazy for chocolate” ever since.

In Boquete, there is a “new” pastry chef in town, Richard Meyer. He opened Sugar & Spice Bakery in a new location on the main street, on the right side coming near the town center. Richard specializes in making delicious chocolate pastries using several varieties of chocolate. He also makes country breads, rolls, pies and almost every form of baked goods you’d expect to find anywhere in the world.

From the Sugar & Spice sign above the bakery door, you can tell from the loaf of bread and star-studded chef’s hat, that fine bread and a fine chef can be found there. Look carefully at Richard’s sign, it’s handmade and full of information.

I am very happy to announce that Richard will be the next Boquete Gourmet’s guest chef for April’s cooking class. He’ll make three very special chocolate desserts using 3 different chocolates and 3 different techniques to use with chocolate. His class will be held on Wednesday, April 7, 2010, beginning at 1:00pm at the Sugar & Spice Bakery.

The registration fee of $25 includes not only the class instruction, a serving of each of 3 desserts and unlimited “Boquete Gourmet” coffee, but a recipe book, paired wine tasting and “goodie bag” to take home.

If you love chocolate, or are actually “crazy for chocolate”, you won’t want to miss Richard’s very special “Chocolate Class” coming up April 7.

There are only 12 seats available, so email boquetegourmet@gmail.com, call 6614-9514 or pick up your ticket today at Sugar & Spice. First come, first served.
Chocolate lover,
Cora

For Style, Try David’s New Stylo

Published on February 19th, 2010no comments

After hearing so much about the new Cuidad de David Hotel and Stylo Resto-Bar, located only 45 minutes south of Boquete, Panama, I just had to try it.   The buzz is that it’s the only “5-star” hotel and restaurant in Chiriqui Province, although I haven’t been able to document that claim. 

The best way I know to find the actual quality of food and service is to experience it first-hand. So one hot day last week we drove into the parking garage of the handsome Cuidad de David Hotel, took the silent elevator to the street level and entered the most unusual and stylish hotel lobby I have experienced since I left Madrid last year.

The hotel lobby and sleek bar are modern and brightly colored to match the buildings exterior.

As we neared the restaurant door, it was graciously opened for us and a shiny, sleek, comfortably arranged dining room was revealed. It was tastefully decorated in deep brown and cream tones.

The elegant tables were dressed in white linens and set with sparkling glassware and solid-white china service plates. This is my kind of restaurant!

Our courteous server Elvin, explained the luncheon options and showed us the fresh and colorful salad bar available. Lunch included the salad bar and the hot meal of the day was either corvina with garlic rosemary sauce or roasted chicken breast. The choices vary depending on what the chef prepares each day. A drink and dessert were included in the lunch special as well. Menu items were also available, in case we wanted to order ala carte.

The choice was easy. I ordered the full lunch with corvina and it was delicious! The photo above is the salad I designed and the next photo is of the full lunch I enjoyed so much. Notice the fresh crumbled bacon and local country cheese. The sweet platanos were slowly cooked in natural, raw sugar, probably rare in most 5-star restaurants.

After finishing my “designer” salad, home-made minestrone soup, full hot lunch, and iced tea, I was faced with 3 desserts!

I chose the chocolate mousse, which was rich, light, and just the right consistency. With a bigger appetite, I would have tried the delicate almond tart and diced fresh fruit compote, as well. Maybe next time.

The $12 price seemed very reasonable for such delicious dining so elegantly served. Now, I understand why some folks are saying Stylo is a 5-star restaurant in a 5-star hotel, I wholeheartedly agree!

But, could anyone tell me how I can substantiate the 5-star status?
Buen provecho!
Cora

Renny’s Red-hot Fajitas Off the Griddles

Published on February 15th, 2010no comments

Yes, the word is “griddles’, because Chef Renny Kranich had three (3) griddles all fired up to make her special formula of red-hot Fajitas. Twelve students learned Renny’s griddle techniques in the “Fajitas – Hot Off the Griddle” cooking class held last week in my gourmet kitchen in Boquete, Panama.

The Fajitas were made “volcano-style” on all three griddles at once! It was fun to see. Each participant’s assignment was to make Fajitas in their own kitchens during the coming week, so they were watching intently.

Before Renny prepared the Fajitas, she hand-made 24 flour tortillas by using this recipe:
Flour Tortillas

3 cups of all-purpose flour, unsifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup very hot water

Mix dry ingredients quite well. Add the 1/2 cup shortening and cut it into the dry mix. Slowly add 1/2 to 3/4 of the hot water, begin to knead. Continue adding water until the dough becomes slightly glutinous. Turn it out onto a floured board and knead, adding slight dusting amounts of flour until it makes a ball. Cover with a damp cloth and let it rest for 10 minutes. Pull off little mounds of dough and roll them out into tortillas. Cook on a medium hot griddle (Cure the griddle).

Then, Renny piled up the ingredients on 3 red-hot griddles and completed the Fajitas like this:
Fajitas

1 whole strip of filet tenderloin of beef
3 small-medium Zucchini squash
1 Jalapeño pepper chopped
1 large white onion
1 large purple onion
1 large green bell pepper
1 large red bell pepper
1 large yellow bell pepper
2 medium cloves of garlic
2 cubes of ice
1/2 packet of McCormick fajita seasoning
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive oil
3 fresh limes cut in wedges
Sour cream

Heat a very large iron griddle on two burners on the stove, or do the same on a Jennair. While the griddle gets very hot, julienne cut the vegetables. Slice the tenderloin bacon thin, and make the slices narrow. Pour 2 tablespoons of oil onto the griddle and let it get very hot. Add zucchini squash and garlic to the griddle and move it about for less than a minute. Add both types of onion and move them about for a minute or more. Remember, your griddle should be HOT. Push the vegetables to a place on the griddle that is less hot. Add the three colors of peppers. Cook the same. With 2 spatulas, combine and mix all the vegetables. Push them to one side.

Pour the remaining olive oil onto the griddle. To this, add the meat, see photo above. Salt, pepper to taste. Add the McCormick fajita seasoning and mix/cook only the meat on the griddle for about 2 minutes. Pile the vegetables on top of the meat in a hill or heap and open a little “volcano”- hole in the top. Drop 2 cubes of ice into the hole and close the hole up. The steam from the ice will make everything cook very fast. With 2 spatulas, combine and mix all the hot ingredients. Turn off the heat. Squeeze some limes into your ingredients, but do not cook the lime juice because it will turn bitter.

On a fresh, warm and pliable tortilla, scoop a generous serving of the hot mixture and place a dollop of sour cream in the middle. Fold over and serve with Pico de Gallo, lime wedges and sliced jalapeno peppers on the side. Invite a couple friends over for dinner soon and try making Renny’s “volcano-style” Fajitas yourself.

Everyone will love them!
Cora

Can Beer-Can Chicken Be Gourmet?

Published on February 13th, 20102 comment

This is a good question – -  if you stick a chicken on a cheap can of beer, stand it up in your gas grill and simply let it cook, would it make a “gourmet” entree for tonight’s dinner?  With a little “tweaking” to that idea, I think so!

If a special blend of rub or marinade is allowed to permeate the freshest chicken available, and holes are punched all around the top and sides of a can of good beer so the bird steams gently as it cooks, the result could be the finest, truly “gourmet beer-can chicken”, if not the very best chicken dish ever! Chickens are raised near Boquete, so we get the freshest chickens delivered to our markets every day.

Just look at the golden brown, beautifully rich and shining color on my birds. The even coating of my special “Bella Poultry Herb” mix brings out the glistening juiciness and flavor of the meat. You can blend you own mix to suit your taste.

Here’s my recipe for Real Gourmet Beer-Can Chicken.

1 whole chicken, cleaned of fat
4 tablespoons your own special poultry herb blend (see my “Bella Poultry Herbs” recipe below)
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
Salt to taste
1 can of your favorite beer, mine is our local Panama beer

Clean, wash and dry the freshest chicken available, rub it inside and out with poultry herb blend and place in a plastic bag to marinate in the refrigerator all day, overnight would be fine. Open a can of beer and drink about 1/3 of it. Punch 6 wholes in the can around the top sides with a “church key” type opener. Drop the crushed garlic into the beer can. Place the chicken, open end down, over the can so that he sits up with his feet set to make a tripod. Set the chicken over medium heat on the top of a barbecue grill, gas or charcoal, close the cover and cook for 1 hour, or until the bird turns golden brown, 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Using large tongs, lift the bird off the grill while using a turner to support the beer can from the bottom. Rest 5 minutes. Hold the beer can with a hot pad and lift the chicken off his perch with tongs. Carve and serve.

This is how I blended the herbs for Bella Poultry Herbs

2 tablespoons sage
2 tablespoons thyme
2 tablespoons rosemary
2 tablespoons oregano
1 teaspoon white pepper, ground
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Place these herbs in a mortar and mull with a pestle until the mix is a fine consistency, which may take several minutes.  You could use a mini-food processor, but you’d miss the enjoyment of grinding it yourself.  Keep your mix in a screw-cap bottle always ready for handy use.

If you or your guests want to get creative, have a wooden spoon and marker available for some artistic fun.

If you are a connoisseur or lover of good food, drink and good fun, this beautiful, luscious chicken is truly a gourmet’s delight.

I served these birds with a juicy potato salad and red Caprese-style tomatoes layered with mozzarella cheese slices and lots of big, fresh basil leaves, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. We enjoyed a bottle of Septima Vineyard Malbec-Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 wine from Argentina, which completed this delectable dinner with friends.

What a lovely evening!
Cora

Three “Sushi Madness” Cooking Classes

Published on February 11th, 201012 comment


For several months, folks have been asking for a cooking class featuring Japanese Sushi, and here it is!   The Bistro Boquete’s Executive Chef, Lauretta Bonfiglio, will present three “Sushi Madness” cooking classes, as you’ve never seen sushi before. She has been making sushi for many years and she’s happy to share her expertise with us.

Because of overwhelming demand, there are now three dates for these hands-on classes, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, March 4, 5 & 6, all begin at 5:00pm.  They will be held in my kitchen in El Santuario, Boquete, Panama, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Traditional Japanese cuisine is intriguing, appealing, healthy and easy to make, once you learn Lauretta’s techniques of preparation.  How to use a Bento Box will be demonstrated. This is an unusual method of presentation that is so popular in Japan.

As an extra attraction, you’ll learn to make Sukiyaki, a traditional dish in Japan that is made with bamboo sprouts, beef tenderloin and other oriental ingredients easily found in Boquete.

The Saki, Plum wine and Green tea will be flowing.  You’ll enjoy the ease of learning to make a beautiful dessert containing a most unusual ingredient.  Once you know how to make it, you’ll want to serve it to friends often.

This is a photo of Sushi stands awaiting their final finish.   Each student will receive a take-home hand-made sushi stand, bamboo sushi rolling mat, chopsticks and chopstick rest as part of the tuition fee of $35.

Please make your reservation now, as space is limited to 12 students in each class.  You may email me at boquetegourmet@gmail.com or add a comment to this post.  Please indicate which class is best for you and include your phone number. I’ll send you an immediate response.
Sayonara!
Cora

The Boquete Gourmet Signs Up

Published on February 9th, 2010no comments

It’s really fun to become a member of various food and travel blogs, as I have done over the past few months.

I’ve signed up for Foodbuzz.com, SippitySup.com, LivinGlobal.org, CarrieandJonathan.com, ProfitSpecialist.net, Boqueteguide.com and many more.  I enjoy getting the new articles from these sites automatically when one is published.

So, I’ve decided to add this publishing feature to my site and I’d like to invite you to become a member by subscribing now.

You can sign up to get The Boquete Gourmet news, posts, offers and promotions sent right to your inbox.  As The Boquete Gourmet becomes more popular, there will be more opportunities to get involved in activities only available to fans of this site.

Don’t miss out on future cooking class announcements, sales items, advanced invitations and new recipes being sent to members of The Boquete Gourmet site  prior to being published elsewhere.  Our last cooking class filled up in only 4 days, so quickly that no general announcement was ever made.

The newly installed button on your right that says “Subscribe”, will guarantee that you receive every post automatically in your inbox as soon as it’s published.  So click the Subscribe button now, click on “email” and add your email address.  Complete the spam protector code by copying the numbers and letters and click “go”.  It’s very easy.

You’ll receive a message in your email that will allow you to activate your subscription.  You can unsubscribe at any time, of course.

You’re invited to join the party with friends having similar interests, share your talents and just plain have fun.

Let’s keep in touch!  Cora

Five Foodbuzz Friends to Checkout

Published on February 2nd, 20105 comment

Over these last few months, I’m getting into the “Foodie” Culture of bloggers from all over the world. I’ve been recently selected as a Featured Publisher on foodbuzz.com, which is big honor for me.  I’ve made hundreds of “foodie” friends online during this time.

I’d like to share some of my favorites with you, as they are folks much like me, expressing themselves in a new and exciting way.

If you’d like to see my profile on Foodbuzz, please click this link and you’ll see what I mean about this exciting new hobby of blogging. You’ll see hundreds of interesting blogs and you can “graze” from one to another by clicking “next” at the top of the page.

My very favorite food blog is www.SippitySup.com, written by Greg Henry. Of course, he has been a personal friend of mine for many years.  Greg presented his “Hollywood’s Golden Age” cooking class in my kitchen last month. He has many awards for his creativity, lovely photos and “far-out” recipes.

Then, another favorite is www.dricksramblingcafe.blogspot.com, written by Drick Perry.  Drick calls himself a “home-style” cook specializing in southern Gulf-coast dishes from Alabama and Louisana.  His Bananas Foster and Christmas Morning Strata are a couple of my all-time favorite recipes.

Lori Lynn is writing an amazing blog, www.tastewiththeeyes.com. Lori’s photos have received much recognition internationally. I’ve tried to follow some of her techniques, but I have lots to learn. Lori’s also an excellent cook who uses interesting and unusual recipes.  She is a finalist in this month’s Foodbuzz 24-24-24 contest.

Don’t miss www.chocolatepriestess.com, by chocolate fanatic Tammyjo Eckhart.  I started to read her recipes and couldn’t quit.  She writes a “Saturday Sacrament” that showcases here favorite chocolate recipe for that week.  It’s a very fun blog, so have lots of time when you open Tammyjo’s link, especially if you love chocolate!

Last but not least, is www.tokyoterrace.com, by fellow foreign foodie friend, Rachel White.  Rachel lives in Tokyo and you’ll see some similarities between her blog and mine.  She has written me that she would love to present a cooking class in my kitchen.  I have especially invited her to visit Boquete and to cook in my kitchen.  Maybe she’ll recipricate, Tokyo here I come!

If you love food and cooking, you’ll find lots of inspiration from any of these friends of mine. You’ll find hundreds of similar sites written by experienced food writers from all over the world on www.foodbuzz.com, but I think I’m the only food blogger from Panama. If you find another “foodie” from here, please let me know.  I’ve been having fun posting articles about Boquete, never realizing how many new friends would come my way. 
Enjoy!
Cora

Visiting a Panama City Gourmet

Published on February 1st, 20102 comment

It was the highlight of our last trip abroad to visit Gale Cellucci, Theater Producer for the Theatre Guild Ancon in Panama City, artist, fine art collector and gourmet cook.

I first met Gale when David and I went to Panama City to see a play at the Ancon Playhouse several years ago, directed by our good friend Carlos Williams.

Gale has lived in Panama City for over 35 years and she has kept in touch with our fledgling theater group in Boquete over the past few years.

When she learned that David and I were returning to Panama on a late flight and planned to immediately connect to an overnight bus to Boquete, Gale offered us the opportunity to stay overnight and to continue on to Boquete another day. The decision was easy to make.

Before long, we were enjoying a welcome drink and hors d’oeuvres on Gale’s spectacular balcony overlooking the waterfront in sparkling downtown Panama City. Gale served a tasty Roasted Pepper, Anchovy and Caper Bruschetta along with one of her favorite wines, CONCHA Y TORO Marquez de Casa Concha Merlot (Chile).

The orange peppers were roasted previously and stored in a glass jar into which Gale added extra virgin olive oil and garlic cloves.  She uses roasted peppers often and tries to keep them on hand.  Gale roasts them on her gas stove top, places them in a bag to finish cooking, then peels off the dark, roasted skins.

When we arrived at Gale’s La Cresta home, she sliced some crusty Italian peasant bread, toasted it under the broiler and carefully arranged slices of her prepared peppers on top.  Since we all love anchovies, she opened a thin tin of rolled fillets topped with capers and completed the delicious dish.

What a lovely view we enjoyed as the cool Panama evening allowed for good, lively conversation with dear friends.

We laughed when Gale told us about receiving two matching owls for her owl collection this Christmas.  Each owl was given to her by one of her children, one living in NYC and the other in Italy. Neither child knew what the other would get for Mom, quite a surprise.   You can see a few of Gale’s owls sitting among the candles along her delightful balcony.

We could not have planned a more perfect interlude in our round-the-world travels than spending time with this most interesting and multi-talented lady.  Thanks so much Gale, and we hope you can visit us in Boquete soon.
Cora

Panama’s Coffee Cup – Cafe Sitton

Published on February 1st, 20102 comment

cafesittonWhile strolling around the grounds of the International Flower and Coffee Fair in Boquete, I came upon the most lovely display of local coffee, Cafe Sitton. The striking blue and white booth, blazing with signs, shelves of coffee bags and cups, and a lovely mural, showed the pride of this well-known Boquete gourmet coffee producer.

The bag boasts that Sitton coffee is “Panama’s finest mountain grown coffee” and it comes “from Panama’s high mountains, deep in the Boquete rain forest, we bring you one of the best and well-known coffees of the world.”

Their website, www.cafesitton.net, gives much information about the roasts they offer, the history of the company and facts about the processing necessary to produce a fine cup of coffee.

cafesittonmuralAs seen in the mural, there is much work that must be done in order to produce a fine coffee such as Cafe Sitton.  The work is varied; hand-picking only the red cherries, spreading them out to dry in the sunshine, raking them every hour, and cleaning them in high water pressure.  The process is time-consuming and must be precise at all stages.  Some producers use a comb to brush the cherries from the trees, but coffee from Boquete is all picked by hand, one red cherry at a time.

What isn’t shown in the mural is the roasting process to the perfect color and grinding to the correct size of grain.  That’s very important if you want to get the full-bodied flavor we all enjoy so much.

cafesittonbagsI purchased the French Roast bag of Cafe Sitton and at a cost of $3.44 per pound, it’s a medium priced Boquete coffee.   As I opened the bag, I noticed the nice aroma that quickly filled my kitchen.

Using my new French Press, I measured 4 tablespoons  of Sitton coffee and added 3 cups of hot water, which equals 4  six-ounce “coffee-size” cups of brewed coffee.  Smart, uh?  From now on, that’s the formula I’ll use when making the various brands of Boquete and Panama coffees, 4 + 3= 4.

After a 4-minute wait, I gently pushed down the plunger in my press.  I could see the dark, rich coffee bubbling around the surface of the brew, coating it with a thick beige foam.  It smelled amazing.  As I poured it into my cup, the flow was almost opaque, a delightful quality not often seen using my automatic maker.

The taste was one I won’t soon forget, as bold, complex and full-bodied as any gourmet coffee I have ever sipped at any price.  I could taste tones of chocolate and a slight sweetness that lingered on my palate.  It was a treat to have one of the finest Boquete coffees brewed the correct way, using our local fresh, clear spring water.  Coffee doesn’t get any better than this.

Try some Sitton coffee yourself and see if you get the same “ah, ha” experience I had, one that I would like to share with all my friends.
Enjoy!
Cora

Greg’s Boquete-Hollywood Party

Published on January 31st, 2010no comments

If you haven’t heard already, Greg, alias SippitySup.com, finally posted his take on the “Golden Age of Hollywood” Cooking Class he presented in my kitchen last month. It took him a month to gather all the photos, to think about his experience and to finally put into words how he felt about the entire adventure.

It was the olden days of Hollywood that everyone enjoyed; the fine food, the gorgeous drinks and the fine conversation that our Boquete friends love.  If you read Greg’s www.SippitySup.com post about the evening of fun and fine, glamorous dining, it will all come together for you.

The dish-by-dish recipes and photos are in Greg’s site, also.  My favorite dish of the evening, if you could call it a dish, was the Signature Cocktail from the Cocoanut Grove.  Anytime gin is used in a different way, I love it.  The slightly-pink color was magical and I felt like Amy Adams as the princess in the movie “Enchanted” popping up into Times Square while sipping her fruity delightful cocktail.  Oh, how times have changed in the movie industry since the “Golden Age” of Hollywood.

I tried to duplicate that cocktail in my kitchen and it turned out just as delicious as I remembered sipping during Greg’s class. The original recipe requires maraschino liqueur, but I can’t find it anywhere in Panama, not even at Felipe Motta Wine Store.  The only cherry liqueur I can buy here is produced in Chile by Mitjans and it is very tasty. This is how I make this memorable Hollywood cocktail using ingredients available in Boquete.

Boquete’s Hollywood Cocktail
2 ounces Dry Gin
1 ounce Cherry Liqueur
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice, strained
2 drops grenadine

Fill a shaker with ice and add all the ingredients.
Cover, shake and strain into a martini glass. Top with a tiny slice of fresh lime.

Greg loved visiting Boquete and he especially loved his class of exceptional students, which you can see and read about on his post.

Thanks to you Greg, for bringing the taste of Hollywood to Boquete.   It was a look back into history, a time we remember when “glamour” was all the rage.  And Greg, we’ll keep those glamorous memories alive in Panama by enjoying Boquete’s version of the  “Hollywood Cocktail” often.
Cora

My New French Press

Published on January 26th, 20103 comment

It’s about time I have a real French Press, especially since I’m tasting all the fine coffees grown in Panama. I took a seminar about the many varieties of coffee grown in Boquete and the instructor said that she thought the best way to bring out the subtle tastes of the different varieties of fine coffee is to use a French Press to prepare it.

The hunt was on for me as my only experience with a French Press when it was served to me in a local coffee shop. I liked it then, but I didn’t pursue getting one because I didn’t have the “sophisticated” palate then that I have now. Anyway, I began my search in several stores in Boquete and David and just couldn’t find what I thought was the perfect French Press.

When I came to Florida last week, the hunt became extremely easy with every department store and kitchen shop having several models on hand. The prices ranged from $9.95 to $39.95 for an 8-sup size, which I determined was the size I needed. The best part of my hunt was when I visited a Target store and found the “Original French Press” made by Bodum, Brazil model, 8-cup, absolutely beautiful and only $19.95.

The first thing I did before I opened the box was to look at the directions in an easy-to-follow panel on the side, no other directions were necessary.  The written directions come in 14 different languages and they give way more information than anyone would need.

I laughed at the taglines on the box:

  • Probably the best way to brew coffee
  • The Coffee Lover’s favorite method
  • Quick and easy to use
  • Dishwasher safe

They missed the most important qualities to me:

  • The 3-piece mesh filter allows the aromatic oils and flavors to come through,
  • The special lid prevents spills, and
  • You don’t use filters, therefore being environmentally friendly.

Now, the really most important part is how the coffee tastes when using the French Press. I microwaved 2 cups of water until boiling, measured 2 rounded tablespoons of Cafe Ruiz medium ground coffee into the press, poured in the water, stirred it and put on the top, leaving the plunger up. The 4 minute wait was fun, because I was enjoying the aroma and anticipating the flavor of this fine Boquete coffee.

Then came the ultimate pleasure, the moment when I slowly pushed down the plunger and the clear, rich, flavorful coffee was released into the body of my new pot. What I had anticipated was worth every minute of waiting, a very fine cup of delicious coffee grown and processed in my new hometown, Boquete, Panama.
Love it!
Cora

SippitySup’s Menu – Dish by Dish

Published on January 12th, 2010no comments

sipdrink

By now, everyone knows about Hollywood photographer, writer and chef, Greg Henry and why he came to Boquete last month. He’s lovingly called “SippitySup” due to his top-voted website, www.SippitySup.com.

The cooking class Greg presented, “Hollywood’s Golden Age”, included 6 recipes from 6 of the world-famous restaurants in Hollywood that were “glistening” back in the 1940-50′s. I attempted to gather photos of each dish as it was prepared, but I missed the Rumaki. If anyone has an actual photo of the Rumaki that was made during the class, please let me know.

The Cocoanut Grove’s Signature Cocktail was leading the menu, each student received one as they walked into my kitchen. That doesn’t happen very often, so it was a big treat for everyone. sip

Then came the Plaintains with Caviar and Black Bean Puree. The photo below shows Greg frying up the plantains. They were served buffet-style with lots of toppings available: red and black caviar, smoked tuna, sour cream, bean puree, and thinly-sliced red onions.sippatacones

Barbecue Shrimp with Ginger and Lime was beautifully prepared and as you can see, this heaping platter of grilled shrimp gave everyone as many kabobs as they liked.
sipsalad

The final entree was the Brown Derby Original Cobb Salad topped with poached chicken and old-fashioned French dressing made from the original recipe. The freshly-picked organic vegetables were a special treat and the stars of the 40′s and 50′s probably didn’t have such luscious greens as we do today.

Dessert was Romanoff’s Chocolate Souffle’, almost as delicious looking as it tasted, especially when sprinkled with powdered sugar and topped with whipped cream. supsouffle

For all these recipes and perfect photos of the “practice” dishes, click here. You’ll see Greg’s blogs about the renown restaurants and the Hollywood stars who frequented them.

And just think, everyone who enjoyed Greg’s cooking class was dining on the same delectable foods that were served 70 years ago during Hollywood’s “Golden Age”.
Cora

Panama’s Coffee Cup – Cafe Duran

Published on January 8th, 20102 comment

cafeduran
During the next several months, I’ll be sharing with you some of the finest coffee grown anywhere in the world, all produced in Boquete, the coffee capital of Panama. Today is the opening day of the International Flower and Coffee Fair in Boquete and the perfect time to begin a series on the 40 locally grown coffees that are showcased at the fair.

Boquete is “coffee heaven” for the true connoisseur of fine coffee and I’m lucky enough to be here to share them with you from an “up close and personal” perspective.

Cafe Duran has been a leader in growing Boquete coffee for 5 generations, bringing 100 years of experience of building their company to one of the largest in Panama. Duran employs over 300 full-time workers and supports more than 500 native families of the Ngobe-Bugle tribe. They purchase freshly-picked coffee beans from over 3,000 families of small-scale growers who bring their coffee to collection centers in and near the Boquete area.cafedurantruck

These bright yellow and black trucks are very recognizable all over Panama and boast their 100 year history of coffee production. These trucks are distributing Cafe Duran coffee from the processing plant in Panama City to countries all over the world.

A new concept to Panama has been the “Coffee Store” and Duran is one of the first to open such a store in Boquete, located near the bridge just across from the fairgrounds. If you are in Boquete, you might want to stop by Duran’s new coffee shop and try a freshly brewed cup of one of the most traditional coffees grown in Boquete.

My impression of Cafe Duran has always been of how dark and aromatic this traditional Cafe Puro is when the bag is first opened. I love a dark roasted, rich and full-bodied coffee and Cafe Duran is a good example of this type of coffee. When hot water hits Duran coffee, the aroma fills my kitchen and wafts to the other end of my house, signaling David that it’s time to enjoy some really fine Boquete coffee.

This is a memorable cup of coffee, one that the light American coffee drinker might find too rich for their blood. If extra water is added at the preparation stage in an effort to achieve a “smoother” flavor, I find the result is disappointing. The Boquete price of $4.22 per pound makes this coffee especially attractive to budget-minded coffee enthusiasts.

cafeduranmachineI went to the Boquete fairgrounds today. I was one of the first customers to enjoy a 50-cent cup of Cafe Duran coffee at the fair this year, served from one of the many machines strategically positioned around the grounds.

It was a surprisingly well brewed, hot, dark, and satisfying cup of one of the finest coffees grown in Boquete.
Enjoy the Fair!

Murals of Boquete #5

Published on January 7th, 2010one comment

muralaxelbigDuring the past three years of being involved in Boquete’s biggest charity event, “Bid 4 Boquete”, I have met some very talented and caring people. I’ve been able to get acquainted with people, properties and businesses otherwise not easily accessible to the general public.

Pension Topaz is one such property. It’s located on a tree-lined back street near the center of Boquete on a small tributary, a very lovely location.

Owner Axel Schob is a strong supporter of local charities, an entrepreneur and a multi-talented artist who specializes in murals. When I first visited Pension Topas seeking donations for the charity effort, I found Axel working on one of his many murals he painted around the property.muralaxel2

The mural of the waiter delivering drinks shows the exuberant flair Axel expresses on all his work. He paints fun and fantasy, as well as the world in perfection, as shown in the Monet-style lake scene in the very top mural.

muralaxel4

I feel at home at Pension Topas, it’s a comfy-cozy feeling to be cruising under deep-blue skies on mountain lakes, or high on a sailing mast looking down on deep seas. If you look closely, you can see the hand sink near the shore of Kashmere Lake in India and the little mouse way up on the mast of the fantasy sailing ship flying above the lighthouse.

muralaxel3

As I strolled the grounds of this friendly hostel, I spotted many gorgeous murals usually seen only by visitors lucky enough to stay at the Topas, too many to include in this post. Keep visiting this site and you’ll see some more of Axel’s work in future writings.

During their time in Boquete, visitors are treated to the sight of beautiful murals throughout Boquete, they only need to look. And while they’re here, they will also be able to taste the finest, richest, most flavorful coffee in the world.

Hollywood’s “Golden Age” Dining

Published on January 3rd, 20104 comment

sipbestIt was a very different sort of evening in my kitchen last Monday, when blogger, photographer, and chef Greg Henry from Los Angeles and sous chef, Liz Lees from San Diego were ready to present a special cooking class about how movie stars dined during the “Golden Age” of Hollywood. It was an age when “being seen” was EVERYTHING!

sip3That afternoon, Greg and Liz measured ingredients for the famous “Signature Cocktail” from the glamorous Cocoanut Grove Restaurant in the center of Hollywood and they carefully scooped black and red caviar into old-fashioned champagne glasses for Trump’s “Plantains with Black Bean Sauce”.

They cleaned, sauced and sauteed chicken livers for Don the Beachcomber’s “Rumaki” and peeled, deveined and skewered shrimp for “BBQ Shrimp with Ginger and Lime” from the old Spago Restaurant, which overlooked Sunset Blvd.

They poached chicken breasts and saved the broth for me, boiled eggs, and chopped various lettuces and cheeses for the Brown Derby’s “Original Cobb Salad’.sipliz

The final dish was the “Romanoff’s Chocolate Souffle”, the perfect ending to this sumptuous meal. Liz had pre-measured the ingredients of this very glamorous finale into a beautiful “mis en place” arrangement, including 12 carefully separated eggs, milk, sugar, flour, vanilla extract, salt and powdered sugar. sip4

As students arrived, they were greeted with stories about how Hollywood restaurateurs developed their menus, prepared their dishes and built their reputations. They learned how movie stars became the center of attention, while being surrounded by some of the most elegant cuisine the world has ever know.

As the evening progressed, everyone mingled like movie stars with flashbulbs popping, and they dined on great recipes prepared with flair by Hollywood photographer and chef, Greg Henry. Each famous, delicious and historic dish was fit for such super-stars as Dorothy Lamour, James Cagny, Judy Garland, Groucho Marx and Bing Crosby.

And just think, this all took place in my lovely kitchen high up on the side of a volcano overlooking Boquete, Panama.
Lucky me,
Cora

Jamon Serrano and the Museum of Ham

Published on January 2nd, 20103 comment

ham2While I was in Panama City last week, I stopped to shop at Felipe Motta Wine Store, famous for their deli foods and fine wines. Because it was the holiday season, there were many items available that I haven’t seen in Panama before. There were stacks of wrapped wines, fancy Christmas breads, candies and cakes and huge hams imported from Spain.

The hams were what took my eye, I had not seen hams like that since David and I visited Spain a couple years ago. On that visit, we fell in love with the cana (pronounced con’ya) draft beer and thinly-sliced Jamon Serrano that was commonly served at the hundreds of tapas bars around Madrid. ham3

One day we happened upon the “Museum of Ham”, a big tapas bar, restaurant and ham store located on one of the main streets of Madrid. We later found out there were many such stores all over Spain, a place where locals can sit and enjoy these delicacies any time of the day or night.

This photo shows David enjoying his cana beer under rows and rows of whole Jamon Serrano hams, hanging beautifully from their hoofs. This type of dry-cured ham is unique to Spain and is generally served raw in thin slices similar to Italian prosciutto.ham1

To produce a Serrano ham, it must be trimmed and covered with salt for 2 weeks, then rinsed and hung to cure for 6 months. Finally, it’s hung in a cool place for another 6-18 months to dry. The drying sheds are built in the high mountains of Spain, which is why this ham is called “mountain ham”, or Jamon Serrano.hambest

As soon as I saw these hams available at Felipe Motta, I knew it was exactly what I would get for our holiday season treat this year.

It was a big surprise to David when the ham was delivered to Boquete, he couldn’t believe that I had found such a unique Christmas present to share with our friends throughout the next few months. The white plate of thinly sliced ham is nestled on top a hand-embroidered, antique Spanish mantilla I received as a gift from a dear friend many years ago.

Now, I need to look for some cana beer and our snack time will be complete. If you know where I can get authentic cana beer anywhere in Panama, please let me know.

Fine Wine Store Coming to David

Published on December 28th, 2009one comment

FelipemottaFelipe Motta is the largest, fanciest and best stocked wine store I know in Panama. Every time I get a chance to visit Felipe Motta while in Panama City, I fill my shopping cart with delicacies and the store packs and ships my purchases to arrive in Boquete the next day, complimentary.

You can imagine Felipe Motta as a huge supermarket, but it’s filled with gourmet foods, fresh baked goods, imported cheeses, all types of liquors and thousands of fine wines from all over the world.

This photo only shows the back area of the store where the fine wines are displayed.

I mean really “fine wines” from all over the world, with prices ranging from $1.95 to $890.00 for a 750 milliliter bottle. Yes, I saw several bottles of Collectible Chateau Lafite Rothschild 2001 Pauillac wine, each priced at $890.00. This was the most pricey bottle of fine wine I saw the day I visited the lavishly holiday-decorated wine store last week.felipe890

You may need to enlarge this photo to see the exact numbers posted on right side of the tag beneath the bottle.

Below the price tag is the Wine Spectator Magazine’s description of this amazing wine; “Stick your nose in this and it says something “I am special”. Deep and generous aromas of blackberries, fresh tobacco and minerals. It’s full bodied, with big velvety tannins and a super long finish. Like a fine cashmere sweater.” This wine is $148.33 per glass and by its description, it just might be worth it.

If you’re in the mood for holiday giving, choose one of these lush baskets filled with candies, crackers, bar ware, fine wine, whatever you think your lucky receiver would like. I saw several baskets that included champagne and caviar for New Year’s celebrations.

You can find just the right basket at Felipe Motta and priced to suit your needs. felipebasket

Here’s the best part – - a new Felipe Motta Wine Store will soon open in the large building that now houses Lumicentro in David, about 45 minutes south of Boquete.

We will soon be able to plan our gift-giving to include any number of fine gourmet gifts from all over the world.

I’m saving my balboas!

Restaurante Las Orquideas For Local Cuisine

Published on December 24th, 2009no comments

orchideasAfter moving across the river and into town, this tipica restaurant has made a huge hit with visitors and locals alike.

The Restaurante Las Orquideas is located just one door from the popular Machu Picchu Restaurant, but is far different in menu and price.

Our daughter Kirsten had just returned to Boquete for a holiday visit and we were looking forward to showing her one of the new restaurants in town.  She likes typical Panamanian food and dining al fresco, so we knew she would like Las Orquideas.

The seating is unique in Boquete, with half the 10 tables located on the small front entrance patio, just far enough away from the traffic so as not to be a distraction.

When coming into this friendly restaurant, we were greeted with a smile and a rundown of the day’s 10-12 freshly-prepared dishes.  You may choose any 4 items to be included in your “plato del dia”, or plate of the day.

While waiting for our lunch, we noticed that the tables were decorated with holiday tablecloths and tiny Christmas trees trimmed with take-home candies.  Most of the tables were filled with diners enjoying lovely plates of delicious-looking dishes and orange drinks.orquidea

In only about 5 minutes, our lunch was served hot and fresh on matching blue-rimmed plates.

My selection was just what I ordered; chicken asado, fresh broccoli and carrots and red beans, including an unexpected garnish of sweet plantains placed carefully atop a generous mound of white rice.

This was a lunch worthy of a photo. The light-orange iced drink reminded Kirsten of the Tang she loved so much as a child.

Everything tasted as good as it looks. So good that we’ll be back again and again, especially when the entire check for the 3 of us was $6.75!

Top 5 Gifts for Year-round Giving!

Published on December 20th, 20094 comment

These gifts won’t arrive before Christmas, but they are my picks for the best kitchen gifts for year-round giving. These top 5 gift suggestions will delight any friend or family member on any special occasion, whether for a birthday, bridal shower, graduation or housewarming gift. Click on any item highlighted in blue for a complete description.

1. Expresso Coffee Machine This is the best buy of all five gifts. I’ve listed it first because you can stop right here and order this fine DeLongi Retro pump-driven expresso machine, an original $210.00 value for only $99.99. It has a swivel-jet frother for creamy cappuccinos or lattes and all the features a connoisseur of fine coffee would appreciate.   expressomachin

2. Glass Covered Pedestal Cake Stand Every cook needs a 13″ pedistal cake plate with an 11″ high glass dome to showcase their treats. I recommend this one because the 2 pieces can be reversed to become a punch bowl. The price is right at only $24.99.cakestand

3. Fondue Pot This Rival stainless steel fondue pot makes the perfect gift. Reduced to $46.69, it’s reasonable enough to send to friends you think would love cheese or chocolate fondue, who wouldn’t?  A fondue pot is always fun at a party, my granddaughter loves to dip fruit into the melted chocolate.fonduepot

4. Pizzelle MakerCuisenart Papa Rico used this Cuisinart pizzelle press and everyone loved eating them at the big Bid 4 Boquete Charity Auction last week.  He made them 2 at a time and they were so popular, he could hardly keep up with the demand.  Rico dusted them with powdered sugar before serving.  I am thinking how good they would be with a light dusting of my Christmas Green Orange Dust mixed with sugar.  Papa Rico made his secret recipe for the batter for the auction, here is mine. The price is right at $39.95.

5. Pizza Pizzazz Pizza Oven Pizzaz Your family and friends would really enjoy having this unique kitchen appliance and it’s so much fun to use. The lucky recipient can easily prepare the exact pizza to their own tastes. For only $49.99, it will bring hours and hours of fun and delicious, “designer” pizzas.  Don’t miss my blog with the best crust recipe to use in this oven.

Whenever a special occasion arises, remember these suggestions and your gift giving will be so easy.  Click on the links highlighted in blue and go directly to Amazon to order your gifts today!

What Goes with Hard Sauce?

Published on December 16th, 2009no comments

hardsauceYesterday was a busy day, I prepared a beautiful vegetarian lunch of Shepherd’s Pie and a tossed salad and took it to friends in Potrerillos, about 30 minutes from Boquete.  The main dish was made from a recipe I found in my favorite cookbook, “The Ultimate Collection” by Alison Holst.

The menu was perfect, Shepherd’s Pie and fresh salad.  A salad is always a hit as I’m known for making salads a little differently than most recipes suggest.  I like to add something unexpected to each of my salads, this time I added half a finely chopped apple sprinkled with nutmeg.

But, I needed a dessert and there wasn’t time to make anything.  On the way to Portrerillos, we stopped at our local supermarket and picked up a sweet-smelling fruitcake, which was the best-looking holiday dessert available.  We arrived with a complete lunch, almost ready to eat.

The Shepherd’s Pie turned out lovely after Donna browned the grated cheese garnish.   I tossed and served the salad on side plates and we enjoyed a wonderful afternoon with good friends.  We enjoyed fine food and shared lots of fun, memorable conversation in one of the most beautiful homes in Panama.

When it was time for dessert, I had a moment of flashback!  I didn’t make any hard sauce to go with the fruitcake!   I didn’t even think of it until I started to slice the cake.  What is holiday fruitcake without hard sauce?  Or did I have hard sauce with Christmas Pudding when I was a child?  Or did I have hard sauce with Graham Cracker Roll?   Whichever it was, I missed adding a little dollop of hard sauce to the top of the lovely fruitcake we had for lunch. It was tasty, just not as special as I remember having when topped with hard sauce.

When I returned home, I quickly made some hard sauce, I had all the ingredients and it only took a few minutes.  It’s now ready to add to any Christmas dessert I serve over the holidays.  Here’s my recipe, you might like to keep some hard sauce handy to serve with your dessert during the next couple weeks.

1/2 cup softened butter (one stick)
1 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons rum, Abuelo is my favorite

Cream the butter and sugar.  Slowly add the rum and beat until light and fluffy.  Refrigerate in a covered container, it will keep for weeks.  It only takes a small dollop to make any dessert festive.   Now my only question is “What goes with hard sauce”?  Please let me know.

Murals of Boquete #3

Published on December 13th, 2009no comments

muralpaintersDo you know what was the longest mural in the world?  I knew what is was before looking on Wikipedia, but I checked just to be sure.  Look at the end of this blog and you’ll see if you are correct.  Now, to more murals in Boquete and to one that may be the shortest in the world.

Every day something new happens in Boquete, go into town and you’ll see the action. This week, mural artist Tova Speter visited Boquete only for a few days, but representatives from 7 local “grass-roots” charity organizations got together with her to created the newest mural on the main street of town.

Tova is the young lady closest to the camera.

By the time I arrived to help paint this mural, Tova had the paints all mixed and ready to go. She had the basic layout sketched, and we all got busy creating the lovely mural you see below.

muralcommunitySeveral local children added their hand prints to the left side of the rainbow. The children loved being involved in the mural, as did their parents and everyone else.

Notice the steaming cup of Boquete’s fine “gourmet” coffee on the bottom right. I’m guessing it’s probably the “Geisha” variety of coffee, the finest, richest coffee in the world.

This mural was completed quickly with lots of help from the entire community, another example of “The Spirit of Sharing” in Boquete.

Now, what was the longest mural ever painted in the world?

The Western side of the Berlin Wall between 1980 and 1989.  Then, it fell.

To see world-famous mural artists and their work, including Michelangelo and Diego Rivera, go to Wikipedia, enter “murals”.   Next in the series of ‘Murals in Boquete”, you’ll see some ceiling murals, really stunningly beautiful.

Pizza Pizzazz

Published on December 12th, 20092 comment

PizzazMost people are delighted to eat pizza several times a week, it’s a staple dish everyone loves.  You can save lots of money if you make your own crust, and the toppings are easy to assemble.

A few years ago, Julie gave us a Pizzazz Pizza Maker for Christmas and we’ve been making our own pizzas ever since.  It has turned out to be the center of many parties, the easiest, most creative way to use leftovers, and the most useful appliance I own.

Once I start thinking about toppings, the sky’s the limit!  Each pizza is different.  David tried to write a recipe for his very favorite pizza, but we haven’t been able to duplicate it.  This is real one-of-a-kind, “designer-style” pizza!

I’ve tried many, many recipes for the crust, which seems to be the biggest challenge in making pizzas with the Pizzazz maker.  Finally, I found the perfect recipe for pizza crust in my now-favorite cookbook, The Ultimate Collection, by Alison Holst.    The longer the dough is allowed to rise, the more tender the crust.

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olilve oil
3 cups flour

Measure the first 5 ingredients into a large bowl with 1 cup flour and mix thoroughly. Cover and leave for at least 15 minutes in a warm place. Stir in the remaining flour, adding extra, if necessary to make the dough firm enough to knead.  Knead for 10 minutes by hand or with an electric mixer until it forms a soft ball and springs back when pressed lightly.

I use my Kitchenaid electric mixer to do the kneading.  It saves my effort, I couldn’t be without it.  Drip a few drops of olive oil on the dough ball and turn it around in the bowl.  Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise at least 30 minutes.   Then, oil the cooking pan and press half the dough out with your fingers to make the crust.pizasauce3

The best pizza sauces are available in Boquete for about 85 cents a packet.  They come in mushroom, meat, vegetable, garlic and many other varieties.  They are exactly the right amount to use on a Pizzazz pizza.

Use your imagination when laying out your toppings, pepperoni, chopped garlic, oregano, basil, onions, anchovies, cooked sausage, roasted red peppers, ham, sliced black olives, or anything you like.  Top with sliced or grated  mozzarella cheese and start up your Pizzazz.

We like to sprinkle the oil that comes packed with anchovies on top at the very last minute.  As the pizza bakes, we pour a glass of good red wine and enjoy the aroma as we watch the pizza brown.   We set out our pizza cutter, grated Parmesan cheese and dried red peppers.  The rest of the evening is pure delight!pizza

Nosh on Nicoise

Published on December 11th, 20094 comment

nosh1Pronounced nee swaz’, this is the perfect lunch to serve at a lunch party. Sure, why not have a group of friends over for lunch.

When we first arrived in Boquete, good friends Hershel and Mikey invited us to their lovely home for a “Luncheon”. I don’t think we had ever been invited to such an affair and it was a very special event. We met many folks there who became “life-long” friends.

This is my favorite “almuerzo” to serve when friends from all over the world gather at our home. It looks gorgeous, it’s easy to prepare, everything gets prepared ahead of time and your guests become “designers” of their own lunch.

Because we enjoyed the afternoon so much with Hershel and Mikey, we’ve served this “Luncheon” many times. Everyone loves an afternoon party!

This is your chance to use all the lovely serving dishes you have been collecting. You’ll need a large salad bowl in which to serve the mixed lettuces, but the other dishes can be medium size or small.   This mango wood bowl I found in Costa Rica, it’s beautifully made and it smells like smoke.  It hasn’t lost its fragrance after using it many, many times. I provide small tongs to serve the greens. nosh3

Every serving piece should be a different size, pattern and color. It’s fun to go through your cabinets and select silver, wood, ceramic, china, plastic dishes, or even a piece of tile on which to display your remaining ingredients for the Nicoise Luncheon.

These are the ingredients I prepare for noshing, but use your creativity.

Blanched whole green beans
Tomatoes, cut into small wedges
Spring onions, sliced
Canned tuna served in shot glasses, 2 oz. is the perfect serving size
Hard boiled eggs peeled, but not cut – provide an egg slicer and small knife
Unpeeled cucumbers cut in half lengthwise, scoop out the inside with a spoon and slice
Dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, herbs (your special blend), a little mustard and salt.
Chilled boiled potatoes, cut into julienne strips
Anchovy fillets, whole
Black olives, pitted
Cheeses, cubed or in julienne strips
Blue cheese, crumbled
Carrots, grated
Pine nuts
nosh4
The fun of the Nicoise Luncheon is that each guest becomes the “artist” of their own salad, designing it exactly the way they like. They begin with a dinner-size plate and lay out the greens.

Then, your guests continue along the buffet filled with brightly colored dishes, and layer each ingredient until it looks just exactly right. One guest made a funny face out of his salad, the skies the limit!

Each dish becomes a masterpiece.
The results are beautiful enough for a photo.

Murals of Boquete #2

Published on December 9th, 2009no comments

muralwinestoreAfter beginning to research murals and looking for murals around Boquete, I was shocked to find so many in plain view on public streets. This one was on the wall of a building that once was a real estate office. If you wanted to buy a beautiful home in Boquete like this, you could come into this office.

A brightly colored mural was spotted on the main street of Boquete, just above the door of Sabroson Restaurante. It looks like they have an excellent chef, what a lovely way to advertise.muralsab

Several residents have murals painted on their walls by local artists. One of the finest I’ve seen is displayed in a corner of the Eickhoff home in Volcancito. The artist spent many long days creating this one-of-a-kind masterpiece. muralcindy

A colorful map of Panama was painted on a large wall of the local high school. It shows the locale of the various artists throughout the country.

If you want to see where polleras or sombreros are made, look at this mural.muralpanama

An announcement came out recently about a mural artist coming to Boquete to volunteer to paint a mural for a non-profit organization at no charge.

There are several organizations here that could take advantage of such an offer. The “Bid 4 Boquete Charity Auction” committee represents 4 large non-profit organizations in Boquete. The annual auction is the biggest charity event in Boquete, and every year it gets bigger.

I’m thinking this might be just the project for “Bid 4 Boquete” in the coming months, if we could find a building with an available wall to paint. Do you have any ideas?

Grandma Gates’ “Gold Cake”

Published on December 9th, 2009no comments

GoldCake1Clyde and Phyllis Stephens live in Bocas del Toro, just over the mountains from Boquete.  We met them several years ago while visiting the famous landmark, Hospital Point.  This historic site was purchased by the Stephens many years ago from the United Fruit Company, commonly known as “Chiquta Banana”.

Clyde has written several books about living in Panama, his experiences of working in the Panama banana industry and the history of Hospital Point.

While traveling in Florida earlier this year, we visited the Stephens in Tavares, where they make their summer family visits. Clyde grew up in Florida and his boyhood home is on display at the Manatee Village Historical Park in Bradenton.

Here’s a photo of the kitchen in Clyde’s original 1912 home.  Clyde’s grandmother baked this cake in that old oven when he was a boy. You can see the original framed recipe sitting atop the cupboard on the far right of the photo. stevenskitchen

The recipe looked wonderful to me, not only because it was written almost 100 years ago, but the dozen egg yolks caught my eye.  It also seemed strange to use water instead of milk in such a rich cake, and no salt.

In all my internet research, I couldn’t find a similar recipe, not even close.  I had to make Grandma Gates’ “Gold Cake”.

12 egg yolks
2 c. granulated sugar
1 c. water
3/4 c. butter
3 1/2 c. pastry flour
4 level tsp. baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla

Sift flour once . . then measure, add baking powder and sift 3 times.  Sift sugar then measure.  Cream butter, add sugar gradually and cream thoroughly.  Beat yolks until thick and lemon color, add these to butter and sugar and stir thoroughly.  Add water and flour alternately, then flavoring and stir very hard.  Put in slow* oven until raised to the top of the pan and increase the heat and brown.  Bake 40 to 60 minutes in an ungreased mold. *325gold1

I followed the directions as closely as possible, even researching whether I should use the top or bottom of the miniscus.  When I was finished, I had a sink full of 5 bowls to wash.  Grandma Gates’ kitchen sink was outside on the porch.  I could imagine her walking outside to do her dish washing, pumping her water from a hand pump and using lye soap to cut the grease on the bowls.

Plus, she didn’t have my fancy Kitchenaid electric mixer.  It was really difficult to picture her doing this all by hand!  It must have taken her several hours to complete her cake.

But, the results were excellent; the best, tastiest, most delicious “Gold Cake” I have ever tasted.  Grandma Gates probably felt like me – it was well worth all the time and work it took to make it.

Tonight, we’re going to Eric and Jane’s home for a dinner party and we’re taking Grandma’s cake.  I’m sure they will serve it with freshly brewed, fine “Boquete Gourmet” coffee!

Murals of Boquete #1

Published on December 1st, 2009no comments

muralstFor several years, I lived in Lake Placid, Florida, a town a little smaller than Boquete, Panama, where I now live.  Lake Placid  is as famous for growing beautiful caladiums as Boquete is for growing the world’s finest coffee.  Lake Placid is even more famous for their unique murals displayed on walls throughout the town.

One day it hit me – - -  Boquete displays some of the most beautiful murals I have ever seen, some as lovely as those in Lake Placid or anywhere else in the world.

Murals have become so popular that you can buy them ready-made to install on any wall, inside or outside.  muralday2 003
Modern murals are a means of communication, to show a political view, a business product or just a beautiful scene or piece of artwork.  Styles vary from abstract, like David is painting on the right, or tromp-l’oeil, “trick the eye” styles like the mural at the top, found at the Streit Estate in Potrerillos.

The Sabroson Restaurante displays a mural of their Executive Chef above the door. If you haven’t seen it, please check it out.

Ancient murals show how people lived, like those found in Egyptian tombs that were painted more than 3,000 BC.   A good example of that style is shown on the historic mural in the Bistro Boquete, below.muralbis

Children love to paint murals. At the entrance of the Josefa Montero de Vasquez School, near El Constuctor, students painted a mural of Boquete and surrounding mountains, including the school’s mascot on the right edge, the brightly-colored Resplendent Quetzal. Does such an art project promote school spirit and a sense of belonging?muralschool1

There are so many murals in Boquete, I will need to continue with several articles on this subject. Keep checking this site for information on how murals are painted, and you’ll see some unusual sights in Boquete that many visitors miss.

Boquete could become as famous for its murals as it is for growing the finest coffee in the world!

If you have seen a mural I may not know about, please tell me and I’ll include it in a future blog.

Don’t Rain on My Parade

Published on November 29th, 2009no comments

paraderealWasn’t it Barbara Streisand who sang that song? I remember she was wearing a fancy dress, spinning around with her hands raised in the air singing those words.  That was me yesterday in Boquete.paradedressparade5paradedevil

The bajareque kept coming down across the marchers, but they didn’t notice.  Band members were dressed in their finest uniforms and the Panama dresses on the dancers were glistening with their dusting of mist.

Locals and visitors alike lined the streets to see the biggest parade of the year, the Independence Day Parade.  This is the day when so many Panamanian bands and school groups come to Boquete to show off their many talents and their pride in country.paradedrumsparadebass

This year, there were marching bands from different provinces, including a huge band from Las Tablas, complete with 4 enormous, white, fiberglass sousaphones, each costing over $3,200!

You could never tell by my photos that the air was filled with bajareque mist and it was a wonderful feeling being with so many fun-loving teens who didn’t notice it at all.

This was Boquete in it’s finest face.  I kept singing that song from “Funny Face”, hoping that the mist wouldn’t turn into rain and it didn’t.parade2

Are Gourmets Healthier?

Published on November 28th, 2009no comments

j0439402We all know what a “gourmet” is, and we know if we are a “gourmet”, right?  If you’re not sure, click on my earlier article, “Are you a Gourmet?  Take This Test”. Many readers have commented that they always knew they loved fine food, but weren’t sure whether they were indeed a “gourmet’.

If you find that you are a gourmet, the next question is whether you are healthier and in better shape because of that fact?

Can eating like a gourmet actually be good for our health?  Can a gourmet diet ward off disease and illness?  If we begin to eat like a gourmet, could such a diet heal damage done to our bodies by eating “ordinary” diets most people consume?  Will we age better eating a “gourmet” diet?kelley2

Kelley Herring, a Florida nutritionist specializing in healthy lifestyles, says that eating like a gourmet actually does promote health, protect against disease and extend an active, age-defying life.

Kelley has discovered how we can restore our health, boost our energy and optimize our weight, simply by eating like a “gourmet”, one delicious bite at a time.  That is something that I’m very much interested in.  No, I don’t expect to have the youth or beauty of these young folks in the picture above, but I can certainly feel as happy and be as energetic as they are, why not?

I particularly like the fact that as a “gourmet” I can age better, and I can “eat my way into shape”.  If you’d like to learn more about Kelley’s discoveries and to read about some of the books she has written, go to Healing Gourmet Click Here!  Kelley has a free report you can open, if you’d like to learn more about how gourmets cook and eat.  She has included some delicious-sounding recipes for us to enjoy.  We can download her books on our computers in Boquete or anywhere in the world, no mail problems or shipping cost.smartcooksage

For some of us who are wanting a little slimmer profile, look at her book, “Slim Down, Shape Up”, notice I used the word “little”!

Chasing Rainbows

Published on November 22nd, 2009one comment

rainbow

“I’m Always Chasing Rainbows”, it seems.  I grab my camera and run out into our gardens to take photos of the most lovely rainbows seen anywhere on earth.  Boquete is famous for rainbows, as you know if you’ve read much about Boquete.

As I’m focusing my camera, I’m singing that song about rainbows.  The tune is unforgettable, probably because it was written by Frederic Chopin back in the early 1800s.  If you’d like to hear the tune, go to Wikipedia and scroll down to the recording of “Fantasie Impromptu”.

castlerainbow

The words were written by Joseph McCarthy and it was published in 1918 for the Broadway show, “Oh, Look”.  Since then, over 50 recording artists have recorded it, including Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland and Liberace.  It’s no wonder I sing that song on my way to record rainbows in Boquete!rainbowcloud

As I’m seeing all these rainbows, I try to focus in on the deepest colors and I try to get as much in the frame as I can.  People with wide lenses get gorgeous shots.  See the one at www.boquete.org, it’s an amazing photo.  This rainbow may have been enhanced a bit, but I’ve seen them exactly like that one, from the same location.

One of these photos is of a triple rainbow taken from my balcony and another of a rainbow above the castle next door. I chase rainbows all over Boquete!

My favorite photo is the one I took of the “rainbow cloud’.  It might not be a real rainbow at all.  Does anyone know what is is?

When you come to Boquete, be sure to bring your camera and carry it with you at all times.  You’ll find rainbows when you least expect them, and you don’t want to be caught in the chase without your camera.

dobrain

Vi’s Buns

Published on November 21st, 20092 comment

bunsCinnamon buns are every man’s favorite breakfast treat, one that isn’t readily available in Boquete.  There are several bakeries that make cinnamon buns from cake batter, but not the real yeast dough and sticky frosting that are found everywhere in North America or Europe.   There is nothing better in the morning than a cup of Boquete specialty Cafe Ruiz coffee and one of Vi’s homemade buns.

When I agreed to co-ordinate this year’s Bid 4 Boquete Charity Auction event, I never thought that by doing so I would meet Vi, the gourmet baker from Volcan who makes what I call “real” cinnamon buns.  Vi’s buns are yeast-risen, full of spices, big, fat raisins and frosted with classic butter icing.

I couldn’t begin to tell you the recipe for Vi’s buns.  They’re not exactly cinnamon rolls, they’re more hearty and are more flavorful.  But, I’m pretty sure that Vi uses the same icing recipe that I’ve used for years.  It’s easy to make and I always have the ingredients on hand.  The sugar here is named XXXXX Azucar Micropulverzada, it comes in a clear cellophane bag.

Here’s my Classic Butter Icing:

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium sauce pan or saucier.  Add 3 tablespoons evaporated milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.  Slowly beat in 1 cup confectioners’ sugar until smooth.  Add more sugar to get a consistency exactly right to spread on the hot buns when they are taken out of the oven.

Rather than to try to find a recipe to make buns the way Vi makes them, you could visit www.billbaio.com and order them directly from Vi.  She visits David regularly and will deliver them to you there.

Vi is donating some of her buns to be sold at the big Bid 4 Boquete Charity Auction held at the Boquete Feria on Sunday, December 6, beginning at 1:00pm, thanks Vi.  I hope everyone will come to the auction and enjoy all the fine events, especially Vi’s buns.  See you there!

Gourmet Coffee As Art

Published on November 17th, 2009no comments

coffeerey2

coffeerey

Gourmet coffee is a beautiful thing, whether it’s in the bag, being round in your kitchen, added to a coffee maker or being sipped from your favorite cup. There’s just something lovely about gourmet coffee.

These photos of rows and rows of beautiful coffee were taken in our local supermarket. They were both taken from the same spot and should be in one panoramic photo.

The sight of all this coffee is awe-inspiring, with each bag standing out like an art masterpiece.  See how each of our local growers design their bags to be distinctive, colorful and appealing.

If I were an artist, I’d paint a picture of these shelves, or maybe I’d concentrate on only the orange bags, or maybe the bags with paintings of Guaymi Indians picking coffee beans, wearing their bright-colored, artfully-handmade appliqued dresses.

Living in Boquete, Panama brings out the artistic talents in many people, not just me.  The coffee grown here seems to have qualities other gourmet coffees don’t have.

I think that folks who lovingly plant, harvest, process and market coffee in Boquete are “artistic” types.  They are bringing out the beauty of their product, knowing how important it is to produce a “work of art” with every bag, not just the finest coffee possible, but the most “artistic” coffee in the world.

Does living among the coffee bushes, smelling the fragrant blossoms, and watching the green beans turn to red in the warm sunshine of Boquete give residents a special appreciation of fine coffee that very few others understand?  I believe it does.

Yes, there are “coffee lovers” who buy everything relating to coffee, “coffee fanatics” who use only the finest coffee maker to brew their java, and “coffee gurus” who can foresee how this year’s crop, or even a particular bean will taste.  And then, there are folks like me, who just can’t get enough of the aroma and fine taste of a real delicious, full-bodied and “artsy” cup of gourmet coffee from Boquete.

Well, here I am in my self-portrait, one of many fledgling artists living in Boquete.  We’re all inspired by simply living among so many other artists and growers here.

When I become a “real” artist, you’ll still be seeing me drinking an exquisite, flavorful, picturesque, luxurious cup of gourmet coffee from Boquete, the finest coffee in the world!selfpportrait

Do Bananas Freeze in Panama?

Published on November 16th, 2009one comment

frozen These bananas certainly look frozen to me, but even the below freezing temperatures on top of Volcan Baru wouldn’t freeze Panamanian bananas. No, these were frozen in my freezer overnight and they are hard as bricks.frozed2

Now the problem is how to peel them. I stuck the bananas in the freezer, peel and all, I didn’t want to take the time and trouble to peel them and bag them.  Besides, why use bags when bananas come with peels, nature’s perfect packaging?

When I’m ready to use bananas, I take them out of the freezer and let them frost up for a couple minutes.  In the meantime, I get out my favorite big knife and cut off the tips. I cut off enough so I can see the banana-colored flesh. It’s not sickly brown or mushy like it would be if I had peeled it before freezing.frozed3

Then, holding a half in my left hand (right hand if you’re left-handed), I split it slowly lengthwise into 2 pieces.  These pictures show David actually peeling our banana.  Look at that color, just like a real banana and just as firm as if it hadn’t been frozen.frozen4

Now, holding a piece in my left hand and beginning at the top, I ease my thumb between the peel and the flesh and slowly move my thumb down the banana.  It’s easy to do if you do it smoothly.  The inside releases itself and comes out all in one piece, ready to use in your favorite cakes, pies or frozen drinks.frozen5

Did you see my recipe for Banana Daiquiris I posted last week?  Carrie and Jonathan came over to try a Banana Daiquri made with my frozen bananas.  Everyone loved them, the second daiquiri was even better than the first!

Panama Yellow Breakfast

Published on November 15th, 20093 comment

yellowWhat’s wrong with this lovely breakfast brought to me on the very first morning I was ever in Panama?  We were staying at the Riande Continental Hotel, very near the Tocumen Airport in Panama City, and breakfast was included with our room.  That’s not the case now days.

I ordered a typical Panamanian breakfast and when I looked at it, it was so unusual to me, I had to take a picture of it.  The serving plate was rimmed in a modern design and the pink coffee cup sported the Riande Hotel logo, an attractive nice combination Several times over the next 7 years, I’ve looked at this picture and wondered how these foods seem to always end up on a breakfast plate in Panama.

The jugo de naranja or orange juice is yellow in Panama, not orange.  The yucca and country cheese is light, creamy yellow, the scrambled eggs, the corn tortilla and the smashed, fried patacones are all yellow.  When I think of a “gourmet” meal, I can’t help but think of my first meal in Panama, it certainly was not “gourmet”.

Let’s analyze it – chicken is the most plentiful, most reasonable meat in Panama.  So of course, there would be lots of eggs here and scrambled eggs are everyone’s favorite way of fixing them and practically foolproof to prepare.  The corn tortillas in Panama are made of a stiff corn-mixture, shaped into thick patties, and fried in oil, 65 cents for 10 tortillas.  Here, I got half a tortilla.  The country cheese is a fresh, holey, bland cheese, it costs $1.95 for 14 ounces.    It looks like I may have about an ounce of cheese on my breakfast plate.

The yucca is a very common food here, it’s available at every market at 24 cents a pound.  I peel yucca like a potato, cut into strips, saute’ with crushed garlic, then cover and steam until tender.  The flavor is enhanced when topped with yellow butter.  Yucca keeps very well in the refrigerator, I’ve kept it for weeks!patacones

Here’s the best part of my yellow breakfast, the smashed-fried patacones.  To make patacones, use dark green plantains.  They are similar to bananas, except bigger.  Peel and slice plantains into 1″ pieces and fry slowly in oil, canola oil is popular here.  When fork-tender, smash them is a press like mine or set them on your cutting board and flatten with the bottom of a glass bottle.  Fry them again until golden yellow, drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

After 7 years of considering this meal, I’ve seen my yellow breakfast in my mind over and over.  I’ve tried to cut down on my serving portions, I’ve savored every flavor of each dish I prepare, and I’ve tried to prepare every item so it tastes as good as it did on my first morning in Panama.  Wouldn’t you call that a real “gourmet” breakfast?

Don’t You Love “Non-Traditional”?

Published on November 14th, 2009one comment

turkeyWhat a lovely turkey, roasted in a “non-traditional” way, like our forefathers did it 200 years ago.  The key word here is “roasted”, not baked in a bag, deep fried, covered, or wrapped in foil, but “roasted”, plain and simple in an open roasting pan.  Nowadays, this is called “non-traditional”.

Throughout the evening in this, the second cooking class hosted in my Boquete Gourmet’s kitchen, Chef Lauretta put the emphasis on the way it was when real flavor was savored and enjoyed, when real fresh green beans were key and when jacket potatoes were baked to perfection in a real oven for at least an hour and a half.  This was real “gourmet” fine dining!

potatoesYes, we’re getting back to the days when flavor was the most important thing, when gravies were dark, when stuffings were rich flavored and when succulent turkey meat was the most important dish of any Thanksgiving dinner.

When the combination of good friends having a good time cooking together, using the finest, freshest foods available anywhere and cooking with a top chef  like Lauretta from The Bistro Boquete, the meal is the icing on the cake.

No wonder everyone had such a good time preparing this very traditional, “non-traditional” Thanksgiving Dinner together.  When we sat down to dinner to enjoy  the meal, we knew this was something special, in special surroundings in this special town of Boquete, high up on the side of a volcano in Panama.

It was an unforgettable evening, so far from our home-land.  Yet, something seemed so familiar and comfortable, was it the crispy, crunchy crust of the golden-brown turkey skin?   Yum!      classaprons

Turkey Without Sage? No Way!

Published on November 13th, 2009no comments

turkey1Of all my years of preparing Thanksgiving dinner, I always baked a turkey with lots of sage.  The stuffing was often quite different, depending on the fashion of that year.  One year, I made wild rice with roasted grapes and walnuts stuffing, another year was croutons, apples, apricots and almonds, even corn bread, pancetta and prunes, on and on.  But, one ingredient every stuffing recipe had to have was sage, and lots of it.

When Chef Lauretta was designing the turkey she was to cook at the Boquete Gourmet cooking class last night, I was afraid that she wasn’t going to use sage in her “Non-traditional” Thanksgiving turkey recipe.  But, I was wrong.  At the first glance of her recipe, I could see she was using poultry seasoning in her stuffing, 2 teaspoons of it.

This was my opportunity to blend my favorite herbs in proportions of my choice to make “Boquete Gourmet” poultry seasoning.  By mixing my own seasoning, I could use as much sage as I wanted.  Here’s my recipe for this delicious blend of herbs and spices that are easily available here in Boquete:

“Boquete Gourmet” Poultry Seasoningpestle

2 tablespoons sage
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 tablespoon thyme (tomillo in spanish)
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon celery seed
1 tablespoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground white pepper

Mix and grind all herbs and spices in small coffee grinder or mortar and pestle.

Store in tightly sealed jar.

The flavor of Lauretta’s dried fruit and sausage stuffing was outstanding, especially when she used my very favorite blend of poultry seasoning.  I have enough left over to use when I roast my very own turkey this Thanksgiving.  I think I’ll try it in Pablano Chile and Pumpkin Seed stuffing.  I hear it’s all the rage this year!

Why Gourmet Chefs Wear Aprons

Published on November 9th, 2009no comments

pinkapron There was once a Gourmet Club in Boquete and it was very fashionable to belong to it.  So many folks were accepted into the club that it became a nightmare to organize, even using the latest internet gadgets to help out with the planning.apronblue The Boquete Gourmet Club was popular for many reasons, not the least of which was that every club member had their own “designer” apron to wear to the dinners.  The aprons came from all over the world, in all patterns, colors and designs.  At each dinner, guests couldn’t wait to see what everyone was “wearing”.  (Not clothes, but aprons).apron2

But really, why do chefs wear aprons? You might think it’s handy to use as a towel to wipe hands, or to use as a hot pad to pick up hot dishes, or maybe to protect clothing from spills or splashes, but no – it’s to make a fashion statement!

Based on that phenomenon and the fact I was beginning my new blog, I thought it was important to have an apron made that was just right for me and fans of my blog.  It would need to have “Boquete Gourmet” written on it. It would need to be brown, the color of coffee, and it would need to be of the finest possible quality.

So, I found a beautiful brown, heavy, wrinkle-proof plaid material that would make the perfect statement for any gourmet cook, especially one who has visited Boquete and knows how popular plaids are here.  Zora, a talented local seamstress, developed the pattern from an apron I love.  She sews these aprons to the highest standards.

Anyone wishing to purchase a special designer, “Boquete Gourmet” apron, will find them available at The Bistro Restaurant or by calling 6614-9514.  An apron is only $15.00, including a bag of ‘Boquete Gourmet”, home-grown gourmet coffee.  Then, serving a cup of “Boquete Gourmet” coffee is what I call making a “real” fashion statement.

Cook Quickly with Pressure

Published on November 5th, 20093 comment

pressureToday’s modern pressure cookers have many safety features our mother’s never had.  Chef Lauretta used a modern pressure cooker to cook her navy beans for the Frijoles Rancheros she served during her Mexican Cooking Class last month, and it looked so easy.  It only took Lauretta 30 minutes to take dried beans to tender perfection in her cooker, which would have taken me at least 2 hours using a stock pot.   So of course, I had to get a pressure cooker and it had to be stainless steel, no aluminum utensils for me.

Super Baru, a huge grocery store in David, had a beautiful stainless steel Manttra cooker for $42.  I had to buy it, just think of how much time I can save!

My new Manttra  “Quick and Easy” pressure cooker has 6 safety features.  There is a device that won’t allow pressure to build up unless completely closed, a pressure regulator that hisses, a gasket release that allows steam to be released if the gasket malfunctions, a fusible safety device that melts if pressure rises beyond normal due to the cooker having insufficient water or clogged vent tube, a 3-way safety button that won’t allow steam to build up unless properly seated, and a visual pressure indicator that shows when the cooker is under pressure and indicates drop in pressure when the cooker is removed from heat.

After all that, I felt comfortable using my new cooker for the first time and the results were amazingly delicious!

First, pressure1I browned a beautiful 3-pound pork loin in butter, onions, sliced carrots and crushed garlic, added cubed potatoes, chopped fresh cilantro, one cup of red wine and a cup chicken stock.   A small trivet came with the cooker and I slipped it under the pork, then sprinkled salt and pepper over everything and closed the lid.  Thirty-seven minutes later, I removed the cooker from the heat, released the pressure and placed the pork and vegetables on a serving dish.  Then, I quickly returned the cooker to the heat and reduced the broth to half.  It made the perfect wine sauce to serve with my first-ever dinner in my new pressure cooker.

Tonight, I’ll try Chicken Curry, it will only take 10 minutes to cook.  I brought back some fresh curry powder from Egypt this summer, so this will make the perfect dish for dinner, and SO FAST!

Il Pianista Means Italian

Published on November 2nd, 2009no comments

IlPianistaIl Pianista is a tiny restaurant tucked up on the Alto Lino loop on the side of the Palo Alto River where two waterfalls converge.  Hence the name “Pianista”.  The waterfalls sound like a piano playing as you enjoy Giovanni’s famous Italian cuisine.  Doris Day and husband, Giovanni specialize in pizza, lasagna and pasta dishes, prepared with their “secret” sauce.

The first sign of the restaurant is the Italian chef standing out front offering you the specials of the day.  No, that’s not Giovanni, but he’s just as handsome.

The stone restaurant, which was once a boat house, is decorated with lovely paintings, plants and table settings to give a cozy, comfortable atmosphere.  We ordered an onion, garlic and pepperoni pizza, and it came loaded with “real” mozzarella cheese and the crust was exactly to our liking.  You can see the strings of cheese dripping along the plate, yum.    pianistapizza

Anyone can tell that Doris and Giovanni enjoy their work, they are always smiling and chatting with their customers.  Last night, there were lots of folks to chat with.  A family of four visiting from Canada found their way up the Alto Lino loop to enjoy lasagna, crusty bread, wine and batidos, fruit drinks made with fresh fruits and ice cream.

I noticed a couple of diners admiring some of the artwork at Il Pianista.  This painting compliments the sound of the waterfalls outside the window.Pianista
The prices at Il Pianista are reasonable, considering the amount of care Giovanni puts into his specialties. If you’re looking for “designer” Italian cuisine, this is the place not to miss while you’re in Boquete.  To get there,  just drive across the new bridge in the town center and turn left, that’s the “Alto Lino” loop. Il Pianista will be on your right about 2 miles from town, just past Finca Arco Iris.  After dinner, keep driving along the loop and you’ll return back into the town center.   Buon Appetito!

Gourmet Doggie Treats You Can Make

Published on November 1st, 2009no comments

wheelbarrow

A very active group of Boquete residents, headed up by Ruby McKenzie, began the “Amigos de Animales Foundation” several years ago.  Their mission is to provide spay and neuter services to dogs and cats in the Boquete area.  Each year they set up several clinics, as well as providing immunizations and promoting the general welfare of animals.

Since it’s inception, Amigos de Animales provided services to over 2,000 dogs and cats.  Over 100 volunteers gave their time in this effort and they are raising funds to continue their efforts.

The Amigos de Animales Foundation printed 2010 calendars this year for the first time.  They are available for $7.00 at several locations in Boquete, as well as the Tuesday Morning Meeting.  This is a sample page of the calendar showing Cozy, Rico and Mocha, rescued by Dave and Erin Ross.  David and I designed and painted the wheelbarrow for the Bid 4 Boquete Charity Auction last year.  For more information, go to www.fadab.org and www.bid4boquete.com.

As a salute to this very worthwhile effort, I tried to find just the right gourmet treats to make for the next Spay and Neuter Clinic, scheduled for January 31, 2010.   I found the perfect place to find recipes for gourmet dog treats, www.gourmetsleuth.com.  The Gourmet Sleuth has several such recipes and I selected the most delicious-sounding dog treat recipe I could find.   I hope your dog will enjoy these yummy snacks.Dog_Bone_Cookie_Cutters_1

Gourmet Doggy Biscuits
Homemade dog treats are fun to make and healthier than many of the store-bought versions.I N G R E D I E N T S
1 cup rolled oats (such as Quaker)
1/3 cup margarine
1 cup Boiling water
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons chicken or beef flavored instant bouillon
1/2 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 egg, beaten
2 – 3 cups whole wheat flour.

I N S T R U C T I O N S
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
Grease cookie sheets.

In large bowl, combine rolled oats, margarine and boiling water; let stand 10 minutes. Stir in cornmeal, sugar, bouillon, milk, cheese and egg; mix well. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. Add flour 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition to form a stiff dough.

On floured surface, knead in remaining flour until dough is smooth and no longer sticky, 3 to 4 minutes. Roll or pat out dough to 1/2 inch thickness, cut with bone shaped cookie cutter. Place 1 inch apart on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes on until golden brown. Cool completely. Store loosely covered. Makes 3 1/2 dozen large dog biscuits or 8 dozen small dog biscuits.  Your lucky dog will love these “Gourmet Cheese Biscuits” from the Gourmet Sleuth.

How to Pack a Gourmet Picnic

Published on October 31st, 2009no comments

j0178090Everyone loves to go on a picnic, and there are lots of picnic spots in and near Boquete. There are vistas everywhere, some overlook the sea, some provide panoramas of the town, and some may be in lush clearings along the many trails in the jungle.

Your picnic lunch can be as posh as you like, use your imagination to put together foods that will be a treat to the eyes as well as a treat to your palate.  Bring along a small tablecloth, and include colorful hard-plastic plates, forks and glasses or cups.  Cloth napkins would add a special flare.

A picnic basket similar to mine would be perfect.  In Boquete, open baskets are readily available, they are used in coffee picking and are just the right size for a picnic.  Pack it up and tuck in your folded tablecloth around the top.

If you don’t have hard-plastic dinnerware, look for them at local stores in Boquete.  Romero’s, Mandarin and Bruna have excellent choices available and they sell them by the piece.

Anytime you want to go on a picnic, think of 3 types of food to bring and how you will pack each dish.  Begin with an appetizer and bread, keep it simple and fresh.  Then, the main course can be prepared easily the evening before your picnic and lastly, a nice dessert and any type of drink you’d like.  A bottle of wine or water would compliment any picnic lunch.  A box of light pear nectar would be a surprise in any picnic basket.  Keep your menu as simple as 1, 2, 3.

j04385871. Appetizer – Caprese Salad packed in a plastic container the night before.  Layer alternating slices of  tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese and fresh basil leaves in the container, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and refrigerate.  A sliced loaf of crusty bread makes a perfect partner for any picnic.

2. Main course - Poached Salmon with Spicy Peanut Sauce and lime quarters.  Cut salmon into serving size pieces and poach in white wine the evening before your picnic.  Pack in a plastic container and refrigerate overnight.  In the morning, top with quartered limes.  Bring along a small container of  Spicy Peanut Sauce made in the same container you’ll pack.  Blend 1/4 cup chunky peanut butter with1 tablespoon each of soy sauce, sugar, extra virgin olive oil, and wine vinegar.  Add a clove of minced garlic, fresh chopped cilantro, and hot sauce to taste.

3. Dessert – Honeyed Grapes – Combine 2 teaspoons lime juice and 2 tablespoons each honey and brandy and stir until blended.  Pour over 2 cups seedless grapes in a plastic container and refrigerate overnight.  Bring along a small container of sour cream, if you like.

Your gourmet picnic lunch is ready to go.  In the morning, fill your basket with ready-made Caprese Salad, Chilled Salmon with Spicy Peanut Sauce, Honeyed Grapes with sour cream, bread and drink and you’re ready to go on your gourmet picnic.  Your basket will be fitted with only 5 containers, a loaf of crusty bread and a drink, how easy and how devine!   honeygrapes

Spice Up Your Dishes with “Bella”

Published on October 22nd, 2009one comment

mybellaThe best way I’ve found to spice up my salads, soups, meats and vegetables, is to add a big pinch of my homemade blend of “Especia Bella”, or “Beautiful Spice”.  I feel like Emeril Lagasse when I toss in a dash of my “Bella”, it may not be “Bam”, but it’s just exactly right for my taste.

In Emeril’s book, “Every Day’s a Party”, he gives his recipe for Creole Seasoning, which contain salt, paprika, garlic powder, black pepper, onion powder, cayenne, dried oregano and thyme.  He lists the exact proportions he likes, just right for his taste.  Emeril mixes them together and stores them in an air-tight container, which can be kept up to 3 months.

I actually saw Emeril in person a few years ago. Our eyes met as he swept his hand across mine, I was standing in a crowd of admirers waiting to buy his book.  I was impressed at how widely he smiled and how everyone there was so thrilled to see him.  I’ve tried to emulate his energy, passion and flare for cooking.  Maybe the word isn’t “emulate”.  It’s that lately I’m paying more attention to my passion and love of cooking, and I’m enjoying fine, well-prepared and presented foods more than ever before.

Remembering back on that instant when Emeril touched me, I think I’ve found a way to become a little more like him by making my own blend of herbs and spices to use when I want to “kick it up a notch”.pestle

I thought of my favorite herbs and spices and how I could blend them to create a special spice just for me, my own signature flavor to add to any dish when the time is right.

Dried rosemary, oregano, thyme and basil started my blend, and then cumin, recently brought back from Egypt, and ground red-hot cayenne pepper from Chimayo, New Mexico completed my mix.  My marble mortar and pestle worked to crush them all together.  The aroma was amazing!  The portions were strictly what seemed right to me, a blend that comes from my heart, my “Especia Bella”.

If you’d like to spice up your dishes and give them your own signature flavors, make a special blend of your favorite herbs and spices, keep them in a lovely air-tight jar, invent your own name for it (my middle name is Bella), and use it with flare!

Are You a Gourmet? Take this Test

Published on October 19th, 20098 comment

diningcoupleSince I started this website, many folks have asked me why I call myself a “gourmet’.  Good question!  Do they ask because they think I’m a snob or is it that they don’t know the meaning of the word?

I have  known the meaning of the word for many years, I know I’m a gourmet, and I’ve been one as long as I can remember.  But now, I’d better research the word to make sure I wasn’t wrong about its meaning.

Both Funk & Wagnalls and Webster’s Dictionaries say that a gourmet is “a connoisseur of good food and drink”.

More updated Wikipedia says a gourmet is “a person with defined or discriminating taste or one who is knowledgeable in the art of food and food preparation.”  In ancient France where the word originated, it was said that ” A gourmet makes a meal beautiful, tasteful and memorable“.

My favorite definition is also from Wikipedia, “gourmet is a cultural idea associated with culinary arts of fine food and wine – which is characterized by elaborate preparation and presentations of large meals of small, often quite rich courses.”

Several food sites boast their gourmet services as “stylish and carefully decorated with artistic flare.”

OK, I’ve got it -take this test and if you can answer these questions with “yes”, you are a gourmet!

1. Do you know how to properly pronounce “gourmet”?

2. Do you prefer some wines over others?

3. Can you tell when your dinner has been prepared especially for you?

4. Are you impressed when your dinner looks as good as it tastes?

5. Can you remember where and when you had a really fine meal?

6. Can you taste and smell the difference in many herbs and spices?

7. Do you know how to prepare and serve a special dish that receives compliments?

8. If you were dining in a fine restaurant, would you ask what the house specialty is?

9.  Do you collect cookbooks?

10. Do you know fine food when you taste it?

If you answered “Yes” to 8 or 10 questions, you’re a “GOURMET”!  Congratulations!

My Fiestaware Collection

Published on October 8th, 2009no comments

FiestawareMy collection of Fiestaware has grown from only a few plates in 1968 to 62 place-settings today, plus many serving pieces I’ve acquired over the years.  The sellers of  an old house I purchased years ago left a few plates in the cupboard and I immediately became hooked on the stunning beauty of the design, how durable it is and how creative my tabletops became when they were set with Fiestaware.

These brightly-colored pieces are sought after by collectors all over the world.  The prices always seemed expensive to me, but my Grandmother always said, “If you really want something bad enough, you’ve got to be willing to pay the price”.  She remembered when Fiestaware first came on the market in 1936, she bought some pieces in Woolworth and she used them until she died.  She told me about the Homer Laughlin Pottery Company where Fiestaware was made and how it became the most popular American dinnerware that was ever created.

The best buy I’ve ever read about, and my Grandmother remembers it, was offered in 1942.  It was a 7-piece juice set that included a pitcher and 6 tumblers and it sold for $1.00 – the entire set!  Look at my picture above, the juice pitcher sits proudly on top of some of my original dinner plates.  My most valuable piece is also pictured.  Can you guess which one it is?    The red color is the most valuable color in the photo; it was discontinued during World War II because the government needed the uranium used to make the red glaze.

If you’d like to learn more about collecting Fiestaware, there are several books available about collecting  and pricing in today’s market.  I was astonished to find how many pieces are available on the internet, but it would be difficult for me to buy “the real thing” without caressing it in my own hands first.

The tiny turquoise mustard jar nestled between the salt shaker and the marmalade jar is my finest, most valuable piece.  It’s in like-new condition and I’ve never used it for mustard, too bad in a way.  I paid $95.00 for it in 1974, which was a good price at that time.  If you collect Fiestaware, I’d like to hear about your collection.  As you follow my blog, you’ll see many photos using pieces from my Fiestaware collection, keep watching for them.

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