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Tabuli Salad for Better Health

Written on August 11th, 2011 by corakentno shouts

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.


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!


Mixing Fine Foods with Pure Silk

Written on July 28th, 2011 by corakentno shouts

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???

What Do You Mean “Thai Food”?

Written on July 25th, 2011 by corakentno shouts

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!

Panama’s Abundant Harvest

Written on July 17th, 2011 by corakentno shouts

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!

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