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.