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Posts Tagged ‘Cuisine’

Learn Panamanian Market Cuisine

Written on April 11th, 2010 by no shouts

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, you may call Cora at 6614-9514 or comment on this blog.

Why Buy Fifty Pounds of Carrots?

Written on April 1st, 2010 by 2 shouts

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!

Building My Gourmet Kitchen

Written on March 27th, 2010 by 7 shouts

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,

Taste is First at Boquete’s New Oasis

Written on February 8th, 2010 by 2 shouts

Right in the middle of Boquete, just across the new bridge, I found a lovely “new” restaurant, El Oasis. The tasty dinner I ordered, boneless leg of lamb, garlic mashed potatoes and ratatouille, was outstanding.

Usually, I tell about the restaurant first and show you the entrance, but the food at El Oasis was so unexpected, I just had to talk about it first.

The presentation of this unusual cut of tender lamb was colorful, the taste was fresh and the intriguing flavors mixed to make a most memorable dining experience.

The reputation of El Oasis is growing fast as folks come from Panama City and parts far and wide to taste Chef Belisario Torres’ creative and delectable offerings.

I used the word “new” in my title because the owner, Anayansi Menendez has just completed a new addition to the restaurant, which allows for 12 more diners. There are designer walkways along the river’s edge and the parking facilities have been improved. The decor is simple, yet elegant. Two fireplaces provide a warm, cozy atmosphere, the music was subtle and the expansive windows open onto lovely mountain views just outside.  This is ambiance at its finest.

Two days later, I returned to El Oasis with friends and ordered the local smoked trout.  The result was the same, as it was the best local fish I’ve had anywhere. The dinners were beautifully and graciously presented by server Carlisto, and everyone totally enjoyed their various dishes.

If this type of fine dining continues to be offered there, El Oasis will surely become one of the highest rated dining establishments in town. This photo shows the front entrance of El Oasis Hotel and Restaurant. To enter the restaurant, go below and around the back.

My final thought upon reflecting on my dining experiences at El Oasis was the price, which is $10-12 per entree.  I’ll return over and over again. Next time, I’ll try Chef Belisario’s filet mignon, accompanied with a favorite wine, Trivento Reserve Malbec, 2007 from Argentina.

Salud, Cora

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