Tamara

|Tamara Lukens

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Mote Pata: Ecuadorian Pork, Hominy and Peanut Soup

By |February 22nd, 2012|

Mote pata: I call this the Ecuadorian pozole – without the peppers.  And thicker.  Mote pata is a soup traditionally served during Carnaval in Cuenca, the third largest city in Ecuador.  Now, Carnaval in Ecuador is quite different from Carnaval in Brazil.  Different regions in Ecuador have different ways of celebrating it.  For instance, in Guayaquil (where I’m from) we have the tradition of throwing balloons full of water at people.  When you’re a kid, this is tons of fun.  You can get together with your friends and have an awesome water balloon fight.  When you’re a professional adult, walking down the street trying to get to work and suddenly you get whacked by a water balloon – notsomuch.  Not to mention that many times, the water balloon throwing was done several stories ABOVE the sidewalks.  Yeah, that hurts.  If balloons are not available, not to worry!  Just get a bucket, fill it with water and dump it on the innocent bystander.  ¡Carnavalazo!   That’s what it’s called…

The good thing is that, it is not like this all over the country.  For instance, in Ambato, a beautiful city located in the Ecuadorian Andes region, people celebrate Carnaval through a festival dedicated to celebrate the flowers and the fruits of the region.  This celebration is known as La Fiesta de las Flores y Las Frutas.  Think of it as the Ecuadorian Rose Parade for Carnaval.  People dress up in festive and colorful costumes, and ride floats decorated with beautiful and bright flowers and fruits.  It is typical that during Carnaval in Ambato, people feast on some delicious Llapingacho, probably one of my favorite Ecuadorian meals.

Now, back to the Mote Pata.  Although the name would suggest that there are feet or hocks involved (pata), this is not true.  This soup is made of hominy and pork, with a hint of peanuts for creaminess.  As with many Ecuadorian soups, mote pata contains milk.  After experimenting, I am going to tell you that milk is optional.  While milk helps the soup thicken, if it gets too hot, it curdles and I am not a fan.  Instead, we will puree some of the hominy with the peanut (I used peanut butter), which will then add the thickness and creaminess this soup calls for.  Should you wish to add the milk, add it right before serving and cook in low heat for 5 minutes.

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Tamales de Col y Espinacas: Cabbage and Spinach Tamales

By |February 16th, 2012|

In Ecuador, some of our tamales are made using banana leaves instead of corn husks, similar to what our fellow Puerto Ricans call pastelitos.  I love cooking with banana leaves because they infuse a sweet flavor into whatever you fill them with.  Banana leaves also make a great container – no need for a plate with this one.   Although my favorite banana leaf-contained food is ayacas de papa, this tamal de col y espinacas is a close second.  I warn you that when you go back to see the ayaca recipe, the pictures may scare you, but the recipe is awesome!

This tamal is more like a souffle because we separate the eggs, and beat the whites into a meringue, which are folded into the rest of our mixture towards the end of the preparation.  You can serve this tamal with some aji criollo, some encurtido, or both.  And if you are looking for something without any meat involved, I got your tamal right here!

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Niños Envueltos: Meat and Rice in Cabbage Rollups

By |February 10th, 2012|

Niños Envueltos – now THAT is a name for a dish.  Niños Envueltos  literally means “Wrapped Children”.  Why?  I don’t know.  It is one of those things I have no reasonable explanation for.  The one thing I do know is that these cabbage rollups are delicious.  It is like the Ecuadorian version of a spring roll.  And it goes really good dipped in sambal olek.  ¡Olé-k!

When I was little and my nana used to make niños envueltos, I wasn’t fond of the cabbage leaf of course.  I mean, are you surprised?  You already know how much I hated vegetables growing up.  I used to open up the cabbage roll, eat all the contents and leave the cabbage leaf on the plate.  I don’t do that now.  I love food in edible containers.

Making the niños envueltos is very easy.  The one thing we really need to focus here is on getting some good, large and whole cabbage leaves.  My cabbage, unfortunately was rather on the small side, so I had quite a bit of filling leftover.  To prep the leaves, remove the hardest part of the vein in the leaves by making an inverted “V” incision at the bottom of each leaf.  To make them pliable, blanche them in hot water for a couple of minutes.  The filling is really easy and it is made from a combination of ground beef and pork (but you are more than welcome to use ground turkey or veal, or any other ground meat of your choice), cooked in a mirepoix mixture (celery, carrots and onions), plus some green onions and some cilantro.  I like serving it with some Sriracha or some sambal olek, just like I do with my spring rolls.  Let’s channel our inner Hansel and Gretel witch character, and prep the children so we can wrap ’em and eat ’em.

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Canelazo

By |February 8th, 2012|

How do you warm up when it is cold outside?  Common remedies include sitting by the fire place, having some hot chocolate, or a warm soup.  Today I bring you something even more awesome:  Canelazo.  Canelazos are Ecuador’s answer to Hot Toddys.  While more common in the Andes, this delicious party drink is […]

Pineapple and Cranberry Chutney

By |February 1st, 2012|

We’ve made Colada Quaker and Colada Morada using the rinds and the hearts of pineapples, but what do you do with the actual pineapple?!  I suppose you can eat it plain, as it is – something I can’t do because I can’t stomach pineapple by itself.  So, instead of letting that pineapple left over from the Colada Quaker go to waste, I decided to make a chutney.  Having the pineapple drowned in other flavors and fruits makes it easier to eat.  Not to mention, delicious!

Chances are you have some frozen cranberries left over from the holidays; I normally buy a few bags when they go on sale once Christmas is over.  The rest of the ingredients are ones you most likely already have in your pantry.  To add a bit of interest to this chutney, I threw in a green chili, halved – seeds and all.  This will give this chutney a bit of a kick.

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