Seco de Borrego: Ecuadorian lamb stew

By |May 14th, 2012|

Along with goat, lamb is one of my favorite meats.  I am a huge, I mean H.U.G.E fan of Indian cuisine, and I always order a goat curry or a lamb vindaloo when we go out to eat.  That, and some naan bread.  And perhaps a samosa chaat to start.  Oh, and don’t forget the Masala dosa.  And the mango lassi.  Uh, yeah.  I LOVE Indian food.  Usually, I can’t move afterwards, but that’s neither here nor there.

Now, if I had to choose between and Indian stew or an Ecuadorian stew… Well, that’s a tough one.  I love both of them for different reasons.  I love the former for its heat and spice complexity, but I cherish the latter because it reminds me of home.

Recently, the folks over at Mountain States Rosen Company, a lamb and veal cooperation, contacted me to see if I would be interested in creating a recipe using one of their lamb products.  In the name of lamb love I said, YES!  And what better way to use lamb than in a traditional Ecuadorian stew, like a seco de borrego.

I’ve made seco de chivo (goat stew) before, but I wanted to try a different approach to making seco this time around.  The basics of the refrito didn’t change, but instead of using naranjilla juice which is traditional, I opted for using a light beer instead.  Although the flavor components are different, it is common to interchange these two ingredients in Ecuadorian secos.  The naranjilla juice or the beer help tenderize the meat and take away some of the gameyness goat and lamb have.  I also wanted to make the cooking process of the stew as effortless as possible, keeping in mind that many of us don’t have the time to oversee the stovetop for hours.  In order to solve this issue, I decided to use a crockpot.  The result was a rich and flavorful, oh-so-tender lamb stew, which goes perfect over a bed of yellow rice with some fried sweet plantains on the side.  Did I mention that the crockpot is one of my favorite tools as of late?  Now, ya know.

**  Mountain States Rosen provided the lamb sample to create this recipe.  The recipe and opinions are mine.  No monetary compensation was received for this posting.  Gracias.  **


Refrito Stewed Oxtail with Grits

By |April 16th, 2012|

El Señor Hubs and I are BIG fans of Cuban food.  Back in Jersey, we used to eat at this lonchería-style restaurant called Rumba’s, which served authentic Cuban food.  The food was homemade delicious at a great price.  Needless to say, we ate there at least twice a week.  Rumba’s was our saviour when we got home pooped-tired after 12 hours of work.


I think I just made a new phrase.

Anyway, one of my favorite dishes is the ubiquitous Rabo Encendido, which translates to “Tail on Fire”, as in Oxtail on Fire.  Weird, huh?  While the name would suggest this dish is spicy, it’s not the case.  In this aspect, Cuban cooking resembles Ecuadorian cooking.  Our food is not spicy.  Rabo encendido is oxtail cooked low and slow in a colorful combination of vegetables and liquids, which results in a very flavorful, fall-off-the-bone meat stew.  My mouth waters just thinking about it.

The low and slow cooking method is one used in Ecuadorian cooking and it many cuisines around the world.  It is certainly one of my favorite methods of cooking.  You can leave stuff on the stove or in the oven for a couple of hours or more, and do laundry, read a book, paint a picture, chase your dog around, etc.  Before you know it, dinner is ready.

I took some cues from the Cuban Rabo encendido, but I infused a traditional Ecuadorian refrito as a base for this oxtail stew.  I also incorporated the French cooking technique of the mirepoix and made a very flavorful base for the oxtail.  Beef stock and dry red wine round up the flavors, which result in a decadent stew.  My only complaint: I just wish oxtail had more meat.

What would you serve this saucy, oxtail stew with?  Well, traditional Cuban cuisine will suggest you serve rabo with some rice.  However, I wanted to incorporate a bit of my “new home” into this dish.  So what do you eat while in the South?  Grits!  Grits makes a great side to this meal because it helps up soak up all the juices from the stew.  I made these grits using some refrito to tie the meal together.  There is enough flavor in the grits, but it doesn’t overpower the oxtail.

The pictures in this post do not make justice to how flavorful this meal is.  You see, by the time I got to serve and take pictures, I was losing natural light.

And we were starving.

And in a hurry to eat.

Screw the pictures.

I encourage you to make this over the weekend; your palate will thank you profusely.


Fanesca: Ecuadorian Easter Soup

By |April 3rd, 2012|

Fanesca is a traditional Ecuadorian soup eaten during the Cuaresma period (Lent) and Semana Santa (Holy Week/Easter).  The Fanesca is made with 12 legume/vegetable ingredients, and each Ecuadorian family has their own way of making it.  These 12 ingredients are grains grown in Ecuador and include: choclo tierno (corn), habas (lima beans), frijoles rojos (red kidney beans), frijoles blancos (white beans), alverjitas (green peas), chochos (lupini beans), lentejas (lentils), mote (hominy), maní (peanuts), mellocos (a small Ecuadorian potato),  zapallo and zambo (varieties of squashes, like pumpkin, yellow squash, butternut squash, etc.).  Additionally, this soup contains bacalao (salted cod), cooked rice and has a milk base.

The specific origins of the Fanesca are not clear, although it is said that it originated during Colonial times.  The 12 legume/vegetable ingredients symbolize the 12 Apostles, although it is also said they symbolize The 12 Tribes of Israel, while the fish represents Our Savior Jesus Christ.  Recall that during this time of the year, devout Catholic Christians don’t eat red meat, hence the use of fish in this soup.  Also, during Lent it is common for many people to fast, so when Fanesca time comes around, eating a big, hearty soup is welcomed.


Butternut Squash and Turkey Lasagna

By |March 13th, 2012|

Going to the grocery store starving hungry is never a good thing.  I know this, yet I do it.  However, sometimes this hunger ignites the food awesomeness creativity in my brain, and I come up with food ideas.  We taste test them, and then I share them with you.  This is the case of this butternut squash and turkey lasagna.  Having gone hungry to the store ended up not being a bad thing.

Last week I was walking down the pasta aisle and I noticed a jar of butternut squash sauce for about $8.00.  I read the ingredients on the back of the label, and I figured I could absolutely make the sauce myself for maybe half of that (I don’t have the dollar breakdown – sorry!), and get much joy in doing so.  Additionally, it gave me another excuse to use my brand new toy – the Blendtec.  I love love LOVE my new Blendtec blender! We’ve been making lots of fruit and vegetable juices to increase our intake of vegetables on a daily basis.

As you know, lasagnas are a bit time consuming, but they are not hard to make.  Using no boil noodles makes the process easier.   I’ve made lasagna before here.  But when I look a the pictures, even though it is a tasty lasagna, it looks rather skinny and puny.  So this time around I wanted a lasagna thick and with lots of layers.  I did a layer of turkey, a layer of butternut squash sauce, a layer of cheeses, with noodles in between.  Thick.  Divine.  Flavorful.  Different.  The butternut squash, the turkey and the cheeses are a great combination.  The sauce is sweet, thick and creamy; the turkey takes on the flavors it is surrounded with, and the cheeses gives add more creaminess and compliments the rest of the ingredients adding the savory flavor to it.  If the acidity of a regular tomato marinara sauce plays tricks on your stomach, try this lasagna instead.  Make this lasagna tonight!


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Cocido de Albóndigas con Verduras: Meatball and Vegetables Stew

By |March 5th, 2012|

So last week, El Señor Hubs calls me from the airport as he was waiting to board the plane to come home.

“What’s for dinner?”

“Cocido de albóndigas with some rice and patacones.”


“It’s essentially a meatball stew.  I’m serving it with rice and some fried plantains.”

“Oh, OK.  Cool.  See you in a couple of hours.”

“OK.  Have a safe flight.  I love you.”

“I love you too.”

I always say ‘have a safe flight’ every time El Señor Hubs travels.  I always pray he gets home in one piece.  I do this knowing that there is little he can do about his safety while in flight.  He is neither a pilot nor a mechanic.  So naturally, it makes little sense that he can do anything to ensure the safety of a plane; yet, I find great comfort in saying this.

I digress.

What El Señor Hubs didn’t know about dinner was that said cocido had vegetables.  No big deal.  Well, kind of.  Among the vegetables, this cocido has peas.  And if there is ONE thing you should know about El Señor Hubs is that he hates peas.  I mean: He.HATES.PEAS.  And I made this knowing he hates peas.  Why?  Because I LIKE peas.  AND, this one one of my favorite meals growing up.   Well, aside from the peas, the rest of the vegetables were sort of an issue for me.  As you know, I hated vegetables.  Especially carrots.  And don’t get me started on the green beans.  Darn vainitas!  Celery not so much.   So, if the thought of eating softened vegetables makes you queasy in your stomach, I suggest you puree them like my nana used to do.  It was the only way she would get me to eat vegetables.  In hindsight, I should’ve done the same for El Señor Hubs.

Once home, and I served this to him, the first words that came out of El Señor Hubs mouth were: “PEAS?!?!?!  WHY did you put peas?”  I laughed.  And it was kind of an evil laugh.  And then I said, “Deal with it.”  Because this is one of the ways I show him my unconditional love.

With his fork, he proceeded to separate the vegetables from the meatballs, and then he separated the peas from the rest of the vegetables.  Then, he asked for a spoon.  With said spoon, he shoved the peas in his mouth as fast as he could, his face twisting into this painful grimace.  I laughed.

“Don’t EVER put peas in my food again.”

I have been warned.  But I enjoyed the sight.  Yes, I was mean.  But I got him to eat vegetables.

I promise you though, this dish is delicious.  Although I suppose you must like peas.  Don’t grimace.