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.  **


Hominy Hummus-like Dip

By |April 23rd, 2012|

I love hummus as a quick snack.  Sometimes it’s all I eat for lunch – hummus with some chips and baby carrots.  It usually happens after realizing I punished a whole 8-ounce beef burger and fries plus two beers the night before.  Back in Jersey, this would happen at The Lighthorse Tavern.  These days, it happens either at The Porter or at The Vortex.

Last week, I wanted to make a hummus-like dip that would incorporate something traditional of Ecuador.  Mote, AKA hominy came to mind.  Once I made it, I called it Mote Hummus.  Then, I realized that it cannot be hummus, because hummus is garbanzo-based, and in this dip, I replaced the garbanzo beans for the hominy.  Calling it hummus is just plain wrong, I realized.  I realize a lot of things these days.  Like how I just realized I used the word “realize” too often.
Things I’ve Realized

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.


Rosquitas de Mantequilla: Butter Wreath Tea Biscuits

By |March 21st, 2012|

I made these little rosquitas de mantequilla last week because I had a hankering for a snack and wanted something crumbly, something relatively crispy.  I could’ve eaten crackers, but it really wasn’t what I was looking for.  And for some reason, I recalled a type of rosquitas I used to eat back in Ecuador – a kind you could buy on the streets.  Those rosquitas were quite crispy and on the salty/savory side, and street vendors used to sell them in these little plastic baggies which held about ten little rosquitas.  I can’t remember how much they were, but I remember paying Sucres for them.  For those who don’t know or are too young to remember, Ecuador used to have their own currency back in the day, and it was called Sucre.  Oh boy, am I dating myself…

Although these rosquitas weren’t like the ones I used to buy on the street, they will satisfy that 4 o’clock nibble time – just in time for tea.  These rosquitas reminded me more of a cross between an empanada dough and a pie crust – the best of both worlds!