Caldo de Albóndigas de Carne y Plátano Verde: Plantain and lamb meatball soup

By |November 17th, 2011|

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I recently made this soup because it reminded me of an old *almost* favorite soup I used to eat back in Ecuador.  And I say, *almost* because this soup has cabbage.  I don’t like cabbage.  Well, I thought I didn’t like cabbage.  I didn’t like it when I was a little girl, and I made my nana puree the soup, otherwise I would not eat it.  Turns out, I do like cabbage, and I ate the heck out of this soup.

This recipe is adapted from this book I cannot live without, Comidas del Ecuador, by Michele O. Fried.  This soup is traditional from the province of Manabí, located on the coast of Ecuador, between the Guayas and Esmeraldas provinces.  I found it fascinating to make meatballs using plantains in a combination of cooked and raw, which reminded me of  bolones de verde (Warning: these old pictures of bolones de verde are unappetizing, but the bolones de verde ROCK!).  The soup I ate back home in Guayaquil had just regular meatballs, or albóndigas, made of ground beef, with no plantains.  For this soup, I decided to use ground lamb to give it a different flavor – more earthy, as well as brown the meatballs before cooking them in the broth so they would hold together.  A basic refrito is used as a base for the soup and for the meatballs.  With winter around the corner, this simple soup is a must.


Empanadas con Dulce de Zapallo y Chochos: Sweet Empanadas with Pumpkin and Lupini Beans Filling

By |November 14th, 2011|

I wanted to find a way to incorporate a bit of Ecuador into the holiday season I love so much and is now part of my life: Thanksgiving.  You see, in Ecuador we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving.  However, going to an American bilingual school in Ecuador exposed me to the Thanksgiving celebration via history lessons and re-enactments of the Mayflower arriving to the US coast.   In grade school we made turkey macaroni and dried beans art, dressed up like pilgrims and native American Indians, and ran around the school all Thursday long.  But once the school day ended, there was no concept of getting together as a family, being thankful for what we have, and gorging insane amounts of turkey and stuffing followed by a tryptophan-induced coma.  Yay for Thanksgiving!

So I figured, why not make an empanada?  Since the filling requires un zapallo bien maduro, AKA a sweet and ripe pumpkin, this was the perfect way to get it done.  This filling also has chochos (lupini beans), a bit of Frangelico, naranjilla pulp, brown sugar, lemon zest and allspice to round up the sweetness and spice, and give it an Ecuadorian flare.

Now, you’re probably thinking WHY in the WORLD would you add BEANS to a sweet pumpkin filling?!  Let me explain.  Chochos have a nutty flavor, and when incorporated into this filling they taste more like a slivered, blanched almond than an actual bean.  I think that if you are allergic to almonds/nuts, but love that crunchy texture that they have and give to a dessert, THIS is the way to go.  Also, I ended up with a greater filling to empanada ratio.  How about using this filling to top off some pancakes?  OR… IN the pancake mixture!  Or scoop some of this filling over some greek yogurt for a quick dessert?  Or grab a spoon and just eat it straight from the bowl!  The possibilities are endless…


Guaguas de Pan: Bread Babies

By |October 30th, 2011|

Bread babies! This sounds so weird and funny at the same time, but that is the literal translation for guaguas de pan.  By now, you already know the history behind the guaguas de pan, which play an important part of Ecuadorian culture.  I encourage to get the kiddos involved in shaping the guaguas de pan, and then decorating them with sugar icing.  It is a fun family activity.

I found this recipe for guaguas de pan among my numerous, old newspaper clippings I rescued when I visited my mom.  This recipe was sort of suspect because the directions on making the dough did not match the ingredients involved.  Since troubleshooting is part of my job, I’ll show you what I did to make these bread babies.  By the time we’re done, you will be channeling your inner Fat Bastard: “Well, listen up, sonny Jim: I ate a baby. Oh, aye, Baby: the other, other white meat. Baby: it’s what’s for dinner”. (source)


Colada o Mazamorra Morada de Maicena: Ecuadorian Corn Starch Purple Drink

By |October 26th, 2011|

There are two ways to make Colada Morada or Mazamorra as it is also known.  The first one, which is the traditional way, is using purple corn flour, or harina de maíz negro. The second one is to use cornstarch, or maicena.  It is easier to find cornstarch, and it is quicker.  For some history on Colada Morada, don’t forget to check my previous post on El Día de los Difuntos.

The challenge of making this drink lies primarily in the fruits that go into it: blueberries, blackberries and strawberries, NONE which are in season right now in the United States. While I try to be an advocate for seasonal produce, SANK GAWD for frozen fruit!  Some may think I’ve committed heresy by using frozen berries, but all in the name of tradition. This drink also has pineapples, which I had no problem finding at the grocery store, but frozen or canned can be used as well.  If using canned fruit, don’t use the syrup.

In an effort to adapt this recipe to avoid running around like a chicken with its head cut off, I made a few substitutions from the original recipe in terms of the aromatics used. You see, this Colada is very, VERY Ecuadorian, which means it uses a few ingredients that are native to our country.  These are naranjillas, which I’ve talked about before here; ishpingo (scientific name Ocotea quixos); and babaco.  Ishpingo is Quechua for Ecuadorian cinnamon tree.  This tree is only found in a small Amazonian region of Ecuador and Colombia.  In case you are wondering, ishpingo looks like this.  Babaco is essentially an Ecuadorian papaya. The good thing about babaco is that it’s optional. Phew!  Other things that could be tough to come by are orange leaves, myrtle sprigs and a type of lemongrass called hierba luisa.  I have included the original recipe as well as the tweaked one, which is as delicious as the real deal.  I think this makes a great year-round drink, and it will be awesome to drink cold during the summer.  I’m like Mighty Mouse, y’all!  Here I’ve come to save the daaaaayyyyy!!!


Fritada: Ecuadorian Pork Fry

By |October 14th, 2011|

Fritada is by far one of my most favorite Ecuadorian dishes in the entire world.  If you are a pork lover like me, I can guarantee you will agree with me.  Fritada is one of those meals that are a must on road trips to the Andes.

Fritada translates into “fried”, and fritada is traditionally with pork.  You will most likely know this dish as fritada de chancho, where chancho is pig, therefore it is a pork fry.  Got that?  My mind is filled with happy memories of eating fritada, because we always ate it when we visited Quito or Riobamba.  For my family and many Ecuadorian families, the most economical way of traveling and seeing the country is by car or bus.  When I traveled with my family, we packed the truck (yikes!), and headed from Guayaquil to Quito, which due to s-shaped, dirt and gravel roads along the mountainside meant it took eight hours to get there.  However, there was nothing more exciting than stopping at a small roadside huequito (hole in the wall restaurant), and eating some fritada while overlooking some magnificent waterfalls of la Sierra.

Turns out that making fritada is easier than I thought, but it takes some time.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since a lot of our meals are cooked low and slow.  For the fritada, you start by boiling the meat, and eventually the water cooks down to nothing, and you are left with the pork pieces.  These in turn will begin to render its fat, which results in crispy, golden pork nuggets.  Wow!  However, the pork is the least of our problems; it is the sides you decide to serve, which dictate the length of prep and cook time.  Traditional sides include hominy, habas (fava beans), yuca, corn on the cob, camote (sweet potatoes), sweet plantains, boiled potatoes and maíz tostado (toasted dry corn).  My favorite side for fritada (and the most traditional one) is mote, or hominy.  You can buy the canned stuff if you are pressed for time, but I like cooking it from scratch.  Here is the issue: the hominy needs to soak overnight, and cooked for 3-4 hours in order to achieve its soft texture and “popped-popcorn” appearance.  Pick your poison and choose what you want to do.  I won’t judge you for cutting corners being practical.