Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Traigo a casa Guatemala

Leaving Guatemala, I knew I would miss so much about the home I had made for myself: my friends, my job, the rides on the chicken bus, awakening to the smell of burning garbage and the crow of the rooster (yeah the last two not so much). The end of my Guatemalan culinary journey was one of the things I knew I would miss the most. As I had boasted in my previous post, living in Xela provided me the opportunity to cook and eat fresh, local, in season, and a great variety of foods. Living next door to a market didn't hurt things either. Although I missed certain products like quinoa and soba noodles, it was a fun and exciting challenge to work within the local products readily available. I was, in part, excited to return to the fancy foods like quinoa (which I have already enjoyed a few times being back in the States) , I miss meandering the stalls of Mercado Flores and haggling for tomatoes. Luckily, a Pete's Produce Market opened very close to my mom's house which has many Mexican items typically found in Guatemala. I wanted to show my mom what comida tipica from Guatemala is. So I ran to Pete's Produce and grabbed some chayotes, yucca, and black beans.

I stewed the black beans with onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes then re-fried and blended them. I wanted it to be authentic, so I thought back to how I was served chayote in my host families and tried to repeat it.
I boiled the chayote and peeled it. I cut slices as thin as possible (which weren't very thin unfortunately). I sandwiched queso fresco between two slices, dipped it in an egg mixture, then pan fried it.
I really wasn't sure where to go with the yucca. I've enjoyed mashed yucca, yucca pan fried patties, and yucca fries. I started off by cubing then boiling them. I removed the stringy parts and then mashed it. The main issue was that it was pretty dry. I decided to form them into patties and throw them into the pan after I had fried the chayote. I felt it would have been better to leave it mashed and add some liquid, but it was still okay. I served the meal with some avocado.

The next morning I used the leftover beans to make a Guatemalan breakfast. I made an omelet with tomatoes and queso fresco. I pan fried some plantains which turned out to be very dry and tasteless.

While visiting my sister, the culinary school graduate, in Boston, I wanted to show off the new recipes I learned in Guatemala. I visited the Haymarket to buy some chayotes, yucca, and some spinach. I stewed the black beans with seasonings (cumin, paprika, red pepper flakes, s & p), tomatoes, and spinach. They were definitely the biggest hit on the plate with plenty of flavor. I decided to try something new with the chayote. I found this recipe which claims to be authentic from Guatemala. I followed the recipe pretty well except instead of using breadcrumbs I used crumbled matzo since my sister and her boyfriend were observing Passover.


I found the chayote difficult to mash thus I think it would have been better if I had blended the chayote before stuffing it.
Again I was befuddled on what to do with the yucca. I thought about making yucca fries but I didn't want it to be too greasy. All the pictures of baked yucca fries looked too dry. I figured I'd try to go my own way. I cubed, boiled, and de-stringed the yucca. I made a mojo de ajo (olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and lime juice). Again, it turned out dry and flavorless.

Bringing Guatemala home makes me miss my old home a little less. Although I cannot cook comida typica anywhere close to any Guatemalan, it was nice to show my mom and sister what I had eaten the last six months. I've decided chayote is not my vegetable. I hope they do not exist in Ecuador. However, I would really like to succeed with yucca. Any recipes or suggestions?

Coming up next....Guatemalan style tamales in banana leaves....wish me luck!