Recipe: "Colombian" Coke-Glazed Cocktail Sausages

I first tried these suprisingly delicious sausages last summer when my neice and nephew were in Bogotá for a visit. We were only going to test the recipe and try a few - the rest were going to be saved for later, but they were so damn good that we scarfed them down in less than 10 minutes.

It's a really simple recipe that we found in a cookbook of Colombian recipes. According to the author, the recipe is from the coastal region of the country, but I have always heard of several other recipes using Coke including cakes and ham glazes from the U.S., U.K., and even Thailand. Really, I think recipes with Coke as an ingredient can be considered a part of global cuisine.

Some people find it offensive to even consider using Coke as an ingredient but for a product that has become so imensely popular throughout the world, well, that is how cuisine is formed. You borrow, experiment, taste, think, and ultimately a product once thought of as only a beverage can become a common ingredient.

Like tomatoes! The love apple was once thought to be poisonous, then an aphrodisiac, and now? A kitchen staple all over the world. I know it is a stretch to compare a naturally growing fruit to a product made up of refined sugars and carbonated water, but it's basically the same thing.

So, don't diss cooking with Coke. It's good and these sausages are too.

P.S. Drink Coke responsibly - all things in moderation, people...

Coke Glazed Cocktail Sausages

25-30 cocktail sausages
2 cups regular coca-cola

Prick each sausage with a fork then place in a pot with the Coke. Boil, uncovered, over medium to high heat for about 45-50 minutes or until liquid has evaporated and the remaining syrup coats the sausages. Allow the sausages to cool slighty then try not to eat them all in one sitting.


KIMAYA Purple Corn Drink

The other day I was faced with a tough decision: Coke or Kimaya. I chose Kimaya because after I read the flyer I realized that I had found the fountain of youth...no, not really, but they certainly claim that the drink is good for just about everything - it lowers cholesterol, it's anti-ageing, rich in vitamin C, calcium, and the list goes on and on...

The drink was actually quite good. It's sweetened with just enough cane sugar and tastes like fruit juice, kind of. I can't say it tastes like corn, or more specifically purple or blue corn, but it was nice and refreshing. So far the drink, which is made in Colombia, is only available at this one place - YdeYuca at the Codabas market in the northern part of Bogotá. It's worth the trip to check out the produce market and shops and then  feast on the best carimañolas in town and a Kimaya.

Cra. 7 No. 180 – 75


Abasto Restaurant in Usaquen

Recently we tried a new restaurant - not new to Bogotá but new to us. We usually end up at the same old favorites but this time we decided to be a little more adventurous.

This time we headed over to Usaquen. This part of Bogotá used to be considered outside the city limits a long time ago, but the city has grown so much that now it's right in the middle of it all. Despite the fact that sprawl has managed to swallow it whole, the area retains a really quaint feeling. A lot of the architecture remains in tact, there is a weekend flea market that is generally a bit more "up scale" than the one downtown, and you can stroll through the streets, some of which are still cobblestone.  Usaquen, in other words, is really nice. I love it and even moreso now that there are so many restaurants popping up.

One of them is called Abasto (the name refers to pantry provisions) - this place has a changing menu and the idea is that they use only the freshest available ingredients found at the markets every morning. They don't try to be pretentious or anything - it's just good, simple food.

The decor is warm and cozy, the kitchen is open, there's a fireplace in the middle section, and all the way in the back is a little shop/pantry. They stock everything from fresh produce to sea salt from La Guajira, locally made cheese and a whole bunch of goodies (including agave nectar which I had never seen anywhere in Bogotá before).

We started with some empanadas, made in-house. The filling was cheese, mole, and chicken. They were quite good - nothing out of this world - but yummy, served with an avocado puree instead of the traditional ají.

As a main I had Penne with Calamari, Chorizo and Fresh Tomatoes. Very homey dish but the flavor of the chorizo was awesome. Really nice combination of flavors and something you could easily whip up at home.

I apologize for the pictures - I know they look less than appetizing, first due to the Blackberry camera and second because the presentation isn't really their forte - I guess it's part of their "charm".

The other main we tried was a very simple seared salmon with a side of roasted mini-potatoes (pastusa and criolla varieties) with thyme and olive oil and a minty chimichurri sauce. Again, like my dish it was simple, nothing extravagant, but the flavors were all fresh and stood out for what they were.

On a side note: my dining partner and beau is in the learning process when it comes to some foods so when I identified the stem in his potatoes as thyme (tomillo in spanish) he ate it. Yes, he ate the twig...haha...we've got some more learning to do.

Well, by the time we finished eating, twigs and all, we had no room for dessert but I will be back for that another day. They had some nice sounding ones including a chocolate torte that I had read about in a review somewhere.

Cra 6 . # 119b - 52



Gastronomía @ Corferias

So, yesterday I went to the Gastronomía event and ate a whole lot. Unfortunately I don't have much of a knack for photography so I didn't take a single picture....I know, I know, there's no excuse.

But anyways, here is a quick recap of what was eaten at the Local Cuisine pavilion:
Arepa de Chocolo (sweet, yellow corn cake with cheese)
Longaniza from Sutamarchan
+ the rest of the goodies from a picada like papa criolla, morcilla, chicharron, ripe plantain, etc.
Tangerine juice

We were so full after this first stop that we didn't have room for much more even though we still had the International Cuisine pavilion left to visit. An espresso from Amor Perfecto was nice and strong with a beautiful crema and finally, dessert from the 14 Inkas stand (a Peruvian restaurant in Bogotá) called Bananarequipe - or something like that. It was an excellent combination of a banana mousse with arequipe  and little pieces of cake that had been moistened by the other ingredients. I wanted to have a second course of dessert but they had sold out of merengón!!! I will post on this exquisite dessert soon because I was left with a serious craving.

All in all it was a nice fair. There didn't seem to be a lot of people but maybe that was due to the fact that this weekend is a holiday and the weather hasn't been so great. There were a number of cooking competitions and demonstrations, barista competitions, and a few amusing infomercial kind of stands selling knives, pans, and mandolines.

On a side note, some culinary students from the SENA (government funded educational program) created a dessert called "Postre de la Pasión" whose ingredients include passion fruit and Viagra - yes, that Viagra. According to this article , the students received some guidance from a doctor while they were developing the dessert. I don't know if Passion or Prescription would be a more apt name for this dessert/concoction.


The Easiest Lime Dessert

If you need a dessert on the fly, then look no further - this is it. This very citrusy mousse-like dessert is delicious and simple. I also made a quick mint syrup to go with it and it cuts the tart citrus flavor very nicely.

Lime Dessert
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 cup whipping cream
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Place the lime juice, cream, and condensed milk in a blender on high for 6-10 minutes, scraping down the sides once or twice.

Pour into small ramekins or wine glasses, cover, and refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours.

Mint Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 cups mint leaves, blanched

Blanch the mint leaves (about 30 seconds in boiling water) then transfer to ice cold water to stop cooking process. Drain and set aside.

Place the sugar and water in a small pan and bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar. Allow the syrup to cool down then place in a blender with the blanched mint leaves and process on high. Strain the mixture using a fine sieve.

Serve the lime dessert chilled with the mint syrup on the side.


Pepino Melon: Uninspiring Exotic Fruit

This is called a pepino melon. It's a fruit native to the Andes and I was told to eat it like any other fruit. You peel it, slice it, and enjoy...

I'm not going to lie - it's not delicious. It's not sweet like a fruit and it tastes a bit more like cucumber but with the soft, watery texture of a melon. It might be a different variety altogether though because all the pictures I found online showed round fruit - not elongated like this one. Who knows?

Either way I don't think I'll buy it again unless I bump my head and forget I've already tried it once. With so many amazing fruits in Colombia, this one doesn't stand a chance...

Here's a link FYI: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solanum_muricatum


Guaromelon shots @ 1/4 de Arte

Aguardiente is a very potent and equally popular sugar cane-based liquor here in Colombia. It's never been a favorite drink of mine but everyone else seems to love it. Its super sweet, anise-flavor usually turns me off but last night my friend Nick, bartender extraordinaire, served us a delicious shot: the fantastically named GUAROMELON (like watermelon, in case you're still scratching your head). "Guaro" is short for aguardiente...

It tastes like watermelon, of course, and the anise flavor of the aguardiente blends in perfectly. I'm not going to reveal the recipe (although if you know anything about bartending you'll be able to figure it out), but  instead I'll just encourage you to go to 1/4 de Arte (a.k.a. Nick's bar) and try one, two, three, or four for yourself.

The place is half art gallery featuring the work of young Colombian artists and half bar which always has good music, a great host (Nick), and some very tasty cocktails and shots. And if you're hungry you can even order a full meal or just nibbles from a couple of restaurants nearby.

Oh and I almost forgot the bathroom! Yes, they have two bathrooms in fact, but one is more fun than the other. The walls are painted like a chalk board and there's a bowl full of chalk, so you can scribble graffiti all over the walls and leave clever little message and drawings for your friends. As you can imagine, this becomes a lot more entertaining after a few guaromelon shots...

1/4 de Arte (Zona T)
Carrera 12 # 83-61


Gastronomía Food Fair at Corferias - November 11, 2009

Blogging doesn't just give me an excuse to procrastinate endlessly - tinkering with this little blog nearly all day - I can also share some interesting things with people who end up at Bogotá Eats.  For example:

I've set up an event reminder for GASTRONOMÍA at Corferias here in Bogotá (see column to your right). If you live in Bogotá or you might be here around mid-November then you should definitely check it out. I went last year and ate a lot.

Several pavilions are used to showcase different foods, beverages, and cooking accessories made in Colombia. All the culinary schools are present and there are a variety of cooking competitions and demonstrations throughout the day.

There are also tons of stalls with all kinds of food from around the country. It's like eating heaven but it makes lunch one of the hardest decisions you'll make all year.


Cuy = Guinea Pig = Lunch?

As of yet, I haven't had the pleasure of eating cuy (guinea pig). I saw them being roasted at a food festival earlier this year - a  whole "litter", if you will, skewered onto a revolving spit-like contraption - kind of a like a ferris wheel for when you plan on having your pets for lunch.

Well, today Bubba traveled to Pasto, Nariño,  in the south-western tip of Colombia. Cuy is a delicacy there, as it is in many Andean countries  like Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia - so naturally he ate one.

"The skin is crispy like lechona and the inside is kind of like chicken but more slimy." (eeewww, is all I have to say).

As you can see in the picture they leave on the head and everything, making it very difficult to forget what you are actually eating. Plus, before they bring you the main dish (pictured), you are served up the cuy liver, to open your appetite, of course.

As unappetizing as all this sounds I do plan on trying cuy at least once in my lifetime. I have eaten the largest rodent on Earth and I'll eat this little domesticated one someday too...sure am looking forward to it - I think.

Above, we have a close-up of the head, jaw wide open. This picture alone is making me think twice about eating cuy.

And here we have a picture of the fine establishment where the cuy was eaten - don't forget to write down the name for your next trip to Pasto!!!


Making Homemade Arepas

Venezuela always seems to get the credit for arepas, but as far as I'm concerned, they're Colombian too. Historically speaking the arepa was probably being consumed in and around the Andean region before either of these countries were even formed, so no one can truly claim them as their own - I guess that means we'll just leave it at that.

Up until today I'd been buying pre-made arepas in the supermarket. Brands like Don Maiz, Delicias del Maiz, and La Bumanguesa are all pretty good, plus there is a lot of variety available (white corn, yellow corn, with cheese, super thin, thick, with or without salt, etc.).

But on my last trip to the supermarket I decided that I should start making my own. Instead of buying a bag of arepas, I brought home a bag of white cornmeal and this morning for breakfast I made the dough and shaped 6 little arepas. I cooked one to go with my fried egg and refrigerated the rest for snacks throughout the week.

The easiest way to make homemade arepas is to buy a bag of P.A.N. pre-cooked white cornmeal. All you have to do is add water and salt, then you shape them, cook them, and you're done.

I think the most time consuming part of the whole process is making the patties. They don't have to be perfect (kinda like mine) but what is important is a consistent thickness so that they cook evenly. It's pretty simple:

Homemade Arepas
Yields 6 patties

1 1/4 cup luke warm water
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 cup P.A.N. white cornmeal

Place the water  and salt in a bowl and stir to dissolve. Add the cornmeal and begin to mix with a fork. Once most of the water has been absorbed, start mixing with your hand until a slightly tacky dough forms.

Let the dough rest for a few minutes then get to it...

Take a handful of dough and start shaping patties - avoid cracked edges and try not to make them any thicker than 1/4 of an inch.

Place the arepas on a hot, lightly greased skillet and cook until they start to turn golden brown (about 8 minutes) then carefully flip over and repeat on the other side.

Once both sides are a little crisp and golden they should be done. Tap the arepa and it should sound slightly hollow.

Some Notes:

  • If you are making several arepas then have your oven preheated to keep them warm while you cook the rest.
  • If you want to make more arepas you can just double the recipe without any problem.
  • To make cheesy arepas, grate some cheese and add it to the dough before cooking. Another alternative is to sandwich some cheese inside the dough and seal the edges.
  • You can shape the patties and store them in the fridge for a couple of days. That way you'll have arepas ready to throw on the skillet for breakfast or an afternoon snack.
  • In Colombia, arepas are usually served with butter and salt or fresh cheese. I also like them topped with cream cheese.
  • I've never been to Venezuela but from what I gather, one major difference is that they tend to split their arepas in half and smear the inside with butter or cheese or fill them to make a kind of sanwich. Colombian arepas are usually too thin or full of cheese to split in half...

Have you ever made your own arepas? How did it go?

How do you spell cilantro?

This blog is pretty funny with its pictures of food market typos from around NYC.


Guanabana (Sour Sop) Sweets

Bubba got a cool job that requires occasional traveling and on his last trip he brought me some guanabana sweets from this quaint little shop outside of Roldanillo, Valle del Cauca.

Wikipedia does a good job of describing the flavor of guanabana as, "...a combination of strawberry and pineapple with sour citrus flavor notes contrasting with an underlying creamy flavor reminiscent of coconut or banana."

Sounds delicious doesn't it? The citrus notes get a little lost in this candy version but I think I can identify a bit of strawberry and banana on the palate? Or maybe not. Either way they're mighty tasty...


Get Your Tamal at "La Puerta Falsa"

"La Puerta Falsa" is a tiny little restaurant located in La Candelaria - Bogotá's beautiful colonial sector. The building itself is around 400 years old but the restaurant opened its doors in 1816. Since then, the family run business has been serving traditional "santafereño" cuisine like tamales, hot chocolate, agua panela, and just a few other local specialties.

I had heard about this historical landmark and regional culinary hotspot for so long but never knew where it was located. It turns out that I had walked right by it on several occasions never even knowing it was there. The tiny, unassuming entrance just blends in with the centuries-old architecture.

The dish that makes "La Puerta Falsa" so famous is the tamal. Within Colombia you'll find that there are several varieties of tamal depending on what region you're in. Some of the typical components include cooked yellow corn dough (as a base), and then add-ons such as rice, chicken, pork, vegetables, capers, eggs, and much more. All of this is then wrapped in a banana leaf, tied up with some twine, and steamed.

So about a month ago, after visiting one of the wonderful museums in the area, I finally had my first visit. I didn't know exactly what or how to order so, on this occasion I took my dining partner's lead - a tamal (of course) and hot chocolate - a very typical combination here in Bogotá.

What I didn't realize was that the chocolate came accompanied by two slices of buttered bread, an almojabana, and a large slice of fresh cheese. I could have just had that for lunch and been fine but I still had a huge tamal coming too! It was all delicious and well worth it but next time I'll know to order either one or the other - but not BOTH!

In my opinion, La Puerta Falsa is a must if you happen to be in La Candelaria. The food is really good, plentiful, inexpensive, and the location is an important part of Bogotá's culinary heritage. Just don't forget to keep your eyes open so you don't miss it and make sure to bring a large appetite.

Buen Provecho!

La Puerta Falsa
Calle 11 no. 6-50


Chocafé Fudgy Cookies

Saturday September 19th was Día del Amor y la Amistad here in Colombia as well as in several other countries. That's basically the same as Valentine's Day - so, I thought it'd be nice to make some cookies for my beau.

The recipe was originally from an old Cooking Light magazine and my mother and I were drawn to it because in the picture they looked moist and chewy plus they sounded incredibly easy to make. They are in fact very easy to make and even easier to eat!

This time I decided to make an addition of coffee just for the sake of experimentation and to make them a little more "local", seeing as I am in Colombia after all. To my very pleasant surprise they were a success. Still moist and chewy but with an added depth of flavor.

Try them with or without the coffee - either way, they are delicious...

Chocafé Fudgy Cookies
Yields about 3 dozen

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons butter
7 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1/2 tablespoon instant coffee (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).

Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
Gently melt the butter in a medium saucepan, remove from heat and stir in the cocoa powder and both sugars. Dissolve the instant coffee in the yogurt (optional) and add to the mixture in the saucepan. Stir to combine. Add the flour mixture to saucepan and stir until thoroughly combined and moist.

Drop by 1 tablespoon onto a greased cookie sheet or silpat (about 2 inches apart) and bake for 8 minutes (don't overcook these or they will lose their chewy fudginess). Once removed from the oven, cool for 2-3 minutes then transfer cookies to a cooling rack.


My Menu Collection: or a mild case of kleptomania

One day about 10 years ago, Adam, my friend from culinary school, mentioned something about collecting restaurant menus and ever since then I thought it sounded like a pretty spiffy idea. Now, whenever I visit a new restaurant I try to take home one of their menus as a memento.

How do I get my hands on these menus? Well,  the average restaurant usually has an old menu or two lying around and if you ask nicely and bat your eyes, they'll let you go home with one. Others unfortunately are really protective of their menus and they leave you with very few options - lie, cheat, and steal.

As a result of this kind of unreasonable attitude I have had to pilfer (to steal stealthily in small amounts and often again and again) a menu or two. I don't feel too guilty and usually I don't act alone. In order to carry out my plan I usually have to enlist the help of a family member, a friend or a large coat. 

My collection now consists of about 68 menus from 5 continents - some are photocopies, some are take-out menus, some are originals, and all are full of yummy memories....


Here are some of my favorites, listed in no particular order (the ones marked with an asterisk are the menus pictured above and below...):


The Sala - Bangkok (Thai dinner and traditional dances)
Heichinrou - Hong Kong (first time I ate chicken feet)*
Formula One Paddock Club - Shanghai (my first F1 race)
Yong Foo Elite - Shanghai
Courtyard - Beijing (overlooking the Forbidden Palace)
Ying Chow - Adelaide's Chinatown
Bridgewater Mill - South Australian winery
Carnegie Deli - NYC
Tony Jr's - Philadelphia (Philly Cheesesteak)
Michy's - Miami*
Azul - Miami (worked here for one year)
Alegria on Sunset - L.A. (my first mole sauce)
YO! Sushi - London (my first conveyer belt sushi)
The Angel in the Fields Pub - London (my local pub)
Pizza Express - London, Hong Kong and Shanghai
Belgo Central - London (the place for mussels and frites)
Villandry - London (amazing food)
Wagamama - London (always a favorite)
Local - Bogotá (my coat was my accomplice here)
Wok - Bogotá
Los Arrieros - Camino Tunja, Colombia
Restaurant du Senat - Paris (culinary school field trip)
Le Clou - Strasbourg (an experience in dining alone)*
Izote de Patricia Quintana - Mexico City
Taquería El Califa - Mexico City (lots of taquitos al pastor)
Sushi Itto - Mexico City (soy sauce with chile toreado)


The Secret Life Of Veggies

Artist Margaret Dorfman uses everyday fruits and veggies to make these incredible works of art.

"Bogotá Vegetariana"

It's always seemed that being a vegetarian in such a meat and potatoes place like Colombia would be a bit tricky. Thanks to a tip from The City Paper I found a link to this site: Bogotá Vegetariana.

You won't believe how many vegetarian restaurants there are around town! Even if you aren't a vegetarian or are just trying to incorporate "Meatless Monday's" into your life, then this should serve as a pretty useful guide...

King-Size Chicken Feet Save the Day

The NY Times reports that although China has been threatening to cut off U.S. chicken imports, their taste for chicken feet won't ever let that actually happen. The article quotes Poultry economists and consultants (didn't know they existed) and sites other important factors in the ongoing trade issues between the U.S. and China.

The feet and wings of the chicken are delicacies in China and Hong Kong, so they will pay up to 80 cents a pound. Other markets tend to prefer white meat and don't pay more than a few cents for what I guess they would consider the "scraps".

Why are U.S. chicken feet so scrumptious? Well, chicken experts believe that because of North America's love of white meat and thus the breeding of chickens with abnormally large breasts, the chickens naturally develop large and robust feet - finger likin' good!

I ate chicken feet once in Hong Kong. The sauce they were in was pretty tasty, but they were really difficult to pick up with chopsticks and then the act of nibbling in between the bones and biting them off at the joints was a bit weird. You have to sort of suck off what little meat and sauce was on them, then spit out the little bones onto your plate.

I don't know if I'd order them again, but I am glad I tried them at least once...


Indian Restaurant Flor de Loto in Bogotá

Indian Restaurant Flor de Loto has been around for about 6 years but I only just "discovered" it a few months ago as I was walking down the street with my sister. I think our reaction went something like, "Does that sign say Indian restaurant!!??? Here? In Bogotá? OMG, we have to go!" 

I've always loved Indian food and even more so since I got to go there in 2007 but, I don't cook it very often because sometimes the list of ingredients just seems a little too overwhelming. However, if there is a chance to eat it already prepared, I am more than happy to indulge.

We learned from our waiter that Chef Pankaj Kunar prepares all the dishes himself and quite well, I might add. Everything we ate was great and I would definitely recommend it even if it wasn't the one and only Indian restaurant that I knew of in the city.

So here's what we ordered on our first visit: to start, Vegetable Samosas served with spicy mango sauce and cilantro chutney. For the main course we had Chicken Vindaloo, Lamb Rogan Josh, Mushroom Masala Curry, and Malai Kofta Curry (meatballs stuffed with raisins and almonds). Out of all four, the Malai Kofta Curry won - hands down. The flavors were incredible, the little meatballs were moist and tender...really good stuff.

To accompany all these delicacies we had a couple of baskets of delicious Indian breads like paratha, chapati and naan. And finally for dessert a typically sweet Gulab Jamun. I love this dessert because it kind of reminds me of mini buñuelos except that they are completely soaked through with an aromatic, spice-infused syrup (just sweet enough for a sweet-tooth like me!).

So, there it is. Great Indian cuisine in Bogotá. Flor de Loto, I am so happy to have found you.

Calle 90 # 17-31
Tel: 617-0142

Check out Flor de Loto's group page on Facebook....


Dining 101: How To Eat Like An Executive

How important is it for business men and women to know how to handle themselves at a dining table? 

Well, to me it's pretty important and I'm not even an executive. I am just someone who holds good manners in very high regard. I'm sure that at some point though, a dining faux pas or some heinous act that induced a gag reflex cost someone a raise, a promotion, or something.

Well, that's precisely why The Wall Street Journal recently reviewed a few online and DVD courses that are available to teach people some tips on dining etiquette. It's rather interesting that this kind of thing needs to be taught to adults but I'm pretty sure we've all been witnesses to some pretty revolting and/or just plain rude table manners.

So, I guess I shouldn't really question why some people never learned basic etiquette in the first place and just be thankful that there are people out there fighting the battle against bad manners.

An interesting read on the subject of the evolution of table manners is The Rituals of Dinner by Margaret Visser.

The Not-So-Argentinian Rice Salad

This rice salad recipe is definitely a family favorite and an all-around crowd pleaser. At a glance though, you'll see that there is absolutely nothing about it that really ties it to Argentinian cuisine...no beef, no chimichurri, no alfajores or empanadas? Nope. Nothing that screams Argentina.

So, why is it known in our family as the Argentinian Rice Salad? Well, because my parents tasted it in a restaurant in Buenos Aires a few decades ago. They loved it, replicated it, and baptized it so. That's the story.

The Argentinian Rice Salad qualifies as one of those go-to, "kitchen sink" recipes (pardon all the clichés) because you can sort of throw in any number of ingredients you have on hand in the pantry or fridge.

This is the basic idea for the recipe but like I said, you can substitute as much as you want for any other ingredients laying around. For example, fresh tomatoes, peas, tuna, bell peppers, cheese, shrimp...

Maybe the one thing I'd recommend is not tossing in more than, say, 5 or 6 ingredients. I have never tried it but I can just imagine that it would be a pretty busy dish. Keep it simple and delicious and you'll be right!

Argentinian Rice Salad
Serves 4-6

5 cups cooked rice, room temperature
1 cooked chicken breast half, shredded
1/3 cup ham, cubed
1/3 cup raisins
2/3 cup chopped celery
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup plain yoghurt
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
½ tablespoon curry powder

Combine the rice, chicken, ham, raisins, celery, and sun-dried tomatoes in a large bowl.

Separately, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, yoghurt, milk, salt, pepper, and curry until you have a thin yet creamy sauce.

Gradually add the sauce to the rice mixture and fold in gently. If salad dries out, add a tablespoon of milk at a time and stir in until moistened.

Best if prepared at least one hour before serving and served at room temperature.

The blog is back! With news of the Sydney International Food Festival • October 2009

Here's a link to a web site where you can take a look at the really creative Edible Food Flag publicity campaign for the Sydney Food Fest. Each country has its flag made with foods typical to that country's cuisine.

I'm going to make my own Colombian one this weekend. I have the yellow and red all figured out....but what to do about the blue?

Any suggestions?


TITOTÉ - Coconut Concentrate for Coconut Rice

Coconut rice is an intrinsic accompaniment in Colombian cuisine, particularly in the coastal regions of the country like Cartagena. A whole fried fish, for example, with a side of plantains and coconut rice is incredible. Traditionally though, the recipe requires briefly baking whole coconuts, cracking them open, extracting the juice, scraping, grating, frying.....simply put, it is not something you can just whip up. The part where the juice is extracted and then fried results in little brown bits of coconut that give the rice its color, flavor and a hint of coconut greasiness. It's hands down one of the most beautiful rice dishes on the planet.

Fortunately there is, and has been for a while, a product called Titoté (in writing this post I just realized that my family has been pronouncing this incorrectly for years - see, it has an accent (tilde) on the last "e"). In the little glass jars you will find the result of all the labor regularly put into making the coconut part of coconut rice: coconut concentrate. Once you have this essential part of the dish, making coconut rice is a breeze.

You can find Titoté in most supermarkets in Bogotá, like Carulla. I'm not too sure where else you can find it so I would suggest stocking up if you are here and taking it with you. This recipe was fine tuned by my mother and the result is a perfectly balanced coconut rice with just the perfect amount of sweet and salty. I love getting raisins in almost every bite, so I tend to use a heaping 1/2 cup of raisins.

TITOTÉ Arroz con Coco/Coconut Rice
Serves 5

1 small jar (250 g) TITOTÉ
4 cups water
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups rice
½ cup raisins packed

Place the contents of the jar of TITOTÉ, water, sugar, and salt in a medium to large pot and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally until all the ingredients are dissolved then add the rice and raisins.
Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, until most of the liquid has evaporated and holes form in the rice. Lower heat, cover, and cook for 25 minutes. Fluff rice and serve.


Road Trip: Sutamarchán, Boyacá

On a recent road trip my family and I stopped in a little town called Sutamarchán. This town, located in the department or state of Boyacá, is rougly 3.5 hours from Bogotá. It's pretty tiny and there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of things to do, so it wasn't our main destination. It was after hearing a few good tips from a famliy friend though, that we planned our itinerary around having lunch there. Sutamarchán, as it turns out, is known for one particular kind of sausage:


I'm not sure where the name comes from but apparently its most obvious characteristics are that it is long and thin - hence the name "long"aniza? Who knows....in any case, it's delicious. The thin, condimented sausage is made with roughly chopped pork meat and has that bright reddish color like other sausages. It's common in many places around the world, like Spain, Chile, Argentina, some countries in the Caribbean and Colombia. In Spain there are about half a dozen kinds, flavored with different spices and often cured. The ones we usually find in Colombia are fresh and require cooking.

We hadn't been given the name of any particular restaurant so we drove around until we saw one that looked popular. It was a little tricky seeing as all the restaurants we drove past had tons of longaniza hanging out in the front and most of the tables were full of locals. Finally we chose "La Fogata" and it turned out to have been quite a good selection.

Of course the longaniza did not come alone. It had a few accompaniments of morcilla (blood sausage with rice and peas), small chunks of grilled beef and pork, cheese filled arepas, papa criolla, plátano maduro (ripe plantain) and yuca. On top of that we ordered an additional serving of longaniza and one of chicharron (fried pork skin/fat). And on top of THAT, ají and guacamole.

Indeed, it isn't the healthiest of meals but it really is satisfying. Most of the items, if not all, leave a nice shimmer of grease on your fingers and on your lips...no need for lip balm! It's the same kind of meal that I shared from "El Chorote" where a whole lot of food is piled onto a platter and everyone picks at it (usually these places are called piqueteaderos...maybe they got their name from the act of "picking"?)

So, if you should ever find your self in Villa de Leyva (the beautiful colonial town that was our destination) or around Boyacá, make sure to swing by Sutamarchán. It's on the way to other sightseeing destinations like Ráquira, Chiquinquira and Villa de Leyva. Well, even if it isn't on the way I would still go out of my way to have lunch there.


UPDATE: Green Mango Granita

Well, I did the first trial of the green mango granita but I'll need to complete one more test before posting the final version. The first one was a hit but I think with a few improvements it could definitely be better.

The first comment was to lower the amount of lemon juice just a bit. It was tasty but it overpowered the flavor of the slightly subtle green mango.

Another comment was to cut the mango into smaller cubes or maybe even grate it. The larger cubes looked like sweet corn at a glance (which looked pretty odd), plus when frozen, the chunks were much more noticable in your mouth. With the pieces a bit smaller I think the mouthfeel will be more balanced...so we'll see what happens.

On a side note, my dad cut up some papaya the morning after I made the granita and since there were no lemons left to squeeze over the papaya, he put some of the granita on top instead. I wasn't fortunate enough to be there to try it but those who were said it was great.

Stay tuned for the final recipe....


OPA! Gyros

I first read about OPA! through Facebook. It must have been almost a year ago that the word "gyros" caught my eye on somebody's page and I thought: Greek food! I checked it out once but they were closing for the day. Still, the possibility of having a good gyro in Bogotá kept OPA! at the front of my mind for many months. Somehow it took me almost an entire year to actually make it back and finally try them.

The place is pretty small (although at least 3 times the size of their original location that I first visited) and my sister and I arrived at the height of lunchtime rush hour. Fortunately we didn't have to wait too long for a couple of stools to open up at the bar. We opted for the Megapolis Mixto - a combo of 2 pork and chicken gyros, 2 bags of homemade chips, and 2 drinks. Perfect and affordable - $20,000 for the two person combo.

The pita-like bread is fresh, supple, and has a very lightly toasted surface - just enough for it to crack a bit when folded and unveil the soft center of the bread. First on the pita comes a generous spread of their yoghurt sauce, which looked and tasted a lot like tatziki to me.

Next came the chicken and pork that is marinated and cooked on the ubiquitous, vertical rotating spit used for several kinds of kebabs, shawarma, gyros, taquitos al pastor, etc. All resulting in really tasty, slighly charred, moist and evenly cooked meats.

On top of the meat comes some pickled red onions, super fresh lettuce, tomato, and a dusting of paprika. All this goodness comes wrapped in wax paper printed to look like a Greek newspaper (very cute detail). Remembering the combination of flavors right now is making my mouth water.

The staff was friendly and very efficient which is very refreshing with the sometimes sub par service that is all too common these days. The rest of the menu including sides and appetizers looks very enticing as well but I´ll have to try them another day. All in all OPA is a great spot and as far as I can tell, the most authentic Greek gyro in Colombia or at least Bogotá. Can´t wait to get back...I´m hungry!

OPA! Gyros
Carrera 14 # 90- 03


Green Mango • Mango Biche

A couple of weekends ago I was invited to go to Girardot (altitude 289 m). This town, about 3 hours east of Bogotá, is located where the upper Magdalena and Bogotá rivers meet. It's a really popular spot to go to for the weekend, especially since you get the chance to escape the bone-chilling cold of Bogotá and get some use out of that summer clothes that's been packed away under the bed for months.

Anyways, on my getaway I sat by the pool, relaxed, soaked in the sun, got a sunburn and ate mangoes right off the trees in the backyard. This took me back to when I was a little girl and my family used to go to Girardot all the time. One of the food memories I have from those days (aside from downing cans of sweetened condensed milk in the stifling heat - not very refreshing now that I think about it) is eating green mangoes with salt. It's a strange combination but it works. For many years I thought this was a local delicacy but after doing a bit of research, I found that eating green mangoes is not a Colombian thing at all - it's really more of a tropical thing.

In many parts of the world, including Central/South America, South East Asia and India, green mangoes have been important parts of regional cuisine. In almost every case that I came across, the norm is to eat pieces of the green mango dipped in salt; salt and chilli; or salt and chilli and lime.

In Vietnam, green mango pieces are dipped into a mixture of fish sauce and sugar. In Thailand, green mango (or green papaya) salads are common. In parts of India, (place of origin of the mango and top producer in the world) several varieties of chutneys are made with green mangoes - not ripe ones like in the western world.

On this last trip to Girardot, however, I did come across one quite unusual and unique presentation of green mango - the popsicle! It was a lime flavored popsicle with tons of little bits of chopped up green mango. Delicious! They came with little packets of salt but I decided to stick with the popsicle as it was.

This got me thinking about making a lime and green mango granita at home. I am starting with a simple lime based recipe and building it up from there. Stay tuned for a yummy, refreshing summer recipe....I hope!


Surtifruver de la Sabana: A Produce Wonderland

I love produce. I love green markets, farmer's markets, kitchen gardens, CSA's and pretty much anything that has to do with fresh fruits and vegetables.

You wouldn't believe me though, if you looked in my fridge.

I admit that I'm a hypocrite in that respect because I don't often buy, cook or eat fresh produce. I have had far too many experiences with things going off in the crisper (a.k.a. the rotter). I imagine it has something to do with poor planning and a lack of effort. But anyways, I do love a nice stroll through a produce market, day dreaming about nutrition and ways to cook different veggies, and ogling at all of nature's bounty. Fortunately, in Bogota there is such a place.

Surtifruver de la Sabana (a condensed version of "Surtidora de Frutas y Verduras") is becoming a giant in this city and it's no wonder why. Imagine the produce section of your average supermarket, but instead of it only being one section out of many, it's the entire market. The last one I went to, and one of the most recently opened, has two-stories, a parking lot with a car elevator, and aisle upon aisle of every kind of fruit and veg you can imagine - and then some. Before I even stepped foot into the store I got hit by the aroma of sweet, little mangoes piled high onto a wheelbarrow....mmmmm!

I know it looks a little cold and sterile but in Bogota there really aren't too many farmer's markets, so this is a pretty good substitute. If I could make one suggestion to the people at Surtifruver it might be to warm it up a bit (think Trader Joe's, Harris Teeter or Whole Foods). In spite of this I would still say that for any foodie coming to Colombia, Sutifruver is a great place to discover some new fruits and vegetables.

Aside from offering a very wide variety of produce at great prices, Surtifruver is also committed to happy, healthy kids. They have acquired the "LazyTown" franchise for two years. The popular Icelandic (who knew!) cartoon featuring Sportacus and his "sports candy" (fruits and vegetables) helps to draw kids in and educate them on how important fruits and vegetables are.

As part of their growth plan, Sutrifruver hopes to expand not only throughout Colombia but also to Venezuela, Ecuador and Canada. Their target market, and most frequent shoppers, are women between the ages of 25 and 55 (I am not included...yet) and they sell approximately 450 tons of fruit and vegetables a day.

What is their top-selling product, you wonder?



Piqueteadero "El Chorote"

One of the great things about Bogota is that it's so easy to drive a little while and get away from the hectic city. On a two hour drive, or in some cases less, you can find yourself in the embrace of warm, balmy weather or in a cold, beautiful paramo. Depending on which direction you choose to drive and for how long, you're transported to another world with a different climate, flora, fauna, and food.

Yesterday a group of us decided to go for a short drive via La Calera. La Calera is a small town about 30 minutes out of the city but generally when you say you're going there you are just traveling by way of the road that leads there. The winding road takes you up the mountains and behind Bogota's north-eastern side and before too long you're driving through the countryside. The roadside is full of food stalls, rustic little restaurants and a few, rather odd places (I saw a sign for authentic Russian cuisine - I can't imagine that but maybe one day I'll pay them a visit.)

On this day our lunch destination was the Piqueteadero El Chorote. In Colombia a piqueteadero is a place where a rustic lunch is served and shared with a group of friends and family. It's usually located in the countryside and from what I gather, "piquete" is basically like a picnic. Although there is generally indoor seating available, the meal should be eaten outdoors to really enjoy the whole experience.

The way this kind of place works is that you get in line to pick out what you want piled onto your groups lunch platter. The grill is right behind the person that takes orders and is filled with cuts of beef, pork, chicken, chorizo, morcilla (or relleno), corn on the cob, and much more. Of course, as I think most people do, we ordered a lot more than we probably needed to. Everything looks so appetizing and the smells coming off the grill are so good that you end up ordering absurd amounts of food. "Should we get one order of beef?" someone asks. "NO! Two!" responds a hungry friend. The same kind of back-and-forth continues until we emerge with an aluminum platter brimming with meats, arepas, corn, ripe plantains, yuca....enough to feed about 10 people - not 4.

Somehow though, as you can imagine, we were able to devour most of the food we ordered. Sitting out on logs in a grassy lawn and overlooking the beautiful Andean mountains, it felt like we were so much further away from civilization. I'm not sure how but this was actually the first piqueteadero I had ever been to. I'd say from now on I am a big fan. It's not only about the food, which is delicious and enough reason to go in itself - but also the drive out of the city, the outdoors and the treat that it is to eat picnic-style, enjoying the fresh air and views with a few good friends.