Guest Post – Fresh From the Farm to Your Table

Costa Rica Family Farmed Organic Food…Comida Organica Express Delivers Puerto Viejo To Limon

It has been a life changing journey driven by the desire for a better, sustainable lifestyle. It has been an adventure of seven years leading my wife and I to life on a jungle farm on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast and inspiring us to gather and organize organic family farmers from various regions of the country. The result has been a beautiful organization which can deliver (within reasonable time) exceptional organic quality goodies at family prices anywhere from Talamanca to Limon with delivery coming soon to the San Jose Metro area.

My wife’s name is Mileidy and mine Carlos. She was born here in Costa Rica, I was born in New Jersey. Since we met, our dream has been to live on a farm harvesting food free of chemicals and transgenic mutations. After achieving this step we expanded our vision to include helping others through education, example and networking on how to create a more sustainable lifestyle for themselves and their families.

We grow and sell organic food because we LOVE IT, it is good for others and it allows us to keep growing in our vision. We do it with the idea of infecting YOU with a ferocious appetite for a healthier way of life! By working with our facilitators and service providers to keep costs down and quality high our clients receive the crème-de-la-crème when it comes to real natural selections and price. Our menu offers true family farmed organic fruits, vegetables, spices and hand-made vegan pasta to those who seek to express their consciousness in their food choices.

We currently work with several farms and artisans but most of our goods come from five different family run farms. Each is located in different regions of the country, one of them is located over 2,175 meters above sea level. One family farm is less than two acres in size and produces several thousand pounds of food per year! On our farm Milly started her own cross-strain of tomatoes to get a natural, delicious tomato growing in the Caribbean. While one of neighbors was the first to produce organic lettuce in the Caribbean with little to no bitter aftertaste.

Our menu is updated week to week to reflect the changes in what is available and what has come into season. We offer everything from organic Strawberries, to Bok Choy, Fennel, Kale, Onions, Lettuce, Eggplant, Peruvian Potatoes, Blackberries, Arugula, Basil, Rosemary, Oregano, a variety of Tomatoes and so much much more… You can see more about our farm at http://www.facebook.com/Comida.Organica.Express

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this and letting us share a little bit about ourselves with you. If you have any questions about organic farming or sustainable living please feel free to email us at organicdeliverycr [at] gmail dot com. And remember you can start a garden or plant some veggies in almost any space, go out there and reclaim your table! Thanks again!

All the Best,
~Carlos&Milly
ComidaOrganicaExpress

Cheap Food Costa Rica – Puerto Viejo – Bread and Chocolate

We hit another cheap food destination while on the Caribbean side last weekend. In case you didn’t see our other cheap breakfast post about La Botanica Organica, make sure you check it out. This particular Sunday was rainy on-and-off, which is typical Caribbean weather, but we didn’t care much. We had our sites on this little well-known breakfast nook in Puerto Viejo.

The restaurant and bakery is on a rustic porch similar to most restaurants in the area and unlike the usual weekend morning, there was a table open for us when we arrived. The place was filled with friendly faces and delicious food and coffee in front of most. To be honest, before even going in, our friends had told us the best part of the selection is the homemade chocolate brownies, so we were looking every which way to catch a glimpse before sitting down. And we found them, on a bamboo display not far from our table.

Our friends, whom we were visiting, work at a nearby hotel and thus know most other hotel and restaurant owners, so immediately upon arrival to Bread and Chocolate, the Maryland native owner came over. He was a great guy and being a born-and-raised Marylander myself, we reminisced about blue crabs and Old Bay seasoning before we ordered. The menu itself wasn’t huge, but it was full of meal descriptions that made me want to try them all. I was absolutely torn as to what I should order, so I of course asked my husband to split two (out of 6) of the dishes we were both curious about.

We settled on a fried egg sandwich (fried hard to my liking of course) served on a bagel with homemade home fried potatoes and an order of biscuits and gravy. Keep in mind we’re in Costa Rica here and biscuits and gravy isn’t something you can really find anywhere, so we were psyched about the prospect. The fried egg sandwich was served on our choice of an everything bagel, which was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, the way they should be. Not the way Bagelman’s makes them in the city. To our delight the potatoes were seasoned perfectly and while the biscuits were slightly dry, the unique mushroom gravy that topped them more than made up for it. My husband and I divided both plates in half and devoured our servings in no time flat.



So, after breakfast and another two cups of joe, we grabbed our brownies to-go. I chose the mint variety while our friends got the walnut type. When we got back to our friend’s Bali-style house on the beach we hung out with the dogs and later dove right into our mint brownies heated and topped with chocolate ice cream. It was bliss, I couldn’t believe I had never had a mint chocolate brownie before, knowing my affinity for mint chocolate chip ice cream, but this was awesome. The outside had a slight crust and the inside, extra fudgy. Heaven.

We can’t say enough positive things about Bread and Chocolate. We wished we could have tried everything on the menu and each dessert in the glass case, but our budget didn’t permit, so we’ll just have to wait until the next trip down there. Pura vida Bread and Chocolate!

Cheap Food Costa Rica – Puerto Viejo – La Botanica Organica

La Botanica Organica

On our recent trip to the Caribbean side, we discovered that the best restaurants are the breakfast ones. There aren’t a ton open before 9am but there are a few that we went to and fell in love with. The first morning we were there our local friend brought us to a little place called La Botanica Organica (make sure you like their Facebook page), who has the freshest, most organic produce you can find around Puerto Viejo.

From their page:

Breakfast and Lunch Menu:
Super Goji Berry and Hemp Seed Granola…Whole wheat Pancakes.. Whole Wheat French Toast, Organica Eggs.. Organica Coffee and tea.. Lentil Burgers.. Hummus Sandwiches.. Fresh Salads.. Lunch Specails.. Vegan, Veggi and Raw and Gluten Free Options!

In the Shop: Everything from Tea Tree Oil to Natural Deodorants and Toothpaste.. tinctures.. natural Medicines.. Essential Oils.. Incense .. Crystals.. Special Ordering available

While most small farms in Costa Rica can’t afford the official certification for organic status, some are abiding by all best practices and with a tour of the farm you can see it for yourself. These small farmers are sought out by the owner of La Botanica Organica and they have an open and honest working relationship. One of the goals of the restaurant is to help the local economy so they don’t grow the food themselves, but rather support those in the area. It’s a great concept.

When we walked in we immediately noticed the concrete floors (mainly because my husband is now doing decorative concrete) with imprints of Costa Rican flora. It was rustic, yet modern, just how we like it and it fit in perfectly with the foliage creeping in from all sides of the place.

The rest of the charming decor included rustic wood benches and tables with centerpieces poised with local flowers and verigated leaved plants. They had their morning delivery of produce spread out on a back table which allows you to see just what your prepared food is made of. The kitchen is open where you can see a few locals running around putting together everyone’s orders. The macrobiotica on site is just off of the main patio for easy access after you eat.

We started off with cups of rich organic Costa Rican coffee and for me (a ‘coffee-only-in-case-or-emergencies’ drinker) a cup of hot herbal tea with dried tropical fruit, lemon grass and other local herbs. We quickly moved on to our breakfasts of organic whole wheat pancakes with fresh pineapple topping, a free-range egg scramble with broccoli, onion, bell pepper and feta cheese with fresh baked whole grain bread (amazing!) and a bowl of fabulous granola and local yogurt with goji berries. The three of us tried each others food and agreed that we picked a place that will become a regular stop for us. We live in San Jose, but plan to make it back to the Caribbean side more often.

When we were done we felt satisfied and reminded again why we live here. The owners are from California and have adapted well to living the pura vida life. They contribute to the local economy, make delicious food which is sometimes hard to find here, and have cheerful, attentive waitstaff. Thanks for a great start to an amazing weekend in Puerto Viejo, Talamaca, Cocles. You’ll be seeing us again soon.

After visiting the restaurant we moved on to visit the Jaguar Rescue Center just down the road to play with some monkeys! Make sure you support them, it’s totally worth the $15 per person for the tour.

The 5 Best Costa Rican Recipes

A lot of people say that Costa Rican Food isn’t all that great and that it’s unimaginative at best, however I beg to differ. Having lived here for just a year and a half, I have been able to sample a lot of local cuisine, but I am far from an expert. Food in Costa Rica has a rich history and deep meaning for the people here, which for me deserves a lot of respect when being critical of it’s food.

Even though I’ve been living here for over a year and a half, I haven’t quite yet embraced preparing typical food at home. Okay, so maybe I have gotten too comfortable with what I like to cook and the ingredients I know well, but now is the perfect time to explore.

Recently, I vowed to find the most unique dishes to Costa Rica and tweak them into the perfect recipes. But before we get down to business, we have a few terminologies to sort out and some background to familiarize ourselves with. First, the terms I’ll be using in this post may seem foreign to you (duh, because they are) but they’ve become a permanent part of my language living here. Ticos or Ticas are the native people. The name originates from their specific dialect of Spanish and how they’ve always added a -tico or -tica to the end of words, as in ‘little’ or ‘small’. For example, I chuckle when I hear someone say ‘quiero el chikitico’ or ‘I want the small one’. This is not common to end words with -tico or -tica, but it is common in any Spanish-speaking country for them to say “cafecito” (little coffee), “pancito” (little piece of bread) or “whiskito” (you guessed it: a little whiskey).

Here’s a little cultural background. If there is one common thread among all Ticos, it’s their passion for futból and their devotion to either La Liga or Saprissa. Here, your blood either runs purple and white or red and black, or you’re not Costa Rican at all. You know when it’s game day and it’s even easier to know when a goal is scored b/c no matter where you are in the country there are car horns blaring when there’s a GooooooOOOOOOOOOOaaaaaaaaaallllllll!!!!!! And what do the Ticos do before, during and after the games? Why eat of course. Which is why I chose the recipes I did, so you could maybe get the taste of what a traditional meal of the futból-loving Ticos is like.

Peach PalmCosta Rican Chayote

Now for the ingredients that you’ve most likely never heard of. First we’ll start off with the pejibaye, or peach palm, which grows and is exported more in Costa Rica than any other country. The flavor is similar to a boiled peanut but with a milder flavor and a different texture. You can find them all over the sides of the road where locals set up giant pots boiling over a flame. Ticos love to eat them with mayonnaise and salt, but I’ve found them to be most delicious as a creamy soup. You can find them for about $2-3 for a kilo (2.3 lbs).

Then there’s a chyote, which is a type of squash that comes in either white or green and is a very inexpensive vegetable use for side dishes and what they call ‘picadillo’, which essentially means small pieces. Chyotes are about $0.30 a piece and recipes typically call for 2-4 units and rarely do you need any more unless you’re serving more than 6 people. But I beg you to be careful when you’re peeling and chopping the chayotes. You need to grab the vegetable with a towel or wear gloves. The reason for this is because they leave a strong film on your hands that acts like children’s glue but much, much worse. There’s not real way to get it off until it wears itself off.

Now to the recipes so you can judge for yourself if you agree that Costa Rican food isn’t noteworthy, but I have a hunch that you’ll love it.

Classic Costa Rican Recipes

Costa Rican Peach Palm Soup

Crema de Pejibaye – Peach Palm Soup

Ingredients

  • 18 Pejibayes (cooked, peeled, pitted and chopped)
  • 6 Cups of Chicken Broth
  • 1 Cup of Heavy Cream
  • 1/4 Cup butter
  • 4 Tbsp of all purpose flour
  • 2 yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Bundle of 1 sprig of thyme and rosemary
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a medium to large pot, melt the butter and saute the onions until they begin to caramelize
  2. Slowly mix in the flour and then add the chicken broth. Bring to a boil.
  3. Add chopped pejibayes, turn down the heat and simmer with the bay leaves and bundle of thyme and rosemary for 10 minutes. Remove bundle and bay leaves.
  4. Using an immersion blender, blend the contents of the pot until smooth
  5. Simmer for 10 more minutes to allow it to thicken, and add salt and pepper to taste
  6. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and serve hot.

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Fried Empanada filled with Gallo Pinto

Gallo Pinto Empanadas

Recipe makes 18 empanadas

Empanada Dough Directions

  1. In a medium-sized bowl mix 3 cups of All-Purpose flour and 1 tablespoon of salt.
  2. Cut 1/2 cup room temperature solid vegetable shortening into pieces and place in bowl with flour mixture. Using a pastry cutter, cut in shortening until you have a cornmeal texture. If needed break up large pieces with your hands.
  3. Slowly incorporate 3/4 cup of luke-warm water, adding a little at at time until a dough ball forms. The dough should not be sticky and should be kneaded about 10 times.
    If needed, add more flour or water to reach the appropriate consistency.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 1 hour. If you’re making the dough in advance, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate. However, bring dough to room temperature before assembling empanadas.

Filling Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Dried black beans
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 1 medium Yellow onion
  • 4 Garlic Cloves
  • 3 Cups Water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Brown or White rice
  • 1/2 Red bell pepper
  • 1 Green onion
  • 1/8 Cup Fresh choppded cilantro
  • 2 Whole Eggs
  • 2 Tbsp Unsalted butter

Filling Directions

  1. Soak beans in a bowl of water overnight and then drain.
  2. Finely chop the onion. In a slow-cooker, place black beans and three cups of water, the bay leaf, half of the chopped onion and cook on high for 3-4 hours.
  3. Strain off excess juices and remove bay leaf.
  4. Bring two cups of water to a rapid boil and pour in rice. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and let cook on medium heat for 15-20 minutes until rice is fully cooked.
  5. In a large fry pan, melt butter and saute remaining onion, garlic and bell pepper. Cook until onion is translucent, add green onion, then pour in rice and beans and mix until incorporated.
  6. In a separate pan, scramble egg with milk until fully cooked. Add egg to rice and bean mixture.
  7. Finally, chop cilantro and add to the mixture. Allow to cool.

Empanada Assembly



  1. Thoroughly clean the work surface and give yourself plenty of room.
    You’ll need flour, a rolling pin, a circular cutter (6-8”), spoon, water, cookie sheet and your filling. Sprinkle flour on the work surface and pull a piece of dough off that’s about the size of a lime.
  2. Begin to flatten the dough ball in all directions until the dough is roughly 2 millimeters thick. The dough shouldn’t stretch much further than the diameter of your cutter, or you might have used too much dough.
  3. Press the cutter through the dough completely. Remove excess dough and incorporate it into the next dough ball. It’s important to note that once the dough has been rolled and stretched, it is much harder to do it a second time, so using the least amount of dough per cut is ideal.
  4. Once you’ve rolled out the dough and cut out the circle, it shouldn’t shrink any. Moisten the edges by dipping your fingers into egg wash and gently spreading a thin layer around the edges.
  5. Spoon out 2-3 tablespoons of filling onto the upper half of the circle. Fold the bottom half of the dough up over the filling and press the edges together repositioning the filling inside if needed. It’s important to have the right amount of filling so it won’t break open or leave it hollow after cooking. You should fill it just enough to still get the empanada to close.
  6. There are many ways to close and shape empanadas but I prefer the pinch and twisting closure. Starting with one edge pinch the edge between your finger and then fold the corner up over itself by 2 cm and pinch the new fold to seal it. Repeat the motion all the way around the empanada by pinching and twisting the dough to create a rope-like edge. When you reach the other edge simply tuck the corner under and pinch closed to seal it off.
  7. To cook them, heat up some vegetable oil, coconut oil, palm oil or peanut oil in a medium-sized pot to a medium-high temperature. Be sure to test your oil before dropping in the empanadas, if you drop in a little piece of extra dough, it should boil easily but not crackle, pop or boil too rapidly. If this happens, reduce the heat of the oil before submerging the empanada. When the oil is ready, submerge two or three empanadas in the oil and allow them to cook for 4-6 minutes until golden brown. Watch them carefully so they don’t burn.

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Egg Fried Greenbeans

Barbudos – Egg Fried Greenbeans

Ingredients

  • 30 Greenbeans (washed and ends trimmed)
  • 1 Tbsp All Purpose Four
  • 1/3 cup of light olive oil for frying
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • Salt to taste

Directions

  1. In a medium-sized sauce pan, boil green beans in water with salt until al dente, with a slight crisp.
  2. Separate the eggs with whites in a small bowl and the yolks in another. Beat the whites until slightly stiff. Add the yolk, flour and salt and mix.
  3. Form groups of 6 green beans, soak in batter and fry in a pan with olive oil on medium-high heat, turning once after 2 minutes.
  4. Place in a hot oven while you’re cooking the rest. Eat immediately.

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Chayote Picadillo

Picadillo

Ingredients

  • 2 Whole Chayote
  • 1 1/2 cups Frozen Corn
  • 1 Medium Yellow onion
  • 5 Cloves of Garlic
  • 2 Medium Bell Peppers
  • 2 Stalks Celery
  • 1 cup Cilantro
  • 1 Argentinean Chorizo
  • 1 Tablespoon Cajun Seasoning
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Cumin
  • 8 Strips bacon (6 if they are extra thick)
  • 3 Tbsp Unsalted Butter

Directions

  1. Using gloves, peel chayote and remove pit. Cut into 2 cm pieces and place into a medium-sized pot. Cover with water and boil for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, fry bacon in a large fry pan turning occasionally until well-cooked but not burnt. Remove from pan, let cool and break into small pieces by hand.
    Peel and dice the onion, mince the garlic and chop the bell pepper into small pieces.
  3. In the same pan with bacon grease, add chorizo (remove from casing), onion, garlic, bell pepper and celery. Cook on medium-high heat until slightly soft, about 2-3 minutes breaking up the chorizo as it cooks.
  4. Add butter, corn, cilantro, chayote, cajun seasoning, black pepper and cumin. Mix well. Salt to taste (varies depending on the type of cajun seasoning).

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Platanos dulces

Sweet Plantains

As seen in a previous post.

Ingredients

  • 4-6 ripe plantains, cut into 1″ slices
  • 1/2 Cup of margarine or butter
  • 1 1/2 Cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 lime
  • 2 Cups of water
  • 1 tsp pure Vanilla extract

Directions

  1. In a large pan, melt the butter and saute the plantains on medium heat until golden. Add 1 cup of sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, lime juice and vanilla. Stir for 1 min.
  2. Add water and sprinkle on the remaining sugar.
  3. Reduce heat to low and cook until the liquid is reduced and caramelized. Serve hot, or let cool.

Common Empanada Mistakes

I have been inspired lately to explore empanadas and master the Argentinian style pastry. Traditional empanadas from Argentina are baked or fried with white flour and, when done well, come out with a beautiful flaky texture and have plenty of filling without being hollow or greasy.

I have had empanadas in many restaurants in Costa Rica, such as Donde El Ché, and have been enamored with how beautiful and delicious they turn out. This post is to fill everyone in on the mistakes I’ve made and discovered throughout my exploration in search of the perfect dough and filling recipe. I’d like to share with everyone some tips and tricks as well as things to avoid when making empanadas. Has anyone else had as much trouble as I have getting things right? Once you’ve read the tips below, make sure you try out the recipes I’ve posted for vegetarian empanadas, chicken empanadas, beef empanadas, seafood empanadas or ham empanadas.

Empanada Dough

• Never, never, never use processed doughs if you want true empanadas. This is a shortcut that’s not at all worth it in the end. Once you make your own successfully, you’ll never seek out Pillsbury again.

• When using a recipe with baking powder, know that your empanada will grow in size, but will be very hollow inside. I prefer to have a pocket full of filling rather than air.

• Never use more than one stick of butter or 1/2 cup of shortening for every three cups of flour or you’ll end up with dense, crumbly dough.

• Know that when you have a dough recipe with yeast, you’ll end up with a different texture more like pita bread. If you like this type of dough, great. But don’t expect a recipe with yeast to produce authentic results.

• Jazz up the dough by adding your favorite fresh, dried or powdered herbs and seasonings to the flour before mixing. My favorites include fresh cracked black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, ground oregano, cumin and garlic powder.

• For baked dough use very cold butter and for fried dough use solid shortening.

• Never use oil as this will create undesirable texture of the dough before rolling it out.

• For baked dough, always use ice water, never lukewarm or hot.

• For baked dough, always refrigerate the dough ball for at least 3 hours before assembling your empanadas.

Empanada Filling

• Make sure your filling in not too watery or juicy or it will make the dough soggy.

• To reduce the moisture of your filling, place it in a fine mesh strainer for at least an hour.

• It is a good idea to let your filling cool or even refrigerate it before assembling. Using warm or hot fillings will degrade the dough before baking/frying.

• The best fillings use high quality meats, produce and cheeses. Don’t skimp on quality.

• You need about 2 cups of filling for 12 empanadas.

• Only place 2-3 tablespoons of filling in each.

• Filling ingredients should be in small or fine pieces for best results.

• Slow-cooked fillings are no-fail. Remember to let the filling cool before using it.

Empanada Assembly

•  Roll out the dough on a floured surface without using plastic wrap, parchment or waxed paper. It’s easier to work with the dough on a simple cutting block or countertop.

• Extremely large circle cutters make it difficult to assemble, I stick to 6-8″ circles.

• If your empanada dough is correct, you don’t need to wet the edges to seal them.

• It’s always a good idea to roll out a new piece of dough if you put a hole in it by accident.

• There are many different techniques and styles for closing empanadas and here is a great video that demonstrates many. The family is Latin-American so everything is spoken in Spanish, but she does a great job showing a variety of ways to form the final empanada.

Costa Rican Fire Sauce

Costa Ricans love their sauces. From Lizano’s to the typical veggies-in-vinegar at every soda table in the country, the Ticos can’t go without adding some extra kick to their dishes. I’ve adopted a similar mentality and feel like the table is empty without a bottle or two of various flavors on the table. My morning gallo pinto just isn’t the same without the chilero, nor the egg sandwiches with Tapatio. We know what we like and we check the labels to make sure they are not infused with MSG or any other preservatives, but sometimes we just want a homemade, fresh hot sauce to use for the month.

I’ve highlighted the most basic recipe for hot sauce that I know and we used our home-grown chili peppers that we bought from our neighborhood EPA in Cariari, Belen, Costa Rica. We planted the peppers back in March along with some basil, oregano, flat-leafed parsley, chives, thyme and cherry tomatoes. Are growing everything in planters so our dogs don’t stomp on them or sprinkle them with some unwanted flavor. The trick is mixing compost with good potting soil and keeping things fertilized with compost ever other month or so. We started a compost pile when we moved in, but haven’t yielded any good rich product yet.

Here is the recipe for the Costa Rican Hot Sauce and it’s certainly hot as fire so be careful how much you use as it stays with you for some time after your finished with it.

Costa Rican Fire Sauce Ingredients

• 9 ripe chili peppers
• 6 small to medium cloves of garlic
• 1 Cup white vinegar

Costa Rican Fire Sauce Directions

1. It’s best to use gloves when slicing hot peppers to avoid burning your eyes by touching them later.
2. Slice the tops off of all the peppers and discard. Slice each pepper into 4 large pieces and place into the blender.

chili peppers and vertical blender

3. Remove the skins from the garlic cloves by smashing them first and cutting off the tiny end which is inedible. Place into the blender as well.

chili peppers in vinegar

4. Pour in the vinegar and blend well, or use a vertical blender in a tall container.

hot sauce in blender
5. Transfer to a glass jar with a lid and carefully transfer the sauce without splashing or getting the fumes in your face.

Costa Rican Fire Sauce

Cheap Food Costa Rica Tamarindo – Falafel Mundo

To our surprise, we discovered Falfel Mundo, our new favorite place to eat in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, which is the unexpected cheap food place for under $10 per person, not at the overpriced seafood place on the beach. For my birthday this year I wanted to finally master this surfing thing. My husband and I have been trying to surf on our own for the past year with little success. I’ve been doing water sports behind a boat for 20 years so I assumed surfing would be similar, but I was wrong. Waves are much scarier than a boat. So, we headed to Witches Rock Surf Camp in Tamarindo for a lesson with Maria and we learned a LOT. We corrected a few things and were riding waves before the lesson was over.

Falafel-Mundo-Costa-Rica-1 Falafel-Mundo-Costa-Rica-2 Falafel-Mundo-Costa-Rica-3

So, getting back to the food, we stumbled on a place next to the Costa Rica Surf Club where we rented boards the next day called Falafel Mundo, a Middle-Eastern Cuisine place that only served three items, but served them VERY well; falafel, shawarma and shaksuka. Shira (almost like the He-Man counterpart) owns the place with her Israeli boyfriend where they have brought the delicious tastes of the Mid-East. They bring the spices for the dishes back with them from Israel or have their mom send a care package, so you know it’s authentic as it gets.

We bellied-up to the bar on the giant wooden stumps and ordered two half Falafel sandwiches and two half Shawarma sandwiches so that we could each share both. She asked if we wanted to add hummus and if we liked it spicy and of course we replied with a tandem ‘yes’. The hummus inside and the tangy yogurt sauce on each was the kicker to set things over the top. Falafel Mundo was a great experience overall and Shira was a pleasure to chat with while she prepared our food. This has become our “Bubba’s Fish Taco” of Tamarindo, the must-have when traveling through or coming within 50 miles of this beach.

Falafel Mundo is located next to Sharky’s and across from High Tide. Don’t miss this Cheap Food Here hotspot in Tamarindo.

Sweet Potato Chips (aka Boniato or Batata Chips)

A food that everyone else seems to love that I never really got into growing up or even as an adult was sweet potatoes. It’s not something that I ever ate at Thanksgiving, even if it was full of brown sugar with marshmallow topping. Call me crazy, but I never liked it. However, not too long ago a friend of mine made sweet potato fries and I’ve had them as well at restaurants before, and the sweet and salty combo was really delicious.

It wasn’t until my recent order of delivered organic groceries that I considered making sweet potatoes of my own. Plus, the version here in Costa Rica is called the Boniato or Batata, which has a purple skin and is white inside and with a different type of sweetness. When I came to them on the NaturaStyle list, I remembered the fries I had in the past and my friend’s affinity for Costa Rican coconut oil and decided now was the time to try them.

I decided on chips instead of fries and I absolutely loved them. It was a perfect sweet/savory snack and will be a regular on the list of party snacks. Here is how the recipe went:

SWEET POTATO CHIP INGREDIENTS

• 1 Kilo of sweet potatoes, boniatos or batatas
• 2 Cups of Coconut Oil
• 1 Tbl of coarse sea salt
• 1 Tsp fresh flat-leaf parsley

SWEET POTATO CHIP DIRECTIONS

1. Pour coconut oil into a large, deep skillet and heat on medium to medium-high heat (the oil should glisten and send up a slight wisp of smoke when properly heated.

Sweet-Potato-Chips-3
2. While the oil is coming to temperature, peel the potatoes and slice them to 1/8″ thick.
3. Place the slices of potato in the pan until no more will fit without overlapping.

Sweet-Potato-Chips-1
4. Cook for 4-6 minutes, turn with a set of tongs and cook for another 3-5 minutes until golden brown. For crispier chips, allow them to come to a rich brown color, but be careful not to burn them.

Sweet-Potato-Chips-2
5. Remove the cooked slices and place on a paper towel to catch the excess oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and parsley and allow to cool.
6. Repeat steps 3–5 until you’ve used all of the potato slices.

Sweet-Potato-Chips-4

Organic Groceries Delivered in Costa Rica- NaturaStyle

We’ve been toying with the idea of getting our groceries through NaturaStyle for several months now (okay, about 9 months) and remembering our delivery service in Charlotte (Absolute Organics), I’m not sure what took us so long.

WHEN DOES NATURA STYLE DELIVER?

NaturaStyle only delivers on Saturdays, so planning is essential. We placed our order the Sunday prior and just survived off of the fridge leftovers in anticipation for the motherload to come the next Saturday. It was very easy to get in touch with Silvia, the one in charge of orders, to verify the time of delivery. They make the delivery schedule the Friday before, so make sure you don’t have plans for Saturday until you know your delivery time.

Ours was scheduled for 10:30am and the guys were less than 30 minutes late, which is considered early here in Costa Rica. Tico Time usually means everything happens around 2 hours after it was scheduled, so we were in great shape. The delivery guys came and were very friendly and helpful to put the groceries in the house. Here is what we ordered, and keep in mind this is all organic:

WHAT DOES NATURA STYLE DELIVER?

• bunch of 4 ripe bananas ($0.30)
• 4 Whole fresh beets with tops ($2.70)
• 2 Large heads of broccoli ($2.73)
• 1 Whole coconut ($0.35)
• 18 pk of eggs ($3.80)
• 1/4 Kilo Goat Cheese ($4.47)
• 1 large bunch green onion ($0.68)
• 8oz jar of Honey ($4.96)
• 6 misc lemons and limes ($1.39)
• 1 bunch lemongrass ($0.75)
• 1 head boston lettuce ($0.90)
• 1 container of whole white mushrooms ($3.23)
• 4 heads of garlic ($1.63)
• Medium Pineapple ($1.25)
• 250g (approx 1 Cup) Raw Butter ($3.79)
• 1 liter Raw Milk ($2.38)
• 3 Bunches of spinach ($1.63)
• 1 Kilo Star Fruit ($0.75)
• 3 Sweet Red Bell Peppers ($2.28)
• 1 Kilo Roma Tomatoes ($4.61)
• 2.3 Kilo Whole Chicken ($13.31)
• 1 loaf whole wheat and herb bread ($1.86)

TOTAL: $64.30

So, as you can see the prices vary. Some items are surprisingly cheap, like the kilo of Star Fruit or a bunch of lemongrass for $0.75. However, some of the other items you would expect to be cheaper, especially here in Costa Rica, like the bell peppers at $2.28 for three. But, the rest is reasonable especially for organic. If you shop at the markets you’ll find better prices, but you can’t beat delivery and the quality is spot on.

The best items we received, when considering flavor, were the bananas, which had a richness we had never tasted before, the star fruit, the bread, and the raw milk. We’ve been reading about raw milk and the benefits of not drinking pasteurized milk, but this stuff is delicious. We’re not too picky about some food but we’re not into buying our garlic from China, because who knows what they’re doing over there and who is regulating what. So, although the organic garlic is expensive, we definitely prefer it.

Check back here for more posts about NaturaStyle and their products.

How to Slice and Eat a Star Fruit

CHOOSING THE RIGHT STARFRUIT

Seeing a star fruit (or starfruit) in the grocery store can be a little intimidating or seem ‘too exotic’ if you’ve never sliced and eaten one your self, but don’t be scared, it’s delicious and easy. The best looking star fruit may not be the most ripe and delicious, so choosing the right one is important. Your best bet is to find the fruit with the least amount of green on the edges and the richest orange color. This could mean there are some brown edges, but if they are small, that indicates it’s at its optimum ripeness.

I have tried buying green star fruit and letting them ripen to a bright orange color, but they are always much more bitter than finding the fruit at the stand that has spent more time ripening on the tree. It really is hit or miss, so if you find a good source for them, stick with it. In Costa Rica there is a farmers market in the Pavas area of San José that has a lot of stands with star fruit, which they call carambola, but we have our favorite of course. You can find the market extending down about 500 meters along the street running beside the Palí in Pavas every Saturday morning.

A great way to use star fruit that I’ve noticed here in Costa Rica is to juice them and combine with sugar and cinnamon for a sweet little cocktail. If you then take the juice and blend it with ice, it’s even better for the summer.

HOW TO SLICE A STARFRUIT

1. First choose the best, most ripe starfruit with slight green edges and rich orange color

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2. Using a sharp butcher knife, slide the blade down the green edges of the star fruit being careful only to remove the non-orange edge.

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3. Once the edges are removed, slice off the two ends. Only remove about 1/2 inch, not too much. At this point your fruit should have no more green or brown areas.

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4. Next, slice the trimmed starfruit across the broad side, into star shapes about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick

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5. You’ll notice that your slices have seeds in them, mostly in the middle pieces. These should be removed with the tip of the knife.

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6. Star fruit is a very fun-shaped fruit, so get creative with how you plate it. It also makes a great garnish, and in Costa Rica (in Spanish is called ‘carambola’) they are plentiful and cheap. They are a great snack with a little sprinkle of cinnamon, as a juice drink, or to use in salads. They are versatile, so find your favorite way to use them and enjoy!

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ADDING STARFRUIT TO YOUR DIET

You can add star fruit to your diet in a variety of ways. My favorite is in a fruit salad, but it is also a great compliment to a green garden salad or a chicken dish that uses coconut. Anything dish that combines sweet and savory is a great one to garnish with starfruit or use within the recipe.

Here are a few starfruit recipes to get your started:

Starfruit, Orange and Mango Smoothie

serves 4

INGREDIENTS

• 3 Cups of fresh orange juice
• 3 Ripe starfruit, trimmed and de-seeded
• 4 slices of starfruit, trimmed and de-seeded
• 1 mango peeled, pitted and cubed
• ½ tsp ground cinnamon
• 1 Tablespoon of honey (optional)
• 2 Cups of ice cubes.

DIRECTIONS

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth. Pour into 4 large juice glasses and garnish each with a star fruit slice. Serve immediately.

Herbed Green Salad with Starfruit

INGREDIENTS

• 1/4 cup sliced almonds
• 1 head romaine lettuce, leaves torn (6 cups)
• 1 starfruit seeded and diced
• 1 cup fresh parsley leaves
• 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
• 10 chives, chopped
• 4 to 5 tablespoons Italian vinaigrette

DIRECTIONS

1. Heat oven to 400° F. Spread the almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and toast, tossing occasionally, until golden, 5 to 6 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, toss the lettuce, star fruit, parsley, cilantro, chives, and almonds with the vinaigrette.

Coconut and Starfruit Baked Chicken

INGREDIENTS

* 4 boneless, skinless chicken-breast halves
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
* 2 cups uncooked jasmine rice
* 1.5 cups chicken stock
* 1 14-ounce can coconut milk
* 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
* 1 teaspoon salt
* juice from 2 starfruit (clean and de-seed fruit, blend and strain)
* 1 starfruit sliced into thin stars
* 1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut

DIRECTIONS

1. Heat oven to 325° F. Lightly coat a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with vegetable cooking spray. Sprinkle the chicken breasts with the garlic, cayenne, and lime zest; set aside.
2. Place the rice in the baking dish. Combine the chicken stock, coconut milk, cilantro, salt, and starfruit juice and pour onto the rice. Arrange the chicken on top of the rice. Cover with foil and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until the rice is tender and the chicken is cooked through.
3. Remove the foil, sprinkle the coconut on top, and cook 5 minutes more or until the coconut is browned. Dish out and serve with starfruit garnish.

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