It’s the last official weekend of the summer so I decided to make use of my free time by making a very easy lunch. With a couple of plum tomatoes, fresh basil, red onion, olive oil, goat cheese and french bread you can make a light and delicious meal!
Tag Archives: fresh food
In most cases a trip to the Dominican Republic is a guaranteed beach vacation, except if you are staying in Bonao. Bonao is almost directly in the middle of the island and is about 2-4 hours away from the coast. Despite the promise of a long, winding drive through the mountains we managed to make it out to the beach at least once during my stay. On our way to Sousa beach we just had to make a stop for food on the way…
As we waited for our lunch to arrive we took in the beautiful scenery…
Finally, our lunch arrived…
Once we finished our lunch we were ready to relax on the beach…
It was a great day at the beach!
Every morning the rooster in our backyard would start crowing before the sun came up. In fact, everyone’s backyard roosters starting crowing at the same time and it was hard not to start screaming back at them to shut up! We were not on a farm, so why would there be a rooster in the backyard anyway? But, just because I was not used to having a rooster in my backyard (since I don’t have a backyard) I really had no right to question the rooster at all. The problem was that I lacked a relationship with our extremely loud and proud rooster.
Establishing a connection with our food and the people who grow it is an understanding many of us lack. Unless you grew up on a farm the connection between the chicken on your plate and the chicken in the hen house doesn’t make sense. But, what if the chicken was in your own backyard? Maybe if I could make nice with the rooster and stop telling it to shut up I would be more appreciative the next time I had chicken for dinner. Sadly, this rooster was REALLY loud and we were not able to be friends. So, I decided I would instead befriend my fruits and vegetables.
On my first full day in the Dominican Republic we took a trip to Constanza. This is the community that produces much of Bonao’s fresh fruit and vegetables. To get there we had to drive up, through, around and back down a narrow winding road off the side of the mountain. Yes, this is the kind of two-lane road where if you look out your window you can see how high up you are. Yikes. During the trip we drove by lettuce, cabbage and tomatoes fields and banana and cacao trees. For each field we passed my brother-in-law could provide an explanation of what the crop was. Would you be able to tell the difference between a cabbage and lettuce field simply by driving by it? Or would you know that the picture below is a banana tree?
Somewhere along our hour drive we made a pit-stop at a roadside strawberry stand. Strawberries are in season and we were excited to try them. The strawberry stand was located across the road from the actual field. Once they were harvested these women cleaned and prepared them for sale. They had whole berries and strawberry jam to sell, in addition to fresh garlic and oregano.
About 1 hour into my 3 hour flight to the Dominican Republic I was starving! I hadn’t been grocery shopping in weeks and the bagel I ate before leaving for the airport was not cutting it. I was really tempted to break into the 20 pounds of chocolate in my carry-on (all for my candy-hoarding sister), but I didn’t. I wanted food.
Once I arrived in Santiago (where my luggage was x-rayed before leaving the airport… weird) I was greeted by my sister and brother-in-law. The weather in Santiago was gorgeous and I am sure I looked crazy wearing my fleece jacket, scarf and thick socks that was required for the 40 degree weather back in Brooklyn.
During the hour car ride to Bonao I was happy to hear that since my sister had arrive in the DR 6 months ago she had become a very good cook. She promised to feed me once we got home. What she actually fed me that night is a blur, but check out what she made me on day three!
The nice thing about cooking in the DR is that everything you need can be found at your local colmado. A colmado is open-air, roadside store that carries everything you need to make a good meal (and all the coffee you could ever want). In preparation for lunch, the biggest meal of the day in DR, we walked down the block to the colmado and picked up a green pepper, onion, cilantro (with the roots and dirt still attached), tomato and a carrot- all for less than $3 dollars. My sister also went to the butcher to pick up a freshly plucked chicken.
Although, most people have a refrigerator in their kitchen, it is often bare. The only items in my sisters fridge was water, butter, jam and juice drinks. Because you buy your food fresh most people only cook enough food for that day leaving nothing to waste or store for leftovers. My sister had a good eye for determining how much food she would need to buy to feed everyone in the house, but on occasion any left overs were given to Homer (the garbage disposal and watch dog).
To make this dish we started with prepping the produce (washing and chopping).
In the mean time the Guandules and rice should be rinsed with water.
Once the cilantro, red onion, green pepper and garlic (seasoned with Goya Adobo) has been chopped up it will be mixed with the fresh chicken. The chicken should be washed and cut into medium-sized pieces.
Once the vegetables and chicken are mixed together it is time to start cooking the guandules (these could have been cooked while we were prepping the vegetables, but I was busy taking pictures, so my sister was doing most of the work herself).
As water boils down add the chicken and 8 or so sprigs of cilantro, 1/4 cup chopped green pepper, a couple splashes of hot sauce and soy sauce. If it is still missing flavor, throw in a few dashes of Goya Adobo seasoning to your liking.
Finally, add about 1 and half cups of rice and then let water boil down so that you can see the moist rice, but with no water sitting on top. Turn flame down to low and cap pot and let cook for 15- 20 minutes on a low flame.
At the end of all your hard work you should end up with something like this…enjoy!
Recently I returned from my first trip to the Dominican Republic and I was delighted by the beautiful fruit that we were able to find everywhere! In the DR it is common to find fruit trees in almost every backyard, but if you are not fortunate to have one fresh fruit and vegetables can be found at any roadside stand. The mango below happened to be my breakfast one sunny morning…
My trip was filled with food (more to come later), lots of coffee and beautiful weather…a great way to get away from the enduring winter weather in Brooklyn. Since the weather was gorgeous all day long we were able to enjoy our meals outside with Homer, the watch dog and garbage disposal, and the loud rooster who shared the backyard. Aren’t they cute? More Dominican food stories to come soon!
My discovery of Foodtown was an epic revelation that ensured I was not doomed to shop at the Bodgea on my block. Thank goodness! I was grateful to find a nice grocery store in my neighborhood, but there was still an obstacle at hand. The location of Foodtown is about a mile from my brownstone. This is an easy distance to walk when going to the store, but too far to walk back from with an arm full of heavy grocery bags. The subway is not easily accessible either, both locations being 2 very long blocks away from the grocery store. A cab ride home from the store would cost any where from $8-$12 dollars, totally a rip off for the short distance I need to travel. The bus, another lousy option, is unpredictable and always too crowded. As it turned out, my decision was just to walk home with my heavy bags. Hey, I can always use the exercise, right?
Walking home with my groceries is a decision I force myself to make and I regret it every single time. The weight of each plastic bag pulls on my fingers making my shoulders feel as if they are going to pop out of their sockets. I constantly have to stop and reshuffle the bags to regain feeling in my arms. It is a miserable experience that I continue to endure because- I love to eat fresh food. It is a slightly humiliating experience too as the old ladies shuffle past me with their granny carts. They look at me as though I have no sense at all. I would be lying to say that I didn’t agree with them. Using a granny cart would make the experience of walking home a little more bearable, but then there is the issue of getting the granny cart full of groceries up a three floor walk-up. Sigh.
It suddenly makes sense why there is an abundance of Bodegas in Brooklyn. My obsession for fresh food is the only thing that motivates me to endure the obstacles of getting to and from the grocery store. But, Bodegas seem to be nothing more than a lazy answer to a city’s need for easily accessible grocery stores. What they offer is usually not fresh or nutritious, but always over priced. I am happy to see movements such as Green Carts (mobile vendors that sell fresh produce), the farmers market and Farm Share programs make their way into my neighborhood, but it is still not enough. In the end, my hope is that one day access to fresh food will be a right and less of a privilege.