My ’24’ plays without either Kiefer or, sadly, his charmingly smug dad Donald, whose acting, especially in those kinky Fellini, Roeg & Bertolucci movies, I’ve always greatly enjoyed. My ’24’ simply highlights a few vignettes taken from a day in my life in Costa Rica, namely a Friday, market day.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, our ferias or produce markets provide us with a wide variety of tropical fruits and an amazing array of root vegetables. We don’t have the popular and sophisticated varieties of fancy baby greens and heirloom corns or tomatoes, but we manage just fine. Even a humble yuca can be prepared in fancy and surprising ways, as we learned recently at the ‘Caoba Lounge‘ in Escazú. At the Caoba [caoba is the Spanish word for Mahogany wood, native to the Americas, as well as a term for a white wine grape] our grouper dish was accompanied by the most delicious shaved yuca. Very elegant indeed! But that happened on Wednesday, so let’s get back to Friday, shall we?
I try to walk, mixed with a little gentle jogging, most mornings before our near-equatorial sun becomes too powerful. Since sunrise is a pretty early event around here, I have to be on the road by six to avoid the most scorching rays. On Friday, I started walking at 06:04h, beginning my ‘workout’, as the NIKE+ app so generously calls this activity, at ‘Finca Santa Lucia’ right at Calle Güizaro, the road leading into Atenas Centro. Since I had done almost 7 Km the day before, I was aiming for a more leisurely stroll. Just a few days ago, we had commented that we hadn’t heard any Montezuma oropendolas lately. But this Friday morning I gradually became aware of their calls. Hearing the strange articulations of the oropendulas always makes me smile.
The rest of the morning was given to first having breakfast, followed by grooming, then shopping. At the market, we loaded up, and I mean that quite literally, since it’s no small feat to carry all those heavy purchases, an assortment of fresh produce for the coming week, including piñas, maracuyás, and mangos. Another heavy item were the tomatoes, three kilos or six point six US pounds of ripe tomatoes, destined to become tomato sauce, which I like to call TOMATENKOMPOTT.
Returning home with our bounty, the fun of processing the goodies, washing, dicing and slicing began immediately. Foremost, the ingredients for my salsa. And so it goes:
you dice & put aside:
500 g cebollas rojas y amarillas (red & yellow onion)
250 g chilies dulces (red/green sweet pepper)
100 g apio (celery)
at least 5 clavos de ajo (garlic cloves)
Then you crush a heaped tablespoon of dried coriander seeds and a half a tablespoon of dried cumin seeds with a spoonful each of dried thyme and black pepper in your big mortar.
you wash all those lovely tomatoes & dry them. Rub a little olive oil in a baking dish that can go under the broiler and sprinkle brown sugar all over the bottom of said dish.
Grab a knife, cut off the bottoms of your tomatoes and set them onto the sugar, cut side down. Shove the whole shebang under the broiler and burn the heck out of it. Yes, really. The tomato skins will char, shrink and loosen nicely, so removing the skins (wearing rubber gloves, not to burn your delicate fingertips) is a cinch. My nasty old pan is pretty small, so I was broiling the bottomless tomatoes on their bed of sugar in batches.
To cook the actual salsa, you start by gently toasting your crushed spices in a dry sauteuse. Turn up the heat a little, add olive oil and onions & sweet peppers, sweating them for a few minutes, before adding the celery & garlic. If you have fresh fennel, by all means, add it now also, with or as a substitute for the celery. Fennel is delicious with tomatoes. Now add about a teaspoon of anchovy paste, stir to distribute, and a nice splash of balsamico. Add some salt as well, but be careful, the anchovy paste is very salty.
As soon as your tomatoes are naked, add them to the onion mix in your saucepan, squish them a little, add the broiling juices also, stir, put a lid on and let the whole mess simmer on very low heat for … as long as you like, but for at least an hour. While the tomatoes simmer, I stir the sauce occasionally and pull out the less desirable tomato stalks, adjusting salt and pepper, etc.
Since I like my salsa chunky, I serve it as is over pasta. But there are other options. I might separate a portion, blend it to a smooth consistency and enrich it with cream for a more elegant sauce. Try your own special variation, the sauce is your oyster! The oven-roasting pre-prep of those tomatoes goes back to a recipe by TV Chef Tim Mältzer. He likes this method because it intensifies the tomato aroma. We certainly agree with him!
For our Friday dinner, I added spicy Italian sausages from our sausage guy at the feria, Senior Marcial Artavia of Sperone Italian Sausage. His sausages are terrific! Lately, he even started making Nürnbergers, after his son liked them in Germany. A mixed salad of radicchio, sweet peppers, yellow squash, cherry tomatoes and capers balanced the colorful affair.
Saturday morning dawned grayish and overcast, so I wasn’t as paranoid as I usually am, about getting out there before getting up. It was already 06:45h, when I finally fired up the NIKE+ app to start my walk. Instead of turning right at the Finca, toward the city center, this morning I turned left, going uphill for a bit. From a development called ‘Residencial de Güisaro’, I took an unimproved trail into an area of small coffee plantations and pastures. I like walking there because the road surface is very rough and challenging. This trail is my muddy little paradise, where I always find new things to discover. By the second turn, I had already encountered six grazing horses, five panicked chickens, two friendly dogs and this amazing shade tree for some coffee bushes.
After a while, I doubled back toward home and encountered one more sweet sight, vacas, cows on route to their pasture with their youthful shepherd. No doubt, we are a smidgen rural hereabouts!
NEWS FLASH *** NEWS FLASH *** NEWS FLASH
Don’t miss tonight’s amazing
“Salsa de Tomato variación Dorado”
We had an early dinner tonight to be able to focus on the 2nd pre-season Greenbay Packer game in St. Louis (right now, so far so good). For our dinner, I used some of yesterday’s sauce to cook the fish.
Put 2 cups of tomato salsa in a blender and add almost a cup (loosely packed) shredded, fresh cilantro leaves and the juice of one limón-mandarino (lima rangpur, limón rugoso; I guess lemon juice and a little honey would be a good substitute). Blend until very smooth, pour into a pan and heat very gently. While the sauce is heating, pan fry Dorado (Mahi-Mahi) for one minute at medium high heat. Turn the fish, season with white pepper, coriander powder & salt. Fry one more minute. Squeeze fresh limón-mandarino or lemon juice directly into the pan. A minute later, turn off the heat, add enough warm sauce to cover fish, shake a little, sprinkle with cilantro and crème fraîche, cover the pan and let it rest on the electric element,
while you get the cauliflower in parmigiano crumbs & parsley and the sweet potato slices plated. Serve with a nice glass of wine and enjoy in good health!