Costa Rica: Casado

Costa Rica | July 7, 2015 | By

They keep things pretty simple in Costa Rica. Rice, beans, salad and a meat are all you need for a full meal and that’s what Casado is. This is a typical lunch in Costa Rica, which is the big meal of the day. And they say that Casado, which means marriage, is what the women made to make sure their husbands came home. It’s often served with plantain and tortillas too. For the meat, we cooked up some chicken thighs in a pepper and onion braise that turned out to be a good sauce for the rice and beans. Of course the magic ingredient that no Costa Rican would live without is Salsa Lizano, as hard-to-define as it is hard to find outside of the country. The best description we came across was a vegetarian worcestershire sauce. We remembered it well from our time in Costa Rica and had to travel deep into Brooklyn to find it. Armed with 2 big bottles of the stuff, we’re looking forward to the rest of Costa Rica week!

Click through for the Chicken recipe.


Basque Country: Marmitako

Basque Country | June 19, 2015 | By

Here’s an unusual dish that’s a traditional Basque fisherman’s recipe. It was originally made while on a fishing boat, so besides the fish, there are relatively few ingredients and they don’t spoil easily. It’s basically a soup made with a couple of potatoes, onions, peppers and garlic, then big chunks of tuna are added at the end. We usually have tuna seared or even raw, so poaching it in the soup was new to us. Another trick we learned from this recipe was about breaking potatoes rather than slicing them cleanly. Apparently the soup becomes thicker because more starch is released this way. Overall a simple and tasty dish. 

Here’s the recipe we followed.

Basque Country: Meatballs Bayonnaise

Basque Country | June 18, 2015 | By

Here’s a recipe from the French city of Bayonne in the Basque region. It reminded us of tapas dishes we’ve had. Our one cheat was using leftover piperade in place of tomato sauce so it had a smokiness that the original recipe might not have. Ok, our other cheat was to serve it over spaghetti to make it a meal instead of a snack. 

Here’s the recipe we generally followed.




Basque Country: Pipérade

Basque Country | June 17, 2015 | By

One of the most interesting things about Food Explorer is seeing the similarities in recipes across far flung locations around the world. Here’s a dish that I would swear was shakshuka from the middle east if I only saw a picture of it. The basics are the same – a rich tomato sauce with onions and peppers and eggs cracked into it poached until just set. The flavors, with smokey paprika as the strongest, are pure Basque though. This dish is versatile in that it is often used as a sauce for chicken or a stuffing for omelettes or just eaten as a tapas sized snack with grilled bread.

Here’s the recipe we used.

Basque Country: Chicken and Peas

Basque Country | June 16, 2015 | By

Basque cuisine is known for using what’s seasonal and available and this recipe is a perfect example. We found fresh, shelled peas, young turnips and garlic scapes at the farmers market so they were all integrated into this dish. The cured chorizo added a smokey paprika flavor and color. We definitely took some liberties with the traditional recipe, like mixing cooked rice in to soak up the flavors at the last minute. That’s just how we roll at Food Explorer. 

Click through for the recipe.


Senegal: Akkra

Senegal | June 12, 2015 | By

Akkra is another dish with origins in Senegal that has spread out to South America and the Caribbean. There are many versions of it across the globe. This dish reminded us of falafel but instead of chick peas, the fritters are made with a puree of black-eyed peas and onion. The secret ingredient, which is optional but we had on hand was dried shrimp powder, which gave it a musky earthiness. It was good, if a bit oily, but that might have been our own fault in not cooking it at a high enough temperature or in a deep fryer. While easy to prepare, it takes a little planning as the beans need to be soaked overnight.

We served it with a spicy sauce of tomato, onion and scotch bonnet peppers. 

Here’s the recipe.



Senegal: Boulettes De Poisson – Fried Fish Balls

Senegal | June 10, 2015 | By

We’ve explored meatballs from a lot of different countries on Food Explorer, but the only other fish balls we’ve done before this are Gefilte Fish. And while we love Gefilte Fish, we would never make them at any other time than Passover. These Boulettes de Poison, on the other hand, are so good that we would be happy to make them anytime. Not “fishy” at all, we pureed Mahi Mahi with onions, parsley, bread crumbs and egg, and deep fried them to a golden crisp. We then simmered the fried fish balls in a spicy tomato sauce and served them over some leftover Joloff rice we had from the night before. They looked like meatballs on the outside, but they were light and fluffy on the inside with a sweet and mild flavor and a heat provided by scotch bonnet peppers.  

Click through for the recipe and more pics


Senegal: Chicken Yassa & Joloff Rice

Senegal | June 9, 2015 | By

Here’s a combination of two deeply flavorful dishes that are Senegalese classics. Chicken Yassa is marinated overnight in onions, lemon juice and vinegar among other ingredients. This marinade provides a nice acidy tartness, plus it’s a traditional tenderization method because chickens are sometimes tough in that part of the world. The onions are then cooked down and caramelized to be served with the chicken. 

Joloff rice is another famous dish that is considered the precursor of both paella and jambalaya. The rice soaks up some of the tart juices from the chicken and onions to make one meal full of bold flavors.

Here are some helpful recipes for the Chicken and Rice


Senegal: Mafe Lamb

Senegal | June 8, 2015 | By

We had no idea what to expect going into Senegal week on Food Explorer. We knew we had to do an African country, and Senegal, with French and Moroccan influences on it’s west African cuisine sounded interesting. But overall we knew nothing about the country or it’s cuisine. That’s why we were shocked (happily so) that we had just made one of our favorite dishes yet. Mafe is a unique and completely unexpected combination of flavors. It’s a peanut butter stew with a base of tomato paste and some heat from ginger and scotch bonnet peppers.

Now, to be clear, we did not follow the exact recipe, which calls for stewing the meat in the sauce. It’s summer and we felt like grilling, so we made the sauce and meat separately and brought them together at the end. We also marinated the lamb for a few hours in a puree of onion and ginger, which tenderized it, and then used the marinade in the sauce. 

We could have been happy just eating the sauce itself over rice. The peanut butter gave it a flavor that reminded us a little of Satay sauce, but all the other flavors made it unique, rich, and delicious. We highly recommend this dish and we’re looking forward to the rest of the week!

There are many recipes for Mafe with variations of ingredients but we generally followed this one.


Sicily: Leftover Pasta al Forno

Italy | June 5, 2015 | By

As usual, we found ourselves with a large amount of leftovers towards the end of the week. Thrift and creativity are certainly features of sicilian traditional cooking, so we made up this recipe featuring our bucatini alla caponade and extra ragu from our Arancinis. We just mixed them together, put them in a baking dish and covered them with slices of fresh mozzarella. Half an hour in a 400 degree oven made it bubbly and crispy and melded the flavors together in a tasty way.