Monday, April 12, 2010

GaGa, ooh la la

What a glorious weekend! I took a long walk on Sunday, from my home in Rego Park, Queens through Flushing Meadow Park to the Queens Botanical Garden. The Spring flowering bulbs where at full peak and offered an overwhelmingly sensual experience. I flung myself on the grass next to the flower beds and breathed deep. The perfume floating out of the blossoms warmed from the sun was intoxicating. My mind slowed down to the point where this cliche was the only way to describe the blissful moment. AND the insane riot of color on the fleshy, velvety petals had me humming Lady Gaga songs as I made my way through the garden paths.

Walking back home I made a point to stop by at least one of the many Ecuadorean food vendor carts located on the eastern edge of the park.

The large jugs of bright green hot sauce (aji criollo) on the picnic tables drew me in. All I needed was a vehicle to get the hot sauce into my mouth.
Featured on the grill of Mi Pequeno Turruno were sweet potato croquets served with a salad. My second selection was something I had never seen or tried before- baked sweet plantains stuffed with mozzarella cheese, a combination that proved inspired: sweet, salty, mushy, yummy. Delish to everything!
sweet potato croquette
Baked stuffed plantain stuffed with mozzarella paired with a large helping of Ecuadorean hot sauce!

I came home and made my own version of the hot sauce with onions, garlic, lime juice and jalapenos.

I was able to find a recipe for the plantains online- a straight forward preparation as I suspected.
I am not sure what one drinks with this dish. Maybe something comes to mind Amanda?

These recipes are from the web site The Cooking Adventures of Chef Paz

Aji Criollo (Ecuadorian Hot Sauce)
4 jalapenos, seeds removed
1/2 bunch of cilantro (stems and leaves)
1/2 cup of water
3 garlic cloves
Juice from 1/2 lime or lemon
3 Tbs finely chopped white onion (scallions can also be used)

Put all ingredients in food processor and blend.

Sweet Baked Plantain with Cheese
6 ripe plantains, whole
1-2 Tbs melted butter or oil, use as little as you want
6 thick slices of mozzarella

Pre-heat oven to 400 F
Peel the plantains, place them on a baking sheet and rub them with butter or oil.
Bake the plantains for 30 minutes, then turn each one and bake for another 15 - 20 minutes or until golden on both sides.

Remove the plantains from the oven, made a horizontal slit on the middle of each plantain, and stuff them with cheese slices

In a few minutes the cheese will have melted, serve immediately, with or without hot sauce.

Well, yes. This is a bit tough. But as in relationships - "there is someone for everyone" - so it is with food. At least in my mind. There is a libation out there for all things edible, and I am on an endless quest to find the best partners. I guess you could call me the "yenta" of food and beverage.

The sweet potato croquette and salad could certainly be a meal in and of itself. But I see the stuffed plantain as something "fun" served at a party. Therefore, I wouldn't pair something specifically with that dish. I would pour something that is just very versatile in general. As it is Spring, and I am in a "warm weather" frame of mind, my taste buds are affected greatly, and what I crave has changed with the weather. I am now in a Sangria state of mind, and I would highly recommend this chilled delight as an accompaniment to the wonderful recipes with which Deb has provided us. Red or white would work fine.

I originally discovered my latest favorite white Sangria recipe from Fine Cooking magazine. It is irresistable! Be careful though, it is so utterly refreshing and wonderful that it goes down incredibly easy! I think it would be marvelous next to the stuffed plantain topped with the hot sauce. And the abundance of fruit in the Sangria would serve perfectly to quell the heat from the jalapenos.

For white Sangria, I typically use an inexpensive, fruity Spanish wine (the same holds true for red). Many times I'll use an Albarino. The particular recipe I like is a Peach/Pear Sangria. Start off by peeling and dicing a variety of pears and peaches. Then, take 1 bottle of white wine, add 2 cups pear nectar, 1 tablespoon of simple syrup, 1/4 cup of gin, 3 tablespoons of triple sec and the fruit. I usually put it in the refridgerator for about 4 hours to let the fruit absorb the sangria a bit. I typically do not add ice to the pitcher, but rather chill it in the fridge. I prefer to add the ice to the cups. That way, the Sangria does not get too watery, especially if it is outside in the sun.

This Sangria is wonderful and easy, and I highly recommend it! Especially with stuffed plantains and Ecuadorian hot sauce!

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