Monday, October 12, 2009


This is the first piece, and accompanying recipe that I did for the Dominical Days November issue. I am limited to 320 words per column which will certainly help my editing skills.

Chef of the Jungle

Greetings and thank you for joining me for my inaugural column. I am presently the Chef at La Cusinga Lodge and have cooked professionally for my entire working life. I will call upon my experience in the food world to give support to what I will write here, but I hope to keep my comments and thoughts directed more to the food around us rather that to what is cooked professionally by me or those in other restaurants.

My focus here will be more toward my passions for cooking, and the practices of eating locally, organically and supporting those who practice sustainable food production. Upon my return to the Costa Ballena this past January I took it upon myself to search out, to source as much locally grown, produced and caught food as I could in an effort to throw support to those who were struggling to make it available to all of us.

The term “local-vore” has cropped up to describe those chefs and cooks who attempt to use as much product within a limited radius as is possible.

The benefits of this practice are many. By buying locally we support our local economy, help sustain our farmers and fisherman, and perhaps most importantly, gain a closer relationship to and knowledge of where our food comes from. A head of lettuce with the roots still attached is more reassuring that one pulled, sweating, from a plastic bag.

Here on our coast we have access to so much beautiful local and organic food.The Feria in San Isidro is just over the hill and local farmers are now selling their products in Uvita. We can buy “fresh from the ocean seafood” up and down the Costanero and pull fruit right from the trees. We, the consumers, are the ones who can support “local food” and by doing so,will ourselves, “reap the harvest” in so many ways.


Ayote is a local squash; round, with the coloring of zucchini, it has the seed structure of a pumpkin or other winter squash. When it is hollowed out it makes a perfect vegetable to stuff with any number of savory fillings. This one is simple and makes use of cooked food on hand. The chorizo and hot chile are, of course, optional.

This makes a great and complete dinner when served with a nice salad.

1 Ayote

1 Yellow Onion, diced

1 Red Bell Pepper, diced

4 Cloves Garlic, peeled and minced fine

½ hot chile, seeded and minced fine

½ # hot or mild chorizo

1 Cup cooked rice

1 Cup cooked beans, black or red

½ cup shredded cheese

cooking oii

Heat oven to 350

Cut stem end and opposite end off the ayote so that it sits flat

Cut it in half around the hemisphere and using a teaspoon, cut around the seeds and scoop them out. Using the edge of the spoon hollow cut more of the ayote away until only about a half inch of flesh remains near the skin. Rub the inside of the ayote with oil and salt and pepper it.

Place the ayote cut and open side up on a cookie tray or in a sauté pan and roast 30 minutes, or until tender. Turn ayote over and roast for ten minutes more, until ridge around the center is golden. Remove from oven.

While the ayote is cooking brown the chorizo; add garlic, onion, peppers and cook until tender. Stir in rice and beans and mix gently. Sprinkle the cheese in (reserving a little) and mix until blended.

Stuff the ayote with the bean/rice/cheese mixture and top with reserved cheese.

Return to oven and bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until heated through.

I like to serve this with a fresh tomato sauce or a simple salsa fresca


  1. ooh, yum. What if I can't get ayote?

  2. If you can't get an ayote, a large zucchini, yellow squash (don't do the initial bake of either of these as long) or some kind of winter squash will serve equally well.


Wednesday May 13, 2009 La Cusinga and Me

This words below are from our website describing La Cusinga.  The story, however is much deeper and much richer than these introductory words can describe.  La Cusinga represents a noble and successful effort to preserve this section of unspoiled coast and to keep it alive as a model of what true ecology can accomplish.  The dreams and visions of John Tresemer, the owner of La Cusinga and the Finca Tres Hermanas that surrounds it, have been realized here in what is a true example for all who would preserve and protect what remains of this, or any natural wonder. 

La Cusinga 
La Cusinga Lodge is a coastal rainforest eco lodge dedicated to marine and terrestrial conservation and environmental education. Its location on the southern Pacific coast provides guests with sweeping ocean views and a relaxing beach vacation. In addition La Cusinga is part of a private nature reserve that supplies the visitor with an unparalleled look at Costa Rican wildlife and rainforest. The reserve consists primarily of 250 hectares of virgin rainforest that borders thousands of more acres of privately protected forest. On Costa Rica’s still wild south-western Pacific coast, La Cusinga Lodge borders Ballena Marine National Park which was developed to protect the humpback whales that frequent the coast. La Cusinga Lodge was established in order to share the unique site with Costa Ricans as well as international visitors. Besides getting exposure to rural Costa Rican culture and beautiful vistas, visitors have access to highly prolific areas of primary tropical rainforest and unspoiled coast, all conveniently accessible. 

i returned to La Cusinga this past January, 2009, with a dream in mind.  I wanted to create a cuisine for our guests that would bridge the gap between what La Cusinga offered physically and spiritually, and what they were putting in their bodies when they ate here.  I knew from having previously lived in Costa Rica for over two years that there were organic farmers and that sustainable agriculture was being practiced, but at that time it had been limited in its scope as well as its distribution.  

My first steps upon returning were toward the local Feria to seek out and communicate my ideas with the growers and vendors who could provide me with a local, organic and sustainable product.  The fertile valleys of San Isidro that lie over the coastal mountains and to the Northeast of our Pacific location are rich and productive but are only now exploring the potential that they hold.  

I had in mind a vision that would support local farmers, fishermen and food artisans and one that would recreate (or perhaps, create) a new cuisine of Coastal Costa Rica.  I visit the markets each week to talk with growers and to develop the  relationships that I believe will be mutually beneficial as Costa Rica experiences its rapid growth on an international level
Organic farming is a new and not heavily supported concept in our part of Costa Rica.  It is a brave step for farmers to make, as local communities of both growers and consumers have never placed, or not known to place, an importance on farming organically and sustainably.  I feel a responsibility as a Chef here to be at the forefront of those encouraging and supporting these pioneers  

I came to La Cusinga almost three years ago not knowing what to expect.  My first time through here was characterized by a lack of understanding and appreciation on my part as well as an inability to recognize or connect with the local "flavor" that would make for a coherent package for out guests.  I now feel as if I have made a "connect" with the property and the vision.  I am not completely satisfied and hopefully, never will be, until we are able to produce, right here at La Cusinga, the greater share of the produce we serve.  However, the groundwork has been laid with local farmers and the availability and quality of organic produce is impressive.

Now at La Cusinga I serve a variety of organic lettuces and braising greens.  My salads include wedges or slices of rich red tomatoes as well as sweet !00 and yellow pear cherry tomatoes.  I roast organic beets and marinate them in balsamic vinegar to be served alongside the lettuces and topped with a locally made organic goat cheese.

My soups are made from roasted and steamed local organic vegetables and tiny organic yellow creamer potatoes have found their way onto my plates, nestled against filets of locally caught fish.
I am now using a local organic cocoa powder that still contains the nuggets of cocoa butter unlike the fined cocoa powder in the markets.

And better still, I am able to use palmito (hearts of palm), ginger, cilantro and its sawtooth leafed cousin culantro coyote, mangoes, hot and sweet chiles, mandarina limes and yucca root from our own Finca Tres Hermanas to serve in my dining room at La Cusinga.   The connection from jungle and farm to table is evolving.  May it continue to grow.