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.
ROASTED STUFFED AYOTE
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 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
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