Monday, October 4, 2010



I must confess to being a bean lover and nothing is better, to me, than using a bean fresh, that would normally be dried. In the States, these are called “shelling beans” and they are taken right out of the pods and sold fresh. They are available at the Feria in San Isidro and during the season, there may be four or five types available.

The joy of these beans is that they cook in 45 minutes or less, cutting at least two hours out of the time on the stove. The real pleasure of them though, is the flavor and texture. These fresh beans have a richness, a creaminess and almost a “meatiness” when cooked that is unsurpassed.

When I see them at the Feria, they are usually laid out in bins, with a few kilos bagged up ready for sale. They are plumper and more colorful than their dried counterparts and there is a sheen to them, as if they have a healthy glow. The colors range from a pale pink to a mottled variegated pink and white to faint shades of green and yellow. Among my favorites are the heirloom variety, “Cua” which is a yellow-brown color, a bit more rounded than elongated with a deep almost nutty flavor.

I cook these beans much like I cook dried beans (except for a substantially smaller amount of time) and find that it’s best to start with a sauté of whichever vegetables you choose and the fat and meat from whatever pork product you like to flavor them. Sauteeing the vegetables gives them a greater depth of flavor that just adding them and letting them boil. For additional flavor I like to add a couple of spoons of of roasted tomatoes, or a handful of roasted pepper strips. You can of course, cook these beans in a purely vegetarian style, but they don’t call it “Pork and Beans” for nothing.


1 Large Yellow Onion, cut in ½” dice;

6 Cloves of Garlic, minced;

1 Carrot, cut in ¼” dice;

1 Jalapeno Chile (optional), cut in fine dice;

6 Strips of Bacon, or 1 Smoked Sausage (hot or mild), cut in cubes; or, 2-3 Smoked Pork Chops (it is quite tempting to use a combination of the three);

1 Ounce Light Cooking Oil;

1 Heaping TBS of “Jambalaya Spice Mix”

3 Fresh Thyme Sprigs (or ½ Tsp Dried Thyme Leaves);

4 Bay Leaves

Add the oil and pork products to a heavy pot and bring up to a good heat. If you are using bacon, try to get some color on it. Stir frequently and add the vegetables and the Spice Mix. Stir often, scraping up the spice mix if it should stick to the bottom of the pot.

Add the beans and herbs (and tomatoes and/or peppers, if you like) and cover by 2 inches with water. Bring the pot of beans to a boil and then reduce the heat until the liquid is just bubbling. Allow to cook for 15 minutes and then check the level of the liquid. It is best if it remains about an inch above the beans. Try not to let the beans cook at too high a heat or they will break up and not remain whole. It is important to keep the beans in enough liquid while they cook, but after about 30 minutes, as they get closer to being done, let the liquid cook down until it is just even with the beans. The beans are done when you can just squish them between your fingers. Remember that they will keep cooking as they cool.

Frijoles Tiernos are great served alongside grilled fish or meat, sausages, or along with either a highly seasoned and flavored rice dish for an upscale version of “gallo pinto”.

1 comment:

  1. Being a fellow bean lover that method will be on the roster at our house!! Thanks.


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.