Thursday, August 9, 2007

Discovering the Taste of Nicaragua

NYSD: Discovering the Taste of Nicaragua at its Premier Eco-Lodge

If you like fresh seafood, comforting beans and rice, and rich chocolate, you will love dining in Nicaragua. Several weeks ago, I stayed at Morgan’s Rock, a completely environmentally sound resort that caters to those who seek the serenity of pure nature. From the gorgeous Madera bungalows to the organic-made surfboards to the 100% solar powered energy, the gang at this stunning getaway has thought of everything to make your stay one with nature.

The approach applies within the kitchen as well. Almost all produce is grown within the property (an expansive 1800 hectares) and animals are raised within the boundaries as well. Fresh fish is caught from the ocean (footsteps away from the haciendas) each afternoon in preparation for dinners. Succulent shrimp come from the shrimp farm at Morgan’s Rock. Even the brown sugar is harvested from their own cane. The kitchen staff—who is a group on rotating, locally trained and self-taught cooks—bakes their own delicious breads, muffins, and tortillas as well as makes their own preserves.

I was able to wrangle a few outstanding recipes from the kitchen crew. They are listed below, with a few modifications. Gallo Pinto is the traditional Nicaraguan breakfast of rice and beans. Gaspacho and spiced shrimp appeared at lunch. Filets of steamed fish and surprisingly delicious chocolate mousse were staples at dinner. With this astonishingly local, hyper-delicious cuisine, I had trouble leaving the Central American paradise!

Nicaraguan Gallo Pinto

1/4 cup minced onions
1/4 cup minced sweet peppers
1 tsp oil
2 cups cooked rice
1 cup cooked beans
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chopped cilantro

• Heat oil in a pan and add onions and sweet peppers. Cook together for one minute.

• Then, add beans, rice, salt, and chili powder. Stir as it heats up. Fold in cilantro.

Serves 4-6.
Nicaraguan Gallo Pinto

½ cup Carrots
2 ½ cups tomatoes
½ cup onions
½ cup sweet red peppers
½ cup sweet green peppers
½ cup celery
1 tbs garlic
¼ cup cilantro
½ cup red vinegar
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper
4 tsp olive oil

• Peel and food-process the carrots, tomatoes, onions, red and green peppers, and celery. Mix the vegetables with red vinegar and lemon juice with a spoon. Set aside.

• Mince the cilantro and garlic. Add to the veggies. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil prior to serving.

Serves 4.

Spicy Shrimp

30 shrimp, peeled
1 tbsp oil
¼ tsp garlic
½ tbsp minced ginger
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1 cup mashed black beans
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp vinegar
¾ cup coconut milk
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped

• Heat oil in a pan and add garlic, ginger, onion and mashed beans. Sautee the mixture for about two minutes.
• Then add the shrimp, fish sauce, soy sauce, and coconut milk.

• Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with rice.

Serves 4.

Fresh Fish

4 sea bass filets, 4 oz. each
4 tsp olive oil
2 tsp chili flakes
pinch of salt
2 lemons

• Place each filet into the center of a piece of aluminum foil—enough to wrap up each filet.
• Drizzle olive oil, salt, chili flakes, and a squeeze of lemon.
• Wrap each filet, and bake for 35 minutes at about 350°.

• Garnish with a lemon wedge.

Serves 4.
Chocolate Mousse

24 oz. melted dark chocolate
¾ cup sugar
6 egg yolks
2 cups heavy whipping cream
¼ cup ice cold water
1 tsp vanilla

• Boil ½ cup of water with the sugar to make a syrup. Set aside.

• Beat the egg yolks for ten minutes. Then, add them to the syrup. Fold in the melted chocolate.

• Mix vanilla with whipping cream and beat until stiff. Fold this into the chocolate mixture. Finally fold in the ice-cold water.

• Refrigerate for 1 hour to 1 day.

Serves 10.

"When not scooping the latest for NYSD, Jill Donenfeld heads up The Dish's Dishes, a personal chef and catering company founded for those who crave delicious food without the hassle of making reservations, ordering in, or turning on the oven. For more information on how to get your first DISH, check out