Saturday, November 12, 2016

Cooking class

Beans are not very popular in Ukraine. Why is this? Black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, pinto beans- doesn't matter. No one is eating them.

In Nicaragua, it's no problem to eat them every day. Breakfast is (happily) always this:

For years I planned to learn how to make gallo pinto...someday. Until now. Yesterday, I learned how to do it! And yes, haha, it was pretty much just mixing beans and rice :p Turns out, gallo pinto has no deep, dark secretos.

Gallo Pinto à la Raquel
  • Fry up grated garlic + sliced onion. 
  • Turn down the heat, add red beans, and let the mixture thicken for 10 minutes. 
  • Stir the rice in, and you're done!

We also made a few other things too:

There's a Thai restaurant now in town, which sounds totally unrelated to this post, except that they offer cooking lessons for both Thai and Nica food.

The tiny restaurant was opened earlier this year by the husband/wife team of Jake and Raquel. Yesterday, they hung their cute baby boy in a swinging hammock chair and closed the restaurant for our class.

First, Jake shared the recipe for an amazing drink. This is good because my bartending skills suck. For years I've tortured D's mom with horrible drinks (think: blueberry cobbler vodka as a base. Yeah. That bad.) This might finally be redemption for all that.

The drink
  • Fresh lime juice + sliced ginger + rum + 1 teaspoon sugar for each lime.
  • Blend together with ice until you get slush.
  • Sugar the rim of a frosted glass, pour in the slush, add ginger ale.

Then, we made a dragonfruit hot sauce together. This is the restaurant's signature sauce.

Dragonfruit hot sauce
  • 1 dragonfruit + 3/4 carrot + 3 cloves garlic + congo peppers + 2 cups vinegar + tablespoon salt + sugar to taste + cilantro
  • Blend and strain. 
The dragonfruit here are a brilliant pink and they lend their color to the sauce. Jake said the dragonfruit sold in the US are imported from Asia, so the sauce won't have the same color (but a tiny piece of beet might do the trick.)

Next, Raquel took over and we started on the plantains. Do you like plantains? I love them! Like the gallo pinto, plantains are easy once you know what to do. Raquel sliced a green plantain and a yellow plantain from this stalk-

This is how many plantains you can get for $5 in Nicaragua.
The less ripe plantain became tostones. This plantain is cut thick, fried quickly on each side, removed from the pan and smashed flat, then refried on each side.

The yellow plantain we sliced thinly and fried until it carmelized, becoming platanos fritos. We ate them with a tamarind sauce.

Raquel also showed me how to make gallo pinto and tamales.

Jake returned for the dessert finale- buñuelos, or fried yucca root + cheese served with condensed milk and cinnamon.

Nicaragua has a ton of cool dishes. Here's a fun list that someone created. Looking at that list, I see there's a lot more to try! But for now, I'm going to stick with the gallo pinto and start making up for all that missed time :)

Have you ever taken a cooking class? What do you want to learn how to cook?


  1. Oh my gosh. I miss Mexican/Central American food SO FREAKING MUCH! Dragonfruit hot sauce sounds amazing. I took a cooking class with my friend in St. Petersburg and we learned to make a ton of soups (not necessarily Russian). It was all in Russian so it was really awkward. My friend spoke Russian but didn't know a lot of cooking terms.

    1. Oh wow, I can only imagine a cooking class all in Russian :p I think some wine would actually make that go a lot smoother, haha.