Colombia

Palenqueras and Fresh Fruits in Cartagena

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Palenqueras slowly walk Cartagena streets offering: Papaya, watermelon, pineapple, guava, mango, nísperos (louquats) and more. They sing their tune as they gracefully cover downtown and the beach areas. Songs start with a low cord and they go up as they list the many fruits they carry on top of their heads. The song goes like this: “Home-cooks come get mangos, guavas, watermelon and tamariiiindo….  ”  It’s amazing to see their beautiful, generous smiles.

Palenqueras are native from San Basilio de Palenque,  a village near Cartagena, in the Municipality of Mahates, Bolivar, with a population of about 3,500 Afro-Colombians. Regarding its origin, during the 16th century Spaniards and slaves traveled together to South America. As slaves escaped, they slowly settled as this village came to be founded. Since then, Palenque natives have kept their traditions, language (similar to Creole) and their Afro-Colombian race intact. It’s truly a privilege to have such cultural richness so close to home!

Often I remember how I used to listen to them very early in the morning. Daily, Palenqueras carry centuries of history as they patiently make a living selling fresh fruits.

To read this post in Spanish click here.

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Coffee {Ergo, Happy}

 

Oh, coffee! To paint a good picture, think “Don’t Stop Thinking about Tomorrow” by Fleetwood Mac, “I can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash  and “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. The optimism in the lyrics is food for my soul. Coffee has that exact effect on me.

Overwhelmed, confused, even in state of panic, there are days when I wonder why I commit to so much. When the frustration becomes overbearing, I surely find peace in a simple cup of coffee.

Being from Colombia, coffee is a daily must, a daily reset. At home everyone has their daily coffee ritual. Mom and Dad used to prefer their coffee simply black (something like espresso.)  My husband and I have a latte every morning at home as we prepare for the day. If we go out to a coffee-house, then cappuccino for me please. 🙂

Coffee

Home-made cappuccino

Black, espresso, cappuccino, latte. It does not matter. I enjoy each kind just as much. I grew up used to the oddest thing too: A nap after coffee. Yes, I would fall asleep immediately. 🙂

A few days ago I was starting to feel some aging signs and besides coffee I wanted a blue sky. I found it, literally, when my daughter and I took our puppy for a walk around the block. Beautiful!

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Perfect Blue Sky

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Perfect Blue Sky with a Tiny Cloud.

Coffee = Blue Sky. Every now and then I am blessed to get both. 🙂

Fried Eggs and What My Mom Used to Say..

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Fried Eggs

Growing up, our Mom used to say: “That girl doesn’t even know how to fry an egg.” That is actually a popular expression in Colombia to refer to novice home cooks. So as I grew up I often wondered, what is it about fried eggs? As I met unwanted challenges in the kitchen, I remember intentionally “not” making fried eggs; I would make: Scrambled eggs, omelets, boiled eggs; Never fried eggs. Time has passed. I have forgotten that fateful phrase and freed myself from the memory. Now my Mom and her saying just put a grin on my face. If you have ever been intimidated by any saying {or recipe} in the past, I hope this entry has helped some.

Fried Egg Recipe

Tips:

  • For best results when frying eggs, start with cold oil or butter. Let the oil or butter heat up as it cooks the egg. That tip has saved me from sticky eggs every time.
  • The other easy trick that is really the simplest is: Always make fried eggs in a non-stick pan. This will make the amount of oil or butter irrelevant, and you will always have the same great results.

Recipe: Add oil or butter to the pan. Crack the egg and add it to the pan. Flip the egg when you see it hardening. Add a pinch of salt at the end. Serve and enjoy. How many minutes you leave the egg cooking will impact how hard or soft it will be. I usually like my fried eggs to cook for 6-8 minutes.

Variations of this recipe:

  • Add some ham to the oil or butter before adding the egg.
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Cooking Ham before Adding the Egg

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Add 2 eggs if you want, or if you are hungrier than usual. 🙂

 

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Two Fried Eggs

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Egg after Turning on the Pan

 

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Fried Egg on the Plate

In the end I came to terms with fried eggs; I can say my fear of Fried Eggs has been conquered and “This girl does know how to fry an egg.” 🙂

Humus

HumusOften in this blog, my Lebanese heritage and influence comes through in my recipes. My Dad raised us with respect for world cuisine, with middle eastern cuisine being at the center. Tahini, main humus ingredient, was one of My Dad’s favorite!

In Colombia, tahini was the only name that stuck with my generation, at least. Simple. Great with kibbeh or falafel, simply the best accompaniment for a plain slice of pita bread.

Roots bind us together or sadly pull us apart sometimes. For as far back as I can remember pita bread and humus brought my family together for the longest time. Today, my kids are learning to give generously, to give hospitality to loved ones and to those in need. What a tremendous gift! This humus recipe is simple and yet it fulfills a vital mission in my family history today: To strengthen family ties.

Recipe

Ingredients: 1 can of chickpeas, 2 TBSP tahini (sesame paste), 2 cloves of garlic, 1 TBSP olive oil, 2 TBSP lemon juice, salt to taste, parsley and 1/4 white or yellow onion (sliced.)

Blend above ingredients (except parsley and onion) in mixer. Serve and top with Julienne onions, some sprigs of parsley and 1 tsp of olive oil.

 

Old-Fashioned Home-made Crackers

 

Little “tiendas” (corner home-based food stores) in Cartagena still carry old-fashioned home-made crackers. When I travel back home, I definitely make an effort to get them… Indeed, they bring back wonderful childhood memories!

Four simple, affordable ingredients (at hand in most kitchens), and a straightforward recipe yields anywhere from 32 to 42 crackers, depending on how you decide to cut them out.

I make the dough by hand which works out just fine. If you prefer to use a mixer, that is OK too. You can make them look fancy and tidy, or not. In my case, I let my kids ( and their imagination ) be part of our home baking crew. Fun! That surely means… No fancy home-made crackers for me.  🙂

Recipe

Ingredients: 4 cups of flour, 1-1/2 tsp baking powder, 3/4 cup butter (or 1.25 sticks of butter), 1-1/2 cups water.

1. Sift the flour with the baking powder.

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2. Add butter cut into slices and mix in with the flour.

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3. Add water.

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4. Mix by hand until a dough is formed.

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5. Transfer the dough to a clean kitchen counter covered with some flour. Knead for 2-3 minutes. Roll out until a thin layer of dough forms. Transfer to an non-greased cookie sheet and prick with a fork. This is my kids’ favorite part! 🙂

Tip: You may also cut the dough into squares (or rectangles) on the counter, before transferring  the pieces to the cookie sheet.

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6. Bake for 12 minutes at 375 F degree oven.

Serve with jelly, chocolate hazelnut spread, peanut butter or simply by itself!

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home-madecrackers

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My kids love them, especially as after-school snacks. Certainly, these old-fashioned home-made crackers are guaranteed to go fast! 🙂