Vendors Part 5: Fruits and Veggies for the Weekend

Around noon on both Fridays and Saturdays this lovely couple comes down our street.  They have a good variety of fruits and vegetables which varies depending upon what they can find in season.

IMG_2987Both on Friday and Saturday they had grapes, strawberries, two varieties of apples, pears, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, beets, cauliflower, lemons, peas, mandarina, radishes, red onions, spring onions, broccoli, cilantro, cabbage, iceberg lettuce, tree tomatoes, garlic and green peppers.  Last week they had dragon fruit, two types of grapes, chard just to name a few of their many items.

IMG_2990 IMG_2988 IMG_2989There produce is fresh and of very good quality.

Vendors Part 1 – Gonzalo: Veggies and Fruits At My Gate

Everyday at around noon Gonzalo (on the right in the photo below) and his brother Christian come by the house with their cart filled with great fresh produce.

IMG_2963These guys are great! Gonzalo has four boys with the last just starting preschool a few weeks ago. And mommy is Paola who is also as sweet a person as you will ever find. They tease me about broccoli which is my least favorite vegetable and bring me bunches of fresh acelga (chard) each week. When Joe and I were researching moving to Panama we looked at every picture we could find on the internet that showed the food items that were available.  See the pictures below for close up pictures of what Gonzalo sells.

IMG_2967His produce varies each day but most days you can find potatoes, red onions, scallions, cucumbers, beets, cabbage, mandarin oranges, juice oranges, pineapple, cantaloupe,  other melons in season, watermelon, tree tomato and naranjilla.

IMG_2966Some days he will have both the choclo and the yellow corn along with a green vegetable that they stuff with cheese and bake.

IMG_2965Fresh mora berries, green peas, peanut butter, sal piedra, crushed peanuts, tamarind, garlic, white onions, long beans and green beans. Tomatoes, green peppers and carrots are also available.

IMG_2964Today he had strawberries, fresh red beans, cilantro, cauliflower, broccoli and radishes.  I did see lettuce and white cabbage somewhere in the cart as well.

He also carries raisins, other fruits in season, grapefruit, apples, hot peppers, fresh peanuts, watermelon, yucca, the purple sweet potatoes they call camote, celery and bok choy called nabo here.  And if you do not see what you want, ask and he may even be able to get it for you in the next several days.

I depend upon Gonzalo for most of my fresh fruits and veggies.  His produce is fresh, reasonably priced and he always has a smile on his face.

Easy Pirogi Recipe

The only bad thing about making pirogies is rolling the dough. So I have found an easy way to make them using empanada wrappers.

12.21 (6)Easy Pirogi

  • one package empanada wrappers (24 individual wrappers)
  • a few small potatoes
  • 3-6 ounces of a hard cheese like cheddar
  • one small onion chopped fine for filling
  • 4 t butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

First I boiled a few potatoes in their skins, grated some hard cheese (it should be Sharp Cheddar but use whatever hard cheese you can find). Saute an onion in butter until the butter is infused with the onion flavor, if you have a ricer, rice the potatoes, if not mash the potatoes with a fork, adding cheese and cooled butter onion mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Take one of the empanada wrappers and add a teaspoon of potato mixture, with your index finger add a small amount of water to the entire edge and then fold the wrapper to cover the potato mixture. Set aside until all empanadas are filled.

Bring a large pot with water to a boil adding a tablespoon of salt right before you add your pirogies. Drop 6 to 12 of the pirogies into the boiling water. Allow to cook for approximately 8 minutes. They will rise to the top during cooking. Drain and serve with more onions sautéed in butter.

12.21 (9)These can be filled with almost anything from sauerkraut, farmer cheese, fruits and even cooked meat. And you can top the savory ones with sour cream and the sweet ones with whipped cream for a very nice dessert.

 

Or, add the potato pirogies to your favorite soup – yum! This is something I learned from my friend Eva. What a heavenly and filling soup with pirogies.

Sauerkraut

Another one of my favorite ingredients, sauerkraut, is something you can not find canned here. I have seen it in specialty stores in Guayaquil for over $5 a large jar. So again I have taken it upon myself to make my own.

It is the easiest recipe of everything I have ever done because it has only two ingredients, fresh cabbage and sea salt. That’s it.

First thing I did was purchase a wonderful large enamel pot with a lid. Not easy to find and not cheap but I did find it in a small store in Bahia de Caraquez. It would also work with a crock or large glass container best if it had a cover but use your imagination to cover it. Do not use a plastic container, it could leach into your sauerkraut or vice versa. Clean the container and set aside.

IMG_2359Sauerkraut (this recipe will make 6-8 quart sized jars)

  • 2 large heads of cabbage, cleaned, core removed and quartered
  • 1/4 cup of course or sea salt

Shred your cabbage in a food processor using the disk that has only one large blade. This will cut your cabbage into nice thin strips just right for any sauerkraut dish. Place the cabbage in the processor cut side on the blade. If you do not have a food processor use a sharp knife and slice into thin strips. This of course will take some time. It is much easier with a food processor so if you do not have one ask one of your neighbors if you can use theirs.

With each batch of cabbage you remove from the food processor sprinkle a half teaspoon of sea salt over the shredded cabbage. Continue layering until you have used all the cabbage. Now is the time to get your hands into this and massage the cabbage to release some of it’s juices. Pack the cabbage tightly into the container. Using a plate upside down with a weight on top (I use my heavy mortar from my mortar and pestle to weight the cabbage down). Cover with the lid and clean dishtowel. Look at it after about 1 hour, thoroughly wash your hands and arms because you really need to get into this cabbage and massage it again – do this a few times over the next several hours. You should see a dramatic change in the packing down of the cabbage, it should wilt a bit and when pressed down will take less room in your container and you should start seeing liquid at the bottom. Press down hard with all your weight, I do this with the container on the floor to get more weight behind it.(none of you make a joke about the weight behind me). hee hee

Cover and set it in a cool place, out of the sun. I put it under my sink because every time I go to the sink which is 50 times I day I can smell the cabbage and pay more attention to it that way. Over the next 2 weeks, check the cabbage each day, if there is a foamy scum on top clean it off and repack the cabbage. After about 5 days taste the cabbage for a flavor change, it should start to taste like sauerkraut and not fresh cabbage. It should get limp and create a nice liquid, with a tart bite to it. If it tastes right to you at this point you should can. Always use clean, disinfected jars and lids. This is where I add a few sprinkles of caraway seeds – not necessary – just like that bit of flavor. Place in a canning jar water bath. Boil for 10-20 minutes, bring out and cover with a dry dishtowel. Over the next several hours you should hear the jars pop, the lids should be concave after several hours or the next day. If the lid is not concave place in the refrigerator and use within a few weeks.

Over the next month or so I will share some of my recipes that use this sauerkraut, I even have a recipe for a sauerkraut chocolate cake, yes you heard me right. .