Sunday, September 16, 2012

Nicaragua: Gallo Pinto and Ensalada de Repollo

Welcome back! It's been a while since our previous meal (check August in the blog post organizer to the left), mostly because of school and such. But now we're back!

For our second meal we visited the wonderful land of Nicaragua for some gallo pinto y ensalada de repollo, which were delicious.

Gallo pinto means "painted (or spotted) rooster" in Spanish, and is actually rice and beans. It is aesthetically pleasing (to me at least, a troglodyte), and has the color palette of a rooster. 

Gallo pinto up-close and personal

Ensalada de repollo means "salad of cabbage" (though it actually means "cabbage salad").

Too close to my cabbage salad

I thought it was delicious. My skeptical brother - who claims I'm trying to poison him when I cook tofu - went back for seconds. The gallo pinto was a big hit: it was delicious, healthy, hearty, easy to make, inexpensive to procure, and made leftovers (see below). The ensalada de repollo was incredibly limey, though it gave a "light" taste to the meal.

Gallo pinto is actually the national dish of Nicaragua, and is oftentimes a breakfast food.

As for the recipes, we used this gallo pinto recipe and this ensalada de repollo recipe.

With some important distinctions:
  • We ended up doubling the gallo pinto, which has resulted in plentiful leftovers
  • Also for this dish, it says to have cilantro on it in the notes; follow their instructions, it turns out to be good
  • We halved the ensalada de repollo vegetables - i.e., the cabbage, tomatoes, etc. - but left the dressing proportion as-is
 The salad was fairly easy: just chop many vegetables and put them in a bowl. Then mix together some lime, olive oil, salt, and pepper together, and drizzle that over the salad. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes. It may have ended up too limey because we used reconstituted lime juice, which is stronger than lime juice straight from a lime. Or it turned out just right, who knows? In any event, it ended up looking like this in our bowl, with a spoon for size comparison:

So sour!

It was good.

The rice and beans were more fun to make because we misread the recipe. It called for three cups of hot cooked rice. cooking three cups of uncooked rice ends up making, well, this much rice:

My bad

Which was a lot. We estimated it to be about 6 cups of rice, and just doubled the recipe. Luckily, we had all the ingredients to double it.

You start off chopping some peppers, onions, and garlic, and frying them in some oil - after cooking the correct amount of rice, hopefully.

Onions then peppers then garlic

Then, you drain the beans - keeping their liquid - then put the beans and a little of their liquid in the pan and cookin' them up.

That's four cans of beans

After that's done, just put all of it in the huge rice pot and cook for a little longer. I recommend adding most, if not all, of the bean liquid into the rice to loosen it up. It also tastes pretty good.

So much food...

That just results in a huge pot of deliciousness. And about 3 meals for 3 people. It was hearty and filling.

As for Nicaragua itself (officially the Republic of Nicaragua), it is located in Central America, spanning the entire isthmus from the Pacific to the Caribbean at one point.

It's in red, as far as we know

And this is its flag:

Complete with triangle

Nicaragua has, unfortunately, been beset by poverty following a brutal civil war between the Sandanistas and the Contras (short for contrarevolucionarios, or counterrevolutionaries). It is on the rebound though, with huge agricultural export and tourism industries.

As for why Nicaraguan food is Nicaraguan, most of Central American food is similar to other Central American foods. Most of Central America shares a common pre-Columbian history and much of Spanish colonization has furthered cultural - including culinary - integration.

Foods also make sense for the region, which can be seen in the use of cabbage rather than lettuce. Cabbage stays good for much longer than lettuce without refrigeration, and also has more nutrients.

And that concludes our culinary visit to Nicaragua. Please post a comment of use the "Contact Us" page, hope you've enjoyed it.