(59) Curaçao – Keshi Yena

Willemstad, the capital of Curaçao. Source: Reddit

Welcome to another day traveling the globe by taste bud, today we land in the Caribbean on an island called Curaçao. You can find this Dutch island off the shores of Venezuela. It has a unique landscape that makes it stand out from the other Caribbean islands- it is a true desert island that receives little rain. Because of its dry climate growing crops is a challenge. When the Spanish came to the island and wanted to grow oranges they instead got small and tart fruit. Eventually it was discovered that the leaves from these plants were great to make liquor known today as blue curacao! This island of course has beautiful sandy beaches, incredible coral reefs, and a vibrant capital city know for its array of colors.

This gem of an island has strong European influence that can be found in its buildings, culture, and of course food. Dutch treats are enjoyed around the island along with Caribbean specialties. Keshi yena is considered to be the national dish of Curaçao which can be made vegetarian or with meat. It consists of cheese lined molds (such as a muffin tin or ramekins) filled with a savory filling that is baked until the cheese melts to completely enclose the center. You end up with several “cheese-castles” which is best served with a sliced up French baguette. The recipe I used can be found here.

When I was starting to make this dish I was surprised by the ingredients I was using. I would have never thought that raisins, capers, and soy sauce would be together as a part of this dishes filling! I found it tricky to cut the cheese thin enough to mold into my muffin tray, but I made it work. I used two different gouda cheeses (one older and one younger) which I felt elevated the meal.

Once I stuffed the cheese molded tray with the filling I used the remaining sliced cheese to encase the concoctions. Warning, there was a lot of grease that formed on the top of my tray and I had to keep dabbing it throughout the cooking time to avoid it dripping into the bottom of my oven. The author of this recipe used separate cooking dishes which may have eliminated this issue.

The end result once again surprised as with its complex and rich flavor. Most of my little cheese castles fell apart, but I was able to get a couple to stick together (shown above). We served them with the recommended baguette which we discovered tasted great with the keshi yena on top. Ian thought it reminded him of a lasagna in a way. If you don’t like your meals really cheesy this would probably be too much for you (or if dairy makes your tummy upset). We rated the dish 7.5/10.

(49) Ecuador – Fritada de Gallina and Bolon de Verde

Coming in one shy of 50 countries we return to South America to see what Ecuador is all about. Home to the famous Galapagos Islands (a province of Ecuador) and Amazon rainforest you could say this is the place for wildlife lovers. Ecuador as you probably already guessed is named after the equator which runs through the northern part of the country. It borders the Pacific Ocean along with Colombia and Peru. This spicy little country also is known for Cotopaxi, a stratovolcano apart of the Andes Mountains that measures at over a staggering 19,000ft. This baby is considered active and last erupted in 1907.

Cotopaxi (stratovolcano of Ecuador) and a majestic llama. Source: The Telegraph -Getty Images

From previous research we have a good idea what the cuisine might be like here and known plantains will probably serve as a winning side dish. Potatoes, various fish, chicken, yucca, beef, pork and beans are also very commonly used. Today I did two dishes (because we can’t leave out plantains when we have the opportunity!) fritada de gallina and bolon de verde.

Fritada de gallina is chicken that is marinated in chicha (fermented corn drink) and orange juice along with cinnamon, clove, and garlic. The substitute for this particular drink was a cup of white wine which I always have on hand. 😉 It is then cooked for over a couple hours until the liquid is gone and chicken browned. You are left with a flavorful mix of sweet and spice. For best results I recommend letting it marinate for 24 hours.

As for the bolon de verde it is pretty simple- peel, cut and boil 4-5 plantains until fork tender, mash and mix in queso fresco cheese until well combined. Your option here is to either pan fry them to golden crispy perfection or use another favorite kitchen gadget of mine- the air fryer! It took me 10-12 minutes to achieve desired doneness.

And there you have it a plate representing Ecuador. I decided to use homemade salsa as a garnish for the plate, but it also worked well as a sauce since the plantain balls were a little on the dry side. We additionally thought they were slightly on the bland side and would have benefited from salt along with other traditional seasoning. The chicken was delicious and tender, the cinnamon and clove were nice touches to bring a mild warmth. We rated it 6.5/10- a higher rating if the plantain balls were seasoned more and not as dry. Let us know what you think!

Side note guys these chips from Ecuador are AMAZING! I highly recommend. I have only found them at TJ Maxx.

(48) Abkhazia – Venison (pork) Loin, Blackberry Sauce and Abista

Today we travel to the little known country of Abkhazia. Abkhazia (ab·kei·zhee·uh) is a partially recognized state, most countries recognizing them as part of Georgia. Although most countries don’t see the mountainous Abkhazia as an independent country there is quite a bit to appreciate here.. one of the deepest caves in the world Krubera can be found at the border of Russia and Abkhazia at 7,208ft depth.

New Athos Monastery. Source: Residentpublications.com

The cuisine here as you may have guessed is very similar to the surrounding countries- Georiga and Russia, however many citizens here are cattle and crop farmers their dishes often involve beef, dairy, and grains. Abista or cheese polenta is a staple here and will be one of the elements of this dish.

This recipe included a dark and rich berry sauce to top the pork loin. Spicy berry sauces like this one are classically found in Abkhazian cuisine. The spice for this sauce was a cinnamon stick which gave off a wonderful aroma while it simmered. I did not have venison available (although I have had venison loins in the past -YUM) I substituted a pork loin. I thought of the lovely Julia Child as I patted dry my sectioned loin and fried them to golden brown perfection on each side.

While the loin and sauce was brewing I cracked down on the polenta which I have gotten more of a hang of with recent practice. I did not have the sulguni (Georgian mozzarella) in my local grocery store so I opted for the classic mozzarella instead. Once everything was finished I attempted to plate it together, but soon realized that berry goodness wanted to mingle with everything on the plate.. oops!

We thought the sauce was lovely and felt to really appreciate it we needed to let each piece of loin bathe in it as if it was a dipping sauce before indulging. The polenta was good and paired well with the mild cheese. I decided to jar up the remaining sauce and use it as a marinade in future cooking endeavors. We thought it was a nice meal to shake up the more recent dishes we have tried and rated it 7/10.

(45) Turkey – Almodrote

Cappadocia, Turkey. Source: allthatsinteresting.comRoastad

Hey everyone, we are in Turkey today! Turkey is a Middle Eastern country southeast of Europe and west of Asia.It is bordered by three seas- the Mediterranean, Aegean, and Black Seas. It exports 75% of the world’s hazelnuts and is the birthplace of Santa Claus! Above is a picture of Cappadocia, Turkey a truly unique place of unworldly land formations of rock that can shoot over 100ft into the sky. Many of these house-like formations are known as fairy houses.

Turkish cuisine has Ottoman roots and can vary based on the location. It is thought to be a blend of Balkian, Central Asian, Eastern European, Middle Eastern, Armenian, and Mediterranean cooking styles and flavors. Vegetables often dominant their dishes.

This dish is traditionally made with eggplant, however this blog uses a zucchini and summer squash combo. I was happy to find another recipe that has been made throughout several generations knowing it was authentic as well as a “keeper.” This dish is full of cheese, eggs, bread crumbs, and squash mostly and is baked until the top layer has become crispy and golden brown.

One thing to note is that you should squeeze out as much liquid as possible prior to combining the ingredients. I had squeeze mine out several times, but noticed it was a little more liquidy than I was have liked. Nevertheless I had made a little cheesy pie/quiche.

I feel my downfall here was too much liquid from the squash which made the texture all wrong. The flavor of the dish was pretty good but unfortunately it was a little bit on the blander side. If I maybe cooked it longer (glass container may have also affected the cooking time) and/or drained more liquid from the squash I would have been successful. We rated it 6/10. I will strive to repeat this dish sometime in the future or try another Turkish dish, let me know what you think I should try!

(30) Switzerland – Cheese and Onion Pie

Lake Geneva Source: Family Traveler

Welcome to our 30th country Switzerland! Switzerland is situated between Italy, France, Germany, Austria, and Liechtenstein. Here you can find 7,000 lakes, Lake Geneva being the largest at 45 miles max length and 8.7 miles max width. Surprisingly all of those mountains and lakes fit into a country that is roughly the size of New Hampshire and Vermont combined. This country is like much of Europe- stunning landscape and mouth-watering food. This dish is just that!

I found an incredible recipe for this cheesy masterpiece and I could not pass it up. This dish is a combination of caramelized onions that are sautéed in butter and light beer, Swiss and cheddar cheeses, eggs, Dijon mustard, Worchester sauce, and sour cream that is encased in pastry crust.

You might be thinking yikes this is a heavy dish, but don’t worry a side of soup or salad helps brighten and lighten it up. I was thankful for my very efficient Kitchenaid shredding attachment that made prepping a breeze! I highly recommend this if you don’t already own it.

I ended up opting out of making a homemade crust and used the Pillsbury pre-made crusts to save time. I thought it was fairly straight forward and we couldn’t wait to try it!

So as you may have predicted this recipe was a success and very savory. It has a rich, creamy texture and reminded us of French Onion soup in pie form. It was so good that we both went for seconds (which I never do). We rated highly at 8.75/10.