El Salvador, “The Savoir” in Spanish, is a small Central American country that borders Guatemala, Honduras, and the Pacific Ocean. El Salvador is also known by “the land of volcanos” due to it homing 20+, with two active volcanos that erupted last year.
Typical fare found here is influenced by the indigenous people and Spain. Maize is a main staple of the country and is used often in cooking. Cassava, beans, cheese, pork, and seafood are other main ingredients and loroco and isote are common seasonings. The national dish of El Salvador is pupusas which I attempted to make..
Pupusas are a thick batter with a stuffing either containing cheese, meat, vegetables, beans, or a combination. It’s popularity doesn’t stop here, it spans across the world as a tasty bite. Another indigenous recipe, they were thought to have originated from the Pipil tribe over 2000 years ago. The steak on the otherhand is another traditional and well loved Salvadorian classic with the flavor combo of yellow mustard and Worchester sauce. You can find the pupusa recipe here and steak recipe here.
I struggled to get the right consistency for the batter which you can see and I ended up adding more flour to get it more workable. The steak was straight forward. I can’t remember the salsa I got, but it was good!
Well, I failed at the pupusas.. so sad. I didn’t have the right grain/flour for it so mine didn’t stay together and was very cornbread-like. The steak had a unique sweetness to it. On a positive note we thought the salsa paired well with the pupusa “wannbe.” We rated it 6/10.. Oh well! That means we will have to circle back in the future and try something else to redeem ourselves!
We have made it Ireland! We will be exploring traditional dishes for the next several days to honor our heritage. Ian is much more Irish than myself which makes up nearly half of his ancestry! Without further ado that’s dig in!
Ireland is an Island country west of Scotland, England, and Wales. Northern Ireland is considered to be part of the United Kingdom which covers 1/6th of the island. Ireland has nearly 2,000 miles of scenic coastlines with several beaches and dramatic cliffs. Along with the beautiful scenery you can find historic castles throughout the country and other ruins- about 30,000 total! The county of Mayo has the closest pub to person ratio in the country topping Dublin at 323:1 Did you know that Halloween actually has Irish origins? A Celtic festival called Samhain which means “summer’s end” is celebrated by having having bonfires, wearing scary masks, and dressing up. At this ancient gathering it was believed dead spirits would visit you on the eve of Halloween.
There is more to Irish cooking than just potatoes and stews! Irish cuisine consists of English and other European influence. Natural resources such as seafood and native grown crops and raised livestock. In general meals are hearty and are often served with soda bread. In the 18th century potatoes were the primary food source for the Irish until 1845 when the potato famine arrived.
The dish I am starting this Irish adventure with is fish pie. Thought to have originated by its’ neighboring country Scotland, fish pie was made similar to shepherds pie with potatoes on top. Fish pie may have also been the result of experimentation during lent since all other meats were not allowed. These pies often involve a white or cheese sauce using milk that the fish was poached in. You then bake the pie in the oven and garnish it with dill. You can find the recipe here!
I had to add a few extra steps for my preparation due to some of the seafood being partially frozen and the salmon having skin attached- I allowed the thawing shrimp to gently come to temperature in a pot full of water at medium heat and after the salmon cooked I removed the skins. The rest of the cooking wasn’t too complicated, I had made a bechamel sauce before and was familiar with the process. Don’t forget the dill!!
We thought this dish packed a savory punch with the seafood medley and crisp potatoes. The pie was overall very creamy and the dill complimented the other components of the pie. It was very unique especially with the cheese component, not what I would have expected had Irish origin. We rated it 7.75/10!
Mexico is home to the most diverse corn in the world with a total of 64 varieties found throughout the country. This crop was first domesticated in Honduras (6600 BCE – 3500 BCE) and eventually made its way up to Mexico where it was used greatly by the indigenous people. Today we will be honoring that staple by making elotes or as most know it Mexican street corn! Elote was born in Mexico City and quickly spread throughout the Americas. It became popular because it was portable and tasty! Restaurants sometimes will serve this up as a side dish, but tonight it is the dish! Recipes can vary and include an array of toppings but I decided to go the classic route.
First you start by cooking the corn. Traditionally you would grill them, but I chose to boil them. While the corn is preparing combine the remaining ingredients to make your sauce. If you are unfamiliar with cotija cheese it reminds me of feta with a similar texture.
Once your corn is cooked just slather the sauce on evenly and garnish with cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice. Be warned a little sauce goes a long ways! If you want a kick you can add a little chili powder (not pictured).
Ian was a bit overwhelmed by the sauce and found it tasty but very heavy, I on the other hand thought it was heavenly. I think if you are able to grill the corn it would have elevated the dish. We made up some chicken to go with the meal but it honestly is so filling it could have been eaten alone. We rated it 7/10!
Welcome to the beautiful Dominican, a place you think of when people say they are going on a cruise or tropical vacation. It sits East of Haiti and is surrounded by other Caribbean Islands. The Dominican Republic has reserved a quarter of their land to national parks, sanctuaries, and other protected lands which includes rainforests. Want to see whales up close? January through March you can find humpback whales in Samaná Bay Sanctuary. The climate here is sometimes referred to as “the endless summer” due to its sunny and warm year-round conditions. The country is known for it coffee, national league baseball players, and white sandy beaches.
The cuisine of the Dominican Republic is very much like its neighboring islands and bordering country. It is a very sustainable country producing several different foods that are found in many of their traditional meals. Its dishes show influence from Africa, The Middle East, Spanish, and indigenous Taino. I decided for tonight’s dinner I would actually make a traditional breakfast. Mangú Con Los Tres Golpes is a well-known classic of the Dominican that contains mashed green plantains, pickled red onions, fried cheese, egg, and salami. African influence shines through this dish with the mashed plantains or mangu that originates in West Africa. If breakfast for dinner excited you click here.
Cooking was simple and while one thing cooked you could prep the other. It is important the onions have time to pickle in order to get the best flavor. I used my air fryer to start the cheese, but due to its runny nature and thin layer of flour it wanted to seep in-between the grates and needed to be finished in the skillet.
We loved this unique and colorful dish! It was a first to experience mash plantains and pickled onions together, the pair worked well. The plantains had a very mild taste, that was well complimented by the salty salami and cheese. This is traditionally a breakfast and I could definitely see myself eating this in the morning. We thought the plantains are a great potato substitute and are underrated in the kitchen (I haven’t said this enough). We thought it deserved higher marks at 8.75/10.
Welcome to elevated Bhutan, a peaceful Buddhist-loving country that is high in the clouds. The country borders China and India and nestles in Himalayan Mountains. The name Bhutan actually translates to “land of the thunder dragon” because of the intense thunder storms in the mountainous country. One gorgeous hot spot in the country is The Tiger’s Nest which is a monetary situated on the side of a mountain over 900m up. It is the only country that bans the sale of tobacco products and until 11 years ago banned TV and internet! The world’s the tallest unclimbed mountain can also be found here, Gangkhar Puensum which is a staggering 24,840 feet tall.
Cuisine here is a bit unique compared to its surrounding countries due to its harsh climate and high elevation. Rice is a typical base of most meals which could contain meat, root vegetables, chilis, onions, and beans. The national dish of Bhutan is ema datshi which is the mixture of chilis and a Bhutanese cheese called datshi (which can be substituted with yak cheese). There are different varieties that include meat or other vegetables, however the base is the same. You can find this dish accompanying many meals due to its popularity. You can find the recipe here.
Going into this I knew it might be a little too simple so we decided to add some ground meat to it as well for more sustenance. I used a combination of feta and cheddar to fill in for the traditional cheese- I did search for yak cheese. The great thing about this meal is that it was quick and easy, definitely something you could whip up during the work week!
So we tried this dish with and without the beef to experience it as close to the original as possible.. without the beef we found the dairy elements kept the dish from being too spicy. With the meat we thought it helped complete the meal and overall the cheese mixed well with all the elements. It was simple but good, although I don’t know if I see myself making this again. Ian liked it a little more than me so we give it an averaged rating of 7.5/10.
For our final meal in Brazil we decided to do two classics- cheese bread and beef kabobs. This delectable and versatile cheese bread (or pão de queijo in Portuguese) has its roots set back to been the Portuguese colonized Brazil. It originated when the African slaves of these landowners used cassava to make tapioca flour by grating the flesh of the root, allowing it to soak in water, and straining the mixture so it could dry. The first bread was made solely of this starch and did not contain the dairy products until later on. The bread is now very popular throughout Brazil. If you are interested in making this cheesy goodness click here.
The history of churrasco however is a bit different. It started when cowboys in the Southern Brazilian wilderness cooked local game over an open fire in a deeply dug pit. Before the meat was cooked they allowed the flames to die down until embers remained, the meat was skewered and salted thoroughly. Now a days you can see these kabobs with various vegetables and fruits accompanying the tender and flavorful meat. Today’s recipe includes pineapple, peppers and onions that were simply seasoned with salt/pepper. I did not bother to prepare the pineapple as the recipe directed because grilled pineapple is already incredible.
While I prepared the bread and the meat marinated Ian heated up the grill. It did not take long to cook the meal, most of the time was spent skewering the meat and produce (it took a surprisingly long time). We decided to make up a fresh salad using greens from our garden to lighten things up.
HOLY GUACAMOLE! This cheese bread is everything you are looking for- soft, doughy, and cheesy. It is just so easy to make and 100% gluten free! I can see myself making this bread as a side, as an appetizer paired with tomato sauce, or a delightful snack. The kabobs of course were delicious and I do love so grilled pineapple. I feel like it is the superior way to prepare it and honestly I didn’t season it at all (even though the recipe called for butter among other things). This meal was crazy good, the bread really outshining the kabobs and truly blowing our minds. We rated this dish 9.5/10!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!