Meet Maria, Our Across the Street Neighbor

I started this article weeks ago, but finally a few days ago took my camera to get some pictures of Maria and Lourdes.

About a week after we moved in to the house in Alantida Joe and I were sitting out on the front porch catching a few late afternoon rays. Maria our neighbor across the street was taking a walk down our street. She smiled and I walked out to the road to meet her.  She does not speak one word of English but has been wonderful in telling me about herself, her family and this neighborhood.  She has lived in the house across the street for 35 years and in this area for 45 years.  Her husband was a contractor and built many of the homes right on our block including theirs. Sadly he passed just a few years back and Maria is sharing her home with Reina (Queen) her little doggie.

A few days later I was outside with my new rake and I was attempting to clean up the pine needles from the yard.  She walked over and we started to chat. Then she asked if I like palta – that is what they call avocados here. I told her yes but they had none at the market this week and the ones in the supermarket we so small, very overripe and expensive that I did not buy them.  She said she had a tree and invited me over to her yard.  Well she has a beautiful avocado tree with some huge fruits and it looks to be the Haas variety which is my most favorite of all the varieties.  Then she showed me this little orange tree, again filled with huge fruits and so many on the ground just rotting.  She picked and gave me about 20 oranges – they are Navel, yummy. Also a few lemons they look to be the Persian variety and two beautiful avocados. She showed me other fruit trees that I did not recognize the name or the tree as well as a huge gardenia bush in her front yard and a small patch of rosemary.  She also had a big bush of Lemon Balm and several tomato plants just falling over with big green tomatoes.

As we stood in her front yard she told me that the tree in my front yard was a laurel or bay and so we came over together and picked a few branches she took some to her house and I took a big branch into my kitchen for my next batch of soup or stew.

Here is a picture of Lourdes and Maria who have been very kind to us.  Maria is as sweet and gentle a person as I have ever met.  If I stop by to visit she always has a cup of tea, a cookie or cake to share and loves to talk about her life and family.  I wish I understood more Spanish the conversations would be so much nicer if I could completely follow along.  What a blessing to have such beautiful neighbors.

While food shopping at Disco on Monday I met Jose who said he was 84 years old.  He was holding an electric blanket and looked pretty dapper in his little cap.  He told me he was a maestro…a maestro of what I never found out. We stood in the one isle for about 20 minutes chatting. He told me about his family many of which live in the US and speak English. Next I went to buy a throw for the bed and there was a women in a wheelchair and her companion a spry gentleman.  I recognized her as the women who lives a few houses away around the corner from our home.  We also chatted for a few minutes.

So far, everyone we have met has been warm and kind. Full of questions and willing to share information on the town, the neighborhood and themselves. From the taxi driver wanting to know how to say our address in English to the young man Frederico at the appliance store, and of course the guys at RedTec from yesterday’s post…everyone has been so very kind and takes the time to ask about us.

Un mensaje especial para María: Has sido un vecino maravilloso para nosotros desde que nos mudamos a Atlántida. Su cálida sonrisa, su amable corazón y su amistad son muy apreciados. Ojalá mi español fuera mejor. Ojalá pudiera hablarte más y entender más de lo que tú y Lourdes me dicen. Eres una mujer encantadora, Dios te bendiga por tu amabilidad.

 

Sunday Market or Feria

Early Sunday morning Joe and I headed out for our daily walk. Joe had several places in mind for us to at least walk by if not visit.  One was the planetarium another the zoo and the third was……..  But instead we got totally side-tracked as we discovered a Sunday Market about five blocks from our apartment.

montevideo-2-4-23The vendors block off the several streets and set up their tents, some even come with what looks like a food truck that opens to show cold cases for cheese, meat and fish.montevideo-2-4-24The first thing that caught my eye was the flowers, but I only picked up one plant and that was thyme.  And it joined my other herb basil on the washing machine in our laundry room.montevideo-2-4-25We figured a tray of 30 large eggs would cost $3.00 and they even had one man selling household products, cleaning, TP, paper towels.  montevideo-2-4-26There were several vendors set up selling cheese, pork, chicken, beef and even fish.montevideo-2-4-27 montevideo-2-4-28The fruits and vegetables looked fresh but we had just gone shopping on Friday and our refrigerator was filled with everything we needed for the week. I have not had the time to check prices but I am sure this Sunday Market is cheaper than Tienda Inglesa.montevideo-2-4-29Grapes run $1.42 per kilo, that is cheap cheap cheap.  They are grown here so maybe that is why they are so inexpensive. Next Sunday these will be on my shopping list.montevideo-2-4-30Everything is marked so you know what you’re spending.montevideo-2-4-31I just could not resist the strawberries, they are one of my favorites.  They were small with a hint of tartness. Just perfect to eat with sugar and cream, and that is just what I did.montevideo-2-4-32$1.60 a kilo for peaches. That works out to about 72 cents a pound.montevideo-2-4-33 montevideo-2-4-34 montevideo-2-4-35 montevideo-2-4-36This stand was selling all different dried herbs and even had nutmeg nuts in this bowl above.  Need to spend some time finding out what these are but I did buy some of the adobo which I knew had red pepper flakes and seeds in it.  I have used it on several things and it does pack a punch.montevideo-2-4-37 montevideo-2-4-38This will be our Sunday morning ritual.  Buying fresh fruits and veggies five blocks from the house.  Now all we need is one of those Old Lady Carts, yes, I am prepared to drag it around. ha ha

Baba Ganoush

I know the name sounds a bit strange but it is a wonderful tasting and very filling dip. Especially good with cut up raw vegetables or my favorite fresh pita bread*. So guess what I am making today?  Baba Ganoush. This is going to be lunch.  Joe and I have always talked about just having dessert first and forget about the lunch or dinner.  Well I say let’s have an appetizer for lunch and forget about the lunch!

So let’s talk eggplant, what a wonderful vegetable.  I make a delicious eggplant lasagna as well as a ratatouille recipe that I will post in the future. Both are excellent ways to use this very versatile veg.

Baba Ganoush

  • 1 large or 3 smaller fresh shiny eggplants
  • 1/2 head of garlic just cut the tops off to allow the oil to penetrate the cloves
  • 1 clove raw garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala – it is a traditional Indian spice blend that usually includes cumin seeds, cinnamon, coriander seeds, black pepper, clove, nutmeg and chili.
  • Olive oil for baking the veggies and a few tablespoons for the top of the dip
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

img_3224First take your eggplants, wash them and cut them in half. In a small tin foil wrapper add half head of garlic and just trim the tops of the garlic to show the clove below. Place all on a cookie sheet that has been lined in tin foil, less to clean up. Sprinkle all with olive oil, add the oregano and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until soft.  Squeeze any excess olive oil from the garlic tin foil into your mixture, what a wonderful flavorful oil it has made.

In a large bowl spoon all the eggplant flesh and squeeze the bottom of the garlic head –  the cloves will just pop out and add them to the bowl.  Mash all together and add your tahini, lemon juice, garam masala, salt and pepper. Finely grate the one raw clove of garlic on top of the mixture. Mix well. It should be dip consistency, pretty thick with no big chunks of eggplant if it seems too thick add a little water until you get the right consistency.  Taste for seasoning add more salt if necessary. Refrigerate. Right before serving add your cilantro and mix well.  Serve with sliced vegetables, crackers or pita bread.

img_3245*Pita bread recipe can be found by searching for Pita Bread and Hummus above from my August 2016 post.

Kofta Kabobs and Tzatziki Sauce Come To San Clemente

Another great recipe to use with the Pita Bread recipe from a few days ago are kofta kabobs with tzatziki sauce.  Most recipes for the kabobs I have seen and my original recipe were made with lamb.  Because we cannot find lamb very easily here I have modified my original recipe to use part ground pork and part ground beef. It worked well and tastes great.

Kafta Kabobs

  • 2/3 pounds ground pork (needs a good bit of fat)
  • 1 1/3 pounds of ground beef
  • 4 stems of parsley or cilantro *
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped *
  • 3 cloves garlic, roasted, peeled and chopped *
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Small pinch of clove
  • Small bunch of mint leaves, very finely chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • dash of chili flakes to taste

*Note: if you are grinding your own pork and beef add the onion, garlic and cilantro to the grinder, it just makes it so much faster and then it will be blended completely into the meats.

Roast the cumin, coriander and clove in a frying pan until they release their aroma, about 1 minute.  Cool slightly and grind to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder.  Add all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl mixing well and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Shape the meat into a 6 inch tube shape like a sausage.  Gently cook for 3 minutes on a side, the meat will flatten out a bit but continue to cook until all sides have taken on a nice brown color and are a bit crispy.

Tzatziki Sauce

  • 1 medium cucumber peeled, seeded and grated – then squeeze out excess liquid
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup thick yogurt or Kefir
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated fine
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • for garnish, chopped dill or cilantro and a dash of cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients together and sprinkle with garnish and refrigerate until ready to use.

Make your pita bread (or use rolls) and place one kabob in the center of the pita and liberally cover with tzatziki sauce.  You can also use hummus or hummus and tzatziki together for yet another taste sensation… Beyond Yummy!!!!

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.

Fruits and Peppers in the Garden

We have such an abundance from our garden.  Below are just a few of the fruits that we gather each week. I am happy to say that many of my neighbors and folks on my daily walk like guava or guayaba, everyone here uses lemons on almost a daily basis so we are happy to share what our garden produces. Some of our other trees do not yet produce enough to share a great deal. I just cannot use all that we get from our garden so giving the egg delivery guys a bag full of guayaba is a wonderful way to thank them for their service and use the extra fruits that Joe and I can not eat.

San Clemente 8.4.2014 048We are blessed to have found a home that had a garden filled with fruit trees. Each day we pick fruits for our table and share with neighbors and friends.

San Clemente 8.4.2014 036San Clemente 9.23.2014 011San Clemente 9.23.2014 029San Clemente 9.23.2014 027The above four photos are our pomegranate or granadas.  I have made Pomegranate Syrup to use on pancakes.

San Clemente 8.4.2014 043San Clemente 8.4.2014 046These are one of several lemon trees that give us fruit almost year round. The trees have just finished blossoming and we have picked all the old fruit to allow the new fruit all the nourishment the tree can give them.

San Clemente 9.23.2014 030San Clemente 9.23.2014 031San Clemente 9.23.2014 026The pepper plants in the ground are not as happy as the ones in the pot. Our soil is basically sand, I am amazed anything can grow in it.

San Clemente 9.23.2014 028San Clemente 8.4.2014 037Star fruit or fruta china is an exotic fruit, sweet, juicy. Wonderful for juice but they never make it to the juicer. With only one ripe at a time it is so easy just to wash it and eat it right out in the yard. And that is what I do most times.

San Clemente 9.23.2014 024This papaya is located outside our fence but it started from seeds that I tossed so I think of it as mine, ja ja  They are getting close, I just hope they are sweet with dark fruit, some of the lighter fruit papayas are tasteless.

San Clemente 9.23.2014 025San Clemente 8.4.2014 040Naranjilla is another exotic fruit and I do not think its natural habitat is on the coast. This is a sierra fruit but I found a tree and am babying it hopefully soon to put it in the ground.  The leaves and stems have thorns and can cause some good pinches. You can use the fruit for juice by boiling it for about 10 minutes and then blending and straining, adding water and some sugar. I like to use it in Seco de Chivo or Seco de Pollo.

San Clemente 9.25.2014 024Our guava or guyaba tree seems to be always producing. I make marmalade and paste from the fruit as well as an occasional batido. The tree is also a wonderful shade tree to keep our little yard cool during those hot sunny days.

San Clemente 9.23a.2014 002San Clemente 9.23a.2014 001Thanks for taking the tour of our garden which is only 20 x 30 feet. Small but filled with such surprises. And smiles.