Vendors Part 4: Fresh Cheese, Butter and Veggies

On Tuesdays and Thursdays in the early afternoon this truck comes by with a variety of items.  They are mostly known for their fresh cheese, butter and peanut products.

IMG_2983They also carry different vegetables and fruits. This varies with each visit, some days they have avocados, melons, watermelon, oranges, carrots, potatoes…

IMG_2986 IMG_2985IMG_2984Thursday they had grapefruits, watermelons, pineapples, potatoes, carrots, garlic, long beans and white beans like a lima, corn, fresh cheese, fresh butter, peanut butter, salpietra, peanut pieces and avocados.  The items are fresh and he is very dependable. Now, what shall I make from this?  Hmmmm…………

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.

Georgia Style Boiled Peanuts

Often Gonzalo, the veggie and fruit vendor, has raw peanuts for sale. We love hot Georgia style boiled peanuts and today he had bags and bags of them ready for me to cook up.


Georgia Style Boiled Peanuts

  • 2 pounds of raw unshelled peanuts
  • enough fresh water to cover the peanuts completely plus 2 inches more
  • 1/2 cup sea salt (do not use the salt with fluoride added)
  • 2 tablespoons mesquite seasoning or other seasoning mix could be Old Bay or your special blend
  • 1 tablespoon hot pepper flakes

Wash the peanuts until the water runs clear. Peanuts are covered in mud and need to be cleaned well, scrub them together with your hands and flush several times with water.  Add peanuts, water to cover and spices to your pot and put on to boil. It can take several hours of boiling but check after 1 1/2 hours and see if the peanuts are soft.  Mine were done in 1 1/2 hours.

Drain and go crazy.  They are wonderful especially still warm.

Spring Rolls with Spicy Peanut Sauce

IMG_1684We love all different types of food, almost anything Asian – Japanese, Thai, Chinese, Malaysian, Korean you name it we will eat it.  And because these restaurants are not found in our area, I have had to start making my own.  Necessity is the Mother of Invention!

These are Thai Spring Rolls. The biggest problem is getting the spring roll wrappers. A good soul brought me a package from the US and I use them sparingly. The other item I am having a hard time finding is Hoisin Sauce. A while back I could always find it on the shelf in Super Maxi but my past several trips including one to Guayaquil I could not find one jar. Well making Hoisin Sauce will be left for another post.

Shrimp Spring Rolls:

  • 4 dried spring roll wrappers
  • 1 – 1 1/2 lbs of jumbo shrimp (Langostinos)
  • 1 small carrot cleaned and shredded fine
  • 1 small cucumber cleaned, seeded and shredded fine drain well
  • 1/4 package of fine rice noodles, cooked al dente
  • 5 leaves of iceberg lettuce shredded
  • 20 fresh basil leaves
  • 20 fresh mint leaves

prepare shrimp (langostinos) by boiling with the heads on in water infused with seasonings like bay leaf, peppercorns and / or hot pepper flakes for 10 minutes. Drain, run under cold water until cool, clean and cut each shrimp in half. Put in refrigerator until ready to use. Cook rice noodles, cool under running water, drain and set aside. Shred all vegetables and set aside along with the herb leaves. Small individual dishes work great for this.

Thai Spicy Peanut Sauce:

  • 3/4 C smooth peanut butter (if using unprocessed peanut butter add 1 t brown or panela sugar)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 C water
  • 1/4 C crushed peanuts
  • 1/4 to 1/2 t hot pepper flakes
  • 3 T Hoisin sauce
  • 1 T soy sauce

Mix the peanut butter and water together over low heat, add the rest of the ingredients once the peanut sauce is blended thoroughly. Taste for spice and sweetness adjust for your palate. The sauce should be thick, sweet and spicy.

Putting everything together:

Clear an area on your counter, clean it and arrange your bowls with the vegetables at the top of the counter. Take a large plate and add water to the bottom of it. Take each spring roll wrapper and gently sprinkle water over both sides. Do not use too much water. This takes a bit of practice. They will still be a bit stiff, they will soften up while you finish all four wrappers. Lay the wrappers down in a row going from left to right. With your plates of veggies above also going from left to right. Start with the wrapper furthest to the left. Placing shrimp in the lower half of the wrapper leaving both ends empty. Do all 4 with the shrimp distributing equally. Then add the leaves evenly over the shrimp, continue with the carrots, lettuce and cucumbers. It works better if you do each wrapper with each additional ingredient this way you will distribute more evenly on each wrapper. Do not overfill the wrappers or you will not be able to roll them. Starting at the bottom or the wrapper peel it off the counter gently, while stuffing the ingredients pulling the sides in until you have a neat roll with all the veggies inside.

Serve with the warm peanut sauce.


Paola Delivers Lunch

Our neighbors are pretty cool. If it’s not one handing stone crabs over the gate it’s another sharing Viche for our lunch yesterday. (The crabs over the gate thing happened yesterday – Eric gave us 2 huge stone crabs and then later Erica his sister gave us 3 more! gotta love this place).

San Clemente 6.18.2013 017Okay, back to the viche de langosta.

This soup was made with lobster, madura and green plantains, carrots, and corn all simmered in a peanut broth. It is one of our favorites.

If I had to choose the best food that we have eaten while outside of the US it would have to be the cooks of Manabí and Paola would come in first place. Other items that she has shared with us were lapangachos – it s a stuffed potato or yucca fritter filled with meat or chicken. She has also made a fried shrimp dinner that had a chicharone coating on the shrimp. The next cook would need to be Sonia and her lobster and crab ceviche. Living here has been a unbelievable experience in the Manabí art of cooking.

Thanks vecinos (neighbors) you made our day!

Boiled Salted Peanuts

I remember our first time getting hot spicy boiled peanuts from a road side stand in Georgia. It’s really a southern thing.  What a treat this is not something that we found any other place we ever lived until we came to Ecuador. In Playas we could get raw peanuts for a very short period and this morning my young vegetable vendor had these hot and very salty boiled treats. Joe and I dug right in enjoying each little purple nut.

San Clemente 2.6.2013 005

We better get our fill because the season is very short.

We just had an earthquake…it hit twice in a few seconds!

Ramblings – San Jacinto and San Clemente

We had a very peaceful time in both of these towns. The Hotel San Jacinto was the perfect spot for a quiet week of relaxation.  The hotel, staff, management and food was all good for the daily charge of about $30 for an oceanfront room for two which included breakfast. If I had a negative comment it’s that the pool was not crystal clear some days but besides that everything else was clean and the staff was very attentive. Fresh sheets and towels every day with a good bathroom sanitizing and all floors swept and washed. The grounds were swept, washed down or otherwise put in order as well each day.

Almuerzo (lunch) some days was fried shrimp or calamari. Normally what we have found is almuerzo consists of a fried fish platter so to have shrimp or calamari was a special treat for the cost of almuerzo. For $3 you get a full bowl of shrimp soup with several actual shrimp, a glass of juice or soda, and a plateful of food consisting of a small salad, patacones, rice and either fish, shrimp, calamari or similar. Beer extra. Hard to beat. Did I mention we were sitting at the beach. You know, the ocean for goodness’ sake. Yeah baby.

This is the vichy (soup) that is always a peanut broth. This is a favorite from Manabi. For me,  anything with peanut sauce is out of this world. Several places offered Vichy with camarón instead of fish, all were excellent.

Above are the fried shrimp from one of our lunches at the hotel.

The charrasco platter served by Hotel San Jacinto was perfect, especially while sipping a cold Pilsener and watching the sunset.

After a week in San Jacinto we moved up the coast to San Clemente to the Casa Real.  This hotel also allowed us to continue the peaceful feeling. It’s very small and does not have a full-time staff so cleanliness of the rooms suffered. I removed our own trash, replaced towels – it reminded me of a beach hut so I decided to be in the moment and not to worry about the cleanliness of the room and just enjoy! This hotel has no restaurant but they did have a common kitchen with refrigerator, stove and microwave so you can cook for yourself. Perfect for making a cup of coffee in the morning but we ate our meals out most days, as the location is only 2 blocks to the main street and steps to the beach.

Below is one of two restaurants right on the water in San Clemente. The food was very good although they did not offer an almuerzo (set lunch for cheap). Joe and I had to suffer and order off the great menu. Joe had the beef plate and I had the sautéed fish, both excellent choices. Cost $4 – 5 per meal I think. Big beer (22 oz) is usually $1.25 – $1.50 at the restaurants and bars.

Some flowers on the side of the road!

Anyone that knows me knows that I dislike beer. One afternoon our landlady invited us for ceviche on her porch. She doesn’t speak much English and I could not stop her before she opened a bottle of Club beer for me.  I drank it down and actually found it to be refreshing and an excellent pairing with ceviche. Voila! New Nancy. While on our trip I enjoyed many a shared bottle of Pilsener with Joe.

Peanuts for Peanuts at The Mercado

This morning while out running a few errands, I found a gentleman selling fresh peanuts at the back entrance to the public mercado. He had a huge box filled with plastic bags of dirt covered peanuts, a pound for $.50. Could I pass by such a spectacular bargain? Heck no!

I would say the most difficult part of this task was cleaning them. It took many flushes with water, a veggie brush and a bit of patience but I got them cleaned. Joe looked up online what you do with fresh peanuts and we found a recipe for boiling them. We both remembered the boiled peanuts you could buy on the side of the road in Georgia so we went for it. The recipe called for anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours of cooking time, so after 30 minutes I pulled a few out for Joe to test. Not yet, so we gave them another 20 minutes and this time they were perfect. The recipe states that the fresher they are the faster they cook.

They were extremely tasty and tomorrow I will be back at the mercado for more, this time maybe a few more bags, ha ha

Boiled Peanuts

  • 1 lb of raw Peanuts
  • 1/4 cup Salt
  • 4 cups Water
  • Optional seasoning Old Bay Seasoning, Smoked Paprika, Shrimp Boil or Star Anise.

Thoroughly rinse and clean the peanuts. Put water, salt and peanuts into a large stockpot and bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to a low boil. Cook from one to three hours depending upon the freshness of the peanut and the tenderness when tested. Will keep for a few days in the fridge.