Having recently returned from excursions around Haiti (for a wedding) and Puerto Rico (visiting folks), I walked around for about a week with a healthy glow and fixed, beaming smile on my face. No one could have prepared me for the sights of Port-au-Prince, not to mention the the small village of Desab where Nate and Kim’s wedding took place. This wholehearted embrace of the Haitian community and my fellow Americans was to say the least— a mind blowing experience.
Next, we moved on to Vieques. Small, secluded island off the east coast of Puerto Rico, accessible only via ferry, or more excitingly, in a 4 seater piper cub. Talk about tiny- Ben’s head easily grazed the ceiling and I’m pretty sure any turbulence could be traced back to one of us burping. Three days of riding around in the back of my dad’s bronco, a breathtaking tour of the bioluminescent bay in a paddle boat and 2 gasolina-mojito-mix induced hangovers later, we hopped the ferry to head to the mainland. We drove in our “mom car” to spots in Punta Santiago, Fajardo, and finally up to San Juan for the remaining days of our trip; stopping at beaches along the way despite torrential downpours that persisted for about two days. The Puerto Rican radio stations served as an authentic, yet persistent soundtrack…it still continues…
Reminiscing about the culinary aspect of this trip, I remember fondly the fresh, squeezed grapefruit juice and nutty, Haitian coffee that was served in the dining habana at Wahoo Beach. I think of creole style goat, simmered in a light tomato sauce with onions, that I sneakily stole bites of from Ben’s plate since 9 times out of 10 I preferred to order the conch or whole fish fillet or fried shrimp. (I have been on a seafood kick ever since we’ve come home). The spread in Puerto Rico was somewhat different- get ready for rich, meaty, and fried. I can appreciate samplings of this, but I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to most things prepared this way. However this crispy arepa filled with freshly chilled shrimp and octopus was something I literally inhaled and continued to seek out again at every opportunity.
Ben was partial to the traditional Puerto Rican Mofongo (which I think is actually originally Dominican?) Mashed, savory plantains and crispy bits of fried pork chunks, doused with a thin, red, hot sauce. This is one of four photos of lusted after mofongo…and we were only there three days. Porky. Starchy. Yum.
I guess it’s not surprising that once we landed in New York again, all I wanted was to stuff my face with dark, leafy greens and crunchy cucumber. My body was craving vegetables like never before and the thought of a fresh romaine salad made with homemade caesar dressing of lemon and anchovy made me greedily salivate.
Here is a delicious springtime recipe for a classic beet salad that I was excited to prepare for one of our Wednesday night suppers.There are many variations on this dish from the type of lettuce used to the type of cheese thrown in to whether or not nuts are added. Beets are pretty versatile and contribute nice texture and a hearty bite. Some people have a particular distaste for them, but for those who like them, they LOVE them. Last summer I roasted a few bejeweled golden and ruby beets I bought from the farmers market and rubbed them only with olive oil and salt.
For good measure, I asked Ben to cook up a couple of eggs to top the crusty baguette I reheated in the oven. Wouldn’t you know it, he whips up the most correct sunny side up eggs I’ve ever seen, sprinkling a bit of Old Bay seasoning on the transparent whites before they slowly turned opaque. Genius.
Spinach & Beet salad with a Sunny Side up Egg on a Tartine
1 bunch of fresh spinach
2 ruby red beets (freshly roasted or a quality vacuum packed brand such as Love Beets)
3 Tbsp. goat cheese (I like mine relatively firm)
1 juicy orange, peeled and thinly sliced halved rounds
1/2 red onion, cut in thin slivers
1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts (or pine nuts are also very tasty)
Dressing suggestion (I almost always add mustard because I love it, but follow your heart) :
1 squeezed lemon
1 cup olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (optional)
1 tsp capers (optional)