Monday, October 8, 2012


Ecuador - 148
Photo courtesy of Flickr user PatrickMMoore
Background: Part of the northern Inca Empire until 1533.
Location: Western South America
Area: Over 280,000 sq km; 74th largest in the world
         Slightly smaller than Nevada
Elevation: The earth actually bulges around the equator.  This means that Ecuador's Mount Chimborazo (6267 m) is actually the highest point on the earth when measured from the earth's center.
Population: Over 15 million; 67th highest in the world
Capital: Quito
Source: CIA Factbook

Now that we've gotten the hang of this parent thing (maybe. a little.) it was time to tackle the next country.  Ecuador, here we come!  After some research and some delicious-looking options, I decided that seco de carne con tamarindo was the way to go.  Something familiar (beef and spices!) with something new (tamarind and achiote!).  Plus, the instructions were fairly simple and easy to follow.

I wanted to use something better than the meat already cut up for beef stew at the store, but couldn't find anything else appropriate, so that is what I ended up using.

Achiote (also called Annatto) was very easy to find at the local Hispanic grocery store.  Did you know that it is often used for the red coloring?  I could certainly see that!

Any recipe that lets me blend everything in the food processor instead of having to chop it all up scores some points in my book.  As long as you get it to the point where it will fit, you're good.
This is probably a good time to mention that I halved the recipe.
The tamarind juice/pulp was a little different than the achiote.  At the Hispanic store I found tamarind soup mix and a tamarind drink, but not the pulp.  When I looked up substitutes, it called for about 5 different citrus fruits mixed together.  One day, Brendan and I took a walk and ended up walking around Whole Foods for the heck of it.  What do we find there?  A new product!
This seems to be the closest I am going to get.  It doesn't say how concentrated it is, but I just went with it.  It was really thick and goopy.  The coloring was very dark - almost black.
All of the pureed ingredients together ended up almost overflowing the food processor, so it is a good thing I halved the recipe.  That dark color remained, which isn't how it looks in the pictures from the original recipe website...
I used a summer wheat beer for the next step, and brown sugar rather than grated panela.  This was certainly one of the easiest parts of an already easy recipe.
It had an interesting consistency when boiling.  I could stir it very easily and it didn't seem to be too thick.  However, it looked like tar when boiling.  Bubbles would push up one part of the surface and break through there.  The entire thing got very uneven.  I tried to take pictures, but it was hard to show.
Well, anyway, after the boiling we were done!  I served it with rice and asparagus.  Not the most authentic, but delicious.

Brendan gets to sit in his swing during mealtime, so he usually ends up enjoying it too.
Kevin and I had the exact same thought with this meal: there was too much of something.  There was one flavor that overpowered and really filled your mouth.  Given what we know, I'm pretty sure that was the tamarind.  And I don't just mean it was more powerful than everything else in the dish.  I mean it was kinda like drinking straight lemon juice.  The flavor was tangy and sour and overwhelming.

After a few bites, neither of us could eat anymore.  I'm pretty sure we weren't using the best kind of tamarind juice.  There have to be better options that the goopy concentrate.  From what I was reading, that is the case.  I'm sure that would have made all of the difference here.  In theory, I think I like this dish.  In practice with what I had, not-so-much.

Next time: Egypt

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