Tag Archives: Puerto Rico

Not Your Mama’s Plantains

We watch a lot of cooking shows, like a lot a lot.  I’ve noticed that most dishes focusing on Puerto Rican food have plantains in it.  I was so thrilled to have the opportunity to visit my parents in Puerto Rico over the Thanksgiving holiday.



on the beach

San Juan fort

Being that I had never tried plantains before (shocker, I know), I was so excited to try them on this trip.  I tried so many different versions and was so stinkin’ disappointed that I didn’t really care for them.  Not to let that stop me, I kept trying them.  Over, and over, and over, and…you get the idea.  To those of you who like the original plantain, I am so jealous, and this recipe is probably not for you.  Although the recipe may provide an interesting change…maybe?

When figuring this recipe out, I was thinking about my favorite way to indulge in starches.  I love mashed potato leftovers formed into patties and pan-fried.  I was hoping plantains wouldn’t be any different.

To start, take two ripe plantains.  They should be fairly soft (again, I have no idea if this is traditional when using plantains, but it is what I did).

ripe plantains

Peel the plantains, mash ‘em, and lightly cover the mush with salt and pepper.  I love salt, so it is a must for me.  If you don’t like salt (whaaaaa????) then leave it out.  I must warn you…if you leave it out, you may end up with bland goop.  That’s just my very biased opinion.


Ok.  Now that we have established that I love salt, I will remind you, yet again, that I have had a long-standing love affair with scallions.  Unfortunately, I was out and no interest in going to the store.  The next best option was to use sliced washed leeks.  I sautéed them in butter for just a few minutes to slightly soften them.  If you use scallions, there is no need to soften them.  Now combine everything, and add a few tablespoons of flour, just to firm up the texture a little bit.  I also added about 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro, just for a little extra flavor and the pretty green color.


Next, take ¼ cup of the mixture, flatten it between your hands and coat the patties in seasoned breadcrumbs.  Once all the patties are formed, place them on a plate and refrigerate for an hour or so.  This will ensure that they stay together during cooking.

Finally, heat a skillet over medium-high heat.  Melt 2 tablespoons of butter, and add just a little bit of oil to keep the butter from browning.  Cook the plantain patties until both sides are browned, turning only once during cooking.

Now comes the best part: time to chow down.  I decided to serve them with the most delicious spicy mango sauce that my amazing mother made and sent home with us from Puerto Rico.  It is unfortunately almost gone…she may have to mail more.  That wasn’t too subtle, was it?  Maybe she will even post the recipe sometime (it is that amazingly good, and you haven’t lived until you try it.  For real.)


Happy February to you all, and here’s to many more delicious meals in 2014.


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Eat Your Cake…and Coffee, Too

Today’s tropical recipe is like a coconut macchiato on a plate.  I started with a basic yogurt cake recipe and mixed in some coconut, fresh-ground Puerto Rican coffee beans, and a splash of coconut rum.  Topped with a yogurt-based glaze and toasted coconut, this simple cake will make an appearance on our Christmas dinner table.

Before we get to the recipe, a little coffee tour:

coffee farm


the view



We visited Hacienda Pomarrosa with Kara when she was here in September, and it was an informative and enjoyable morning in the beautiful mountains above Ponce. With our own farming background and recent experience living in the Rheinland, we really liked having an opportunity to visit with Kurt, the owner of Hacienda Pomarrosa (who is originally from Düsseldorf).  The location is a bit off the typical tourist track, but a visit to the farm is well worth the drive, and the hacienda also offers bed and breakfast stays for those who would like to spend the night in the peaceful Puerto Rican mountains.

And now, let’s get to baking!

Coconut and Coffee Yogurt Cake

  • ¾ cup plain yogurt, divided
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons coconut rum (optional, you can omit and flavor with vanilla if you like)
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon finely ground coffee
  • 1½ cups coconut, divided (I used sweetened coconut)

Grease and flour a 9-inch square pan and preheat oven to 350 F.  Beat ½ cup of the yogurt together with the sugar, eggs, coconut oil, and coconut rum.  Stir together and add the dry ingredients, folding in just until well blended, then stir in ½ cup of the coconut.  Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake for about 35 minutes, or until it feels springy to the touch and a toothpick tester comes out clean.  At the same time, spread the remaining cup of coconut on a baking sheet and put it into the oven until it is a toasty golden color.

After the cake cools, spread it with this glaze: stir together the remaining ¼ cup plain yogurt, 1¾ to 2¼ powdered sugar (quantity depends on how thick the yogurt is), and ½ teaspoon vanilla.  Sprinkle with toasted coconut just before serving.

cake ingredients





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Cookie Island

Hello, it’s me…..the slacker who used to contribute regularly to this blog.  I know, it’s been about a year since I’ve written any recipes.  What can I say?






So yeah, Caribbean life is really good, and sometimes I feel like we landed in paradise.  Sure, traffic tends to be crazy, work can get hectic, and there are lots of things yet to be done around the house.  But I do like my new island home, especially the kitchen. It’s smaller than our last one, but after almost eleven years in Germany, I enjoy having a full-size refrigerator and oven again.  One reason I’m so happy with the kitchen is the way some of our furniture found its way in here and works really well.  For example, check out how my cookbooks and Polish and Italian pottery fit into these two stacked Ikea shelving units.


Even better, what about this island Jerry made out of another shelving unit and the oak butcher block that used to serve as an office work table when it topped a couple of small filing cabinets in our old house?

kitchen island

cookies on island

Yes, indeed, the kitchen island is perfect for cookie production, and I have a perfect island-inspired cookie recipe to share.  I first made these cookies last spring as an experiment when I wanted to take a treat to work.  They’re really a basic oatmeal cookie, but instead of the typical cinnamon and raisins, I stirred in cubed guava paste, a sure bet to appeal to Puerto Rican tastes, and sure enough, the cookies prompted several requests for the recipe.  I’ve actually developed sort of a reputation among my colleagues as a baker, and it all started with these cookies.

Oatmeal and Guava Cookies   

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (quick-cooking oats will work, but I like old-fashioned better)
  • About 7 ounces guava paste, cut into small cubes (I used a third of a 21-ounce container of Goya guava paste, available from Amazon if it is not in your local store)

Cream together the butter and sugars, then mix in the egg and vanilla.  Stir the flour, baking soda, and salt together, then blend this mixture into the creamed mixture.  Mix in the rolled oats and gently fold in the guava cubes.  Refrigerate the dough for an hour or more (I’ve left the dough in the fridge for close to a week and it was fine).

sliced guava

guava cookie dough

When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 F.  Drop the dough by tablespoonsful onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and flatten slightly with the back of the spoon.  Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cookies are just starting to brown around the edges.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes, then slide the parchment onto a rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container for two or three days, or freeze for longer storage.

Yield: about 4 dozen cookies

me on beach


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The 11th Day

On the 11th day before Christmas (I know, it’s past midnight and thus technically the 10th day before Christmas, but these things happen), The Troikas gave to me: TOSTONES.

I first sampled these fried plantain slices in Puerto Rico, when visiting Mom and Dad at their new Puerto Rican headquarters. They were delicious, salty, and often served with a salsa or something saucy. I made them to go with a beef curry (recipe coming soon!), and they were the perfect thing to sop up the spicy curry juices.


adapted from Saveur 

Vegetable or olive oil for frying
3 green plantains, peeled and cut into 1-inch thick rounds
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Pour about 1 1/2 to 2 inches of oil into a large, heavy-bottomed skillet.  Heat over medium-high heat until about 350 degrees Fahrenheit. (If you don’t have a thermometer, just stick a piece of plantain in the oil, and once it starts sizzling, it’s ready to go).

Fry plantains until soft, about 8 minutes, turning over half way through. (Work in batches if needed, as you don’t want to overcrowd your skillet.) They might start to crisp on the outside, but that’s fine. Remove the plantains to a paper towel-lined baking sheet, but don’t take the oil off the heat. Increase the heat a little bit, so that your oil is about 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Or, if you don’t have a thermometer, just increase the heat a notch. It’ll be fine. I did it without a thermometer, and so can you.

half smushed, half not

Smush each plantain piece with the palm of your hand into a disk. (You can put a paper towel in between your palm and the plantain if you don’t want to get too oily.) Once the oil is heated a bit more, fry the plantains until crisp, about 4 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined baking sheet. I’d suggest relining your baking sheet with new paper towels, but do what you gotta do. Lightly salt the tostones while they’re still hot.

Serve with salsa, guacamole, or beef curry.

Yield: 4 – 6 servings

the beginning

Happy frying!


P.S. If you live in Washington, D.C., I highly recommend you go to Pelican’s Rum on U St. We just had the Stewed Chicken (served with rice and peas and some cabbage), and I want to eat that chicken every day for the rest of my life.


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It’s that time of year again: every day for the next 12 days, we’ll bring you something extra special, extra delicious, and extra tropical to help you get into the holiday spirit. Sort of a Christmas-in-July-in-reverse sort of thing.


On the 12th Day of Tropical, The Troikas gave to me Coconut Rum, Pineapple, and Ginger Beer. 


This one is really easy, so don’t blink or you’ll definitely miss it.

The Cocyounut
For one drink:

  • 2 shots coconut rum (I like, maybe even love, Cruzan’s Coconut Rum)
  • 6 ice cubes
  • pineapple juice
  • ginger beer
  • Angostura bitters, optional
  • Dark rum (preferably Mt. Gay), optional

Pour the coconut rum into a tall glass. Add the ice cubes and stir to chill the rum. Pour pineapple juice to reach halfway up the glass. Top with ginger beer and lightly stir to combine. If desired, tip a few drops of Angostura bitters on top, followed by a tablespoon-full of dark rum. Drink right away. The little paper umbrella is optional, but highly recommended.

Old San Juan

See you tomorrow,


P.S. We know that The 12 Days of Christmas actually begin on December 25 and end on January 6, but by then we’ll hopefully be eating foods less full of butter and starch. Let the countdown to Christmas begin!

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Fusions in Puerto Rico

I feel like a few months ago I was all “blah blah blah, I just want it to be summer and for there to be juicy, juicy peaches dripping down my face and onto my summery, summery sun dress” and now it’s all BAM. Summer! Busy! Potential possibilities for exciting things developing! On the verge of feeling overwhelmed but feeling really, really excited about it all! HUMIDITY.

Thankfully, for times such as these, you have people you can turn to. Such as, in my case, parents. In Puerto Rico.

woosh. photo credit: Braeden

Ahh, that’s better.

beach. photo credit: Braeden

As announced long, long ago, the German faction of The Troika Table up and moved to Puerto Rico. From the looks of things, I’d say they’re quite enjoying themselves. Braeden and I cleverly decided that in lieu of an Amazon gift card or some new-fangled, technological gadget for a Christmas present, we’d “settle” with tickets to Puerto Rico over the 4th of July week. (I surround “settle” with quotation marks because I want you to read that in a sarcastic tone. As in, who wouldn’t be fine with tickets to a Caribbean island as a Christmas present?) In other non-shocking news, Puerto Ricans don’t really celebrate Independence Day on the 4th of July (although it is a fun beach-going holiday there). We didn’t mind, though – we were too busy eating juicy, juicy pineapple, watching subtitled French chick flicks, and drinking piña coladas. (And yes, since you asked, we also occasionally got caught in the rain.)

Along with a suitable amount of beach-going, sun-soaking, and picture-taking, we ate a lot of food. (This is a food blog, after all.) We sampled tostones, most often made of cooked plantains which were then smashed, fried, and dipped in a sort of ketchup-mayo sauce. At Crash Boat Beach near Aguadilla, we nibbled on pinchos while watching a man manipulate pelicans into doing tricks.

pinchos. photo credit: Braeden

the pelican man. photo credit: Braeden

Driving from Mayagüez to Ponce, we stopped at a cafe situated right above the water, where I finally tried the famed mofongo and a few other Puerto Rican delights.


Mofongo. photo credit: Braeden

Puerto Rican delights. photo credit: Braeden

Back at my parents’ house, we crafted our own Caribbean-inspired meal, making a variation of this pumpkin curry served with sautéed chayote and steamed breadfruit, which we had picked up at a roadside stand. Mom made pizza loaded with pepperoni, Canadian bacon, broccoli, grilled eggplant, and peppers. There was chipotle meatloaf. There was fried rice. There were breakfast hashes of crispy potatoes, peppers, and eggs. There were sweet-tart quenepas. There was the rainforest and its waterfalls. There were geckos, iguanas, and coqui.  There was rum. There was so much to see, to taste, to smell. I can’t wait to go back.

Puerto Rico

Where the pina coladas are made

fruit stand. photo credit: Braeden

music in Mayaguez

cafe by the sea


Bacardi on Bacardi

El Yunque. photo credit: Braeden


San Juan fort

San Juan

On the fort

Our recipe today is fusion food at its best: ebleskivers filled with guava paste, drizzled in a guava syrup. Ebleskivers are Danish pancakes and sort of a cross between an American pancake and a popover. You need a special ebleskiver pan to make these little treats, and I’m not sure what else you could use to replace the pan. Buy one online, or just keep your eyes peeled – I found a cast iron ebleskiver pan in an antique store in Gettysburg, PA. It might have cost $10. Mom found her ebleskiver pan before my sister and I were even born, at the tiny Hartline Grocery in good ol’ Hartline, Washington (AKA our homeland). Hartline Grocery was run by a man named Raymond, who happened to be a heavy smoker. Once when mom bought a box of oatmeal, the oats smelled like cigarette smoke. And once, when describing a rather sorry-looking Christmas tree, someone said he had seen more green on a loaf of bread at Raymond’s. Apparently his “fresh” food prices were higher than the bigger grocery stores but he had inventory in his store that had been there for decades and never changed the price stickers. Mom used to buy thread on real wooden spools for 10 cents when it would have cost a dollar or so in a fabric store. Then one day, she came across the ebleskiver pan, which cost maybe $4. When she took it up to the counter, Raymond asked what on earth she was going to do with it, surprised that she actually knew what it was. He had ordered the pans when Danes were farming over across the Coulee and had that one pan left that no one bought. (The Coulee is generally this area, AKA more of our homeland.)

the pan

Mom remembered learning about ebleskivers in a high school home economics class. The teacher was young and ahead of her time in terms of multicultural education, and she looked for people of any ethnic heritage in the community to come in to teach how to make traditional dishes.  They made Basque fish soup, Japanese tempura, and Danish ebleskivers.

For me, ebleskivers mean a special occasion. I remember them most from trips visiting my parents when I was in college, when the breakfasts were late and we could mill about, taking our time, because it was usually the holidays. Maple syrup was my first ebleskiver condiment, with Nutella eventually taking its place. This time, in Puerto Rico, Mom added a tropical twist and filled them with guava paste. If you’ve never had guava paste, I encourage you to go get some. You can definitely find it in a Latin American store, and I’d even think in a well-stocked grocery store (in the Goya section). It comes in fairly sizable blocks or discs and can be used in a variety of recipes from empanadas to pies to muffins to glazes to syrups to just sliced, with a cube of cheese. It also lasts forever (relatively speaking), since it has so much sugar.


The stories about the origins of ebleskivers are murky at best, but my favorite comes from a Viking myth: Vikings, famished and returning from a fierce battle, had no pans in which to cook and thus flung their battered shields onto a fire, making pancakes in the indentations. While that might not be quite how ebleskivers came about, we do know that three main islands of the US Virgin Islands were in Danish possession from the 1600s until 1916. Who knows – maybe one of the Danes added guava to his ebleskivers.

Guava ebleskivers with guava syrup
adapted from Julia Peterson Tufford’s Original Scandinavian Recipes
Makes about 28 ebleskivers, can easily be halved

scandinavian cookbook

For the guava ebleskivers:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups buttermilk, or 1 1/4 cups yogurt mixed with 3/4 cups milk, or 1 1/2 cups sour cream mixed with 1/4 cup milk
  • butter, for cooking
  • enough guava paste to fill desired amount of ebleskivers: if making 28, you’ll want 28 1/4-inch or  1/2-inch cubes.

cubes of guava

1. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add the eggs and liquid and beat until smooth.

2. Heat your pan over medium to medium high heat. Cut your butter into little dabs so that you can quickly add it to your ebleskiver pan. Like this:

dabs of butter

3. When you add your butter, you want it to sizzle slightly, rather than nonchalantly melting. The sizzle means your pan is at the correct temperature to efficiently cook your ebleskivers through without taking too long. Take a deep breath, you can do it.

4. When your butter is sizzling, drop in the batter so it fills the holes about halfway. Working quickly, tuck a cube or two (depends how much guava you want!) into the batter, but don’t shove it down to the bottom. You want the guava to float in the batter, not get stuck to the pan. Dollop a little more batter on top to cover, and cook until you can slide a fork or knife under to see that the bottom is golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Using a fork or knife or your fingers if you’re an adventurous Viking, flip the ebleskivers to cook on the other side another few minutes.



They are best enjoyed hot out of the pan, drizzled with this simple guava syrup:

  • water
  • guava paste

In a small sauce pan, add a chunk about the size of a fist and slice it into cubes (you can just slice it right in the pan to avoid more sticky fingers). Over medium to medium-high heat, warm the guava paste with 1/2 cup of water, whisking and breaking up the guava to form a syrup. Once the guava is blended into the water and the syrup is simmering, you can decide if you want a thinner or thicker syrup and add more water or more guava accordingly. Any leftover syrup happens to go quite well with peanut butter, on bread.

a happy 4th of July

¡Buen provecho!

Kara and Tami

the fort

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An Unexpected Journey

News flash!!! Even though we aren’t the very first in the world, we do get to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey before everyone in the U.S.  How’s that for exciting?  December 12 will find us at our local Kino following Bilbo Baggins’ quest, and it’s going to be an adventure for sure!

In other news, we’re going on an epic unexpected journey of our own.  After ten years in Germany, we are moving…..to Puerto Rico!  Yep, as Kara mentioned not long ago, a lot has been happening lately, and there is more to come.  I don’t even know where to start, but I guess it should be with a thank you to Kara, Janessa, Linda, and Kelly for keeping good things to eat on The Troika Table while I was busily starting the school year, finishing the fiscal year, applying for a new job that came open out of the blue, and getting ready for a big move.  While all that was going on, I didn’t stop cooking.  I even took a few pictures while I was at it, and some of those recipes will no doubt appear here in the future.  We also threw a few fun parties with food worth sharing (and I will, someday!).  And we took a nice drive to Poland with Kara, who came for one last trip home to Deutschland while it was still home.  We came home with some lovely Polish pottery, and since we are about to become islanders, we also picked up a couple of Borowski fish.


Little shopping excursion notwithstanding, you know how it is when you are getting ready to move.  We downsized, sold, recycled, and donated at least an entire moving crate’s worth of accumulated stuff (especially winter clothes, hee-hee), and of course we used up everything we could from the pantry and fridge.  There wasn’t much of sustenance left when moving day arrived.


No, we don’t normally store aspirin, aluminum foil, plastic cups, and paper plates and napkins in the refrigerator, but that seemed like the best way to keep the movers from packing them.  Everything else we wanted left alone went into the bathroom behind this sign:


Don’t you wonder what’s behind that door?  No, you don’t really want to know….nothing exciting, just the supplies we would need for final cleaning.

In the fridge we had the sweet potato pie that would be breakfast for the next three days of packing our household goods, various condiments, a half sheet of purchased flammkuchen crust left from our last party a couple of weeks ago, and not much else.  But I thought to myself, “Hmmm, that flammkuchen crust offers some real possibilities,” and the resulting lunch proved to be delicious.

Tante Fanny knows best

Flammkuchen, or tarte flambée, is a pizza-like Alsatian specialty.  It’s simple to make your own dough from this recipe if you don’t have Tante Fanny in your neighborhood store.  Traditional flammkuchen is nothing more than the dough rolled as thinly as possible, spread with crème fraiche, and topped with thinly sliced onions and lardons, baked in a hot wood-fired oven.  No wood-fired oven?  No worries, simply set your oven to 475 F.  I like to make flammkuchen as an appetizer for parties, and I’ve made versions with thin slices of potatoes or Hokkaido squash, diced bell peppers, sliced mushrooms, caramelized onions, and various cheeses.

Squash Flammkuchen

This time in addition to the crust, I had a little crème fraiche and a partial bottle of bacon pieces to work with, plus about a quarter of a small jar of candied jalapeños (by the way, if you haven’t tried making these yet, trust me, all you have to do is tie a ribbon around the jar and you have the perfect little Christmas gift for friends and coworkers).

Moving Day Flammkuchen

  • Flammkuchen crust – purchased or from recipe linked above
  • Crème fraiche – about ½ cup for a standard rectangle baking sheet
  • Toppings of your choice (see description above and use your imagination)

Place your baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 475 F. Roll the dough out on a sheet of parchment paper, then lift the entire sheet onto the hot baking sheet (ignore the foil in my photos – by this time I didn’t have a baking sheet available so I used a sheet of foil on the broiler rack).  Bake for 2-3 minutes, or until the surface of the dough is starting to feel dry.

Spread the dough with crème fraiche and add toppings of your choice.  For this flammkuchen I used about three tablespoons of prepared bacon pieces and maybe two dozen candied jalapeño slices.  Return to the oven and bake until the crème fraiche is bubbly and starting to brown a little.  Cut into squares and enjoy!

Candied jalapeno, bacon Flammkuchen

All dressed up with a place to go



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