Mom decided we should pick all the peppers and tomatoes we could from her beautiful garden.
She has a beautiful garden, and I didn’t realize how many she was talking about until I went to help her pick!
One of many trays…
There must have been four large baskets of tomatoes and probably two full trays like this. As for peppers we couldn’t even pick them all- habaneros, hot Chinese, jalapenos, and more.
We scoured the internet for recipes for green tomatoes and peppers, and ended up mostly just winging it anyway…
Pickled (Dill) Green Tomatoes!
For the pickles we just followed a basic pickle formula (with regular vinegar, not cider) and then added fresh dill, some hot peppers, garlic, peppercorns and sliced green tomatoes then processed them.
Upside Down Pepperoncini!
She had enough banana peppers to make about five or six jars of pepperoncini (our fave.) We just pickled these too (with no dill.)
Green Tomato Salsa!
We had so many tomatoes left over and wanted to make a salsa of some kind. Our favorite salsa is Herdez Tomatillo/Green salsa and we thought, “Why not make a green tomato salsa?” We only made about three jars of this and it came out so yummy! Basically it was chopped green tomatoes, jalapenos, chopped onion and garlic, cilantro, a bit of cumin and salt, some lime juice and touch of vinegar and then we cooked it. I should have written the recipe down!
Our Green Bounty
Our next day we made THE HOTTEST pepper jelly from basically all habanero (aji chombo) peppers and a few jalapenos and Cayenne peppers. We had to cook it outside on the grill because it was so hot, then processed it inside. It came out a beautiful golden color with red and green flecks. I just used the pepper jelly recipe on the pectin package. I swear it’s the hottest goodness you have ever tasted.
Mom still had a ton of peppers at her house so she made aji chombo sauce (Panamanian hot sauce) basically just aji chombo (habanero) peppers chopped up, vinegar, mustard, chopped garlic, chopped onion, and salt and pepper put into a bottle to sit in the fridge. Very, very, hot so be wary.
Patacones are what we call them in Panama. In some places (Puerto Rico for example) they call them tostones.
Nothing brings back memories like a good plate of patacones.
Yummy grilled chicken and patacones on the beach…
I remember saving my money to ride my bike to the KC (Knights of Columbus) in Margarita to get a hamburger and patacones. Later I found their sancocho was the bomb and had that and patacones instead.
We have always had problems in Arkansas finding good green platanos (plantains.) Usually the stores have them, but they are maduros (ripe) and I despise ripe plantains. (I know, most people love them.) When mom moved to Puerto Rico she discovered the island secret of using green bananas, which are much cheaper in PR (and Arkansas.) So, now I use green bananas if I can’t find good platanos. They really taste almost the same if they are very green although maybe a little silkier in texture. They are easier to peel and cheaper.
Peel plantains or green bananas. You have to do this quickly and right before frying or they turn black. Be careful as they will also turn your fingers black if you don’t wash right away!
Score on several sides and peel skin off
Cut into thumb sized pieces
Fry one time and drain
Put between waxed paper or brown paper and squash!
This is one of those recipes that takes me back to my childhood…
Here is my recipe using dried flowers (because, I am in Arkansas and can’t get fresh ones!)
Saril, is the calyx of the hibiscus flower. You can find dried ones at most Mexican or Latin American grocery stores. In Mexico they are called “Jamaica” flowers because the drink originates from Jamaica. (Well, technically it comes from tropical Africa…)
When it’s boiled you get a lovely deep red drink (similar to a Kool Aid punch) which actually is very good for you. As a kid, I was told by my baby-sitters that it was good for your liver and iron and would keep you from getting colds. Unlike other concoctions I didn’t mind drinking this because it was very, very, yummy.
Hibiscus tea, Chica de Saril, Jamaica, Sorrell Punch, Hibiscus punch… whatever you call it
HAS BEEN SHOWN to:
Lower blood pressure,
Help sugar levels,
Boost immune system
and aid in weight loss!
*Now, with all the sugar in it I’m not sure how much of a help it can be in lowering blood sugar…
Empanadas are about the best comfort food around. I grew up eating these yummy pastries from bakeries and carts downtown. Every country has their version of a meat pie, and I believe most Latin American ones are along these same lines. For my wedding my family and I made 100’s of these little dears and I can’t eat one now without thinking about it!
This particular recipe is from a military cookbook from Panama, made by the wives of the Intelligence division on the Atlantic side called “Cooking With Intelligence” (long, long, ago.) BUT, it says it’s taken from the “Interamerican Women’s Club Cookbook”- a club my grandma used to belong to in Panama. My mom uses this one and doubles it. I must say it’s much better than the one I used to use…
2 1/2 cups of flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup of chilled butter
1/4 cup of chilled Crisco
1 to 3 Tablespoons of water
Sift flour and salt into a mixing bowl and cut in the chilled shortening and butter until it resembles a coarse cornmeal, using two knives or a pastry cutter. Add a little water until pastry is moist enough to stick together in a ball. Put dough in refrigerator for an hour. Roll out dough on lightly floured board to about 1/8″ and cut with round cookie cutter or glass. On each round of dough put a little of the filling, about 1/2 teaspoon. Fold over and flute edges with fork. Brush tops with beaten egg. Bake in oven 400 degrees until golden brown. Makes about 60 empanadas.
3/4 lb. ground pork (my mom used ground chicken and turkey)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 sweet pepper, chopped
1/4 cup of currants
1 Tablespoon of capers
10 stuffed olives, chopped
1 hard boiled egg, chopped (I’ve never added this before, and mom doesn’t either)
1 bay leaf
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 lg. ripe tomato chopped (mom used a can of diced tomatoes)
4 Tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 tsp of oregano
1/2 hot pepper (optional)
1 sprig of parsley, chopped
*Put oil in frying pan and fry meat a little. Add ingredients and simmer for half an hour. Salt and pepper to taste.
I’ll try and make some soon and post pictures for you!
Chicas are homemade drinks in Panama. In Mexico they call them “aguas frescas” I think, every country has their own versions and names for these yummy beverages.
Arroz con piña is my favorite. It is a frothy, yummy, sweet, drink that instantly brings back memories of shopping on Avenida Central with my mom and Meme (mi abuelita.) They would have big jugs of this for sale in little stores and it tasted so good when you were hot and sweaty from shopping with two shopaholics all morning! I learned how to make this by watching one of our babysitters, Delia. She was a wonderful cook and an even better person!
Recipe for Chicha de Arroz y Piña
1. First cut top and bottom off of pineapple (piña.)
2. Continue by cutting rind off. (Do not throw away!)
3. Cut into quarters. Then cut down edge to get rid of center core. (SAVE.) 4. This is what you will have. A bowl of the cut up fruit, a top piece (to plant,) and a pot with all the end pieces, core, seedy pieces etc.
5. Cover the scraps in the pot with water. Add about 1-2 cups of rice, cinnamon to taste (or cinnamon sticks,) a little dash of cloves, sugar to taste (I like raw or turbinado about a cup,) and boil until the rinds are soft and rice is done. You can substitute the sugar with a can of condensed milk at the end if you like that taste, but I was trying to keep it lower calorie and this tastes as good. When it’s done take out scraps and toss them in your compost. Put what’s left in the blender and puree. Then pour into a pitcher over some ice to cool. To serve I like to get a glass of ice, pour glass about half full of milk, then the rest with the chicha.
Sprinkle with cinnamon.
You can add vanilla if you like and more pineapple juice if you like.
(Also, if you didn’t add sugar you can add the condensed milk to the pitcher and add a bit more water.)