Monthly Archives: April 2018

Pasta Primavera with Creamy Avocado Sauce

Pasta Primavera with Avocado SauceYes, the avocado tree continues to please me with a bounty. While I would probably never tire of avocado toast, guacamole, or just sliced avocado with lime and salt, I have been inspired to experiment. I don’t eat a lot of pasta, but every once in a while (like today after a run…or slow jog, if I’m being totally honest), I will indulge. This dish tastes incredibly rich, but is actually quite healthy. I used a spelt pasta, but any pasta would be great. For the vegetables I used zucchini, mushrooms, some kale and some cherry tomatoes, but absolutely any veggies would be great. This dish is vegan, but you could add chicken or shrimp if that suits you. Start to finish, this dish took about 25 minutes; it’s a great weeknight dish. (Serves 4).

INGREDIENTS:

  • Pasta of choice (about 200 grams)
  • 1 Medium size Ripe Avocado- peeled and pit removed
  • 1/4 Cup Basil
  • 3-5 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Lime
  • About 2 Cups Chopped Vegetables of your choice (broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms, onions, spinach or other greens, red peppers, tomato or any combination)
  • Olive Oil
  • Water
  • Salt and Pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to boil, and cook pasta according to package direction. In the meantime, in a large saucepan, saute the vegetables and 1-2 cloves of garlic in about 1 TBS. of olive oil. Pasta primavera with avocado saute veg.jpg

Note: saute vegetables in stages starting with the garlic and and vegetables that take the longest to cook (broccoli, coarse greens); finish with with more tender vegetables like mushrooms and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. As the vegetables cook, prepare the sauce. Add 1-2 cloves of garlic, the basil, and a drizzle of olive oil to a food processor and process until smooth. Add the avocado, lime juice, and a pinch of salt. Process again until smooth- add water a little bit at a time until the sauce reaches your desired consistency ( I like it a little thick). Taste and add more salt if needed.Creamy Avocado sauce for pasta primavera.jpg

When pasta is cooked, drain and add to saucepan with cooked vegetables, add avocado sauce and mix to combine. Pasta Primavera avocado combine all.jpg

Pasta Primavera with Avocado Sauce 2

Alternatively, you could just plate the pasta and top it with the vegetables and sauce, but I like everything well combined.

Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 320
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 14.9g 19%
Saturated Fat 2.8g 14%
Cholesterol 37mg 12%
Sodium 30mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 41.1g 15%
Dietary Fiber 6g 22%
Total Sugars 5.6g
Protein 8.9g
Vitamin D 0mcg 0%
Calcium 49mg 4%
Iron 3mg 15%
Potassium 882mg 19%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet.2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.

 

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Avocado Season= Avocado Toast

IMG_6616 2.JPGI still haven’t quite figured out the produce “seasons” here in Costa Rica. Most produce is available year round, but the price might vary a little bit. Costa Rica is know for it’s microclimates, and I’ve experienced them first hand. I have dressed in long pants and a long sleeve tee because it’s been chilly (“chilly”might be a bit of an exaggeration – or so it would seem if I were still living in Michigan, but it’s amazing how quickly one acclimates) and I’ve travelled forty five minutes and I’m sweltering. The country is very small, but has many different climatic regions. So, while avocados have been readily available in the markets, the tree outside my cabin now has mature fruit; and that means it’s going to be “all things avocado” around here for a while! That is by no means a complaint; I love avocados and they’re so healthy.

When I was in NYC recently, I had killer avocado toast. How can something so simple be so good? My daughter makes amazing avocado egg toast, but today I was in the mood for something simple. My NYC avocado toast was topped with some pickled radish, onion and some sprouts and, let me tell you…that was transformational. Below is my version which just includes pickled radish and some cilantro (because that’s what I had around). I’m sure there are thousands of great toppings and recipes, but here is my super easy, super delicious version. And don’t be scared off by the “pickled”- it was just a matter of soaking the radishes (red or even white onion would work great too) in lime juice (or lemon or vinegar) and salt. I didn’t let it marinate for very long at all, the longer the better, but I was impatient and didn’t plan ahead, so mine only pickled for about 30 minutes. Pickling really takes some of the intensity of the heat out and just mellows the ingredients. The star of this dish was the avocado (and some good multi-grain bread), and the toppings simply served as a nice contrast. (Serves 2)IMG_6615.JPG

Ingredients:

  • Multi-grain bread (sourdough would be great too)
  • 1 Large Ripe (soft) Avocado
  • Lime/Lemon
  • Pickled Radish or Onion (see pickling instructions below)
  • Cilantro/Basil/Sprouts
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Cayenne Pepper (optional)

Instructions:

Prepare your pickled vegetables in advance– slice radish or onion very thin and cover with lime or lemon juice, sprinkle with a pinch or two of salt and let sit for at least 30 minutes. (If you’re marinating for much longer, do so in the refrigerator).

To make the avocado spread: peel and de-pit your avocado and remove any parts that are bruised or brown. Add avocado to a bowl and gently mash with a fork (I like a bit of a chunky texture). Squeeze the juice of 1 lime (if using lemon, maybe 1/2 depending on size) and sprinkle with salt and pepper (freshly ground is always best). Mix and taste for seasoning- add more lime or salt and pepper as needed. If you like a little heat, add some cayenne pepper (a little bit goes a long way).

Assemble:

Toast bread and spread avocado on top. Add your toppings and serve. This is definitely not something you want to prepare in advance (avocado becomes brown as it oxidizes- or is exposed to air, and the toast will be come soggy). If you do want to prepare your avocado spread a little in advance, store it in a bowl with plastic wrap (push the plastic down so it touches the avocado- preventing the air from reaching it).

Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2
Amount per serving
Calories 256
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 19.9g 25%
Saturated Fat 4.1g 21%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 170mg 7%
Total Carbohydrate 18.1g 7%
Dietary Fiber 7.9g 28%
Total Sugars 1.9g
Protein 4.5g
Vitamin D 0mcg 0%
Calcium 16mg 1%
Iron 1mg 6%
Potassium 518mg 11%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet.2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.

Eating Fresh in Costa Rica

IMG_6038I posted this picture to Instagram a while ago with the caption “pinch me…it’s January and this is what I bought at the Feria Verde (Farmer’s Market).” One of the greatest things about living in Costa Rica is the access to incredibly fresh and delicious produce. It’s rare for a fruit or vegetable to not be “in season,” and there’s not much that doesn’t grow here. In my yard alone we have four mango trees (different varieties), and avocado tree, a fig tree, two lime trees (one with mandarin limes  which are typical here and one with what I would call “regular” green limes), an orange tree, and a star fruit tree. I have two of my very own pineapple plants (all you do is plant the top of a pineapple, and you can grow a new one). Surprisingly, we don’t have a banana or plantain tree; they seem to be in everyone else’s yards. When I moved in, the mangoes were in season; I made mango everything because it was heartbreaking to see them wasting away on the ground. If my freezer were bigger, I would have stocked up. As the mango trees in this area stopped producing, the price of mangoes increased a little, but they remained available throughout the year. One of the amazing things about Costa Rica is the different “microclimates.” Where I live in the Central Valley it tends to be cooler, but travel an hour or less toward either coast, and the temperature rises significantly. To make it easier to embrace the local offerings, I bought a little fold out guidebook with pictures and descriptions of native tropical fruits and have enjoyed sampling some of the more unusual varieties.

I’ve gotten to know quite a few of the vendors/farmers at the market and I often buy from the same people each week. Marta is my banana lady; she doesn’t speak any English, and despite my limited Spanish, we always manage a friendly conversation; she always asks about my kids whom she met when they were in town. Her bananas aren’t always the prettiest, but they are incredibly tasty, and I love supporting her. She has invited me to visit her farm in Cartago, and I look forward to doing so some day. My herb and greens guy is Geraldo (I only learned his name last week because he, too, invited me to visit his farm). He always has Lacinto kale as well as regular kale, bok choy (the Costa Rican version), arugula, spinach, lettuce, and amazing fresh herbs. He usually brings one of his two daughters to help him at the market. Interestingly, I’ve only seen one stand that advertises as “organic”- it’s just not really a thing here. Very few of the farmers are mass producers (although I think some of the vendors buy from other sources, but even the largest producers would still be considered relatively small), and because pesticides are not as readily available, and are expensive, most farmers avoid using them. Often times my kale has been “tested” by some critter. It actually makes me feel better when the produce I buy has some munched on spots, is smaller than what you might find in the US, or looks less than perfect. To me, this suggests that it has not been treated with pesticides. In addition to the fruit and veggie farmers, there are always individual vendors who sell eggs, chicken, fish, cheese, honey and jams, dry goods, fresh juices (I buy a glass of fresh carrot juice every time I go) and amazing coffee.

When people complain to me about how expensive food is in Costa Rica, I often question what they are buying and/or eating. There are what we call “Gringo grocery stores” (one is owned by Walmart, and the other is similar to a high end grocery store you might find in the US) and we have a version of Costco. So, if I really crave Honeycrisp apples (I haven’t yet), Brussel sprouts, asparagus, or lemons, I can find them- at a premium cost. I think lemons cost about $8 a kg. Boxed, bagged, or packaged foods tend to be fairly expensive here, but those are all of the foods that we should avoid. Dry goods and grains which are grown here (rice and beans) are incredibly inexpensive. So, I guess the point is that if you eat like a Tico (or Tica in my case), food is not expensive, but if you come to Costa Rica and only seek out imported or uncommon foods, your paycheck won’t last very long. I can’t remember exactly what I spent on all of the produce in the photo, but that’s a pretty typical Saturday morning haul, and I usually spend less than $35 US. I don’t buy much at the grocery store (I try to support my local neighborhood grocery), but I do occasionally  buy pasta, rice, dried beans, canned tomatoes and soda water- none of which are very expensive. While it can be challenging to find some ingredients (believe it or not, chili powder is nearly impossible to find here), it is definitely easy to eat fresh, healthy and local food on a limited budget.