Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Re-treeing Honduras

Over this summer I have attempted to get some things to grow (The jalapenos all got some kind of fungus, unfortunately), and among them, I planted a couple of guanacaste seeds just for the heck of it. I honestly thought they were a lost cause until last week when the seeds finally germinated and started shooting up.

After thinking to myself, ¨What the heck am I going to do with a tree in a pot on my paved-over patio?¨, I decided to give them away to a friend, Karen, who has a farm up on the mountain (El Volcan). Karen says in the 12 or so years she has lived up on the mountain, there has been quite a lot of deforestation due to illegal logging for lumber, and the fact that most folks use wood fires for cooking. I have noticed that even city folk cook over wood fires when they will be cooking something like beans (that requires hours over the stove) in order to save on electricity costs. Karen makes it very clear to her neighbors and any suspicious pickup trucks that no one will be touching any trees on her property. She also knows that since guanacastes have a beautiful broad canopy, they will be good for creating shade for her coffee plants. Karen also plants tons of seedlings of caoba, cedro, and other valuable tropical wood to plant on her property and to give away to reforestation projects of friends. I think my little seedlings will have a good home there :)

I have been interested recently in the work of several NGOs in promoting the use of solar ovens as a method of cooking to replace wood fires in ¨sun-rich¨ countries (which Honduras definitely is). It is one of my dreams/long-term goals to construct several working solar ovens in order to give demonstrations and workshops to folks whose families and communities would benefit from more sustainable methods of cooking. Hopefully with replanting and alternative cooking methods, we can all do our part to re-tree Honduras!

Homemade Tajadas... the obsession continues!

After trying to explain to my friend, Yoli, why I love eating at the pollo place in my barrio so much (see last blog entry on Pollo con Tajadas), she told me she would be happy to show me how to make tajadas on my own, including all the special sauces! I learned a lot in the process, including that my favorite kind of tajadas are not actually made out of plantains at all, but rather very green bananas! Wow! For your Honduran cooking enjoyment, I present....

How to Make Homemade Tajadas!

Step one--Gather some friends around and start peeling the green bananas. Slice a slit in the skin lengthwise and ¨unwrap¨ the peel. Don´t peel it from the top--the bananas are almost brittle and might break, and you want them nice and long for the best tajadas. If your hands turn black and sticky, that is normal :)

Step two--Chop the peeled green bananas up lengthwise into long strips. Toss the strips with lime juice and a liberal amount of salt.

Step three--Fry it up in vegetable shortening

Step four--Remove from oil and drain. Prepare sauces and toppings for tajadas (recipes at the end of the post).

Step five--Pile on the toppings and enjoy your tajadas!! Toppings include a tomato-based sauce, mayonnaise or a cream sauce, shredded cabbage and carrots, chismol (chopped tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers), shredded hard cheese. Fantastic!

Recipes for Sauces:

Yoli´s Salsita para Tajadas
(Red Sauce)

1 small red onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
3 chicken boullion cubes
4 oz tomato paste
1-2 tbsp olive oil or vegetable shortening

Sautee the onion, pepper, and cilantro in the oil until softened. Add the crumbled boullion cubes. Dilute the tomato paste with an equal amount of water in a separate bowl, and then add to the pan. Allow to simmer until slightly boiled down. To serve, strain out pieces of onion and pepper, or simply blend everything together for a smooth texture. Serve over tajadas.

Emilia´s Spicy Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
1 jalapeno pepper
a few tablespoons milk, to taste
1 chicken boullion cube

Place all ingredients in a blender, adding a tablespoon or two of water or milk as desired to thin out the dressing. Blend until smooth. Serve over tajadas.