Friday, October 21, 2011

Pitihayas, Babacos, Camotes y mas

I went to the second cooking class held at Villa San Carlos last week.  Given that there has been so much news in the States about the listeria problems, we were shown how to make sure that our produce here is clean before we start with the preparation of our food.

You need to make a solution of 6 parts water and 1 part regular vinegar.  Submerge produce in the solution and scrub, then rinse.  You can use this same solution to clean everything that you buy for that day.

Now, onto some of the fruits that I have learned about here in Ecuador.  These are some of the most popular:

This cactus fruit (also known as dragon fruit) comes from the jungle region of Ecuador.  It is yellow when ripe and should have a little give with pressed.  You slice off the end, and then you can peel it easily with your hand.  It reminded me of a kiwi, only white inside.  You can eat it in chunks (with the seeds), or put the chunks in the blender and make a drink with a little added sweetener and plain yogurt.

This fruit can be bought when green and allowed to ripen at home, turning yellow when ripe.  It is the size of a small papaya.  The fruit is semi-acidic, but mild in flavor, white in color with the seeds contained in a stringy pulp down the middle.  To prepare it, slice off the bottom and then slice down each of the 5 grooves along the side of the fruit.  Then you can take out each portion separately and remove the stringy pulp.  It is most often cooked in sugar water, or can be used in salads, made into juice, served as a sauce, or baked into a cake.  It tastes similar to strawberry-papaya-kiwi-pineapple.

This small yellow-orange grapelike fruit is also called cape gooseberry or ground cherry.  It has anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties.  It can be eaten whole, used in fruit salads, or make into a jam.

This is zucchini bread, topped with yogurt and uvilla jam (delicious).

There are many different kinds of bananas:
  • Guineos or Platanos de Seda:  the regular yellow bananas we're used to eating.
  • Oritos:  very small finger-like bananas.  I like these the best because they taste sweet with an apple-like flavor.
  • Platano Rosado:  pink skin with pink pulp.
  • Plaintains:
    • Barraganete:  pointed ends; long and flat; best used green.  Can fry or use in soups.
    • Dominico:  pointed ends; smaller than the barraganete.
    • Maqueno:  rounded ends; sweetest and softest of the plaintains when cooked.  Use when yellow and firm.
    • Platano Maduro:  ripe plaintains.  Peel, slice and fry.
    • Platano Verde:  unripe green plaintains.  Slice thin and fry "chifles".
Different kinds of bananas

Platano Maduro con queso  --  grilled in skin with La Chanta cheese on top

Our dessert:  Emborrajado

The recipe for Emborrajado is to start with a dusty rose banana that you slice in 1/2" slices.  Then make a batter with 3 eggs, 140 grs of flour, 20 grs of milk, 1 gr of salt, and 70 grs of sugar.  Roll slices in batter and fry.  Delicioso!

And now for the vegetables:

This is a winter squash that looks like a small watermelon on the outside, but is white inside.  To prepare, slice in half width-wise, put on a cookie sheet in a small amount of water and roast at 325 degrees for 40 min to 2 hours (adding more water as needed).  When done, the pulp resembles spaghetti.  It was served with a pasta sauce made with butter, garlic, white wine, sage, parsley, and orange salt.

Pasta sauce made from butter, white wine, garlic, sage, parsley & orange salt

There are thousands of varieties of potatoes and about half of them are in Ecuador!  We were shown three different kinds:  Gabriel (which is small, red and good for salads), Chauchau (these are good for making french fries), and Cubanilla (yellow inside; good for making salads and potato chips).  There is also the Camote (sweet potato; purple inside; good for making potato chips and potato salad).  Since these potatoes have so much starch in them, you need to soak them in water for 10 minutes (after cutting them) before cooking.

Gabriel -- good for potato salad
Chauchau -- good for making french fries

Cubanillas -- good for making potato salad & potato chips
Slice chauchaus in uniform wedges and fry in oil at 250-300 degrees to blanch.  
Then fry at very high temperatures to finish cooking.

Making potato chips from cubanillas.

Camotes (sweet potatoes) need to be peeled twice

Delicious in potato salads
A good recipe for potato salad is to make the vinaigrette with bacon, mayonnaise, onions, vinegar, raisins, and sea salt.

Also known as Cassava, the yuca is a root vegetable similar to a potato.  It can be substituted for potatoes in recipes.  To prepare a yuca, peel it, cut in pieces and cook in boiling salted water until pieces become almost transparent.  Drain.  Remove center fibers and serve boiled, mashed, or french fried.

Should be completely white inside
Everything that we tasted at Villa San Carlos was delicious.  Looking forward to our next class, yet to be scheduled.


  1. HI Patty, thanks for all the valuable cooking info and pictures! So helpful, much appreciated.

  2. This is very informative! I really appreciate the disinfecting recipe, I have been using cloro and water. I use vinegar to wash down the counters.
    Have you had yucca with mojo de ajo? shave the yucca fry like chips and serve with mojo de ajo.
    Plantains and yucca are good in stews too, like potatoes.

  3. Cuisinart and all-clad make electric pressure cookers that look and act like crockpots. The Cuisinart model is $60 at Costco. The All-clad model is $250 at Williams Sonoma. I want the cheap one for Christmas.