If it’s Wednesday…

Anamaris 2 Comments

There’s a picture challenge shot!!! This isn’t really a post, just a teaser. Go see my shots AND don’t forget to see all the shots from all the participants here. You should really join us, really.

This week it was all about CONTROL, you know, the kind that makes you go check out the shots. Go.

Panama Culinary Tour: Guacho de Mariscos

Anamaris 15 Comments

This is one of two dishes I prepared to participate in Foodalogue’s Culinary Tour, this time visiting my stomping grounds, Panama! This dish came to be as a result of a ‘What’s in the Bag‘ challenge posed by my dear Hubbz. He went to the store and brought everything but the  butcher’s block, which I then had to incorporate into a Latin meal. 

Seafood Guacho at Las Tinajas in Panama

Guacho (pronounced Wah-cho) is a popular Panamanian specialty; a slightly soupy rice dish, similar to an Italian risotto or a Puerto rican asopao. Unlike risotto, guacho is made from regular, long grain white rice that is soaked in water for a bit before it is sautéed and simmered in the cooking liquid of choice. The dish is then flavored and augmented with an array of  local ingredients; there’s always some sort of meat or protein from pork, chicken, cured pig’s tails, or seafood, in addition to various beans and roots such as yuca and otoe.

Different from the way I’ve usually explained how to cook rice, the rice in guacho wants for more liquid and a longer cooking time, this allows for the rice starches to develop into a creamy, rich frenzy. I pretty much stuck to the traditional elements of the dish, only straying away in the preparation of the sofrito and by adding mushrooms to the rice itself.

Panamanian sofrito is generally made with onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic and a few other aromatics, this time I included dried chile ancho and guajillos. But enough chatter, let’s cook!

Guacho de Mariscos y Hongos (Seafood & Mushroom Guacho)
6-8 servings

For the guacho:
2 cps long grain rice, soaked
1/2 cp bacon, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
1 cp mushrooms, diced
1/2 cp shallots, diced
About 8 cps seafood broth
1 cp shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 cp scallops
Sea salt
5 tbsps chile puree
2 cps sofrito

For the sofrito:
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cp yellow onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 green onion sprigs, finely chopped
3 ripe tomatoes, finely diced
6 tbsps chile puree
Sea salt and a pinch of sugar
In a medium pan heat the oil and add the onions, cook them until soften before adding the garlic and green onions. Then add the tomatoes, 1/2 cp water and chile puree, lower the temperature and allow it to simmer for about 20 minutes. Keep warm.

For the seafood broth: I used the skins from the shrimp, bringing them to a simmer with plenty of water, 1 clove garlic, one of the dry ancho chilies, cilantro (culantro, if you can find it), 1 carrot, salt & pepper. Strain and set aside.

For the chile puree: Rinse and seed the chilies–remember Panamanian food is not typically spicy hot. Put 2 ancho and 1 guajillo chilies in a small pot with 2 cps water, 1 clove garlic, a pinch of salt and simmer for about 10 minutes until the chilies soften. Allow it to cool before running it through the blender. Set aside.

For plating: Reserve a few shrimp and scallops to place over the finished dish.

Preparation – Guacho:

Rinse the rice, then add enough cool water to cover it and allow it to soak for at least 20 minutes and up to 1 hour. In a large pan, render the fat from the bacon, but don’t crisp it. Add the onions and allow to cook until they begin to soften. Then add the mushrooms and cook for about 3 minutes.

Drain the rice and add to the pan. If necessary, add a bit more olive oil, just enough to coat all the grains. Add 2 tbsps of the chile puree, 6 cps of the seafood broth and adjust the seasoning by adding sea salt as necessary. Lower the temperature to medium-low and allow it to simmer until the broth evaporates. Stir it every so often to make sure nothing gets stuck to the bottom of the pan.

While the rice is cooking, prepare the seafood: chop the shrimp and scallops to bite sizes (remember to save a few of each for plating). Marinate all the seafood (including those for plating) with 2 tbsps of the chile puree and a bit of sea salt and black pepper; set aside until needed.

Once the broth has evaporated, check the doneness of the rice grains. They should be fully open and swollen. If the liquid has evaporated completely, add a bit more broth or water, then add the chopped seafood. Stir in the seafood, bring the temperature to low and allowing to cook covered for another 5 minutes.

In the meantime, saute the reserved shrimp in a bit of olive oil, set aside. When ready to serve, spoon some guacho on the bottom of a bowl, top generously with a couple tbsps of sofrito and top with the sautéed seafood. Enjoy and Buen Provecho!

For the rest of the yummy guacho shots, follow this link. You can also see the other dish, Langostinos en Caramelo de Maracuyá  (Prawns in Passion Fruit Caramel) by following this link. And don’t miss the entries submitted by other food bloggers, visit Foodalogue for the tasty bits.

Cookingly yours,

A shrimp is not just a shrimp

Anamaris 11 Comments

I made this awesome dish as my contribution to Foodalogue’s Culinary Tour as she takes us and her readers to my homeland, Panama! The criteria to participate in the tour is pretty relaxed, you can either  prepare a traditional dish in a) a traditional way, b) traditional dish modernized or c) just implement local ingredients and/or techniques. This particular recipe is one of 2 I shared and it showcases local ingredients in a modern or contemporary way, the other was an almost traditional Seafood Guacho.

The recipe comes from a beautiful cookbook I picked up on my last trip to Panama. ‘Sabores de Panamá(Flavors of Panama) by Jorge Jurado, one of Panama’s renown chefs who has tasked himself with bringing traditional Panamanian dishes to the next level. The recipe showcases popular local ingredients: shrimp, passion fruit, chayote squash, coconut and sugar cane, these are then elevated when combined with fish sauce and smoked paprika and a beautiful presentation.

Let’s talk about the ingredients, shall we? Panama is all about the seafood, man. So much so that it is sold door-to-door. Yep, you read right. A few years ago, my dear friend Dorothy went to Panama with me and we stayed at my parents’ home. One morning while we were starting to wake up, we heard a man’s voice over a loudspeaker saying ‘Pescao, pescao, pargo, corvina, cojinoa, PESCAO’. A wave of giggles ensued, she looked at me awestruck. I had mentioned this phenomena to her, but I think she secretly doubted my honesty. See, about 3 times a week, there’s a guy in a truck who drives around my parents’ hood selling the morning catches, it doesn’t get any fresher than that. We didn’t have the ice cream truck, we get the seafood truck.

OK, back to the components of this magical dish. Chayote is a variety of squash that is as readily available in Panamá as zucchini and yellow squash is in the US. Like zucchini, it is very light, has a great deal of water content and a very mild taste with a discernible sweetness. A tart and luscious caramel made of raspadura, unrefined sugar cane, and passion fruit works beautifully with the mild flavors of the chayote and the spiciness of the smoked paprika and habanero pepper and the creamy coconut sauce. I fell in love with this dish, I think you will too.

Langostinos con Caramelo de Maracuya, Chayote y Aire de Coco (Prawns with Passion Fruit Caramel, Chayote and Coconut Foam)

For the prawns:
20 head-on large prawns, peeled & deveined
1 tbsp Spanish paprika
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 garlic clove, crushed
Sea salt & black pepper
Mix the ingredients together and use to marinate the prawns. Allow them to marinate while you prepare the rest of the components.

For the chayote:
4 chayote squash, halved
4 rosemary sprigs
Sea salt & black pepper
The recipe suggested peeling the chayotes and cooking in the microwave with a bit of olive oil. I don’t like handling raw chayotes, they have a sticky sap that is a pain to remove from your hands. Instead, I placed them in a pot over a steam tray, added water to the bottom, sprinkled salt & pepper over them and tucked the rosemary sprigs around them. They steamed for about 10-15 minutes and I peeled them just before serving. Easy breezy.

For the passion fruit caramel:
1/2 cp raspadura, crumbled
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cp passion fruit concentrate
If you cannot find raspadura, you can substitute with dark brown sugar. Melt the raspadura in a small pan and allow it to cook until it becomes caramel. Add the butter and passion fruit concentrate and cook until it thickens again, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

For the coconut foam:
1 cp unsweetened coconut milk
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp fresh ginger, crushed
1/2 tsp habanero paste
1/4 tsp soy sauce
Combine all the ingredients into a small pan and bring to a boil. I didn’t end up with foam, he suggests using a hand blender, which I do not own, so I put mine into the blender. If you do own a hand blender, then keep this warm and use the blender to froth it just as you are finished plating. If you don’t, I suggest cooking down the sauce a bit, to reduce and thicken it, then you can spoon it right over the prawns.

Putting it together:
Heat a skillet and add a bit of olive oil and butter, saute the prawns, cooking for a couple of minutes on both sides (if you’re not a fan of foods with a face, feel free to remove the heads, but there is a lot of flavor there). Set aside, but keep warm.

On a plate, spread about 1 tbsp of the caramel, top with the chayote, then place a prawn atop the squash. Top witht he coconut foam or cream and be ready to ooooh and aaaah in enjoyment.

I can’t wait to make this again. Do stop by and take in Joan’s tour. For more shrimpy shots, click here and go here to see my second dish, Guacho de Mariscos y Hongos.

Cookingly yours,

Foodalogue’s Culinary Tour: Destination Panamá

Anamaris 9 Comments

The first time I came across Joan’s blog, Foodalogue, was because of her Culinary Tour events. She chooses a country and invites her readers on a virtual tour of that country and its cuisine. Joan’s rules for her tour are very relaxed; one can make a traditional dish in  a traditional way, OR modernize a traditional dish, OR utilize the ingredients and/or techniques of the country in your own way. The world tour will end this year visiting 7 new countries and Panama will be kicking things off.

As a 100% Panameña (that’s Panamanian for non-Spanish speakers), I am required to participate and represent. Really, it’s in the constitution or something. When most people think of Panama, they think of the Panama Canal and Noriega, so before we dive into the grub, let me share some so facts regarding my homeland.

  • Our borders are  the Caribbean Sea, the Pacific Ocean, Colombia and Costa Rica.
  • According to the 2010 country rankings by the World Economic Council of Global Competitiveness, Panama ranks 53 out of 139 countries and is expected to end up in the top 50 this year.
  • As of 2010 it is the second most competitive economy in Latin America.
  • Panama has the largest rainforest in the Western Hemisphere outside the Amazon.
  • Basketball is big there and a number of well-known NBA players hail from the little country, including Rolando Blackman (four-time NBA All-Star) and Kevin Daley of the Harlem Globetrotters.
  • Another big game, baseball. Rod Carew and Mariano Rivera both hit balls in Panama before hitting the big time.

  • Panama’s cuisine is influenced by its diverse population of Hispanic, native Indian, European, African and even Chinese migrations.
  • Unlike many of the neighboring countries, Panamanian food is not particularly spicy (heat).
  • Yellow corn is often used for many of our dishes and fish, seafood and shellfish dishes are Panamanian specialties. For more detailed food info, check this link.

Anydoo, this past year I’ve shared many recipes and told you about foods from Panama and you can be assured that there are plenty more to come starting with 2 dishes I submitted for Joan’s tour. The first is a modern rendition using local ingredients, which could work as a beautiful appetizer, though The Hubbz and I scarfed it down as our entrée the other night. The second came as a result of one of our ‘What’s in the Bag‘ evenings. The Hubbz went to the store and brought everything but the  butcher’s block, which I then had to incorporate into a meal. It is a pretty traditional dish, with a very tiny itsy bitsy twist. Ready? Here we go.

For an appetizer: Langostinos en Caramelo de Maracuyá con Aire de Coco (Prawns in Passion Fruit Caramel and Coconut Foam).

This was incredible with an exciting and complex flavor profile. I followed a recipe from Jorge Jurado’s latest cookbook ‘Sabores de Panamá(Flavors of Panama). Jurado is a renown chef in Panama, who is at the forefront of a movement to elevate Panamanian dishes to haute cuisine.

In this recipe, Jurado makes use of popular local flavors: shrimp, passion fruit, chayote squash, coconut and sugar cane and hypes them up with fish sauce and smoked paprika. The final dish is assembled a layer at a time and topped with coconut foam–which I wasn’t able to accomplish, but still ended up with an insanely delicious sauce that tasted of the sea and tropical fruits. That sauce alone would make a dish unforgettable.

This dish wasn’t complicated to put together, but it does have a lot of steps. Because I usually offer step-by-step photo instructions for my dishes, I’ll limit this post to a review and description then direct you here for the how-to.

As an entrée, I offer you a semi-traditional Guacho de Mariscos y Hongos

Guacho (pronounced WAH-cho) is a sort of risotto that is topped with a flavorful sofrito. The primary, always present, ingredients in any guacho are rice and the sofrito that crowns it. Secondary and tertiary ingredients would include an assortment of any of these: various beans, pork, chicken, cured pig’s tails, seafood, and roots such as yuca and otoe.

Panamanian sofrito is generally made with onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic and a few other aromatics, but this time, I added a puree made from dried chile ancho and guajillos. Also, mushrooms are not traditionally added to this dish.

For the guacho, I made a seafood broth with the shrimp skins and used it as cooking liquid for the rice which cooks until swollen plump. The seafood is added just at the end to prevent overcooking. Let me tell you, this is seafood heaven. The rice is laden with seafood and bacon flavors and is complimented by the sweetness of the shrimp and scallops. To add some textural interest, I pan-fried a few of the shrimp & scallops to top each serving. You can check out this post for the step by step recipe.

There you have it! Panamá en tu plato (Panama on your plate). Next stop… ALASKA!

Cookingly yours,

It’s picture time

Anamaris 2 Comments

In my head I’m actually saying ‘pictcha time’, it sounds funny in my head, it probably makes no sense to you. And you’re probably wondering why I’m rambling in a nonsensical manner and why don’t I just get to it. So I will. Except, you know the rules, you have to go over there. You know where. To the other page where the pictured things happen.

You can see my shot here, but you should totally check out the work of the rest of the group here.

This a weekly challenge, lots of pretty pictures.


2011, you snuck up on me

Anamaris 8 Comments


The beginning of a year brings with it resolutions, promises, contracts, lists and lists. I don’t usually do the resolution thing, but I’ve been thinking about shaking things up, making myself a bit uncomfortable. Here are some thoughts:

The Personal Front

  • Slow it down and reconnect with friends and family
  • Move. Physically move and increase my activity level
  • Help my puppy with her doggy manners
  • Organize (purge) the kitchen
  • Take non-food pictures every month
  • Read… like books
  • Have a set volunteering schedule

The Blogging Stuff

  • Move Chef It Yourself to www.chefityourself.com
  • Redefine my blog’s direction/purpose
  • Figure out the SEO and social media stuff (it’s a jungle out there)
  • Improve photography skills
  • Foodie networking
  • Interview/introduce new bloggers I like
  • Restaurant reviews

In the spirit of slowing it down, I’m stopping there. How about you? What big plans do you have in store for the new year? I would also love to hear from you; any suggestions you may have regarding changes or improvements to this little blog would be greatly appreciated.

For now, I wish you every happiness and fun and love and good food you can hold in your outstretched arms. Rock 2011!


2010. A year in recipes.

Anamaris 1 Comment

The last post was a word-free one. This one…, sorta. Twelve months, twelve dishes. Check it.

January: Those asparagus rolls were very popular, but this one, this was crazy good: Shrimp & Grits.

February: Lots of desserts that month, of course I would pick these. They’re good and pretty. Pretty and good, damn good and pretty. Pears with Bleu Cheese.

March: There was a LOT of food this month, a huge Foodbuzz event for me, that’s probably what led me to drinking. Have a Lemon Drop.

April: Tropical fruits and peeling a mango.

May: I made up dishes with pickles. Pickle & Onion Ravioli.

June: Sometimes you just want some dessert, have some Tres Leches.

July: There was pastry and beef. El Burek-o.

August: My Latina side finally kicked in, Fish al Ajillo, nena!

September: means there’s a lot of grilling still going on if you live in Houston, best Pasta Salad evahh!

October: A close look at foods in Panama. Memories and still trying to figure things out.

November: I shared my yuca-ddiction… Enyucado.

December: I went for the comfort foods. Maczetti!

These are some of my favorite dishes for 2010, here’s wishing you and yours a lot of goodness in the new year.

Cookingly yours,


Anamaris 2 Comments

I’ve been slow around these parts, the year end has blasted through and left me completely depleted. I apologize for the lapses, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that I need to take some time to show myself some TLC. I will keep you posted, though.

Let me share some good news with you, though. A few months ago, Thas over at Cooking with Thasneen invited me to share one of my favorite recipes for the year. Chacko’s Kitchen, a blog by Susan and Abraham, was putting together a list of the 30 Best Recipes of 2010. So I sent them my Asparagus Roll and my little recipe was selected! You should definitely check out the other 29 recipes, there’s a lot of yummy food on there.

The other fun thing happened with your input. Thanks for helping me pick another great recipe for the year. The results were close, but in the end you voted for those scrumptious Tamarind Ribs and that shall be the recipe I submit to Nancy’s blog for her countdown. That list will be up in a few days and I’ll give you the heads up when it is.

Speaking of best of roundups, stay tuned for some more.

Enjoy your holidays!