If you have been following my recipes, by now you will realize that I don't use any package seasoning like consomé or bouillon. I try to stay away from products that have extra additives and I try to keep my cooking as natural and simple as possible. An additive found in many complete seasonings in the market is Monosodium Glutamate, which has been linked to side effects and reactions like headaches and skin allergies. So I just don't bother to use it, and I don't see the need for it.
Also by now, you may have noticed that most of my recipes have the same spices over and over again. Mostly oregano, garlic, onion, cumin and pepper, and somehow every dish takes different and amazing. Doing a good combinations of this spices is all you need to give flavour to a dish.
Since I use the same spices in most of my dishes, I decided to create my own complete seasoning, that has a good balance in flavors and it is an easy way to get all the flavors that I want on a dish at once.
This particular mix, called Meli's Complete Seasoning, is a special mix of flavors that you will find in most of Costa Rica dishes. So give it a try and next time you are making a Gallo Pinto, just add this seasoning and salt and you will be good to go!.
This seasoning is especially good to cook cesina (flank steak) that is the meat use in Olla de Carne and Carne en Salsa. So what better way to try it than making some Carne en Salsa. His is a very traditional dish and one of the main ingredients in a meat casado*. I grew up eating carne en salsa, with rice and beans. Out of the many casado variations, Carne en Sale is definitely my all time favorite.
Casado (Spanish, "married man") is a Costa Rican meal consisting on rice, red beans, sweet plantains, picadillo or salad and a protein that may be chicken, beef, pork or fish.
Meli's Complete seasoning
3 tbsp dry oregano
2 tbsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp dry thyme
1/2 tsp dry ground cumin
1 tsp ground pepper
Mix all the ingredients together and storage in a seal container. Since I live at the beach, in a hot very humid environment, I use my spices in the freezer to keep then fresh and make then last longer.
This seasoning is great for use in tico recipes like beans, rice, picadillos and of course, carne en salsa.
Carne en salsa
For the meat:
1.3kg of flank steak (cesina)
1 tbsp meli's complete seasoning
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
In the pressure cooker, add all the ingredients and enough water to cover the meat. Secure the lid and bring the high pressure over medium high. Once at high pressure, cook for 45 min. Remove from the heat and, carefully open, remove the meat and shred finely. Set aside the broth for the carne en salsa.
This recipe makes extra meat, so you can use it to make picadillos. I use it to make green beans or carrots picadillo.
For the carne en salsa:
1 medium onion
1 big tomato
1 tsp seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups cooked and shredded beef
1 cup of meat broth
In a medium pan, add a little bit of oil, onion, tomato, salt and seasoning; cook until the onion is translucent. Add the meat and the broth and mix well. Cook uncover for 10 to 15 min until the juice has reduce in half.
Serve it with rice, beans and sweet plantains
If you ask a Costa Rican to picture themselves on the beach, it is highly possible, that the picture will be sitting on the beach, drinking a cold beer and eating a ceviche while watching the sunset; that is our definition of a beach vacation. So if you come to any beach town in Costa Rica, ceviche will be part of the menu.
Ceviche is a Latin American dish, each country has its own variation but the Peruvian one is one of the most known worldwide. There are so many variations, from the traditional white fish ceviche to shrimp, to more exotic like piangua, which is a mollusk that is extracted from a shell that abounds in mangroves.
If you come to any beach town in Costa Rica, ceviche will be part of the menu.
CEVICHE is a dish consisting of raw fish and seafood marinated in citrus juice, mainly lime and lemon juice. The acid in the citrus juice break the amino acids in the proteins of the fish, causing it to become opaque and producing a firm texture, similar to when it is cook.
This recipe is the most common version of Costa Rican ceviche, with lots of lime juice, onion, pepper, and cilantro. I encourage you to try it since it is super easy to make and play with other ingredients to create your own variations of ceviche. Enjoy!
Serving size: 4
430 g (1 pound) white fish like Marlin.
1 cup of lime juice
1/2 cup lime-lemon flavor soda
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped red pepper
1/4 cup minced cilantro
1/2 tsp salt
Ground pepper to taste
Chop the fish in 1/2 inch squares. In a medium glass bowl, combine the fish with the lime juice, make sure the lime juice cover the fish. Add the rest of the ingredientes, mix well, covert and let seat for 1 hour in the fridge.
Serve with chips or crackers and a very cold beer!
Did you have a chance to see my facebook live recipe video last saturday? If not, now you can see it here. Last saturday I prepared one of my husband's favorite salad: ensalada rusa (that is how we ticos call it) The best part of this recipe, it is that I use super fresh tuna steak to make this salad. The full recipe is featured in my book: Living Longer, Healthier and Happier: Recipes from Costa Rica
Yucca is a vegetable root high in carbohydrates and a good source of fiber. Add a little meat, a salad or some vegetables and you'll have the complete meal all set.
Yucca is a popular root here in Costa Rica, most commonly served as a side for dishes like vigorones, chicharrones and as part of the olla de carne soup. To me, the way I present this recipe here is the best way to eat it. This pie is very similar to a Shepherd's pie, but using yucca instead of potatoes.
To give more depth to the dish, I prefer to cook the meat in the crockpot, to concentrate the flavors, and make it more as a stew. Also the good thing about this meat recipe, it is that makes enough meat to save for later.
When mashing the yuca, make sure you mash it until smooth. It will take some time but it is worth it.
Feel free to add any other seasoning that you like to the mash. If the mash takes good, the pie will be good!. And last and most important, do not overcook it, as it can get very dry. If you are not getting the nice bronze color on top, don't keep cooking, just turn the broiler for a few minutes and problem solved. ENJOY!
Serving size: 6
For the meat
2 pound beef flank steak
1 big onion
1 red bell pepper
2 big tomatoes
6 garlic cloves
2 tsp salt + 1 tsp black ground pepper + 1 tbsp fresh oregano + 1/2 tsp cumin + 2 bay leaves
1 to 1/2 cup of water
4 ounces tomato paste.
For the pie
1.5 Kg yucca (cassava, yuca)
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup of butter
2 cups cheese (any melting cheese, I use queso cremoso)
1/2 tsp salt + 1/2 tsp ground pepper + 1 tsp garlic salt + 1/2 tsp roasted garlic powder (optional)
To make the meat: chopped the tomatoes, pepper, onion and garlic. In a crock pot, put the meat, seasonings and the chopped vegetables add enough water to cover the meat. Cover and cook for 6 hours at low temperature. When done, remove 1 cup of liquid, bay leaves and add the tomato paste. Cover and cook for 45 more minutes.
To make the yucca: wash, peel and cut the yucca in chucks. Place it into a large pot, and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain, and return the yucca to the pot. Then mash the yucca with a potato masher, add the butter, milk, 1 cup of cheese and seasonings. Continue to mash until smooth and fluffy.
To ensemble the pie:
Preheat oven at 350F. Greased a 9 by 9 in baking dish; spread half of the yucca mashed, in a thick layer. Spread 2 cups of meat. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese; layer the other half of the yucca and sprinkle the remaining cheese. Cook for 35 min.
Hi I'm Meli and I love food, I love cooking, I love eating, I love traveling and I love Costa Rica. I want to share a little bit of my culture through my food