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Shrimp and Grits

Chef's Corner logoYears ago, I learned that Italian polenta is a finer version of those exact little “grits” so beloved in the US south. Here to satisfy those soul food cravings, this is comfort food at its best. The topping is extremely versatile so you can use your favorite proteins, sauces, or leftovers…
Serves 6

Shrimp and grits For the shrimp and gravy

  • 1/2 kilo (one pound) medium to large shrimp, peeled, and deveined. Pat dry with paper towels.
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
  • 1 cup of tomato puree
  • A couple drops of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of finely chopped fresh thyme and parsley
  • 1 teaspoon of brown sugar
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  1. Using your favorite frying pan, fry garlic in olive oil, add dried tomatoes, herbs, and finally tomato puree.
  2. Season with salt, pepper, Worcestershire, and brown sugar.
  3. Allow to thicken before adding shrimp.
  4. Stir-fry for no more than 5 minutes and remove the entire pan to keep warm.

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Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Chef's Corner logoAfter we thank our Jamaican friends for Bob Marley, we should also thank them for this Jerk seasoning recipe which is the absolute king of marinades.

For 10 assorted bone-in chicken pieces.

Marinade Ingredients

  • 1 entire bunch of scallions(cebollino in Costa Rican) chopped to facilitate processing.
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 shot of dark rum
  • 1/3 cup of lime juice
  • 10 crushed or 1 tablespoon of allspice berries (called Jamaica in Costa Rica)*
  • 1 inch cube of ginger
  • 2 whole habanero peppers or to taste. Fiery habaneros or scotch bonnet peppers are recommended, but they can be lessened or eliminated if your guests have low heat tolerance.
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup oil (I like to use coconut, but any other is fine)
  • Salt and black pepper

*I like to dry fry the allspice berries for a few minutes to release the fragrance and then pound them with a mortar and pestle. The powdered kind is significantly weaker.

Jamaican Jerk ChickenDirections

  1. Mix all the marinade ingredients in a food processor.
  2. Marinade the chicken pieces in the refrigerator for at least four hours or overnight.
  3. Set the grill to a low temperature to avoid burning.
  4. Grill the chicken pieces, turning frequently, for 45 minutes and then finish in a 350 oven for 30 minutes ensuring that all pieces are done. Juices should run clear when a toothpick is inserted into the thickest part.

This marinade works well with pork chops too. Great served with rice and beans.

Contact Chef Desiree at costadezz@gmail.com.


Pad Thai

Chef's Corner logo

This dish has become soooo popular worldwide, and here’s why; because of that deliciously decadent balancing act between comfort and blandness from the rice noodles, with the zest and pop of lime juice, hot peppers, sweet brown sugar, crunchy peanuts… Optimal when served immediately! 8 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 package, 14 oz (396 gm) of Pad Thai noodles, soaked in water for 30 minutes & drained
  • 1 bundle of green onions or scallions, chopped
  • Pad Thai

  • 1/3 cup of chopped garlic
  • 1/3 cup of blanched bean sprouts (optional)
  • 1/3 cup of freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2/3 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of fish sauce or Nam Pla (available locally)
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped hot peppers or to taste
  • 1/2 cup of chopped unsalted peanuts
  • 1/4 cup of freshly torn and chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 kilo of shrimp*
    *Shrimp can be replaced with chicken, pork, mushrooms, other veggies of your preference, or any combination thereof.

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Old-School Coconut Creme Pie

Coconut Creme PieA good friend gave me this surprisingly easy recipe and it’s been a hit every time that I make it. Allow for it to sit overnight and top it with the whipped cream right before serving.

For 8 portions.

Ingredients

  • 1 package of 150 gm “cocanas” store-bought coconut cookies coarsely broken up (pounding them in a bag with a mallet is a fun stress-reliever)
  • 3 tablespoons of Dos Pinos salted butter
  • 1 cup and 3 tablespoons of coconut flakes
  • 1 1/2 cups of crema dulce (Dos Pinos or other brand)
  • 1 1/2 cups of milk
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 3/4 cups of white sugar
  • 1/2 cup of wheat flour
  • 1/4 ts salt
  • 1 ts vanilla extract
  • 1 very cold 250 ml box of whipping cream (crema dulce again) + 1/3 cup sugar OR 1 cup of frozen whipped topping—thawed (yes, this option is perfectly acceptable and another reason to love this recipe).

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Vietnamese Shaking Beef (Bo Luc Lac)

Vietnamese shaking beef (bo luc lac)By Desiree Brassert

The cuisine of my mother’s country will never cease to amaze me with it’s unlikely marriage of clean-and-crisp with depth AND simplicity– a culinary menage-a-quatre! LOL! This recipe is very easy, all you need is to concentrate on the timing since it is best served immediately.
4 servings

  • 1 kilo or 2 lbs of beef tenderloin cut into 1/2 inch or 2 cubic centimeter cubes
  • 8 med-sized garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup of oyster sauce
  • 4 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 3 teaspoons of sesame oil
  • 4 tablespoons of brown sugar

Mix all this together and rest for 4 to 8 hours.

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Soba Noodle Bowl

Soba Noodle BowlBy Desiree Brassert

This recipe is vegetarian, but you could also easily add flavored strips of meat or seafood to complete this one-bowl meal.
Soba noodles are a true Japanese delicacy. Thin like spaghetti, they are made with buckwheat flour and their nutty flavor makes an excellent base for stir fries and salads, hot or cold.

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Shrimp Remoulade

Shrimp RemouladeBy Desiree Brassert

This classic recipe from New Orleans can be used as an alternative cocktail sauce for the typical ketchup and horseradish concoction, or as a dressing for a salad as pictured here.

For 6 to 8 servings or 1 kg of medium sized peeled, deveined, and poached shrimp. Allow to cool, and leave the tails attached if serving as a shrimp cocktail.

  • 1 stick of celery, leaves removed
  • 1 small white onion (no more then 1/2 cup if chopped)
  • 2 strands of green onions
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley and some for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons of good quality mustard, preferably whole grain, but Dijon is fine
  • 2 tablespoons of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup mayonnaise

Place all ingredients except for the oil and mayo into a blender. Turn on lowest speed and slowly pour in the oil to obtain a thick emulsion. Check seasonings and then fold in Mayonnaise. 

This sauce is best when made 24 hours in advance.


Potato Latkes with Smoked Trout

Potato Latkes with Smoked SalmonBy Desiree Brassert

The locally farmed and cured smoked trout is a great substitute for smoked salmon that only comes from distant and colder waters.
Here’s a little spin on this classic bite-size appetizer.

Note: Vegetarian options are applesauce and cinnamon, or sour cream.

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Cajun Inspired Stuffed Chayotes

Stuffed chayotesBy Desiree Brassert

Elevate the humble chayote (or mirliton in Louisiana) with this Cajun-inspired recipe. The miniature version (or cocorro in these parts) makes for an attractive party appetizer or side dish. Try this unfailing southern technique of: boil–hollow–stuff–bake, and you’ll be on to something!

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Maki Sushi

Maki SushiBy Desiree Brassert

These are surprisingly easy to make. The key is in the sweet vinegar rice. Sushi rice should stickier then usual so don’t fret if it looks like too much cooking liquid.

Makes 4 maki or 32 bite size pieces

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Cheesy Baked Eggs with Kale & Bacon

Chef's Corner logoBy Desiree BrassertBy Desiree Brassert

We must be thankful that one of the hottest superfoods in the world is now readily available in our town. Not only is kale loaded with vitamins, but it is also known to lower cholesterol, fight certain cancers, and eliminate toxins.

Here’s a quick and simple crowd pleaser that you can make for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. If bacon is not your thing, try crumbled smoked trout.

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Vietnamese Green Papaya Salad

Chef's Corner logoBy Desiree Brassert

This salad is sold as a refreshing snack in the street stalls of Saigon and goes well with beer.

Salad

  • One small green papaya—I just ask a neighbor if I can pluck one off their tree!
  • One packet of beef jerky, finely cut with scissors –Jack links have finally arrived in Quepos, but other brands are fine
  • 1/3 cup chopped peanuts or other nut of your preference
  • Handful of chopped cilantro leaves

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Apple Crumble Pie

Chef's Corner logoBy Desiree Brassert

These little Costa Rican apples can be very flavorful. Usually in bags of 6, their colors are reddish yellow. They are soooo much better than the bigger, imported, pricey, and bland varieties also found on those same shelves at the produce counter.

Desiree's Apple Crumble Pie

Crust

  • 1¼  cups flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 tbs manteca (shortening) chilled
  • 4 tablespoons of butter (preferably unsalted) chilled
  • 4 to 6 tbs water
  • ½ shot vodka

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Crispy Spring Rolls

Chef's Corner logoBy Desiree Brassert

These fried rolls are very different in texture and taste. The authentic recipe calls for ground pork and shrimp although the shrimp can be substituted with crab meat. You can offer a vegan alternative by using tofu and shitake mushrooms. I find that using ground chicken or turkey is just as delicious as long as a little butter is added to keep the juiciness while frying.

Spring rollsSpring Roll Ingredients

•Rice paper or banh trang
•One small bundle of bean thread noodles (they are often sold in little bunches gathered with string)
•5 oz (150 grams) shredded carrots
•5 oz (150 g) shedded cabbage
•2 oz (100 g) shredded daikon (optional)
•1 small onion, thinly sliced
•1 lb (500 g) of ground chicken or turkey
•1 tbs soft butter or margarine
•Salt and white pepper to taste
•Vegetable oil for frying

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