25 September 2010

25 September - Balboa and the Pacific; Carimanolas

On this day in 1513, Vasco Nunez de Balboa, a Spanish explorer, 'discovered' the Pacific Ocean, from the summit of a mountain range next to the Chucunaque River in modern Panama.

Can surfing be far behind?

Actually, he and his expedition were the first Europeans to see the Pacific Ocean from the New World.  European and Middle Eastern explorers who went east instead of west and 'discovered' Japan and Korea (and their immediate neighborhoods), saw the Pacific years before, and of course, those people who lived along the coast line or on one of the islands knew all about it for centuries.

But now it was certain, at least to the Spanish.  There may be a large landmass in the way - a large, RICH landmass - but on the other side was the large body of water which must lead to the East Indies and the spice trade.

Upon reaching the shoreline, Balboa waded in, knee-deep, raised his sword aloft, and claimed the ocean and all lands which touched it for the Spanish crown.  He named it the Mar del Sur, the South Sea.  Seven years later, Magellan, rounding Cape Horn, named it the Mar Pacifica, as it looked peaceful and calm (little did he know!), and the name has remained Pacific.

A suitable way to celebrate this discovery would be with cuisine from any part of the Pacific, most notably  from Panama.  Considering the size of the ocean (the earth's largest), this gives you endless varieties.

There are several good sites with Panamanian recipes. This one, Canal Zone and Panama Recipes, has "Jim's Pineapple/ Pecan/ Cherry/ Mango Upside-down Cake" (oh, it looks good!) which I will be trying, and several recipes for "Johnny Mazetti" (various spellings), which seems to have been a favorite from Canal construction days.

Try this one from Panama Living. There are also a couple of drink recipes on that site, which should make cooking an adventure.

CARIMANOLAS: (these would be excellent as appetizers)
[I've added replacement ingredients and further instructions inside the brackets]
  • 3 lbs yuca  [or 3 lbs of sweet potatoes, steamed and mashed, and mixed with 1 beaten egg]
  • salt to taste
  • 1 lb ground meat (iguana (iguana), gatosolo (coati), vaca (beef), puerco (pork).....) [ground beef or ground pork would be my choice]
  • 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 clove garlic pressed
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 3 or 4 capers
Boil yuca with salt but do not allow to get too soft.  Grind with fine blade in grinder and knead with salt.  [Knead potatoes to make a dough].

Form balls, flatten in the palm of the hand and fill with stuffing forming into an oval shape.  Pinch to close ends.  [On floured board, pat or roll flat about 3 tablespoons of potato dough.  Fill dough with 1 heaping teaspoon of meat mixture.  Bring dough up, over, and around meat, similar to shape of  a football. Repeat for all dough and filling]

Fry in very hot oil until golden. [Fry in deep hot fat (375 degrees F.) for 4 or 5 minutes, until golden. Serve hot]

To Make Filling:
Season ground meat with salt, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, capers, onion, sugar, garlic and parsley.  Brown in very small amount of hot oil and add tomato paste.  Simmer until quite dry.

If you want to freeze the carimonolas, dust with a little flour after they are formed and place on a cookie sheet in the freezer until firm and then place in sealed ziplock bags.  To fry, take from freezer to hot oil at one time as they may fall apart.  Do one or two at a time only.

(courtesy of Tula Brown)