Isabela Island, the Galapagos – Ceviche anyone?

Of all my travels, this is one that transcends time and place. It is as magical the third time as it was the first. The Galapagos Islands are a must see!

From elementary school to college, we learned about Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. We studied origins and how species have evolved over time. We know that some of the most unique species on this earth are located on these islands. But have you been there? Have you seen the Blue footed Boobies, the tortuga’s, or the iguana’s. The vastness from lush agricultural land to dry and arid conditions will blow your mind.

The Galapagos Islands were surreal for me. Just imagine Darwin fascinated by all of the species, recording and writing it all down as he traveled around the islands and then onto the Indian Ocean. His actual discovery or his epiphany of evolution actually occurred in the Indian Ocean months after he had left Santa Cruz island of the Galapagos.

The Research Station which is in need of funds to continue the work of Darwin in Santa Cruz

He was fascinated by the finches and how they adapted from island to island. He kept going back to his notebook, looking at his drawings, and contemplating how different and unique each finch was to the island. There are more than 100 small islands and 13 major islands in the Galapagos. The unique islands are home to tortoises, iguanas, fur seals, sea lions, sharks, sting rays, and many indigenous birds. It was the birds and their differences from island to island that had his brain churning. I completely understand Darwin needing a few months to put together natural selection, I mean my mom brain works a little slow sometimes. It may take me a few minutes or even a day to remember, why did I come in here? What was I coming to get? Ah, well never mind…..

Some of my best memories are here on the islands. Jamie and I got to experience the Galapagos together, hike a large shield volcano, and kayaked in the Pacific Ocean. I was in my first trimester two years later and snorkeling with sea turtles and white-tipped sharks. The different species on land and sea, the beautiful aqua-blue water, and impressive sunsets were just the tip of the iceberg or lets say volcano. The old adage states, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Well, I do not know of anyone who has traveled with me, that does not see the beauty in the diversity. Sometimes I wonder if others who yearn for a more homogeneous society could stop and see the actual beauty within things that are different. I know that Darwin saw it, I saw it, maybe others can too.

I have been so fortunate to have experienced this raw beauty personally but for those who have not had the opportunity, let me share these with you. I love looking back at these pictures and remembering the wonderful, fresh seafood each day.

Snorkeling was amazing. I can honestly say that our sites were phenomenal and well worth a full day at sea. Here are some of those pictures:

So, if you ever want to go – let me know and I will grab my passport and pack my bags! Seriously, add this to your bucket list.

One of my favorite dishes in Ecuador and especially on Isabela is ceviche. Ceviche is a fresh, summer time dish. However, I crave it year round. Ceviche is unique because you do not cook it. The acid from the lemon or lime will over time cook the shrimp. You can add a variety of items to go with your shrimp from jalapenos for spice, to onions and tomatoes for the basics. Cilantro is the second star player next to the lime juice.

SHRIMP CEVICHE

Simple ingredients and with a little bit of prep time, you will have a wonderful dish.

2 lbs of Shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tail off

2 cups of lime juice

1 red onion diced

1 10oz container of petite snacking tomatoes – diced (that is what I had on hand) You can use a can of diced tomatoes if you do not have fresh on hand

1/2 cup of diced green pepper

2 Tbsps of cilantro paste or 1/4 cup of fresh cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste

Optional – if you like a bit of hit, you can add jalapenos or red pepper flakes, also it is really nice with avocados too!

Dice shrimp and pour lime juice in a bowl, place in the refrigerator for 2 1/2 to 3 hours until they are no longer pink (I have done this in the morning, and had it ready to go for lunch or even supper). Be sure to give it a shake or stir at least once during the process.

Next, after the shrimp are nice and pink, add your diced veggies, salt and pepper along with the cilantro.

Wahoo, you are done. You can serve this dish in a ton of ways. Some will serve it with popcorn, tortillas, tostados, or as a chilled soup. Either way, you cannot go wrong. One last tip, if you need to rush this, mom brain is in neutral, no fear. Take 2 lbs of pre-cooked shrimp and let it thaw with the lime juice and you just sped up your cook time tremendously.

Mis viajes son tus viajas, my travels are your travel! Hope you enjoy!

Sweet Sweet Sea Bass oh how I love thee in Santo Domingo

El Poder Brutal – Brutal power
or
La Cara del Diablo – The face of the devil

Have you ever…. No its not a game. Have you ever had a meal, dish, food, entre, or dessert that smacked you in the face with its yumminess? Have you ever had to use every ounce of control to not lap it up like a starving dog – or kid? You must have also heard the expression, “it’s so good, it will make you smack your momma.” Well, I better not do that, today is her birthday. Well, six years ago, I had sea bass in a seafood sauce for the last time in Santo Domingo, Ecuador at Andalucia’s restaurant. The chef was a Columbian who had trained in Paris, married a lovely Ecuadorian girl and moved to Santo Domingo to serve me this dish. I am sure that is exactly why he went to culinary school – to serve me this amazing dish three times. It was so good that I still want to smack my momma – it was that good.

Lightly Breaded Corvina (Sea Bass) with a beautiful garlic, butter, wine seafood sauce at Andalucia’s in Santo Domingo, Ecuador

As a professor, I have had the opportunity to take students on study abroad trips. We got to travel to Ecuador and see the Andes, tropics, Amazon, and the coast of Ecuador along with the Galapagos Islands (that will be another post with about a million pictures). Three of our trips were in January right after the New Year. We headed south to the capital of Quito, then traveled west to Santo Domingo and then onto the Pacific Coast to a quaint little hole in the mountain town of Same (pronounced Saum a). We had some amazing friends who helped host our groups each time and they are responsible for introducing us to Andalucia’s. Even when I say the name Andalucia, my mouth waters. How crazy is that??

Santo Domingo de los Colorados or simply known as Santo Domingo. Santo Domingo is the capital of the province Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas (pronounced by a Kentucky gal as sack a chil yas). The reason for telling you this is to learn about the indigenous people of Santo Domingo known as the Tsachilas or simply the Colorados Indians. This ethnic group was known for the men dying their hair red and using the seeds from the achiote plant to do so.

Santo Domingo has a rich, cultural heritage with the Tscachilas. We had the opportunity to visit and learn from them while we were there. We got to see the achiote pod, cut into it and even use the seeds to paint our faces similar to the Tsachilas. While there we listened to their tradition music and instruments made out of bamboo. The idea of continuing the practices and rituals of ancient people fascinate me. How often do we through tradition by the way side simply for the pleasure of the here and now. Those rich cultures provide a since of understand and knowledge of those who have gone before us. I truly wish we did more of that today.

In the province, we visited a pineapple farm, cocoa farm and a bamboo farm. Some of the sweetest pineapples are not the ones we have in the grocery stores in the US. The best pineapples are actually the third production pineapples. The first produce gets graded and if it is of great quality, equal eyes (the circles on the pineapples are called eyes), no abnormalities or blemishes then, it heads off to the good ole USA. The second production or those with blemishes are a bit smaller than the standard size and they show up in smaller markets or local grocery stores throughout the country. But, the third, oh the third time is the charm. These smaller hand sized pineapples are so sweet and juicy, you could eat them straight out of the fields. Those beauties known as queens are typically found in the open farmer’s markets.

Have you ever walked in a bamboo forest? Well, you should if you ever get the chance. Of all my travels and crazy adventures, I have only had one experience that was close to the vastness of the bamboo and that was the Black Forest in Germany, another blog – I promise with a bit of schnapps. Bamboo can grow to 100 feet tall and they are one of the fastest growing species. Did you know they can grow three feet in a 24 hour period? Yes, a bit invasive if not cared for but they are also gloriously producing massive amount of O2. Which I gratefully appreciate as it filter more of the CO2, and produces twice as much oxygen. As we hiked through the forest, it was at least ten degrees cooler in the forest. We were able to drink water from the bamboo and learned how the indigenous people used the bamboo for drinking, construction, musical instruments, weapons, and so many other functions.

Chocolate, cocoa, cacoa all of these are the same. When I was a little girl, I dreamed of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory and how rivers of chocolate would flow. I never once really thought about how it grew, what it looked like or the process behind it. As I have ripened with age, I have developed an appreciation for the finer aspects of this product. Dark chocolate paired with a fruit or wine, adding nuts and cheese to a tray of this wondrous creation is just what any doctor (PhD that is – ha) ordered. Cocoa tree is a short tree with a waxy leaf. It produces a fruit not like an apple tree or peach but one where the fruit or pod is produced on the actual bark or trunk of the tree not a flower off of a stem/leaf. The pod grows and ripens into a yellow/brown chocolate color, when cracked open a series of seeds enveloped in a fleshy material fill the pod up. If you tried the fleshy material covering these seeds, it would have a sweet bitter taste to them. For chocolate production, the seeds are set out to ferment, dry, and then roast. Once roasted, you will cut them up into nibs (similar to nuts) and eat them or continue the process of melting them down into glorious chocolate.

Transitioning back to the city, we had such wonderful hosts with the Velastegui’s. They own and operate Radio Zaracay in Santo Domingo. Our connection with this family started back in the 1980’s when Bowling Green, Kentucky had a sister city in Santo Domingo, Ecuador. Holger and his family studied at Western Kentucky University and developed a close relationship with faculty and friends from Kentucky. When we were there, they were gracious hosts and ensured that our time in Santo Domingo was simply the best. I love this country and the people. I have been 19 times and have truly seen and experienced new things each time because of the connections made over the years.

The connections with families in Santo Domingo opened the door to that glorious restaurant, Andalucia, for three years. I ordered the same dish every time simply because I could and it was worth it each time. I recently was shopping at Kroger, our local grocery store, and ran, literally ran to the freezer aisle when I saw the words: Sea Bass. I had wanted so badly to do this blog, to write about this dish since its creation in August, this restaurant, this city. However, in good ole Murray, Kentucky, I figured I would never see this amazing fish in our markets. Now, Nashville or Louisville yes, but not Murray. So on this beautiful January day, I bought all that they had in stock. Yes, I truly took everything that was in the cooler and I do not feel bad about it all. I take no chances! When good luck and fortune of corvina (Spanish word for seas bass) came my way, I grabbed it. My littlest, who by the way is an avid grocery shopper, asked, “why are you buying so many?” I simply said, “baby, when good things come along, you soak it all up – every last ounce.”

Hard to get a good picture when she is in action at the grocery store, gotta love Kroger’s little carts!

So for all of you wanting to know if I mastered that taste from Andalucia’s, well, I sure did come close.

SEA BASS in a SEAFOOD SAUCE

Sea Bass filets (4-5)

1 egg

1 cup Panko Breading – I used whole wheat

1/2 cup Italian Style Bread crumbs

Salt/Pepper

1 tbsp olive oil

For Seafood Sauce

8 oz (1 cup) of Evaporated Milk (being January – we are a bit health conscious so we use evaporated instead of half n’ half.

1 cup of white wine (I used Chardonnay)

1 tbsp of minced garlic

1 tbsp of butter

1 lb of shrimp (I cut some in half and some whole)

1 tbsp of chives

1 tbsp of parsley

Salt and Pepper

In a baking dish, crack your egg and beat it. Add salt and pepper. In a baking dish or flat plate – add your panko crumbs and your Italian Style bread crumbs. Mix. Take your thawed sea bass, coat in egg wash both sides, then into the bread crumbs. Coat both sides. You can keep the skin on, it is one of the few fish like salmon that you can eat the skin. If you want heat, you could add some chili powder or cayenne to the bread crumb mixture.

In a saute pan or skillet, add oil. Cook the fish, 5 minutes on each side. I used a warmer to keep them warm while cooking the rest of the fish.

In a wok skillet or other sauce pan on medium heat, add your evaporated milk, butter, salt, pepper, chives and parsley. Once it is mixed and started to warm, I add the wine slowly (no real reason but this how I do it). Let the mix come to a boil, the reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add shrimp during the last five – six minutes of the simmer. Salt and Pepper to taste.

You may feel the need to add more butter, salt and or pepper to your liking.

I served this dish with roasted asparagus drizzled with a balsamic glaze (store bought) and a salad.

I truly hope that you have traveled to Santo Domingo and back with me in this blog. I love the country, the traditions, the people, and the food. If you haven’t signed up, please do and enjoy the latest food, travel and all. Lots of love and sea bass –

XOXO

Duck Duck…Peking Duck

Flashback November 2003, my first taste of duck. I just said yes and I do to my best friend in front of friends and family in my beautiful hometown. We partied and danced the night away then quickly gathered our bags and headed to the airport in Nashville. We boarded the plane early for us newlyweds at 6am for our dream Hawaiian honeymoon. You see, travel and adventure were always at the forefront in our relationship. We had went to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Boone, North Carolina, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and to Ecuador in our dating era. We were so determined to travel together; we would save change and use that money to help us travel. We had been dating 5 years when Jamie asked me to marry him and our deal was to have a Hawaiian honeymoon. We were budget conscious and ensured that the most important aspect of the event was our honeymoon. Jamie set up the entire arrangements for the honeymoon and I focused on the wedding. We went on a Norwegian Cruise Line, freestyle cruise to Hawaii. It was our first time on a cruise and definitely was not our last. We traveled around the islands and then onto an island in the Republic of Kiribati, Fanning Island. The most important part for you to know about that island is it is also known as Gilligan’s Island. We got to travel across the international date line and have 2 thanksgivings that year. On the first Thanksgiving in 2003, I got to taste duck for the very first time. I love being on cruises or places that you have a meal plan. You can be a bit adventurous in your meal choices and always have a back up plan that does not blow the bank. The duck was beautifully moist and had a sweet soy orange glaze that would make you want to smack your momma – it was that good. It was so memorable due to our honeymoon, two Thanksgivings, and the ambience of the beautiful Norwegian ship, the Sun.

Fast forward 2018, Beijing, China. I had the opportunity to speak at Beijing Normal University. My former graduate assistant was back in her homeland and living out her dream job. I was honored and so excited to be back in China and work with her on this project. I made sure I flew in early so that I could enjoy the city and see the sights with her and one of my students. Beijing is so vast and diverse. When we were there for our adoption, it was a quick two days. We hit the major highlights but missed a lot of what this city has to offer.

If you go to China, get jade! Just do it, pay for it, and you will have no regrets. In Chinese culture, women will wear jade on their wedding day. We bought jade earrings for our daughter when we adopted her a few years ago. The intricate carvings and workmanship these Chinese artists do with jade is outstanding. If you get a chance to go to the Beihai Park on W. Dianmen Street, do it. It is a beautiful park and has a pretty cool boat ride through the park. I probably would not recommend renting a bike and traveling the five miles on the highway to go there, but hey, I survived. When you haven’t ridden a bike in like 5 years or more, why not rent one and ride down a 8 lane highway to get there because the taxi was taking too long? When in Rome, I mean Beijing… I digress. The Dashanzi Art district is worth the hour train ride in the city. This is so cool, the once manufacturing area of Beijing that caused quite a bit of smog in the city has been transformed into an artist village. The 3-D art work was amazing to see and play around with while we were there. Of course, I got my picture in front of a painted horse thinking of my Old Kentucky home.

So often, friends will ask me what I eat in another country and how brave I am for trying new foods. Seriously folks, there are some amazing foods out there to try from all over the world! Try it – get out of your comfort zone and try it. These are just a few of the highlights of the food I tried while in the city. When we were in Beijing with the adoption of our daughter, we had tried to eat duck however, we did not get the chance to try it. The wait at the restaurant was a bit too long and we were afraid we would miss our meeting. I knew this time around, I was going to eat duck in the city if I had to wait three hours – it was going to happen. Boy, it did not disappoint. They do a bit of a show and carve your duck right in front of you.

It was just as I had remembered it from our honeymoon cruise. DELICIOUS!!

Fast forward – Present day. Our local Kroger grocery store is getting geared up for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday. They are feverishly stocking shelves and the coolers. I happened to walk by and I spotted DUCK!!!! In all the years since our honeymoon, I had never seen duck in our local grocery store. I literally squealed like a little girl on Christmas morning. A few folks turned to see if I was alright or just having an attack of some kind. I reassured them I was not insane but in fact thrilled to have duck. The confused glare from one older gentlemen made me want to tell him the whole story of my excitement but I figured I just needed to get the duck and get home.

Ahhhhhhh, sweet, sweet duck – where have you been? Leesburg, Indiana – I see, thank you Maple Leaf farms for making me a happy girl!

This beautiful farm raised duck out of Indiana helped me to celebrate our 16th anniversary in style. Maple Leaf farms out of Leesburg, Indiana has been raising ducks since 1958. The quality of the duck was outstanding.

Peking Roasted Duck

1- 4-5 lb Duck, innards removed, thawed (took two days in the refrigerator)

2 Halo oranges

1 tablespoon of fresh diced ginger

1 tbsp of minced garlic

1 tbsp House of Tsang Stir Fry oil

1 green onion diced

1 tsp of dried orange peel (I microwaved the fresh peel to dry it out since I did not have any dried and then diced it – it worked)

1/2 tbsp of sugar

1/2 tbsp of salt

2 tablespoons of light sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons of Shao Xing Cooking wine (This is my favorite brand but most rice wines will work)

1 tsp of Chinese 5 spice (or 13 spice – I have on hand) powder

GLAZE

1/4 cup of sorghum

1 tbsp of rice vinegar

1 cup of hot water

First, get your large plastic bag ready. I used ziplock 5 gallon zip and lock bag. Next, I made diagonal cuts just along the skin of the duck breast, then reversed it to create a diamond pattern. DO NOT cut deep, light cuts just through the skin of the duck will do. I dried the inside of the duck out prior to stuffing the duck with 2 of the halo oranges.

Combine the marinade ingredients, ginger, garlic, green onion, soy sauce, Shao Xing, salt, sugar, dried orange peel, and the 13 spice powder. Pour over the duck and let marinate for 24 hours.

Next day, preheat the oven to 425 degree. Make the glaze. Take the glaze ingredients(sorghum, water and rice vinegar), mix, and cook on medium heat till combined. Place the duck in a large roasting pan, be sure to spray with Pam cooking spray. Brush the duck with 1/4th of the glaze and place in the oven.

Cook on 425 degrees for 35 minutes. Then add another 1/4 glaze (half should be gone by this point) to the duck and reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Roast for another 20 minutes. Pull duck out and use the remaining glaze (1/2) and roast for an additional 10 minutes till the internal temp is 170 degrees. Let it rest for at least 10 minutes before carving.

I made orange flavored, steamed broccoli (I used a bit of the duck sauce pack on the broccoli since I did not use it on the duck Рit was good). Jasmine rice and hoisin saut̩ed mushrooms. Not bad for 16 years of saying yes to all of our adventures.