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.
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.”
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 cup Panko Breading – I used whole wheat
1/2 cup Italian Style Bread crumbs
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 –