Our cashew fruits are ripe on the tree. About the size and shape of a small apple, this juicy fruit is called Maranon in Costa Rica – the n needs a tilde but I can’t get my keyboard to cooperate. The fruit is juicy with a lot of texture and the skin is a little waxy. Makes a great smoothie but I like to eat them fresh.
Each fruit is host to a single cashew nut hanging from the bottom but beware. An un-informed friend of mine recently tried to eat one raw and broke out into a fiery rash that lasted nearly two weeks. Don’t try this at home. The nut is correctly processed through a number of steps including fire to get rid of the skin, shell, and caustic coatings that my friend encountered. I’m amazed they’re not even more expensive to buy than they are. Gretchen processed them once and later offered them to us. “Would you care for ONE cashew?”
My Steve was born on Christmas Day and since I love all things French, I decide long ago that his birthday cake would be a Buche de Noel – his middle name is even Noel. I don’t think I ever asked him if there was some other kind of cake he preferred or even if he liked chocolate cake. A buche it is.
When we lived up north, I had a several successful attempts. Over the years, I’ve learned to make an acceptable genoise and a pretty good ganache. Whipped cream, butter, and dark chocolate, how can you go wrong? I’ve even carried the cake to other family members’ homes with few problems.
But baking in Costa Rica is a whole different animal. First, there’s no such thing here as “heavy” cream for whipping. There’s only ultra-processed cream-like liquid in a tetra pak. I don’t think it has any butter fat in it. I do my best by getting it really cold. I even chill the metal bowl and the beaters. But it’s 85 degrees in my kitchen on Christmas Day and nothing stays cold for long. With the oven on, I just have to take my pants off, wishing I was 25 again and that someone might appreciate this view. Every year, as I struggle to get the mousse to firm up and the ganache to stay on the rolled cake, I beg to Steve to shoot me if I even threaten to try it again next year.
Mine didn’t even look this good.
Yesterday, we rigged up a support system of ice and wedges in the Styrofoam cooler – pre-chilled, of course – to transport what should be a simple dessert to the dinner venue. I cringed with shame as I set the mess on the table in front of my friends. But after tasting it, they raved and begged me to make it again next year. Really, how can you go wrong with dark chocolate, butter and cream? Maybe I’ll just put it in a bowl next year with a dozen spoons for passing.
Ceviche is a dish of lime cured fish and is sold at every truck stop and street corner in Costa Rica. For 1500 colones ($3.00) and served with soda crackers, hot sauce and mayonnaise to taste, it makes a low calorie snack or a cheap lunch.
Yesterday at the “bomba” (gas station) just outside of Samara, the vendor only had shrimp. Her misfortune was my reward. Delicious! Pura Costa Rica!