Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Walk This Way on Culebra

I had decided yesterday to take a walk today to see one of my favorite trees. I decide lots of days I'm going to take a walk and end up walking about as far as the back porch. It's walking, but not exactly what I planned. But today, waking up, putting on real clothes, feeding the cat and finishing my coffee occurred before the sun was really beaming so why not roll on with it?

Today was a SEVA food giveaway day and people were lined up from the old school to the new(er) school and around the corner. I don't know what's in this week's box of goodies but I do know there is a lot of gratefulness up and down the line. Plus, I got to say hello and have mini-chats (masked/safe distancing, yes) to a whole bunch of people I've missed seeing, a one step at a time smile fest. 

The tree, as I was told, was in bloom, without, as I was also told, very many leaves, but alive and beautiful, well worth the walk (she wrote, alliteratively). 

Half-dressed works for me

I need to go back with the real camera
Since I was already that far, I thought I'd go check on another favorite tree, the rainbow eucalyptus. Sadly, it's dead, rumors of it not making it through the hurricanes turned out to be true. Vale, dear tree, I hardly knew ye. Someone needs to grow another one here. Or ten. 

It wasn't difficult to cheer myself up on the way back. This is a walk that I've taken hundreds of times with well over more than a decade living at the shack and it's always interesting to see what's new, what's changed, what's going on. Sometimes it's good, sometimes not so much but always, always interesting. 

This is the largest cashew I've ever seen! it would fill a child's palm.
I've never seen this boat before, but its Crayola colors are inspiring me! Plus, that bimini looks like a very good idea as well. Hmmm.

I think I have a project coming up!
There are a few homes on Culebra that are as special as certain trees. Some have fallen into disrepair just like some have been fixed up over the years. This is one of my favorites. I hope they just keep it fresh with paint and never change anything else. 

As my Dad used to say when I made a clumsy move,
that first step is a doozy. 
There was also something on this walk I'd never seen before. Or maybe I have but forgot, which always makes for new discoveries. When I first saw this, I thought it was a bird's nest, and how weird that it would be on a wire. That thought lasted about a nanosecond as its mossy self became apparent. It reminded me of a ball of Spanish moss; I'll leave it to more educated planty friends to name. 

The light made the blooms iridescent. A better camera would have been...better. 
The sun was turned on full bore by now, but a breeze was happening too. There was still a long line of cars waiting, though not quite so long, some with towels or papers to block the heat ball, and no one was complaining. 

Welcome home, Johnny! Your self-quarantine will end soon enough,
thank you for playing by the rules, though I'd expect no less.
Those of you who come here and DON'T self-quarantine 14 days
including not going in the shops? No thanks for you.

Have a safe walkabout Wednesday. Do something wanderble. Yes, I made that up.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Culebra Q Flag Pastelon

A few weeks ago, a LOT of food was delivered to me by angels good friends who were taking free food around the island. There were all sorts of things in those many bags, one being canned beef. I've never used canned beef before, to cook anything (I'd been using the cans as hand weights, but that's not the same). Then I saw Digna's post about using it for pastelon. According to Wikipedia, pastelon is the following:
Pastelón is a Puerto Rican casserole dish layered like Italian lasagne made with exclusively sweet plantains, stuffed with mincemeat, vegetables, and bound together with beaten eggs. Wikipedia

Some people think it's the same as piñon, but I am smart enough to not go there. 

It also happens to be one of my very favorite Puerto Rican dishes. Some people also really like corned beef hash. That's another thing to do with this meat that you will never see anything about from me.

You can slice plantain the fancy way, cut in half
and then cut horizontally, like you are filleting a fish
or cut down vertically while holding its very slippery flesh.
I chose vertically.
Frying ripe plantains is something I do have some experience with. They were a childhood side dish that my Dad and a family friend Pompeo would make, from Cuba days. Salud to you two! Whenever I eat them, it's one of the most comforting of comfort foods.

I've thinking about making pastelon for weeks now, slowly remembering to buy this or that. There are as many recipes for this traditional dish as there are for potato salad, or lasagna. Whether it's cultural or family tradition doesn't really matter, what matters is the basics of ripe plantains, some sort of meat and beaten eggs. Some say cheese, some say no cheese. I chose cheese. Some include vegetables, some don't. Are olives a vegetable? 

This is a messy business, or at least it is in my case,
 but fun. If one really went nuts, making your own
sofrito, etc., it could be a day of fun, but I cheated.
I cheated with the cheese too but only because I
couldn't find a block of mozzarella and
I'm not a queso blanco fan. Shoot me.
I went basic. The only other time I've ever made pastelon was more than ten years ago at a friend's celebration of life dinner on St. Croix. I had, basically, all of the ingredients but had no idea what I was doing, so I called the only person I knew then who made it and served me some of its deliciousness, Neil Romero, here on Culebra. He talked me through the recipe, I made it, it was excellent. It didn't hurt that for the meat some wonderful local Crucian ladies had made the filling for about two hundred empanadas and there was plenty left for me to play with. Mine was absolutely not even close to as good as theirs, but still, canned beef and all, it turned out  to be pretty good.

As usual, I looked at probably five recipes and went with what I had and what sounded right to me. As usual, play with your food!

First I heated up the canned beef, then drained it of a LOT of fat
and extra liquid.

Then I added sofrito, tomato sauce (that had some tomatoes in it),
green olives, cilantro, garlic, and I threw in a dash of cumin.
Because I could.
I didn't have adobo or Sazon, it worked anyway. 
It was time to start layering. Let me say this about that, I definitely did NOT have enough plantain! This isn't a big dish, but two pretty good sized plantains only gave me enough for the bottom layer and a middle, with a few token strips on top. Lesson learned.

Once all layered up, it was time for the beaten eggs to be poured over the whole thing.

Ok, pretty much the whole thing.
Into the 350 degree oven for 25 or 30 minutes, until it gets that golden look. I almost hit it with the broiler, but it looked good enough as it was. 

Lo and behold, it was good enough!

I know, the plantain looks like bacon. It's not.
In the end you have this sweet and savory dish, a bit of slight zing from the olives, the mellowness of the tomatoes, with melty cheesy goodness. Truthfully, I don't taste the eggs at all, I think they just get sucked into the other ingredients and become the tie that binds.

I probably need to make it again, to use up some of these ingredients that were just for its own self. There's plenty of time.

Have a wysiwyg Wednesday! Do something worthwhile. Willingly.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Laughing All the Way

The other day I was crossing the bridge, with no camera of course, and the canal was covered in laughing gulls, skimming the surface of the water for happy hour snacks. On the off-chance that they would gather again, I went back yesterday, with my own happy hour libation, to see what might be going on. Apparently, like us, they are creatures of habit as long as there is something on offer.

If I were really clever, I'd have made a video too, but it completely slipped my mesmerized mind.

The laughing gull ballet begins.

Have a saturated Sunday! Do something serenely satisfying.