We recently returned from our annual international anniversary trip. This year, we decided to travel to Costa Rica, which apparently contains 6% of the world’s biodiversity. Given our trip was limited to just 1 week, we chose to rent a car from San Jose and go south. We spent a few days hiking the trails and taking in the wildlife in Los Quetzales National Park. We took a day trip to Santa Maria de Dota and did a coffee tour of Coopedota where I had a chance to pick and eat some coffee berries while learning about the process of coffee making. After a pit stop at the beach in Dominical where a friendly local with a machete approached us and opened two coconuts we found while strolling on the beach, we finished off our trip by heading to Manuel Antonio National Park where there were sloths aplenty. Then we beach hopped our way back to San Jose airport.
Even though we were only in Costa Rica a week, we managed to hit a wide variety of ecosystems and micro-climates. Though we tried our best, our photos barely do the beaches justice.
Of course, no trip is complete without a healthy dose of food nostalgia. As usual, we had some of our best finds at local markets. The seafood soup at a soda (Costa Rican eatery) in Mercado Central was incredibly rich and generously studded with tuna. The fruit was amazing, and vast majority of places we went made it a point to only serve what was in season. I discovered this after requesting mango and being rebuffed by a local.
One thing you simply can’t miss is a dish called gallo pinto which translates to “spotted rooster.” Although seemingly just a humble rice and beans recipe, this particular dish is more than the sum of its parts. Its exact origin in debated. Both Costa Rica and Nicaragua lay claim to it, although its roots may actually stem from Africa. Regardless of origin, the combo of rice and beans seen in many Latin American (or New Orleans red beans and rice wink wink) cuisines provides complete protein. Gallo pinto is commonly served as part of a Costa Rican breakfast along with eggs, plantains, and fresh fruit.
- white rice* 2 cups, cooked
- beans** 2 cups, cooked
- red bell pepper 1 large, diced
- onion 1 large, diced
- garlic 3 cloves, minced
- cilantro 1/2 cup, chopped
- Salsa Lizano*** To taste
In a large pan, heat up oil on medium high heat. Add diced red bell pepper and onions and saute until lightly browned. Add minced garlic and cook until aromatic. Add beans followed by rice. Add Salsa Lizano and incorporate all the onion, pepper, and beans uniformly with the rice. Mix in the cilantro then give it a squeeze of lime juice to brighten up the flavors. Enjoy!
*For this particular recipe, day old rice is actually easier to use than freshly cooked rice.
**I happened to use dried black beans that I soaked and cooked. I think the texture of dried beans is better than canned, but feel free to use canned if you’re in a rush. You can also substitute pinto beans or red beans.
***We bought a small bottle of Salsa Lizano while in Costa Rica and brought it back with us. I have yet to find a store in DC that sells it. If you’re in a bind, you can use Worcestershire sauce and add a bit of smoked paprika/cumin to try to replicate some of the smokiness and vegetal notes