Nestled between Nicaragua to its north, and Panama to the southeast, and sharing two coastlines with the Pacific and the Caribbean lies the Republic of Costa Rica.
With a 3-hour car ride from the Liberia airport to our first adventure in the Arenal region there was plenty of time to soak up the scenic landscape. Miles of sugar cane and pineapple farms, long windy roads with twists and turns, and plenty of pot holes makes for a memorable ride. A country flushed with rainforests, tropical fauna, active volcanoes, pristine coast lines, abundant wildlife its hard not to fall in love with Costa Rica.
Costa Ricans or “Ticos” as they commonly refer to themselves are friendly, warm and inviting. This country has a lot of soul. Pura Vida (Pure Life) is a common expression often used to remind you to relax, and enjoy life. It’s an emotion, an attitude, its a way of life.
No trip for us would be complete without enjoying the local cuisine. We seek it out. Strolling the town center at noon, we noticed a group of local workers surrounding several car trunks where lunch was being served. Without hesitation we got into line and for about $8 for two we feasted on stewed chicken, Gallo Pinto (beans and rice), yucca, fried plantains, topped with a tangy cabbage slaw right out of pots in the car trunk. Score! A friendly local told me local cuisine include “beans and rice for breakfast, beans and rice for lunch and rice and beans for dinner”.
A memorable side dish enjoyed with one lunch was a local ceviche made with green bananas. Fresh and simplistic, it was delightful. This dish stayed with me all the way home. Green plantain has the texture of a white fish without well, the fish. There are numerous ways to prepare this dish but, this is my crack at it. So, next time you need a little summer in your winter or you are prepared to fire up the grill, or impress your friends with your pot luck dish… Here you go!
Green Plantain Ceviche (Ceviche de Plátano Verde)
2-3 green plantains (not ripe), cut in half
2 medium colorful bell peppers (red, yellow or orange), diced
1 medium red onion, halved and sliced thinly
4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thinly
1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (or a high quality juice)
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Salt and Freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a medium sauce pan, bring water to a boil. Place the halved unpeeled plantains in the pan and cook for approximately 20 minutes (you should see the peel coming away from the banana) or until the banana is still slightly firm. Remove from the pan. Set aside. Cool.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl combine the peppers, red onion, garlic cloves, lemon juice, orange juice, rice vinegar and cilantro.
Peel and dice the cooled bananas. Add to the other ingredients. Toss. Chill for several hours or overnight to allow the flavors to marinate.