A Salad for Summer -- but isn't it ALWAYS summer here?

Before we go any further -- yes, I've been gone from FrantasticTravels for a long time and other than apologizing and telling you the long story of what's been going on, the only thing I can tell you is -- I am here today and hope this story and recipe make you happy or help or take up a few minutes of you time with something that isn't drudgery today.

Endive Salad

Endive Salad

Endive Salad

Endive -- how is it pronounced? Endiiiiiive? Endeeeeeve? The dictionary says either way so I'll go with Endiiiiiive which is what my mom called it. It's a bitter leaf lettuce, but if you can find it fresh with very white leaves and a little green at the top any bitterness will be mild and with a recipe like this you won't even notice. It will be a great addition to your salad repertoire. It was a last minute addition to a little dinner get-together with a few traveling colleagues this week and took no time to prep and put on the plate.

It seems to me this leaf needs to be paired with something sweet to counteract any bitterness it may have so ... when I got home and opened the fridge to begin pulling out the part of dinner I'd already prepped, an idea came together; Endive, Blue Cheese Spread, Strawberries and Walnuts. What could be bad? It's light (well, except for the blue cheese, but you don't have to pile it on like there is a shortage of cows to produce milk these days and it's easy to pick up and eat if you serve at the coffee table. It's different, unexpected, not something people would expect to find on the table in Honduras.

Endive Salad

Ingredients

  •  1 head Endive – cleaned and leaves separated
  • 6 Strawberries – sliced or diced
  • 1 Spring Onion – thinly sliced
  • 10 Toasted (optional) Walnuts – chopped (If you can tolerate the sugar, candied walnuts would be fabulous!)
  • 1/2 Cup Blue Cheese Spread
  • 6 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1.5 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Clean the endive by cutting the “core” of the stalk and pulling the leaves off. As you pull the leaves off you will come to another “core” and will need to cut it to easily pull more leaves off. This is why you have to eat this salad relatively quickly. A metal knife will speed up oxidation of the leaves although you can squeeze a little lemon or lime on the ends if you need it to sit while waiting to serve. If you have a ceramic knife, use it for this prep. It will save you the brown ends of the leaves.

Spread the blue cheese on the leaves to the thickness you desire depending on how much you like blue cheese and how many calories of this butter and blue cheese spread you're willing to consume. Recipe follows.

Once the blue cheese is on the leaves, sprinkle the berries, walnuts and finally, the green onion slices on top.

Drizzle olive oil and vinegar and sprinkle with salt – smoked or spicy salt would work well if used sparingly – and freshly ground black pepper.

You've got your salad prepped, but where did you find the blue cheese spread? And here's the story -- Last weekend was a lazy one. I don't do this often, but other than two trips to the supermarket I stayed home like a hermit.

When I got to the market and saw the package of what looked to be very fresh endive, I scooped it up and put it in my cart. I had no idea what I would do with it, but it's the first time I've seen it here and am looking for new items to add to my NO sugar, almost NO carb diet and thought this would be a good product to experiment with one night.

I wound my way over to the dairy section and found these small containers of cheese spread made by President's -- you know, the brie cheese maker. Ok, so it's not exactly to-die-for brie and a packaged spread is not my usual purchase, but I wanted to give it a try. I picked up a package of Crème de Brie, Crème de Cheddar and Crème de Blue Spread. Yep living alone in a foreign country where I am not able to drive leads to some strange purchases.

Processed Cheese Spread -- I'M SORRY!!

Processed Cheese Spread -- I'M SORRY!!

I had whipped up a pot of what I am calling Weeknight Boeuf Bourguignon in my new Instant Pot -- more about that in another post and thought this French-sounding lettuce with a French sounding cheese might work well. This wasn't a dinner to serve my favorite Honduran Corn Tortillas at.

Now, before you panic and think I've lost my marbles with this packaged food product, I whipped up some home made blue cheese spread to give you the recipe. My mom used to make a dinner party hors d' oeuvre with home made blue cheese spread on thin sticks of fresh Swiss cheese. So although there was no real recipe, I knew the flavor and texture I was looking for. It's not a calorie nightmare unless you spread it very thickly on whatever you are using as a cheese vehicle which in my case, was the almost negligible in calories Endive lettuce.

Blue Cheese Spread

  • 3.5 ounces Blue Cheese -- you can use Gorgonzola if you prefer -- I really like the smooth, creamy Dulce Gorgonzola
  • 1/4 cup Unsalted Butter
  • 2 Tablespoons Heavy Cream

Put it all into a food processor and whir around until it is smooth and creamy. Add a drizzle more of cream if the spread is not smooth enough to spread, but do so sparingly.

And Voilâ! You are done. You will have plenty to store the rest for other blue cheese recipes.

I had a package of Castello Blue Cheese Slices which are awesome on toast or crackers or ... well, carbs which are off my grocery list now ... so using it in this dish was perfect.

Castello Blue Cheese Slices

Castello Blue Cheese Slices

Processed Blue Cheese Spread

Processed Blue Cheese Spread

The finished product is delicious and can be used many ways. It would be great in ravioli or tortellini or even as a sauce for pasta if used lightly. It could be overpowering if used in too great a quantity.

Finished Blue Cheese Spread

Finished Blue Cheese Spread

Today is going to be another lazy day, but tomorrow it's time to get in the car and go see something -- anything. I've been to all of the Spanish Colonial towns in Western Honduras during the past 3.5 years, but there's got to be someplace to visit on a Sunday afternoon and I need to get away from the Langosta Voladora that are invading the hills again. The hills are alive with giant grasshoppers and although these two seemed somewhat friendly, they have sharp, spiny legs and are ... well, ugly and they are banging into my office windows all days long and will fly right into you if you're not careful. At home they are eating the plants on my balcony. How rude!

Oh Hai!

Oh Hai!

Langosta Voladora Sunning Himself

Hello, World!

Months of Searching in Honduras and a surprise video

Well hello there!

It's been far too long since we've seen each other. Work-life has interrupted my Honduras explorations, but I've had the opportunity recently to get out and see, take photos and experience more of Honduras and I've carved out a bit of time to share it all with you in the next few posts.

I don't have anything profound to share, but I do have a whole lot of photos and a few comments to say about them.

san Lorenzo Valle and Amapala

Spending almost two weeks inTegucigalpa I decided it was a great time to head south to the Pacific coast. I had not been to that part of the country and was anxious to get there. The map image above doesn't give you the full view of the twists and turns through the mountain, but I was not disappointed that I'd taken a Dramamine.

We arrived and drove through San Lorenzo Valle and decided to push forward to get as close to the ocean as possible. San Lorenzo is a small town and although located on beautiful waterways, we had our sights set on a larger body of water the Pacific, but not before witnessing the loading of large ice boxes used to store shrimp that is caught during overnight shrimping expeditions.

We hoped on a boat and headed to the island of Amapala about 30 minutes out.  We passed large houses perched on the edge of islands and saw flocks of Pelicans fishing for food.

After a walk through the deserted town, we boarded the boat and headed about 5 minutes around the corner to a beach where we pulled up to plastic tables and chairs on the beach, chose our fish, or not, and waited for our food to arrive while letting the cool beachside breeze keep us cool.

Fish and Shrimp

While most opt for the famous Pescado Frito -- Fried Fish, I went in for the Camarones Asado -- Grilled Shrimp. It came with my favorite -- fresh, hand made Tortillas de Elote (Corn Tortillas).  They were great -- moist, and full of corn flavor.

I was pretty happy I ordered shrimp. It meant I didn't have to partake in the challenge. Whew!

After a day of traveling, I felt more relaxed than I've felt in months. It was like a one day vacation and a much appreciated day in the sun and fresh air -- truly fresh air.

NExt Up -- A Morning in Valle De Angeles



Baleadas Express Wins Me Over

I have a new-found respect for the national dish of Honduras -- the Baleada

Baleadas-Express.JPG

Baleadas in San Pedro

I didn't understand the draw to the national dish of Honduras, the Baleada.  I've had them made for me and I've made them myself, but the giant flour tortilla with mashed (refried) beans, eggs, cheese, chorizo, avocado and crema (not-so-sour cream).  Well, that's my chosen pile of ingredients for a good baleada.  It was about two years of shunning the national dish, thinking it was one plate of calories I could successfully avoid.

But it all changed the morning I was early for my flight to the US a few months ago and decided to stop at Baleadas Express to give it a try.  A baleada made with fresh tortillas and ingredients, made in the moment was the tipping point.  I was hooked.  Now when I'm early a baleada stop is a must.  But you don't need to go to the airport because Baleadas Express is a chain seen all over the city.  So, give it a try and enjoy the treat, if you haven't already.

A Different Kind of Homesick

I haven't been home -- I mean home to my legal US residence in about a year and a half.  I haven't slept in my own bed, taken a shower in my own shower, cooked on a gas stove using copper core pots and pans in 18 months.

Sure, I'll be in Vegas tomorrow with colleagues and peers from all over the world for a few days, but then I will be off across the country to Virginia where the familiarity of language, friends and work of a different kind is waiting for me before heading south to Florida for a few nights with family and let's not forget -- my Stone Crab fix for the year.

My Dad and Me at Family Night

My trip to Virginia has more to it than just going home, eating copious amounts of Asian-inspired food, seeing friends and family.  No, this is a trip about moving on.  I am going to put my house on the market and who knows what's next?

This is my home when in Tegucigalpa.  It's difficult to say anything negative about it other than it could use some love.  It's got the most incredible views and waking up and walking into this kitchen is a pretty incredible way to start the day, right?  I had a mad shopping spree to try to make the kitchen one that any of us can walk into and use, although most corporate travelers aren't much for cooking so I didn't go nuts.  What inspires me about this kitchen are the windows.  It needs a small table.  For those food bloggers out there, can you imagine the light for photos in here?  :)

Speaking of food ... lunch at the Creperie at the mall our office is located in isn't much to write home about, but this Honduran style breakfast-inspired crepe was pretty darn good.  I'll go again, but will ask for about 30 seconds less time on the egg.

Canon at the Fort in Omoa

I took a colleague to Omoa last weekend and we made a stop at the fort.  There is always something to see there from another vantage point and this cannon struck me.  I suspect this fort is mostly a renovated site, especially when I spotted a few, "original fort" structures, but the artifacts are certainly authentic.

Forteliza

I know these photos are random.  I'm getting ready to head to the airport and haven't posted very consistently in the past year or so and know that if I don't get to it now, it's not happening.  For a "writer," life sure knows how to get in the way, doesn't it?

Tegucigalpa Rooftops on the Way to the Stadium

Tegucigalpa Views

In the midst of all this randomness, it's time for me to get ready to fly off to the US.  A few days in Vegas for business and then a week at home.  I suspect I am going to feel closed in.  The places I am so darn lucky to spend my time in Honduras are enormous by comparison and for that I am thankful.  Not only for the luxury and comfort, but because it will mean giving up the place I worked so hard to earn the money to buy will not be quite so difficult to give up to someone else.  My home and almost all that is inside it's four walls has some kind of sentimental value and that will be the most difficult thing of all to lock the door on.

But life goes on and these are material things, some of which I am going to try to arrange to ship down here, but the rest will be memories and that is the reason taking all these photos and writing is so valuable.  If not for others to read, then for me to reflect on at some time in the future.

Baleadas Express

When I'm here there are things I miss about the US.  When I'm in the US there are things I miss about Honduras.  On my way out this afternoon I am planning a stop at the famed Baleadas Express. Because I can make a Shrimp Tortilla or a steaming hot pot of Tortilla Soup, but a Baleada is the dish of Honduras and you just can't get it quite the same in Reston, Virginia.  A Baleada is a hand-made flour tortilla with any one or more of a number of items.  I opt for the Huevos, Frijoles, Chorizo, Manetquilla, Aguacate y Queso.  Que rico!

See you in the US!

Tortillas.com -- it's the people and the culture

If you've been following along you know that after our work was done last week, a couple of us took a day to explore two towns outside of Tegucigalpa -- Santa Lucia and Valle de Angeles.  I've been hearing and reading about them since I moved here and have wanted to make the trip out to see them for myself.  In my last post I wrote about the churches and the tile roofs and the crafts and the cultural center in San Juancito and only just a little about the food, Chancho Guindado, for one.

Read More

A Crazy, Busy, Fun, Delicious Week

I spent last week with co-workers in the Capital, Tegucigalpa.  I love that city and was happy to be there in the cool mountain air for 6 days.  We weren't 40 minutes down the road, headed back to San Pedro when someone turned the heat back on.  We stepped out of the car to investigate the supposed "Best" Chicharones in the area at what turned out to be a kind of culinary "rest stop" (with no  gas station) and the heat hit us like a shockwave.

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Curing Expat Cravings

I've been here 1 year, 11 months and 1 week and aside from family, friends and my independence, I really miss just a few food items.  One of those is corned beef.  And not just corned beef for a sandwich.  I've been craving corned beef hash and a poached egg for breakfast.  My father and my sister like making this for breakfast on the weekend so I've had occasion to eat it in the past couple of years, but I want the ability to make it for myself.

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