One of my pleasures when I travel throughout Latin America is to visit produce markets or roadside fruit stands to see and taste the local fruits. Often in cities you will see women or kids selling fruits and whenever I find some fruit I have never tasted I always go for it and besides eating it I try to find out as much possible of the fruit, where does it come from? what it is called? what can you prepare with it? does it have any medicinal value? later I go to the internet and research it, what is the scientific name? what is the nutritional value? recipes for the fruit, I always meditate on the fruit, can it be used for dessert? with what other ingredients could it be combined? can it be used for seasoning or flavoring? can it be a side to a protein dish? can it be used in salads? these are fun questions that I take time to answer and eventually I cook with the fruit in various recipes, my own creation or someone else's , but I record the experience and if it is positive it becomes part of what I call my Market Cuisine archive.

In this blog I have written extensively on some fruits that are particularly ubiquitous, this time I will refer to fruits that are well known but are not so common because they are associated with a particular region of Latin America or season of the year. Fruits in tropical Latin America are most abundant during the rainy season that is when you see fruit stands well stocked. I am sure that my readers in Latin America have seen some of the fruits I describe below, perhaps some have tasted them, if not I hope this blog will encourage them to try these fruits, I am certain you will enjoy the experience, remember what your mother and doctors always say: fruits are good for you.

CAS: Anyone who has traveled in Costa Rica must have seen this fruit. It is a relative of the Guava and sometimes it is referred to as CAS GUAVA. Its flesh is white and sour with some seeds. The simplest recipe is to liquefy the flesh with some water, strain the liquid, add sugar and ice to prepare a very refreshing drink with lots of vitamins. If you heat the liquid to reduce it a little you will have a syrup which you can use to make a glaze for white meats, if you heat some more to reduce a lot you will get a pleasant marmalade to spread on a toast with some cream cheese. You can also use Cas marmalade over a New York style cheese cake, you will find it a very interesting variation of a classical dessert.

GUANABANA: This fruit called in English Soursop is considered the queen of fruits in Latin America, Mango being the King everywhere. It is a very productive fruit since you can use 90% of it is flesh. Its flavor is described as a combination of strawberry and pineapple with sour citrus flavor notes contrasting with an underlying creamy flavor reminiscent of coconut or banana. The basic processing is to liquefy the flesh with some water, strain it, add sugar and ice and have a refreshing drink; if you heat the liquid to make a syrup you can mix it with a little white rum for an interesting variation of a rum cake; if you make a marmalade you can use it to spread inside a sponge cake and to flavor the icing, you will have a ""Torta de Guanabana"" (Guanabana Cake) which is a Classic in Latin America. Certain chemicals in this fruit have been shown to kill cancer cells in laboratory trials.

GUAYABA: Called in English Guava, it is a very important fruit since it is cultivated in large scale and it is made into several industrial products, candies, jams, jellies, concentrates and canned fruit in syrup. You can scoop out the pulp, liquefy it with a little water, strain it into a pot, add sugar and heat it to reduce it and make syrup or marmalade. Guava marmalade over a toast with some cream cheese is delicious. After scooping out the pulp you can peel the empty shells and cook then in syrup made with 2 cups of sugar for every Kg (2 Lb) of fruit; place the shells in a pot, add the sugar cover with water and boil over medium heat until shells are tender and liquid has become a red syrup; let cool completely and serve with a slice of cream cheese and 2 soda crackers, you will have a delicious dessert called ""Cascos de Guayaba"" (Guava Shells) very popular in south America. Guava is rich in iron and the fresh juice is often ordered by doctors for people with iron deficiency. Birds love this fruit and spread its seeds, which grow easily.

JABUTICABA: This is a fruit typical from Brazil where it is grown commercially. During harvest time, usually October and November you will find them everywhere in Brazil, from roadside fruit stands to supermarkets. The fruit is eaten fresh and its flavor resemble that of Concord grapes, but Jabuticaba are much bigger and juicier. In Brazil they make jellies, marmalades, wines and vinegar from this fruit.

LUCUMA: The lúcuma (Pouteria lucuma) is a subtropical Peruvian fruit native to the Andean region. Lucuma is a very ancient fruit and it has been found on ceramics at burial sites of the indigenous people of coastal Peru. It is also called ""eggfruit"" in English, the name refers to the fruit's dry flesh, which is similar in texture to a hard-boiled egg yolk. The lucuma has particularly dry flesh which possesses a unique flavor of maple and sweet potato. It is a very nutritious fruit, having high levels of carotene, vitamin B3, and other B vitamins. It has recently become popular as a dried powder flavoring, and production of fruits dried for export is increasing on a large scale. Lúcuma is a popular flavoring for ice cream in its native Peru.

NARANJILLA: Very popular in Colombia where it is called Lulo. The fruit has a citrus flavor, sometimes described as a combination of rhubarb and lime. It is usually consumed as a drink by liquefying and filtering the pulp then adding sugar to taste and ice. I make a very simple and delicious layered cake by dipping Graham Crackers in a mixture of equal parts filtered Naranjilla pulp, plain yogurt and sweetened condensed milk, arrange dipped crackers in a square mold to a height of 3, cover top with any leftover mixture, spray with lime zest and refrigerate overnight before serving. This stuff will impress your taste buds.

MAMON CHINO: this fruit originated in Malaysia where it is called Rambutan. In Central America it is extensively cultivated, harvest time is July and August when you will see it offered in produce markets and roadside fruit stands. I am a big fan of this fruit and always look forward to harvest time to buy bunches and eat at home.

MANGOSTEEN: This is another transplant from Asia where it is considered the queen of fruits. It has the look of a purple tomato and inside there are some fleshy wedges of a white pulp with a taste that can be described as sweet and tangy, citrusy with peach flavor and texture. Wherever I see mangosteen for sale I always buy, I just can't resist the urge to eat.

PIXBAE: Known in English as Peach Palm is called many names in Latin America: Pifa, Pejibaye, Chontaduro, Pijiguao, Pupunha (Brazil). This fruit has been used for centuries as food. The fruit is frequently stewed in salted water. However, it may be eaten raw, peeled and dressed with salt and honey, used to make compotes and jellies, or also used to make flour. Economically is a very important fruit since the palm that bears it is extensively cultivated to produce the delicacy Hearts of Palm (Palmito). One interesting recipe from Panama is the Pixbae Ceviche, buy 8 fruits preferably already cooked, if not boil them in salt water until they are tender, peel them, deseed them, cube them and marinate in 1/2 cup each of fresh orange and lime juice, 1 small red onion finely chopped, 6 sweet chilies deseeded and finely chopped, 1 clove of garlic finely chopped, 1 tablespoon of finely chopped cilantro, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste, refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving over lettuce, plantain chips or soda crackers. My vegetarian friends freak out over this ceviche.

TREE TOMATO: Is not really a tomato but resembles one and it grows in shrub, hence the name. Commercial growers are trying to impose the name Tamarillo but it has not caught on. It is the fruit with highest concentration of antioxidants thus regular consumption may slow aging. The fruit is eaten by scooping the flesh from a halved fruit. When lightly sugared and cooled, the flesh makes a refreshing breakfast dish.
They give a unique flavor when made into a compote, or added to stews (e.g. Boeuf Bourguignon), hollandaise, chutneys, and curries. They are also tasty and decorative in, for example in salads. Appetizing desserts using this fruit include bavarois and combined with apples in a strudel. To use you scoop out the pulp and discard the crust which is bitter, liquefy with water and strain to eliminate the seeds. To 2 cups of seedless pulp add 1/4 cup of sugar and boil 10 to 20 minutes to make syrup, which can substitute cranberry sauce for a Turkey or cranberry juice in a Cosmopolitan.



Latin American seasoning traditions developed from the combination of Iberian (Spain and Portugal) ingredients and techniques with the culinary traditions of the American indians, later the seasonings and methods of African slaves were added to the mix. The result is an enormous diversity of seasonings preparations, some of them liquids, some pastes and some others powders; some are fiery hot, some are spicy, some others are sweet. According to texture Latino seasoning mixtures can be classified as follows:

 SAUCES: these are liquid, although some like MOJO (Molho in Portuguese) can be quite thick. The most basic preparation is the SOFRITO which is a cooked sauce usually made with chopped tomatoes, peppers, onions, green onions, garlic, salt and pepper heated in oil until it releases aromas, the ingredients may vary a little depending on the ultimate use of the sauce, to season grains, fish, poultry or beef.

MOJO (pronounced MOHO) is a dipping sauce with a thick texture, which does not require cooking. Mojos are divided into Green or Red according to color, which depends on the ingredients used; Red Mojos are made with hot or sweet red peppers, garlic, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, they are best used for grilled meats such as pork, lamb, goat or beef ; Green Mojos are made with herbs, parsley and cilantro are very popular, they also use oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper, they are best served with fish or chicken. Mojos originated in the Canary Islands and immigrants from there introduced them to Latin America where they became very popular. Chimichurri is a Mojo very popular with grilled meats (see my blog on beef)

OIL BASED PASTES these are a simpler version of a Mojo, since they only include one main ingredient, a little garlic and oil. The main ingredient is usually something with a strong flavor like hot peppers or Cilantro, to which a little garlic is added with oil and blended to form a paste. These are used to flavor or color dishes, the Peruvians use these a lot in their cuisine.

ADOBO is an uncooked marinade used originally to preserve meats, today it is also used as a flavoring mix. Typically it is made with red peepers, oregano, garlic, salt and vinegar. Adobo can marinate meats or vegetables, such as smoked jalapeños (chipotles) in adobo sauce. Adobo is often used with pork, lamb or goat. Adobo sauce should not be confused with Adobo powder, which is a flavoring dry mix.

ESCABECHE is a cooked pickling sauce typically used on fish. It originated in Spain but has become popular around coastal regions of Latin America. The sauce is made with oil, vinegar and wine in equal parts to which onion, garlic, carrots, peppercorns, bay leaf are added and heated until aroma is released, the fish is then placed and cook for a few minutes. The resulting preparation is allowed to cool and refrigerated for later consumption.

POWDERS: These are mixtures of dry spices which have been ground. The spices are usually sun dried but sometimes are dried over a wood fire to given them a smoky flavor. Some of the more popular dry mixture are:

CHILI POWDER is the essential seasoning for Mexican food, it is the flavor of Mexico but it has been adopted into the cuisine of southwestern USA where some great dishes have been created. The essential ingredient is peppers, which can be hot, sweet or a combination, to which cumin, garlic and oregano are added. The proportion of each ingredient can vary according to taste and often each Latino family has its own recipes, sometimes several different mixtures for specific dishes, for example if you use it to cook grains you may want to include more cumin, if you use it for seasoning meat you may want more garlic and oregano. CHILI powder is a seasoning mixture and should not be confused with CHILE powder which is just ground hot or sweet peppers.

MERKEN is a Chilean seasoning powder made with smoked hot chilies, roasted coriander seeds and salt; it originated with the mapuche indians of southern Chile. Merken is very versatile and can be used in any type of dish with, fish, poultry, beef and even vegetarian dishes where you may want a touch of heat.

ADOBO POWDER is basically a spiced salt, which usually includes ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper and oregano. It is generally used to flavor meats but it can be used over vegetables, and even fruits; sliced green mangoes with a sprinkling of adobo is a very typical snack around Latin America.

SEED POWDERS are often found on the tables of rural families in Latin America; they are made by drying and roasting over a pan seeds from melon or pumpkin, they are then ground with garlic, cumin, oregano and salt to form a mixture that can be eaten with a corn tortilla or sprinkled over some cooked grain such as refried beans; it is simple and delicious. In central western Venezuela peasant families always have something they call "Mojo de Auyama", pumpkin powder, to sprinkle on their soups or refried black beans.

ACHIOTE is a basic spice very important in Latin American cooking; it does not have much flavor but when heated in oil it releases a dark yellow color , which will color any food like rice, mashed potatoes or corn masa. Other name for it is Onoto, it is known in the southern US as Annatto. In Brazil is called Urucu. It is usually sold as seeds but it can also be found in powder or liquid form.

Below you will find recipes for some of these seasoning mixture and suggestions for use.

NUTRIENTS: Spices provide us with vitamins, mineral and fiber but their most important benefit is that they helps us reduce salt intake. A very spicy dish requires little or no salt to stimulate our taste buds.

PROCESSING: Condiments whether they are sauces or dry mixes are best prepared with finely chopped spices either by hand or food processor, blenders should not be used because they would liquefy or pulverize the mixture and would not produce the proper texture, which must have a little crunch, the exception being oil based pastes, which you want liquefy to produce a smooth texture.

STORING: Dry mixes can be kept for 3 months in a cool dry place in an airtight container. Oil pastes can be kept for 6 weeks in a cool dry place and do not need refrigeration. Sauces with vinegar or raw ingredients need refrigeration and should not be kept more than 2 weeks.

CHILI POWDER: Mix 1 tablespoon of paprika, 2 Tbs of ground cumin, 1 Tbs of cayenne pepper or other hot pepper ground, 1 Tbs of oregano, 2 Tbs of garlic powder. This is relatively hot version, you may make it milder by reducing hot pepper and increasing paprika, or vice versa making it hotter. This is the essential seasoning for Mexican flavors and chili stews.

ADOBO POWDER: 1 Tbs each of garlic powder, onion powder, cumin powder, oregano and ground black pepper, mix with 5 Tbs of salt. You may add a pinch of ground hot pepper for some heat. Adobo is very practical for quickly seasoning any meat.

ESCABECHE MARINADE: In a pot place 1 cup each of white wine, white vinegar, olive oil, 1 onion cut in strips, 2 cloves of garlic sliced, 1 carrot sliced, 1 bay leaf, 10 black peppercorns and a teaspoon of salt; heat the mixture until it boils and releases its aromas, you may then place in the hot liquid the fish pieces you want to cook; heat for 5-10 minutes, let cool an refrigerate. You may serve the fish over salad, crusty bread or with a side of rice.

SOFRITO: this is the number one flavoring sauce in Latin America, it is used on meats, grains and fish with some variations. The basic ingredients are finely chopped sweet chili pepper and garlic, for red meats you add chopped tomatoes, onions, green onions, bell peppers, if you will use it on poultry or fish eliminate tomatoes and add celery and leeks. For 1/4 cup of oil add 10 sweet chilies deseeded and finely chopped, 3 cloves of garlic, 2 plum tomatoes, 1 onion, 1 red pepper, 1 green onion, heat and stir until aromas are released and mixture becomes saucy. For fish or poultry eliminate tomatoes and 1 stalk of celery, 1 whole leaf of leek (white and green part). You would use the sofrito to flavor shredded meats.

RED PEPPER MOJO: blend 1 cup of oil with 1 hot chili pepper seeds included, 2 red bell peppers deseeded and chopped, 6 cloves of garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin, 1 tablespoon of paprika, 1/4 cup of white vinegar, 1/2 Tbs of salt; blend very well if you want a thicker texture add a piece of the inside of white bread and blend. This goes very well with grill meats.



Latin America is well surrounded by seas and oceans, warm seas like the Caribbean or cold oceans like the southern Atlantic and Pacific. The south western coast of south America has the Humboldt Current, which is the most productive marine ecosystem in the world, as well as the largest cold water upwelling system. Approximately 20% of the world’s fish catch comes from the Humboldt Current. The diversity of fish species around Latin America is enormous and often a specie presents slight variations from one country to another, and sometimes the same fish is called different names. Some species are found only in warm waters, others are found only in cold waters, some are found in both.

In this blog I will describe the most commercially common species, giving their English name, the most common local names a photograph of a real fish and when possible a drawing to observe its features. At the bottom you will find some simple recipes to taste some of these fish. When traveling around Latin America you may encounter some local especies of fish give them a try, they are usually well prepared by the locals and very tasty.

BONITO: General Description: Bonito belong to the mackerel family and resemble small tuna, with which they are often confused. Atlantic bonito (Sarda sarda) have silvery bellies and sides and a steel to purplish-blue back with dark blue slanting stripes. Pacific bonito (S. chiliensis) are silvery brown and about the same size as their Atlantic cousins. The slightly larger striped bonito (S. orientalis) is found along the Pacific coast of North and South America. Fresh bonito are highly prized in the north of Spain. In Basque country, this fish is served in marmite kua or marmitako, a fisherman’s stew ideally prepared and eaten at sea. Bonito is well-suited to escabeche. Bonito’s tasty meat is used fresh, dried, salted, smoked, and canned and may be cooked like mackerel and bluefish.

COD: Bacalao (Spanish), Bacalhau (Portuguese), this fish is usually not sold fresh, except maybe in

Dried Cod
Chile where it is captured, but is often sold dried salted in markets, it must be soaked in water with a little salt to remove excess salt before cooking. Even though it is not captured in the seas of Latin America all the European immigrants living among us have taught us to eat it and is very popular for Christmas and new year dinners. Cod has a mild flavor, so it takes well to rich sauces and strong seasonings.

Cazon in chunks
DOGFISH SHARK: Cazon in Spanish and cação in brazil. Is a small shark whose flesh is fibrous but is boiled in chunks, then shredded and cooked a second time with a sofrito (fried seasonings sauce) for added flavor. The resulting mixture can be eaten with rice and fried plantains or used as a stuffing for ""empanadas"", the fried half-moon shaped little pies common in Latin America.

FLOUNDER: Lenguado in Spanish and Linguado in Portuguese. The name refers to the family of flat fish, most species are found in cold waters, but some are found in the warm waters of the Caribbean and central America. Its white meat has a very delicate sweet flavor which should not seasoned and cook in excess.

GROUPER: Mero in both Spanish and Portuguese. Highly prized in most of Latin America, the Spaniards have a saying: "" De la tierra el Cordero y de la mar el Mero"" (From the land the Lamb and from the sea the Grouper). These excellent, meaty fish have few bones and its fillets are often blackened: coated with Cajun seasoning then pan-seared at high heat so that it is crusty on the outside and moist on the inside. The Grouper maintains its moisture even if overcooked, making it a favorite for restaurants. Groupers can weigh as much as 100 pounds, but 10 to 15 pounds is average, because of its large size and thick skin, grouper is usually sold filleted and skinned. This versatile fish can be fried, grilled, skewered for kebobs, pan-fried, breaded and fried, sautéed, or used to make chowders and fish stews. Larger whole groupers are suitable for baking, especially in a salt crust. Fillets from large groupers should be butter flied to reduce the thickness of the dense flesh.

Merluza frozen fillets
HAKE: Merluza in both Spanish and Portuguese is a deepwater member of the cod family. The fish have mild-tasting and sweet meat, with creamy flesh and a rather coarse, watery texture, but it is very economical and is often sold in frozen fillets. They are fairly bland fish that take well to all sorts of seasonings, bake, broil, deep-fry coated in bread crumbs or bat.

MACKEREL: Sierra in Spanish, Caballa in Argentina, Cavala or Serra in Portuguese. Its dark, full-bodied meat is rich in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Mackerel flesh is gray when raw but turns off-white when cooked. The flavor is assertive. The oily flesh is firm and free of small bones. Marinate briefly in lime or other citrus juice or vinegar to whiten and firm the flesh before cooking. Is best cut as thick round steaks with the bone in the center.

MAHI MAHI: Dorado in Spanish and Dourado in Brazil. Long known as dolphin fish because they swim alongside boats as dolphins do. To make the fish more acceptable to consumers, they are now known by their Hawaiian name Mahi Mahi. The pinkish raw flesh is darker along the centerline and toward the tail; larger fish may have darker flesh. The lean meat is sweet with a mildly assertive flavor, firm texture, and large, moist flakes.

Huevas de Lisa (roe)
MULLET: Lisa in Spanish and Tainha in Brazil. Mullet average 3 to 6 pounds. The raw flesh is white and cooks up white, firm, and juicy. The roe of this fish is highly prized and is often referred to as Creole Caviar, it is sometimes sold fresh but most often is sold dried and salted. Mullets are best cooked whole, either baked, deep fried or BBQ.

SNAPPER: Pargo in both Spanish and Portuguese, Huachinango in Mexico. Usually red in color, its sweet white meat is highly prized for fillets. They can weight from 1 Kg (2 Lb) to 15 Kg (30 Lb), the small ones can be fried whole; the large ones can produce lots of thick fillets or be baked whole in a salt crust.

SNOOK: Robalo in Spanish, Camorim in Brazil. Snook may weigh up to 50 pounds, but average weight is 5 to 8 pounds. The flesh is dense and firm, delicate and flaky, and has moderate oil content and full-bodied flavor. This fish is suitable for serving with strong sauces.

WEAKFISH: Corvina in Spanish and pescada in Brazil. This fish is delicious and usually relatively inexpensive without pesky pin bones. Its name comes from its weak mouth, which easily tears and releases the hook. It has a relatively bland flavor suitable for strong seasonings or sauces. Their flesh is delicate and should not be overcook.

NUTRIENTS: Fish represents the healthiest form of animal protein, it contains fatty acids that are good for the heart, it usually has less calories than other animal proteins and contains lots of minerals that are good for the human body.

PROCESSING: Fish must be purchased fresh, there must not be any rigidity in the flesh, the eyes should be clear, the smell should be like the sea and no other. Fish are usually sold whole, gutted, fins trimmed and depending on the preparation with head and scales. Fish heads are good for making fish stock. For baking whole fish the scales must be left on the skin, the flesh will better sealed and retain all its flavor.

STORING: To store fish it must be frozen in individual fillets or steaks but it should no be kept more than 3 weeks because the flesh will dry out and loose most of its flavor. Whole fish should not be frozen more than 3 days before consumption.

GARLIC FISH FILLET: Very popular in seafood restaurants, it is simple and makes any fish fillet very tasty. In 1/4 cup of olive oil heat 1 tablesppon of butter, 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic and 2 red sweet chilies finely chopped, do not brown, stir and heat until you get some frying activity and garlic aroma is released, add 2 tablespoons of white wine, heat for a couple of minutes, then turn off heat, add fresh chopped parsley, drops of hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste, reserve. Season fish fillet with salt and pepper, pad it with a little flour on both sides, then sear both sides on a slightly greased hot pan, when fish is golden on both sides pour some of the garlic sauce over fillet and turn off heat, serve inmediately with some lemon wedges and a side of plantain chips or better yet patacones.

SALT BAKED FISH: You have not tasted the real flavor of fish until you have eaten a salt baked fish. Baking fish in salt does not add any seasoning to the fish, what you taste is the fish cooked in its own juices sealed in a salt crust. The best salt for this dish is rock salt, which in Latin America is usually sold in agricultural goods stores since rock salt is often fed to cattle and is very cheap. You must use the same weight in salt as the weight of the fish. The best fish for baking are oval shaped flat fish with scales such as grouper or snapper, long and round fish are not appropiate since they may not cook at the center. The fish must have all its fins and entrails removed but must have its scales and head. The fish must fit comfortably in a baking pan inside a typical oven. In the baking pan you lay a bed of salt roughly in the shape of the fish, lay the fish and cover with the rest of the salt, if necessary throw a few drops of water on the salt for easier shaping. The salt crust should roughly follow the shape of the fish. A good size fish would be 60-70 cm long ( less than 2 Ft.). The fish should be baked at 350F for 2 hours. Once baked you crack the top salt crust, discard the salt and cut the skin at the very crest of the fish from the back of the head to the tail, the skin should peel very easily and expose all the cooked meat. Serve with steamed vegetables (carrots, brocoli, cauliflower, chayote, potatoes, yuca, Etc.) and various sauces for dipping the fish morcels. A good sauce for fish is tartar sauce, you can also make a garlic mayonaise by blending 1 cup of mayonaise, 4 cloves of garlic, juice of 1 lemon, drops of hot sauce and a pinch of sugar; another good sauce is parsley sauce (perejilada in spanish or parsillade in french), blend 1 cup of packed parsley, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 clove of garlic, drops of hot sauce, juice of 1 lemon, salt and pepper to taste.

SHREDDED FISH: This is the most economical way to eat fish in Latin America, people will buy some cheap fish like cazon (shark) or Corvina, boil it in chunks in salt water, let it cool then shredded it by hand and season it by stewing in a sofrito (fried seasonings sauce). A 2 Kg (4 lb) whole fish will yield about 1 Kg (2 Lb) of shreded flesh, prepare a sofrito with 2 cups of oil, 1 large onion finely chopped, 4 cloves of garlic finely chopped, 10 each red and green sweet chilies (aji dulce) deseeded and finely chopped, 1 hot chile (or to taste) deseeded and finely chopped. Heat the seasonings in the oil until they start frying and releaseing aroma, add the shredded fish and stir ocasionally until all liquid has been absorbed, about 10-15 minutes, add some chopped green onions, parsley, salt, pepper to taste, stir and turn off heat. If you want to add some color heat a teaspoon of achiote (annato) seeds in oil until they color red the oil, remove the seeds and add the seasonings for the sofrito. You may also add extra flavor by adding a cup of coconut milk, raisins, sliced green olives and capers when you add the fish to the sofrito, this way you will cook a deluxe dish. Serve with lime wedges, rice or plantains. You can also use this fish mixture to stuff things like empanadas or pies.

FISH CEVICHE: There are many recipes for ceviche, it is often said that if you place 10 latinos in a room
there will be 10 Ceviche recipes. In general you would use a fresh white flesh fish like corvina or grouper, the juice of a sour fruit such as lime or passion fruit, fresh seasonings for flavor and looks such as red onions,red chilies, garlic, celery, leeks, cilantro, Etc. I will give you my favorite recipe but there are many others which are very good. Place 4 cups of fresh fish sliced in strips into a bowl, add enough lime juice to make sure every strip of fish soaks, you may combine lime and passion fruit, or lime and orange, but lime juice should be most of the liquid. Refrigerate bowl and let marinate for about an hour, ceviche taste best when freshly made. Cut a small red onion in thin slices, finely chopp 10 each of red and green deseeded sweet chilies, 1 (or to taste) hot chile deseeded finely chopped, 1 tablespoon of finely chopped cilantro, salt and pepper to taste, these are the essential seasonings however you may add others you like, I usually add some chopped leek, some people add Celery; I have seen some recipes with chopped fruits like semiripe mango or pineapple, but always fruits that are somewhat acid, nothing ripe or too sweet. Add the seasoning mixture after you marinate the fish and serve chilled. Ceviche is usually served with plantain chips, tortilla chips, Yuca chips, soda crackers, Etc. For a good discussion on Ceviche follow this link:

FISH IN ESCABECHE: Oily fish like Mackerel or Tuna are apropiate for cooking in escabeche, this is a vinegary sauce used to cook fish around the mediterranean which we Latins learned from european inmigrants. Have 4 thick fish fillets, prepare the escabeche with 1 cup of oil, 1 cup of vinegar, 1 cup of white wine, 1 bay leaf, 1 onion sliced, 1 carrot sliced, 2 garlic cloves sliced, 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns, 1 teaspoon each of dry oregano and thyme, 1 hot chile sliced in half, salt to taste, heat all ingredients in a large pot until they release their aroma, about 10-15 minutes. Over a hot pan with a little oil sear the fish fillets on both sides, transfer the fillets to the escabeche sauce and heat 5 more minutes, if necessary you may cut the fish in chunks, you may add some sliced green olives and small capers for extra flavor; let cool and serve, or refrigerate in a glass or ceramic pot for later; to serve let stand at room temperature some 30 minutes, serve with some crusty bread for dipping in the sauce. Fish in Escabeche can keep in the refrigerator for upto 2 weeks.



Whenever a Latin-American finds himself living in one of the industrialized countries of the world, in Europe, north America or Asia, the one product he will be nostalgic about is White Cheese, to grill, to eat with plantains, to stuff a corn bread, to spray on some refried beans, Etc. In the industrialized countries all one finds are aged cheeses, you have to be a dairy farmer to taste some fresh white cheese in Europe. Thanks to immigration the availability of fresh cheese has been improving, now a days one can find pasteurized White Cheese in grocery stores of major cities of industrialized countries. The word in Spanish for cheese is "queso" and in Portuguese is "queijo", often these words will be followed by words describing the type, region or brand of the cheese, "queso prensado" or "Queijo coalho", which in Spanish and Portuguese means 'pressed cheese' after the way the cheese is made. Now a days in Latin America there is production of very good aged cheeses, often with European recipes but the cheese that is most often consumed is white cheese, of which there are 5 major classes in Latin America:

CREAMED CHEESES: these are not necessarily cheeses that contain the full cream of the milk, although some of them do, instead their main identifying feature is that they are spreadable. Their texture goes from small grain Ricotta, through large grain Cottage cheese, in Spanish they are called "ricota", "requeson" or "cuajada", in Portuguese they are called "ricota" or "Requeijão". Some of these cheeses have the full cream of the milk and have a texture similar to Cream Cheese but have more salt and stronger flavor; some well known cheeses of this type are Queso Guayanes (Venezuela), Queijo Catupiry (brazil), Queso cremoso (Argentina).

STRING CHEESES: these types I considered the most unusual and delicious of the local cheeses in Latin America, except for the Italian Provolone there are no cheeses in the industrialized countries that come close to the texture and flavor of Latin American string cheese. They are referred to as string cheese because with fingers one can pull strings or threads, sometimes sheets, from the cheese. They taste very creamy and melt easily. Some well known cheeses of this class are: Queso Oaxaca (Mexico), Queso Crineja (Venezuela), Queso de mano (Venezuela), Quesillo (Argentina), Queso Pera (Colombia).

SOFT CHEESES: As their name indicates these cheese are pressed to remove some but not most of their moisture, the pressing is done relatively quickly usually less than hour. The cheese is very white, can be crumbly, they can be sliced or cubed but are difficult to grate because they are too soft. Their flavor is rather bland but that is convenient when used in cooking because they easily acquire other flavors, such as curry, pepper, oregano, basil, Etc. Some well know cheeses of this type are: Queso Blanco (Mexico, Venezuela), Queso Palmita (Venezuela), Queso prensado (Panama), Queijo coalho (Brazil), Queijo-de-minas frescal (Brazil), Queso Campesino (Colombia), Queso Criollo (Argentina), Queso de Freir (Dominican Republic).

HARD CHEESES: These cheeses are pressed for hours to remove most of their moisture. They are usually salty but that is convenient when used on sweet or semi-sweet dishes such as fried ripe plantains, a very typical Latin American food. Since these cheeses are firmer they can be cubed, sliced and grated. Some well know cheeses of this type are: Queso Chontaleno (Nicaragua), Queso Seco (Mexico), Queso Costeño (Colombia), Queso Duro (Venezuela).

AGED CHEESES: In Latin America white cheese is aged to produce very hard cheeses, which when grated have a powdery texture similar to a very dry Parmesan. These hard cheeses usually come with a colored cover made with spices, pepper, dry chilies, Achiote, Etc. to protect them during the aging period, from 6 months to a year. They are salty and have strong flavors. Some well known hard cheeses are: Queso Cotija (Mexico), Queso Añejo (Mexico), Queso de Año (Venezuela).

White cheese is a very versatile ingredient, which can be used for snacks, side dishes, main dishes or desserts. Below I will show you some simple recipes but in the cuisine of each particular country in Latin America you will find many recipes.

ENGLISH NAME: farmers cheese, fresh cheese, pressed cheese, white cheese

LOCAL NAMES: Queso blanco, queso fresco, queso prensado, Queijo coalho (brazil), Queso Añejo, Queso de Año

PRODUCTS: Pressed cheese, cottage cheese, ricotta, string cheese, hard cheese

NUTRIENTS: White Cheese is a very good source of calcium and it has less calories and cholesterol than aged cheeses. It is a form of protein that can be consumed instead of meat.

PROCESSING: White cheese should be kept refrigerated in chunks until ready to use, then one would slice it, cube it, coarsely grated or finely grated depending on the texture of the cheese and the recipe where it will be used.

STORING: White cheese will keep in the refrigerator for weeks, it may age and darken in color, usually to yellow, it will become creamier inside, may develop a dry crust, and a stronger taste, but it will not spoil, one can always use it in different recipes.

GRILLED CHEESE: This is the simplest application of white cheese, just rub a few drops of oil over a pan, make it hot, place a 1/2 inch slice of soft white cheese and cook no more than 1 minute on each side, to serve spray some black pepper and oregano while still hot. If you want to avoid using oil at all, pad the slice with rolled oats so that the oats will stick to the cheese then cook over a hot pan, season before serving. You can cut it in small squares as a snack or serve it over corn tortillas. Another way is to eliminate the seasonings and serve it with a dipping sauce made with brown sugar syrup (panela, raspadura) and hot sauce.

BBQ CHEESE: This is a typical snack in northeastern Brazil, it is a piece of cheese on a stick, which is cooked over charcoals until golden and dipped in dry oregano or other seasoning. One can use either a soft or hard white cheese, the latter requires more time over the charcoals. It is delicious with a cold beer.

CHEESE & TOMATO PUDDING: This preparation can be used as a side (small portion) or main dish (large portion). In a bowl place 1 egg, 1/2 cup of oil, 1 small onion finely chopped, 1/4 cup of milk, 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese or queso añejo, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/2 cup of all purpose flour, salt and pepper to taste; beat well to form a uniform mixture. Into the liquid mixture fold without much beating, 3 plum tomatoes chopped, 1 cup of soft white cheese in cubes and some chopped basil. Place mixture into an 20x 10 cm (8 x 4 in) mold which has been buttered and floured. Bake in oven preheated to 200C (400F) for 35 minutes until knife inserted comes out clean. To serve spray with some chopped fresh tomatoes and basil.

SWEET CHEESE NUGGETS: This is a typical Costa Rican candy, often made at home. Place 1 piece of "panela" (local brown sugar) broken in pieces in a pot, add 1 tablespoon of water some cloves and a squirt of vanilla, heat over high heat stirring until it starts boiling, reduce heat to medium and add some 15 large (about 2 cm, 3/4 in) cubes of hard white cheese, turn the cubes to coat until syrup starts drying and sticks to the cubes, keep turning until syrup is dry and cubes are well coated. Let cool completely before serving. These things are addictive you will not stop eating them.

CREOLE CHEESE CAKE: This is the Latin version of the cheese cake, it is sweeter and richer. Take 6 eggs and separate then into yolks and whites, in a bowl beat 2 sticks of butter with 3 cups of sugar until very creamy, add egg yolks and 1 cup of milk, add one yolk and some milk at a time while beating; stop beating and with a spatula fold in 1/4 cup of all purpose flour; in a separate bowl beat the egg whites until very stiff, fold in 500 g (1 Lb) of soft white cheese coarsely grated or crumbled; fold in the egg whites mixture into the egg yolks mixture, place in a well buttered and floured cake mold; bake in preheated oven at 175C (350F) for 30 minutes until top is golden, reduce temperature to 120C (250F) and bake for 1 hour until a knife inserted comes out clean. Let cool completely before taking out of the mold. It tastes best after 1 day in the refrigerator.