A couple of weekends ago, David and I were invited to Julio’s home for a real Dominican meal. Julio is one of the employees of the condo complex that we live in. A few years ago, he spent time in the US on the farm team for the Kansas City Royals. He never made the “big time” but is hoping to play for a team in Italy, which his cousin is currently playing for. He also has a brother that is playing baseball in Japan.
Julio lives in a family complex. It is difficult to imagine how big this complex is from the road. On the front of the street, there are a row of businesses, all owned by his family. A clothes shop, mini-market, barber shop, etc. Julio took us between two of the buildings and we proceeded through a maze of homes. He introduced us to his mother, father, grandfather, sisters, aunts, cousins, uncles, nephews, nieces and on and on, all the while, we are wandering among the houses. Thank goodness he was with us or we would have never found our way to his home!
Julio lives with his wife Anna and their two beautiful daughters, Rosanna who is 8 years old and Marianna, who is 6 years old. Their home is small for 4 people. It is about 12′ by 12′. Anna is an phenomenal cook. She showed me how she prepared all the wonderful Dominican dishes. I was amazed what she prepared with her small gas stove, 2 pans and a fry pan! Actually, one of the pans had rice so it was a small pot and fry pan. She made rice and beans, yucca (pronounced you-ca) patties, fried platano, fried chicken, shrimp, salad and avocado…all washed down with the local beer, Presidente.
It wasn’t the healthiest meal, but oh so good! I will try to explain in words the different dishes. The rice and beans are fairly self explanatory. Sometimes they use black beans, but this night we had red beans. She used tomato soup as the base and seasoned it with chicken bouillon (yes, to be polite, I overlooked the chicken bouillon) and garlic. Yucca patties are my absolute favorite down here but I don’t eat them very often. Yucca is a root plant with a tough skin. It looks sort of like a big potato with bark on it. To prepare the patties, you have to peel the skin off and then grate the yucca. Once this is done, you add a little egg, flour and anise spice. This mixture you form into patties and then fry in oil. They are soooooo gooooooddddd! I could make a meal just out of the patties. They also just boil yucca and serve it like boiled potato.
Fried plantano is from the plantano or as we say in English, plantain fruit. The platano grows in bunches like bananas from trees and they look like green bananas, only much larger. The Dominicans prepare this vegetable many ways. It is peeled and can be eaten fried or boiled. The way Anna prepared them, she initially cut it up in about 2 inch pieces and fried them to make them soft enough to flatten. With a couple pieces of wood held together with a hinge, she flatten each piece and then fried it again. They are kind of a version of french fries…Dominican french fries that are round.
Plantains can also be boiled and mashed with water, milk and butter. It is served with purple onions slices. This is called mangu. It is a popular breakfast dish. Mature plantains are sweeter and thinly sliced the long way and fried. They are very good as well and sometimes served as a side dish. David had them at work one time and when he put them on his plate, he thought they were fish!
It was a delicious meal, eaten under the stars. Just a magical evening….one that I will cherish the memories. David said that we needed to return the gesture. I said of course. When he asked what I would prepare, I said “restaurant”!!!!