Monday, October 8, 2012

Home sweet home...

When I lived in Ecuador in 2005, I spent most of my 8 months in the kitchen with 4 wonderful women, Maria, Esperanza, Kenya, and Magdalena. They were the cooks for an after school program that was sponsored by Compassion International. The project was located at a church in a poor neighborhood called Carmen Bajo and there about 50-70 elementary school aged kids that participated in the program. Everyday these women would conjure up some of the yummiest food I ever ate while living in Ecuador. I was always amazed by these womens' ability to turn rice and vegetables (occasionally chicken) into a feast. My love for cooking started in that kitchen with those women and I will always be grateful for the time I was able to spend with them.

Me with Esperanza and her two daughters back in 2005.

This last Sunday I was reminded of many good memories with my Ecuadorian cooking friends because I once again found myself as the student learning from another skilled latina cook. Every week our church here in Costa Rica offers a post-service snack. The food ranges from different typical costa rican dishes to chinese fried rice to tacos (costa rican style), and sometimes even ice cream. Every once in awhile they serve up hot, delicious, freshly made cheese or bean empanadas. They are very tasty and I had decided that I would love to learn to make them.

They may not look like much, but they are packed with flavor!!

Two weeks ago I shared this thought with the Pastor's wife at our church and she set me up with Ethel. A dear woman who is known as a very good cook within our congregation. We were put in charge of making the post-service snack and we spent the majority of the church service whipping up these tasty treats and I felt right at home in the kitchen with her. It was so fun to watch her skilled hands work swiftly to make these delicious treats and now I will be able to carry on her legacy even when we move to Ecuador!

Ethel preparing the dough.

When it comes to any kind of dough, it's especially helpful to have a practiced cook teaching you. Here's the dough ready for making the empanadas.

This is genius. Jim and I always wondered how they got their empanadas to be the exact same size! We were convinced they had to be factory made, but they are not. To make the empanada, you take a golf ball size piece of dough and put in this contraption.

They come out looking like this every time! 
So much easier than rolling out each one with a rolling pin...

Then you fill it with cheese, 
fold it over and put it in the fry pan.

I'm thinking this empanada press-dealy 
would make a great souvenir of our time here...

But if you don't have one, Ethel showed me how to make a perfectly formed 
empanada without it. I was blown away by how quickly and evenly she formed that disc. 
I personally stuck with the press so that it wouldn't be SO obvious which empanadas were 
made by the gringa and which were made by Ethel.

The finished product, ready to serve to 
hungry members of the congregation.

I'm sorry I didn't meet Ethel sooner, but I do hope to continue to deepen our relationship over the next ten weeks. She is such a sweet woman and I look forward to pursuing similar relationships with women in Ecuador, too...ones that will be able to last a long time and build up from the passion for cooking that God has laid on our hearts!!


                Ethel and I in the kitchen at church...          ...and of course, Kaia helped us, too!

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