Banana Leaf Wrapped Snapper

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Banana Leaf Wrapped Snapper

One of the many things I love about living in the tropics is how easy it is to get ingredients that are “exotic” back home. My last post was about banana bread (which isn’t really very exotic). I’m going to continue the banana theme but use something that back home is a bit more exotic- Banana Leaves. One of the largest crops grown Isla de Ometepe, the island where we live, are bananas of all varieties. Everywhere you look are banana trees. I know in the states you can sometimes find banana leaves in the supermarket, but here we just cut them from the yard. And they weren’t the only ingredient in this recipe that came from our yard. The lemongrass was fresh from the garden as well. This was actually my first experience cooking with lemongrass and I was very pleased. I’ve only ever used it before in tea. We also have ginger growing on our property but it’s so cheap here right now it isn’t worth the trouble to dig the roots out of the ground. It costs me less the 50 cents a pound so I use it A LOT. Homemade ginger ale is great (and even better with Flor de Cana, the Nicaraguan Rum). The tumeric and limes we used were also locally grown.

Anyway, the inspiration for this dish was the banana leaves. We had the fish and I’m always trying to come up with different ways to use the same ingredients (we may get what’s exotic back home but we don’t get a lot of variety). Once we decided we wanted to cook the fish in the banana leaves I started looking for some recipes to get some interesting idea. I ended up adapting this recipe for Banana Leaf Wrapped Snapper from Martha Stewart. In the end it’s quite the adaptation because I didn’t have a good number of the ingredients so I used it more as a guideline. I didn’t have the fish sauce or shrimp paste, nor did I have tamarind pulp (though I can find that here). So I added the coconut and sesame oils and the soy sauce for the some richness and Asian flavors. I added the curry powder instead of chilli and I think we got sufficient kick. We did bake the fish instead of grilling it. I can’t say that I’ve tried the original recipe for a comparison but we were very happy with the end result.

We served the fish over a bed of veggie egg fried rice with a side of local squash. Yum yum yum.

Banana Leaf Wrapped Snapper

2 Snapper Fillets

Banana Leaves

1 Piece Fresh Ginger Peeled and Chopped (about 2 inches)

3 cloves of Garlic Chopped

1 Stalk Lemongrass Chopped (only the white part)

1/2 Onion Chopped

1 tsp Tumeric

1/2 tsp Curry Powder

1 TBSP Coconut Oil

1 TBSP Sesame Oil

1 TBSP Vegetable Oil

1/2 TBSP Soy Sauce

1 Lime Quartered

Pre-heat oven to 350 Degrees. Mix onion, garlic, ginger, lemon grass, oils, soy sauce and spices using a blender or food processor until a paste is formed (I use an immersion blender).  Place each snapper fillet on a prepared banana leaf. Spoon a generous portion of the prepared paste on each fillet and spread. Garnish with a lime slice. Close each banana leaf around the fillet and secure with a toothpick. Place in a baking dish and cook for 15-20 minutes.

Banana Leaf Wrapped Snapper

Banana Leaf Wrapped Snapper

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Coconut Bread French Toast with Caramelized Pineapples in Sauce

Coconut French Toast with PineapplesWell, it seems like a lifetime since I last blogged here. For a while there I wasn’t cooking and then as they say, life just kind of got in the way. Since I last wrote we have bought property out here on Isla de Ometepe and finally started on construction of our dream, an organic farm with an Eco Bed and Breakfast. Part of the plan is to have a restaurant that will ultimately feature food grown on the property and locally. We’d like our menu to feature a fusion of American comfort foods re-envisioned with tropical flare. You can check it out at www.facebook.com/eljardinometepe

To that end I have been experimenting a lot with tropical fruits lately. Guava Balsamic Reductions for our steaks, Pineapple Mango Ginger Steak Stirfry, Sesame Encrusted Bass with Mango Salsa, that kind of thing. We have a guava tree on our property and currently we have guava coming out our ears, so I’m trying to master guava jam. When I get it figured out I’ll share it with you. Anyway, the other day I bought some fresh coconut bread from a small comedor (local restaurant) and I had been dreaming of putting guava jam on it. Unfortunately after four long hot in the kitchen I wound up with guava paste as opposed to guava jam. So the coconut bread has been sitting on my counter for a few days. Last night we sliced off a little to eat with the Pineapple Mango Ginger Steak but it was getting pretty stale.

So I decided this morning I would use the last of it to make some french toast. Since I can’t get real Maple Syrup here and I’m out of honey at the moment I thought I would fancy it up a bit. So I chopped up some pineapple and whipped up a syrup and viola- we have coconut bread french toast with caramelized pineapples in syrup. We enjoyed a lovely Saturday morning breakfast on the patio watching the butterflies.

Coconut Bread French Toast Recipe

I used half a loaf of local coconut bread for this. I would say in size and shape it most resembled a baguette but a bit denser. I sliced the loaf in half lengthwise and then in half again so I had four slices.

For the french toast batter I mixed two eggs, a splash of milk, about a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a teaspoon of cinnamon. Whisk together. Dip the slice in the egg mixture one at a time until saturated. Make sure you coat both sides of the bread. Then cook on hot skillet. Cook each side until golden brown. When ready put on a plate, add caramelize pineapples and drizzle with syrup.

Caramelized Pineapple in Sauce

1 in slice of fresh pineapple cored and diced

2 TBSP butter

3 TBSP sugar

2 TBSP water

2 Tsp cinnamon

splash vanilla extract

I just added everything to small sauce pan and cooked it down until the pineapples were soft and the syrup was a beautiful golden color. I think next time I’ll melt the butter first, then add the sugar and pineapple and judge how much water is needed based off how juicy the pineapple is. However it turned out great just dumping it all into a pan.

I started the sauce and then made the french toast and both were ready at the same time. It was super quick, super yummy and it looks really pretty.

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