In Search of Hot Stuff in Costa Rica

Dave DeWitt Mexico and Central America Leave a Comment

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By Dave DeWitt and Nancy Gerlach



Spicy Sweet Potato Soup

Gallo Pinto

Avocado Herb Omelet with Hot Chutney

La Junta Jalapeño Steaks

Picadillo de Chayote

Cinnamon-Spiced Dessert Plantains with Natilla Cream


In September, 1992, your editors joined forces once again to invade a Central American country–ostensibly for a vacation, and this time Costa Rica was the target.  It was the first trip together for the DeWitts and Gerlachs since we took on Belize, and we planned, as usual, to eat our way across the country.

But our friends all cautioned us that the food in Costa Rica was bland!  We ignored the warning, believing that travelers can find hot and spicy food in virtually any country in the world.  It was only a matter of time, we figured, before we uncovered some really fiery dishes.  That matter of time turned out to be longer than we ever imagined.

Escazú and Arlene, Too

San José, the capital, was our first stop, and from the comfortable Aparthotel Maria Alexandra in the suburb of Escazú, we set out to taste the local cuisine.  It didn’t take long to figure out that although the local “Tico” food was tasty, it was also rather, well, bland–like the hearts of palm salad, for example, or the gallo pinto, the local name for rice and beans.  The homemade corn and flour tortillas were excellent too, but whatever filled them had no bite.  We decided to ask an expert about the local food.

We were fortunate to meet one of Costa Rica’s premier chefs, Arlene Lutz, who is also a restaurateur and the star of “La Hora de Arlene,” a televised cooking show that is shown in both Costa Rica and Guatemala. All this from a woman who didn’t know how to cook when she got married! Because of a strong desire to be “the best cook she could be,” Arlene went first to New York to study at the Waldorf Astoria. Over the years she continued to hone her cooking skills at the Cordon Bleu School in Paris and Bon Appetit in Los Angeles. So when the opportunity arose for a locally produced TV show, she had all the culinary skills necessary. Arlene is extremely proud of her heritage and promotes Costa Rican cooking whenever possible, but her “La Hora de Arlene” showcases all types of cuisines. And, in the show’s twenty-one years, she has never repeated a recipe!

We met up with Arlene at her restaurant, named “Arlene’s,” of course. The menu, offering dishes from around the world, reflected her varied culinary interests, and every Sunday the restaurant has a “theme buffet” featuring foods from a different country.  After enjoying a wonderful meal and a delightful after dinner discussion with Arlene, she invited us to return for a typical Costa Rican meal that she would prepare just for us!

That special evening began on a good note: we quickly hailed a cab in the pouring rain and made it to the restaurant before we got soaking wet. A separate table had been set for us using gaily decorated tin dishes that are commonly be used in the countryside, and next to us was a buffet table with lovely floral arrangements of bird of paradise and flowering ginger. After each dish was served during the meal, the remainder was placed on the buffet table, so by the end of the meal a beautiful display of Costa Rican food had been assembled.

The banquet began with a hearts of palm salad and was followed by a sweet potato soup flavored with a hint of orange (see recipe). Next was a plate of the unusual pejibaye or pipas, which are fruits of the same palm tree that yields hearts of palm. These very popular, starchy fruits are boiled with herbs, are served garnished with mayonnaise, and are definitely an acquired taste.

The entree of tongue in white wine and prunes was from a recipe handed down to Arlene by her grandmother. It was surprisingly tender and flavorful, and even those of us who didn’t think we would like tongue came back for seconds. We were then served Spanish rice, the only familiar recipe on the menu, and chayote and corn. Dessert was a wide array of local fruits including melons, oranges, the unusual red and fuzzy mangosteens, and armored cherimoyas with their custard-like taste–a refreshing end to a wonderful meal that lacked only chiles.

The market in San José.

Our conclusion after a few days in San José: Our friends had been right.  If ever there was a cuisine that needed chile peppers, it was Costa Rica’s.  We just had to dig deeper.  It was time to split up and search the coasts.  Dave and Mary Jane headed to the Pacific Coast, while Nancy and Jeff were Caribbean-bound.

La Pura Vida en Cahuita: Nancy Reports

More than 200 inches of rain a year produces many waterfalls.

We left San José early Friday morning and headed east. Jeff drove the first leg of the trip, through the mountains, and we passed through some of the most beautiful and stunningly green scenery imaginable.  Literally every non-paved square inch of land, including the sheer vertical walls cut to build the road, were crowded with luxuriant tropical growth.  We drove up and down the mountains and through the clouds at times, into incredibly dense rain forests with some plants bearing giant leaves measuring five or six feet in diameter.  There were numerous waterfalls, and then unexpectedly, a breath-taking vista that overlooked a jungle-filled valley many hundreds of feet below. We would stop about every fifteen minutes for a closer look and inevitably, another photo.

After several hours of running downhill, the land started to level out and became a flat plain all the way to the coast. This area is one of the main agricultural areas of Costa Rica, and much of the land is used for growing fruits and vegetables (including some mammoth banana plantations) and for raising cattle. The road literally runs into the Caribbean at Limón, the capital of the province and main Caribbean port for the country. The town is primarily a commercial center with limited tourist interest, aside from the annual Dia de la Raza, which celebrates, in Mardi Gras style, the landing of Christopher Columbus in 1502. The carnival attracts hundreds of thousands of people each year in October for 5 days of music, parades, dancing, and general mayhem.

Because we missed the turn (no road sign), we took a quick drive through the busy, tattered port city before heading south. From Limón, the road paralleled the Caribbean while running through stands of coconut palms, banana plants, and cocoa trees. Signs of the severe 1991 earthquake (7.4 on the Richter scale) became more and more evident as we went further south. The beaches were piled high with logs and branches from trees that had been uprooted and swept out to sea, bridges along the road were either brand new or mere timbers spanning the break, and the road slowly turned into a nightmare of nearly bottomless potholes, requiring us to weave wildly down the road at fifteen miles per hour. Because the earthquake did not hit densely populated regions and the impact on people was relatively small, not too much has been reported about the outcome. In terms of what it did to the earth itself, it was literally one of the largest, most devastating quakes in recorded history.  For instance, the coast in the Limón area was raised nearly five feet! Fortunately, experts forecast no further similar activity for at least 100 years.

We finally arrived at the town of Cahuita, which is on the beach a mile or so off the paved road. The town itself is perhaps five blocks square, with infrequent houses, several hotels, a restaurant/bar or two, and not much more. We bounced our way out the rough dirt road, finally finding the hotel Jaguar, which was reputed to have some of the finest cuisine in the area, if not the country.

We were welcomed by Melba Vigneault, a Costa Rican who, together with her Canadian husband, Paul, own and run the hotel and open- air dining room.  The sparsely furnished rooms, which feature private baths (but no hot water, which is very common throughout Costa Rica) are large with high ceilings and screens, thus providing cooling cross-ventilation. Since the Jaguar is right across the road from the palm tree-lined beach, we were lulled to sleep at night by the soothing sounds of the rustling palms and the gentle waves.

That evening we found out why the hotel had such a good reputation for its cuisine.  Paul calls his style of cooking “French Caribbean” because he uses many French sauces which he has adapted using fresh, local ingredients. His menu is filled with regional fruits and vegetables, many of which are grown on the hotel grounds, along with most of the herbs and spices that are used in the kitchen.  During the high season (we were there during the rainy season), a choice of three entrees is offered, one of which is hot and spicy. According to Paul, about fifty percent of his guests order the hot choice.

Dinner that evening consisted of huge plates of slaw with homemade dressing, chayote and potato puree, and green beans, along with a large, heavenly piece of fresh Queen Covina (a superb sea bass) with a peanut pepper sauce. Served in the balmy open air with ice cold Costa Rican beer, just across from the beach, that night will forever live in our memories as one our favorites.

The next day, in Cahuita National Park, we watched hordes of monkeys pass overhead in the trees, disturbing the comical and surreal sloths not in the slightest. We learned first-hand why howler monkeys got their name when a troop directly overhead started their howling.  Words cannot describe the power and volume, so we can only say that the uproar raised goosebumps and sent chills down our spines. Afterwards, it was back to Cahuita where we stopped for a couple of beers at a small, thatch-roofed bar with Bob Marley music blaring. And then on to another spectacular dinner. It was la pura vida, the good life, in paradise.

Questions in Quepos: Dave Reports

Meanwhile, Mary Jane and I were stuck in the tiny town of Parrita while I asked the gas station attendant my first question in flawless, first grade-level Spanish: “Donde está Quepos?

The attendant pointed to the rickety, single-lane bridge that angled across a dark, raging river, and to the dirt trail beyond that passed for a road.

Á Quepos,” he said.  To Quepos.

¿Verdad?” asked a skeptical me.  The truth?

,” assured the attendant, pointing again, “Quepos.”

Gracias.  Let’s beat that bus to the bridge!” I yelled, peeling gravel.

“Arrrrgh!” screamed Mary Jane, “We’re going to die!”

Not to worry–I was just kidding about the bus.  The bridge held up, and the road was not really all that bad–mostly rutted and full of gravel–but Mary Jane was still afraid I’d drive off the edge and into a crocodile-infested river.

Fifteen bone-thumping miles later we arrived at Quepos–and the roads were worse!  Huge potholes resembling Serbian mortar craters caused drivers to weave about as if under the influence of an exotic tropical drug, and the maximum speed through the former banana port was about five miles an hour, slower even than in Nancy and Jeff’s earthquake-ravaged Cahuita!

We found the sign indicating Manuel Antonio National Park and took a much better road to the top of a mountain where the string of small hotels began. Some were perched atop the mountain, overlooking the spectacular view of three beaches and numerous dramatic islands, and others were beachfront establishments.  We choose La Arboleda on the beach, partially because of the reasonable price and partially because it had its own miniature zoo, complete with deer, agoutis, and parrots.  After checking in, we began our exploration.

Quepos is just being discovered as a tourist destination, so it is relatively unspoiled.  There are only about 250 beds in about two dozen hotels and guesthouses, and most of the tourists fly into the small airport from San José.  The lovely beaches and the national park are the main attractions, but a golf course and seventeen hotel projects are under construction, so it won’t be long until Quepos resembles a miniature Acapulco.  Locals worry that such development, along with 150,000 visitors annually, will harm the national park and its profusion of birds, monkeys, iguanas, and other wildlife.

One resort that blends perfectly into the environment is La Mariposa, which overlooks the national park and its three beaches.  It was built fifteen years ago by David Tucker and Garth Kistler, two renegade businessmen from Atlanta who gave up the executive life and took an enormous risk when they bought five acres in the middle of the jungle.

We sat with David Tucker on the terrace while the Mariposa cat bonked our legs, and David described the tedious process of construction, which required the Spanish colonial resort to be earthquake proof.  It took them nearly twenty years to build the resort to its current dramatic, airy, and beautiful ambience.

We were his guests for dinner, and the food–which he calls “standard continental fare”–was excellent.  We had baked snapper with a cream and wine sauce, chicken dominical (marinated in lemon juice and rum), and beef roulades.  It certainly wasn’t Tico food, but it had one thing in common with it: no heat.  David provides the local “chilero” hot sauce, but that’s it for pungency in Quepos.  He did give us his chef’s recipe for gallo pinto, and that does have something of a bite.

Leo and the iguana.

David mentioned that one of his employees, Leo Godinez, was a naturalist who gave “backwoods” tours of Manuel Antonio National Park, so the next morning at six we met Leo and drove down to the park.  Within minutes, Leo had leaped into a stream and caught a three-foot male iguana with his bare hands.  I wanted to take it home with us, but Mary Jane said it would never clear customs.  The park tour was fascinating, and we saw many varieties of birds (Costa Rica has one-tenth of the world’s species, over 850) and butterflies (more species than all of Africa).  Also making an appearance were sloths (very slow) and Jesus Christ lizards (very fast), that literally run across the surface of the water.

Then the rains came, an intense downpour that made me worry about the condition of the road to Parrita.  But we put such negative thoughts out of our mind while dining, in the rain under the thatched roof of Karola’s Restaurant while listening CDs of the guitar music of Ottmar Libberth and Carlos Santana and eating swordfish, shrimp, and yellowfin tuna that were fresh and delicious, but–you guessed it–bland.

It was still raining the next morning when we threaded our way through the Quepos potholes and found ourselves on the dreaded road to Parrita, which was slick with mud.  It was crocodile weather for sure.  Only my great driving ability and superb sense of timing got us safely back to San José. Heh, heh.

“Make that blind, dumb luck,” corrected Mary Jane.  It was only after we returned to the States that we read in Conde Nast Traveler, “only the brave actually drive from San José to Quepos.”

Rica Red to the Rescue

Cody Jordan and Stuart Jeffrey.

Back in Escazú, we hooked up with Stuart Jeffrey and Cody Jordan of Quetzal Foods International Corporation, who promised to prove that at least some parts of Costa Rica were hot and spicy.  They should know, since they have the largest Habanero plantation in Central America.

With Stuart and Cody as our guides, and with Stuart’s friend Brenda, we journeyed to Turrialba to meet with the researchers at CATIE (Centro Agronomico de Investigación y Enseñanza), who had assisted in the Habanero project.  At CATIE, we met with chile expert Jorge Morera, who told us about their collection of Capsicum seeds, which are kept below zero in a huge cryogenic storage facility (read: freezer).

“We have somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 different accessions,” he told us, “of which 660 have been characterized.”  Translated, that means 660 varieties have been grown out, identified as to species and pod type, and their characteristics recorded.  Morera also said that unlike in the past, when coffee and bananas received all the attention, CATIE was now emphasizing cacao, tropical fruits, squash, and chile peppers in its programs to assist farmers.  He told us that the main pepper crops in Costa Rica were jalapeños, cayennes, tabascos, and bells–until Quetzal Foods began their Rica Red operation.

Later, with Melena as our driver and Ricardo Quieros from the University of Costa Rica, as our guide, we drove north toward the Habanero fields.  It was a long drive over mountain roads with hairpin curves and spectacular vistas, and we made several interesting stops along the way.

First we visited two palmito (hearts of palm) processing factories, where palm stems are peeled, cut, and processed into tender cylinders about an inch wide and five inches long.  According to Nancy, Costa Rican hearts of palm are much tastier than their Brazilian counterparts, and Ricardo told us that Costa Rica was starting to challenge Brazil in production and export.  Next we stopped at a black pepper farm, walked through the fields of rather bizarre-looking vines growing on posts and tasted some of peppercorns, which were quite pungent.

After an evening of relaxation at the Tilajari Hotel Resort, within sight of the highly active Arenal Volcano, we continued our journey north, and Stuart and Cody explained how they started growing Habaneros in Costa Rica.  Their story was a classic tale of determination and problem solving.  It all began in 1984, when Stuart, who had been an agronomist working with kiwi fruit, began growing Habaneros in New Orleans from seeds he brought back from his native Belize.  His fascination with the fiery and tasty Habaneros led to dreams of producing Habanero products, but he needed adequate production.  He investigated buying a couple of sauce plants in Belize, but they were just too small to be feasible.

By this time he had contacted his longtime friend Cody, and had sent him a sauce he had concocted from his backyard Habaneros, as well as dried pods and powder.  Cody took these fledgling products around Dallas to restaurants and spice companies.  Although no one had ever heard of Habaneros, the response was overwhelming.  One restaurant wanted a hundred cases of hot sauce immediately.  One spice company placed an order for two million pounds of Habanero powder!  It was obvious they could not fill those orders from Stuart’s backyard garden, but it was also apparent that they had to locate massive amounts of Habaneros.  But where?

Stuart and Cody began searching the Caribbean and Central America for the ideal spot to find (or grow) massive quantities of Habaneros.  Some were grown in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, but that crop was consumed locally and was not exported.  They explored Guatemala, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Dominica, and Jamaica and found the same situation everywhere–small plots with limited commercial Habanero production.  In 1985, somewhat discouraged but not giving up, they posted bulletins with the Foreign Agricultural Service of U.S. Embassies in Central America:  “Pepper growers wanted!”

Finally, a response came from Ricardo Quieros of the University of Costa Rica.  He could help them, he wrote, and his family had grown peppers for many years.  That was the break Stuart and Cody needed.  They rushed to Costa Rica and inspected Ricardo’s ten acres of a Panama/Cayenne cross.  Ricardo told them it was not a true Habanero, but that one could be developed.

Rica Reds in the rain.

The next few years were devoted to developing the Rica Red variety of Habanero and determining where to grow it.  Ricardo collected seeds from twenty-two varieties of Panama peppers being grown on two small plots in Limón and planted them on sites all around the country–isolated, of course, from other varieties of peppers.  From those planting, Ricardo selected six strains which had desirable qualities: large, round pods, bright red color, high heat, and disease resistance.  These strains were again planted around the country, and the seeds from the best pods were collected.  Finally, after four years, Ricardo had the Rica Red variety breeding true more than ninety percent of the time and had determined the ideal spot to grow it.  The location was the northernmost town in Costa Rica, and it is called, appropriately enough, Los Chiles.

We were greeted there by rain again, a portion of the 120 inches the region receives annually, and the “road” to the chile fields was so muddy we all had to cram into a four-wheel drive truck to get there.  But once we arrived, we were astounded.  Spread out before us were more than 200 acres of Rica Red habaneros growing between rows of young orange trees.  The plants ranged in size from a few inches tall (recently planted) to monsters nearly seven feet high!  The latter plants were two years old, had been pruned back after the first year, and were still producing well–some had over a hundred pods on them.  They were grown on gentle slopes for good drainage, and the crop was amazingly healthy. Perhaps one in thirty or forty plants was bare of leaves and fruit, but there had had been no time to identify the problem because the other were producing bumper yields of fruit.

Stuart and Cody estimate that they and their Costa Rican partners have invested about $1.5 million in the Rica Red habanero operation, creating jobs for the locals and hot pods for American consumers in the process.  The Rica Red habaneros are fermented in mash form in a plant at the site, and the mash is sold to Louisiana hot sauce manufacturers to spice up their cayenne sauces.

Yum! Habanero mash.

So we finally found something hot and spicy in Costa Rica!  But whether or not the Ticos will go for habaneros in their gallo pinto remains to be seen.  In the recipes that follow, we have used habaneros judiciously to “help out” some of the recipes we collected.

 Spicy Sweet Potato Soup

Believe us, this soup from Arlene Lutz tastes far better than it sounds.  We took the liberty of adding some habanero powder to spice it up, although it is just as good without it. Arlene’s secret is to add a little sugar if the potatoes are not sweet enough.

4 cups chicken broth
2 cups diced sweet potato
3 tablespoons orange juice
1/4 teaspoon orange zest
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon ground habanero
Pinch of white pepper
Chopped parsley for garnish

Bring the broth to a boil, add the potatoes and boil until the potatoes are soft. Place the potatoes and some of the broth in a blender and puree the mixture until smooth.

Combine the puree with the reserved broth and the remaining ingredients. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Garnish with the parsley and serve.
Yield: 4 servings
Heat Scale: Mild to Medium

Gallo Pinto

Gallo pinto, or beans and rice, can be called the “national dish” of Costa Rica, and it is served at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. As with any dish this popular, everyone has their own version. David Tucker of the Hotel La Mariposa was kind enough to share their recipe with us.  Readers are invited to spice up gallo pinto by simply adding some chile powder or more hot sauce to the recipe.  Variation: Gallo pinto on the Caribbean side of the country is flavored with local coconuts. Cook the beans in coconut milk with a couple of small hot fresh chiles until the beans are soft. Drain and add sauteed onion and garlic. Combine with cooked rice, garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.

1 cup black beans
1 bay leaf
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, or to taste
1 clove garlic
Pinch curry powder
Pepper and salt to taste
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Lea & Perrins steak sauce
Few drops Tabasco or other Louisiana hot sauce
1 1/2 cups cooked rice

Cover the beans with water and soak for at least 4 hours. Bring the water to a boil. Add the bay leaf, 3 tablespoons of the oil, cumin, oregano, garlic, and curry powder. Reduce the heat and simmer for an hour or until the beans are soft. Season with the pepper and salt. Drain the beans and reserve the liquid.

Saute the onion and pepper in the remaining oil until soft. Add the remaining ingredients.

Combine the beans with the rice mixture. If the mixture is too stiff, add a little of the bean water or chicken stock to achieve the desired consistency.
Yield: 4 servings
Heat Scale: Mild

Avocado Herb Omelet with Hot Chutney

Nancy and Jeff’s first breakfast at the Hotel Jaguar featured this wonderful omelet garnished with slices of red skinned avocado. When Paul makes his chutney, he doesn’t like to use sugar. Instead he uses the flavor of fresh fruit to naturally sweeten his chutneys and sauces.  Note: the two omelettes are made separately, so divide the ingredients for the omelette mixture before actual cooking.


2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
3 cups diced papaya
2 tablespoons raisins
1 habanero chile, stem and seeds removed, minced


1 large avocado, pit removed, 6 thin slices reserved for garnish
1/4 cup finely minced onion, divided into 2 portions
1 medium tomato, chopped
4 eggs (2 eggs per omelette)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, divided into two portions
2 fresh, small hot chiles, such as serrano, stems and seeds, removed, minced, divided into 2 portions
2 tablespoons olive oil
Cilantro leaves for garnish

Combine the ingredients for the chutney in a pan and gently simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes have broken down and the sauce has thickened.

Mash the avocado and add the onion and tomato in a bowl, mixing well.

Beat 2 of the eggs well with half of the cilantro and chiles.

Heat a tablespoon of the oil in an omelette pan over high. Tilt the pan to ensure the oil covers the entire pan. Pour the 2 beaten eggs into the pan and scramble, moving the pan, until the mixture starts to thicken. Add 1/2 of the avocado mixture and allow the omelet to finish cooking.

Run a spatula or knife around the edges of the omelette to make sure it doesn’t stick to the pan. Slide the eggs to the front of the pan and fold over the top.

Turn the omelette onto a plate, garnish with avocado slices, a few cilantro leaves, and serve with the chutney on the side. Repeat the procedure with the remaining ingredients for the second omelette.
Yield: 2 servings
Heat Scale: Medium

La Junta Jalapeño Steaks

Photo: Chel Beeson

On the way back to San José from the habanero fields in Los Chiles, we stopped at the restaurant La Junta to sample some of the local beef. After enjoying an appetizer of black bean puree, flour tortillas, and cilantro salsa, we were served thick, tender steaks topped with a mild jalapeño sauce.

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
4 boneless steaks, cut 1-inch thick
1/4 cup minced onions
3 jalapeño chiles, stems and seeds removed, minced
1/2 cup red wine
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups beef stock
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 jalapeño chiles, stems and seeds removed, cut in thin strips
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy skillet. Brown the steaks on both sides. Reduce the heat and cook gently until they are medium rare or cooked to desired doneness. Remove from the pan and keep warm.

Pour off the fat. Add the remaining butter to the remaining juices. Add the onion and chopped jalapeños and simmer, stirring constantly, until softened.

Add the red wine, bring to a boil and deglaze the pan, being sure to scrape up any bits that may have stuck to the bottom or sides of the pan. Add the ground black pepper, stock, and cream and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce is smooth and thick.

Place the steaks on a plate, pour the sauce over the top, garnish with the Jalapeño slices and cilantro, and serve.
Yield: 4 servings
Heat Scale: Medium

Picadillo de Chayote

When we asked Arlene Lutz what she would describe as typical Costa Rican fare, she replied “picadillo” or finely chopped or diced foods. This, she said, reflects the Spanish influence on the cuisine. Again, some liberty was taken with the recipe. Chayote is a tropical squash.  If you can’t find it, substitute yellow squash.

1 medium onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
1 jalapeño chile, stem and seeds removed, minced
1 large chayote, peeled and chopped
1 cup corn, either cut from the cob or frozen
Chopped fresh cilantro

Saute the onion and garlic in the butter until soft. Add the chile, the chayote, corn, and a little water. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the chayote is tender. Add the cilantro and serve.
Yield: 2 servings
Heat Scale: Medium

Cinnamon Spiced Dessert Plantains with Natilla Cream

Plantains are another staple in the Costa Rican diet and are served at any meal. This recipe for dessert plantains was given to us by Melena, our Costa Rican guide to Los Chiles. Bananas can be substituted if plantains are not available and the combination of creams is a substitute for one found in Costa Rica.

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large plantains or bananas, peeled and sliced crosswise
3 tablespoons heavy cream
4 tablespoons sour cream

Melt the butter and stir in the honey and cinnamon. Fry the plantains in the mixture until soft, turning once.

Combine the two creams and mix well.

Place the plantains on plates, pour some of the honey/cinnamon mixture over them, top with the cream mixture, and serve.
Yield: 2 servings

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