Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dominican Republic - A winter destination

The Dominican Republic is the second largest nation in the Caribbean and it has everything from rainforests to deserts. Of course, it also has white sand beaches and beautiful blue water for those looking to escape to a tropical island. It’s Caribbean’s largest tourist destination and known for its golf courses, baseball, and merengue, the national dance and song. Yes, the word merengue actually comes from the word meringue, a dessert made from whipped egg whites and sugar.

Here in Canada, my friends seem to go to two places to escape the winter blahs: Cuba and the Dominican Republic. From what I am hearing it’s cheaper than going to Mexico or some other Caribbean island. From the little research I’ve done about the island nation it seems like quit a nice place to bath in the sun and forget about life for a while.

My only connection with the country is a memory I have of a friend’s mother. When I was five and six I was living in Lagos, Nigeria and my best friend was a little boy named Tico. His sister Desiree was also my friend and the three of us often played together. Their father was an American diplomat and their mother was from the Dominican Republic.

One story I remember about Tico’s mother was one my mother told. When we first moved to Lagos I was at home with the servants and apparently not being watched too closely. I wandered outside and found a stray dog and decided to take it into our house. I locked our cat and the dog together in one of our bathrooms upstairs, with me in there with them. Our cat went ballistic and bit me on the wrist. The poor dog was so distraught that our cook had to carry him down the stairs.

I got blood poisoning from the cat bite on my wrist. To remedy it I had to have a series of shots. Being that I was five this was the most horrible thing in the whole world. Two people had to keep me still while the doctor administered the shots. Tico’s mom happened to be working at the doctor’s office and helped my mother hold me down. While I screamed and cried my mother looked over at Tico’s mom and saw she had tears streaming down her face. My mother never forgot that.

We all loved our Dominican Republic meal (and we had it with our Dominica soup). It was Asopao de Mariscos, a shrimp and rice dish. It was wonderfully flavored with tomato paste, green peppers, garlic, olives, parsley, cilantro, and chicken bouillon. It was easy to make and you could try other things other than shrimp such as lobster or crab.

Other popular dishes in the Dominican Republic are fried green plantains, fried dumpling with meat and cheese, and Mondongo, a soup made from cow’s stomach.

Here in Canada our short days of winter are getting depressing. You wake up to dreary weather and then it gets dark and your day is over. Many of the Canadians I know are flying off to the Dominican Republic. I must say, that does sound rather good right now.

Asopao de Mariscos

2 lbs shrimp, crab or lobster
1 lemon
2 1/2 cups rice
3/4 gallon water
5 TBSP oil
4 TBSP tomato paste
1/4 cup green peppers, chopped
1 pinch oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pinch black pepper
1/8 cup seedless olives, chopped
1/4 cup celery, chopped
1 TBSP parsley, chopped
1 TBSP coriander, chopped
1/2 tsp thyme leaves
1 cube of chicken bouillon

Heat oil in a pot, add herbs, olives, spices, tomato paste, peppers, garlic, and salt. Then add the shrimp and stir. Cover and cook for two minutes, then stir again. Add water and bring to boil. Add all remaining ingredients including rice. Stir. Let most of the water evaporate. Add salt to taste. Serve hot.

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