Filed under: Paraguay
What do people eat in Paraguay? Some of you might wonder.
Well, this post isn’t about that. If I was writing about what Paraguayans eat, I’d make sure to post lots of pictures of meat grilled and/or fried, with loads of mandioca (the staple root vegetable here) and Sopa Paraguaya (a type of Paraguayan cornbread that includes lots and lots of cheese and pig fat).
No, this post is about what the NORTE (me) typically eats in Paraguay in my little house. Today I’m focusing on a dish I make quite often. A dish that would probably make any Paraguayan in Caazapá gag, since it’s loaded with vegetables and doesn’t even have a trace of meat (The word vegetarian does not exist here). It would probably also make them vomit afterwards as well, since it is on the mild form of spicy, and most Paraguayans I know will blanch at the sight of even two shakes of pepper over any dish.
I wanted to share with you guys my vegetable casserole dish because I’ve been out of the United States for so long and have not had access to any type of easy-bake food or dish that has even a hint of flavor other than lard. So, a lot of my experiences with cooking in Paraguay is getting really creative with the spices and sauces I have available to me to make unique dishes. Perhaps I’ve deluded myself into thinking that this is the most creative and uniquely flavorful dish ever, but I think my vegetable casserole is SUPER TASTY. It’s like a religious experience in my mouth. And when you live in a community where sometimes the best vegetable you can find rhymes with ‘funion’ (sadly, they don’t actually sell funions here), it’s like a party over at casa Brittany whenever I get to make this awesome side dish, which usually lasts me for over a week. I often eat this as a side dish with my lunch or dinner (and sometimes I just eat it as is). It’s fantastic.
So since I consider this a creatively awesome dish, there must be an equally creatively awesome name. And I have decided the name will be “Brittany’s Creatively Awesome Vegetable Casserole.” Nice ring to it, right?
Step One: Cut up a ton of vegetables and throw them all together in a bowl. Whatever you have on hand works. I got back from Asunción (the capital) and brought with me 2 eggplants, 1 zucchini, a ton of fresh spinach, 1 cabbage, and a bunch of green onions. I chopped up the veggies, julienned the spinach, and tossed them together in a large bowl. I also usually like to include pumpkin in this, but I didn’t get any this time around.
Step Two: Make the awesome sauce. I don’t measure the ingredients, so play around. Mix together medium parts of soy sauce, honey, and balsamic glaze. Add in a dollop of olive oil, a pinch of molasses, two minced garlic cloves, a chunk of minced ginger (about the size of 1 garlic clove), salt and pepper to taste, and about a tablespoon of packed chipotle powder (depending on how spicy you want it to be). Whisk together well. Listening to music on your computer optional.
Step Three: Pour the awesome sauce over your veggies and mix together well with your hands.
Step Four: Load half of the veggies onto a cooking pan and layer cheese over the top (I used gruyere cheese, the expensive kind, and then a lot more ‘queso paraguayo’ (typical ‘Paraguayan cheese’), the less expensive kind, for a good mix.
Step Five: Spread the rest of the veggies on top of the first layer, and then place cheese around the top again as well (notice how they’re layered differently, because I’m a creative genius- but we’ve covered that already). Sprinkle with salt, pepper, chipotle powder, and olive oil.
Step Six: Put yo’ veggies in the oven! 200 degrees for about an hour, check it every so often.
Step Seven: Take out your vegetable casserole and marvel in it’s glory.
Step Eight: Serve immediately. Enjoy the party in your mouth.
Thanks to my awesome family and friends who have provided me with some of these awesome spices/sauces to enable this rockin’ casserole. I hope you enjoyed checking out this weird fusion dish from a vegetable-starved Peace Corps Volunteer!
P.S. Check out my new article on Pink Pangea:
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