My counter was filled with yucca and taro roots, whole coconuts, and hearts of palm. We were ready to make two dishes from Costa Rica, Rondon and Gallo Pinto. It was about 3 pm and we were set to make these recipes for dinner when Colin came into the house calmly stating that he had cut his foot with an axe and he was not sure how bad it was. My husband in a crisis…incredible. Me in a crisis? A little bit like a squirrel in traffic that can’t decide which way to run. He removed his boot and assessed the damage. As I flitted about the house getting my phone and asking if I should call 911, he (in a very even-keeled tone) told me that I should get him some paper towels so that he could apply pressure and that I should get Micah up from his nap and get everyone into the car to go to the emergency room.
Once we were in triage at the ER it was clear that Micah knew something was different. He sat incredibly still on my lap and just watched what was going on. I sat in a bit of a daze watching everything too. Medical emergencies have never been my forte. There is something about seeing people I love in pain that just overwhelms me and my body’s way of coping is to just shut down, which is precisely what happened. I wasn’t feeling great so I set Micah on the floor and proceeded to pass out, falling head first onto the floor of the ER. The lovely staff at Blodgett Hospital brought me a stretcher and wheeled me right up next to my husband. You’d think after 8 or 9 times of passing out in these situations I’d learn to just lay down on the floor. Maybe the 10th time is the charm. If ever you are in need of emergency care, I urge you to go to the nearest emergency room, but if that happens to be the emergency room at Blodgett Hospital I think it’s safe to say you’ll receive great care from great people. We are glad to know they are around the corner when things go wrong.
A few days later when Colin was able to hobble around a bit, we got to work making Rondon. Rondon is translated as ‘run down’ and it is essentially a meal that you make with whatever is left in your refrigerator. Or whatever you have run across in your day as a fisherman, a forager, or a farmer. Thrifty housewives would put everything together in a big pot and let it simmer. After reading multiple recipes, I think what makes it Rondon is that all the meat, vegetables, and fruit simmer in coconut milk and most of the suggested vegetables were those that would be found in more tropical climates. If I let my fridge “run down” and then made this soup I would have carrots and onions, probably sweet potatoes, but I’d be missing some of the very fun and different ingredients like plantains, hearts of palm, yucca root and so much more.
Colin commented that Rondon just felt like the kind of meal that you would have sitting on a beach with the jungle behind you. I pictured the crew of Gilligan’s Island coming out of the jungle with coconuts, some root vegetables, and plantains and throwing together this dish in their little beachside kitchen. It’s filled with things that feel bizarre and obscure, but all were found at Meijer (our mainstay grocery store here in Michigan) and were fairly inexpensive. You can use a wide variety of ingredients from sweet potatoes and carrots to plantains to shrimp, crab, or scallops. Below is a recipe with our measurements and list of ingredients but if you can’t find something at the store or you have an abundance of something in your fridge, it sounds like you can decide which vegetables and meat sound good to you and create your own amounts of each ingredient.
Colin drilled holes in the coconuts and drained the water, then he whacked them open with a machete (I guess he isn’t too scared of swinging sharp things around after his toe injury…). We shredded the coconut and let it soak for about 10 minutes to make our own coconut milk. You could use the canned version, but what fun would that be? I peeled and diced yucca and taro roots, onions, plantains, hearts of palm, and sweet potato. I threw all of these veggies and our coconut milk into a pot and let it boil before reducing to a simmer. If you think adding plantains would be like adding a banana to a soup you’d be wrong. It was much more like a sweet starchy potato than a mushy banana. It was a wonderful addition to the soup and made for some of my favorite bites.
We made a vegetarian/vegan version but if you want to get wild add some meat or seafood that sounds good to you. This meal will easily become our go to dish when we have friends with lots of dietary restrictions coming for dinner. It was filling and flavorful, vegan, gluten free, and dairy free. If you have a friend or family member that has some restrictions this is a “must try” recipe. We did end up adding a little flour and water mixture to help it thicken up, but it is not essential and otherwise the dish is gluten free.
We also made a traditional Gallo Pinto. This is rice and beans and I have nothing exceptionally interesting to say about it. We ordered Salsa Lizano from Amazon so that we could have something authentic from Costa Rica for the flavor. It’s an interesting sauce but nothing nearly as delicious as the Rondon. Gallo Pinto would make a good side dish but is unimpressive on it’s own.
Looking down at a swollen red foot, we knew it was time to head back to the couch with our feet up and a warm bowl of Rondon. Here’s hoping next week brings a little less excitement in the ER and a little more excitement in the kitchen.