Spareribs with Tamarind Glaze

I love tamarind. In Panama we make a drink with it, this isn’t exclusive to my little country, of course. We also process the pulp, mix it with brown sugar and¬† make it into balls that are then dipped in sugar and sold. It is an incredibly good snack, just thinking about it¬†is making my mouth water.

Speaking of tamarind balls…, when I had just moved to Houston, I had probably been there for a little over a year, I was yearning for Panamanian treats. I used to go to a little store called La Michoacana, it was (is) a primarily Mexican store, but it was the only place I could find ‘some’ of the products and produce I needed for home-cooking.

On one of my visits to the store, I noticed they were selling tamarind balls. Oh Joy!!! I was so excited. A little piece of home…, or so I thought. I got back in my car, heading home after picking up all the essentials, unwrapped the little ball and took a nice, healthy bite of it. . . I almost threw up! They like the tamarind balls in Mexico too, but like many of their treats, they add chili peppers to it. Totally ruining that fix for me, just be happy you weren’t in the car with me that day. I sounded like a sailor.

In any case, I’ve had some tamarind pulp sitting in the pantry for a few weeks now, planning to get to it. The wait is over. I decided to cook with it, instead of limiting it to sweeter applications. These pork spareribs¬†turned out finger-licking OHMYGAWD¬†good! I recommend you plan ahead for these so you can marinate the ribs as I did.

Day Before Prep:

Dilute the tamarind paste in water. I used about 1/2 cp of the pulp and diluted it in about 3 cps of hot water. Let it sit there for a bit to help the pulp separate from the seeds. Once the water has cooled, strain it and use a spoon to help remove more of the pulp from the seeds. Discard the seeds and reserve the concentrated juice.

For the marinade:

In a bowl or large ziploc bag combine
1 cp tamarind concentrate
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp habanero paste (or habanero hot sauce)
2 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp honey
3 tbsp fresh ginger, slivered
2 tsp garlic paste (crushed garlic)

Mix all these ingredients well, then add the pork spareribs. For the recipe I used about 3 lbs. of bone-in pork spareribs. Make sure all the ribs are coated and refrigerate at least 12 hours, preferably overnight. Turn the ribs a couple of times to make sure they all soak up the marinade.

Day of – Cooking:

Preheat oven to 325¬į. Line a baking sheet with foil paper and lay out the ribs in a single layer. Make sure to remove any chunks of ginger you see. Cover with foil and bake the ribs for 1-1/2 hours.

In the meantime, prepare the glaze. Once the ribs have cooked for the first 90 minutes, remove from the oven and drain and reserve the liquid. Return them to the oven uncovered.

Tamarind Glaze
2 cps tamarind concentrate (whatever is left, plus some water)
1 tbsp fresh ginger, crushed
1/3 cp brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, crushed (garlic paste)
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 cp green onions, diced (greens & whites)
1-1/2 tsp habanero paste or hot sauce
Cooking juices from the ribs
Sea salt & black pepper, to taste

Heat a medium saucepan, add a bit of oil to coat the bottom, then add all the white pieces of the green onions and half of the greens. Allow to cook for 1 or 2 minutes, just long enough to soften, then add the rest of the ingredients, except for the salt.

Stir well and adjust the seasoning with salt, if necessary. Allow it to simmer over medium low heat, stirring every so often until it begins to thicken. Once the glaze thickens to the consistency of heavy cream, add the rest of the green onions and remove it from the heat. Set aside.

After the ribs have cooked through and begin to get tender (about 90 minutes), raise the oven’s temperature to 450¬į and generously brush¬†the ribs with the glaze on one side. Return them to the oven and continue to cook for about 20 minutes. Flip the ribs, glaze the other side and return to the oven for another 20 minutes. Finally remove them from the oven, flip and glaze them once more, but just let them sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.

I sprinkled a bit more of finely chopped green onions just before serving and accompanied them with some Bacon Potatoes.  They were tangy, sweet and sticky good!

Cookingly yours,

Foodie Joust: Bacalao Casserole

Jen, from The Leftover Queen, has a monthly contest featuring 3 predetermined ingredients. She calls it the Royal Foodie Joust. For February, the ingredients are fish, coconut milk and nutmeg. I simply had to enter. Those are 3 of my favorite ingredients.

Coconut milk is ever present in Panamanian & Caribbean cuisine, besides that, I LOVE the flavor it imparts to food.
Fish–well, I come from a country which name means ‘abundance of fish’. Need I say more?

Nutmeg. I love its smoky, sweet aroma and taste.

There’s a dish my mom prepares, a casserole of sorts. She recently reminded me of it and I’ve had it on my to do list for a few months. Turns out, I’ll be using my mom’s basic dish, then tweaking it to fit the joust.

Her dish calls for bacalao¬†(salted dry cod), potatoes and a b√©chamel sauce. Can you guess? Instead of b√©chamel, I’m using coconut milk, yeah baby, yeah! So, without further, you know, babbling, here’s the recipe.

Bacalao Casserole

1 lb bacalao (dry salt cod)
1 onion, sliced
1 red pepper, chopped
3 slices bacon, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp habanero sauce (optional)
1/4 cp white wine
1 cp coconut milk
1 cp water
1/2 tsp nutmeg
6 potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 slices bacon, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil, approx
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cp panko crumbs
1/2 cp bread crumbs

First you need to reconstitute the bacalao. Reconstitute is a fancy way of saying hydrate. Put the cod in a bowl and add boiling water, let it seep for about 15 minutes. Drain water and repeat the process once more or until the fish feels pliable. Drain and shred the fish. Set aside.

I weighed the contents of a 1lb container, it only weighed 12ozs

In a medium skillet, fry the bacon over medium-high heat just enough to render the fat and give it a bit of color. Add the onion and cook until translucent, then add the red pepper. Cook until softened. Add the bacalao, garlic and habanero sauce, stir until all the ingredients are incorporated.

Add the wine and cook it down until evaporated, this will only take a minute or two since the pan is quite hot. Once the wine has evaporated, add the coconut milk, water and nutmeg. Stir and bring it to a boil, then turn down the temperature to a simmer and cook covered for about 20 minutes. The flavor of the coconut milk intensifies overnight, so I did this part of the recipe the day before I served the dish.

Preheat oven to 375¬į.
Lightly brown the bacon in a skillet, remove and drain. You want your potatoes cubed pretty small. Add enough oil to the skillet to be able to brown the potatoes. Fry the potatoes in 2 batches. Once you have browned the first batch, transfer them to an ovenproof dish. Finish the rest of the potatoes, then mix in the bacon right into the baking dish.

In the same skillet, melt the butter and add the breadcrumbs, stir them frequently until lightly browned. Set aside.

Add the bacalao mixture over the potatoes, then top the potatoes with the breadcrumbs. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes. Allow it to sit for 10 minutes before serving. This would go beautifully with tajadas.

By the way, come check out the other entries and vote for me!!! Rock the Vote!

That’s it. Enjoy!

Cookingly yours,


Do you ever watch the cooking contests on Food Network and the likes? The ones conducted at fairs or at the bequest of a brand or product? I do and have always wondered what it’s like to participate in one. How many entries are against yours, is your idea unique or interesting enough. Do you have a legitimate chance, will anyone other than family and close friends enjoy or appreciate the recipe? I imagine these are but a few of the questions swimming around someone’s mind when participating in such a contest. I say that because those are the questions swimming around my mind today.

I’ve decided to enter a recipe contest! Saveur magazine has a contest for family recipes and so I’ve picked one and entered it. I don’t know what will be of it, if anything, but it is a good recipe. Family and friends have said so. I’m not sure it is unique, but I do know it is different. I’ve sent it on its cosmic way to see what impressions it causes on those not related to me.

This contest was weird in that they’re not tasting my cooking. I guess they’ll read the recipe and and determine whether or not it sounds appealing enough to recreate. If it does, it’ll be one of the finalists they will taste test. In any case, I’m sharing it here with you. Try it and let me know your thoughts. My mom would whip this up for us. Except for boiling the pasta, this¬†is a one-pot dish. It is like chicken & rice, but using pasta instead of rice. The Caribbean flavor comes from coconut milk and curry powder.

Pasta con Pollo Caribe (Caribbean Chicken and Pasta)


4 lbs chicken thighs (10-12 on the bone with skin)
2 cloves garlic, crushed (1 tsp garlic puree)
1 tsp habanero paste or your choice of hot sauce
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbs Italian seasoning
2 tbs Worcestershire
Combine these ingredients and allow the chicken to marinate for 30 minutes or longer if possible. In the meantime, prepare the rest of the ingredients:

2 onions, coarsely chopped
1 tsp crushed garlic or 2 cloves finely chopped
32 oz stewed tomatoes, chopped-liquid included
16 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 tsp curry powder
2 bay leaves, dry
4 tbs Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 cp water
1-2 tbsp butter
Sea salt
1 lb linguini pasta (or your favorite type of pasta)

In a heavy-bottom saute pan, brown the thighs on both sides and set them aside. Because the chicken still has skin, I like to drop just a dab of vegetable oil onto the pan and spread it around with a napkin before putting the chicken in.¬† As the chicken browns, you’ll begin to develop drippings at the bottom of the pan. Do your best to scrape these and save them; they will add lots of flavor as the chicken stews.

When you have browned all the chicken, check the fat that was rendered. You need about 2 tbsp left on the pan, remove any excess. Now add the onions and cook until they begin to get translucent. Add the garlic, 3 tbs of parsley and tomatoes and loosen the drippings. Add the coconut milk, curry powder, bay leaves, water and stir. Adjust the salt as necessary.

Make sure there aren’t any drippings stuck at the bottom, bring it to a boil before putting the chicken back in. Turn the chicken pieces to coat them with the sauce. Lower the temperature to a slow simmer and continue to cook the chicken for 40 minutes.

Once the meat separates from the bones, turn off the heat and allow the chicken pieces to cool down in the sauce. The flavors in the sauce will intensify overnight. If you have the time to begin this¬†recipe the day before serving, I recommend preparing it up to this point, though it isn’t necessary.

Begin boiling the water to cook the pasta. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and put it back into the sauce. Keep the sauce and chicken warm, add the butter and stir until melted and well incorporated.  You will have about 5 cps of sauce and chicken. Cook and drain the linguini, which should be cooked al dente. Add the pasta and remaining tablespoon of parsley to the sauce and mix well, and allowing them to cook a bit longer in the sauce, about 5 minutes. Serve!

Makes 8-10 servings