It seems like during the last days of October through the first days of November, there are many countries throughout Latin America and Europe that celebrate some sort of holiday related to death and/or after-death. In Ecuador, we celebrate Día de los Difuntos, translated as Day of the Deceased, on November 2nd, it is a holiday meant to honor the life of those who have passed away. Día de los Difuntos coincides with the Catholic holiday of All Souls Day – and just as many other holidays is likely the result of merging a traditional indigenous celebration with a Catholic holiday. The tradition for the Day of the Deceased is for families to visit the cemeteries and take flowers and/or food to those who have passed away.
We have a couple of very traditional foods that are prepared especially for the Day of the Deceased: colada morada, a purple corn drink, and guaguas de pan, sweet breads shaped as babies. The guaguas de pans are made from a sweet bread dough, which I find very similar to brioche, and are sometimes stuffed with sweet fillings. The word guagua is a quechua word that means baby or child, like many other quechua words it is actually used frequently mixed with Spanish in everyday language in Ecuador, for example, many people say “mis guaguas” when speaking about their children. While the guaguas de pan or figuras de pan are the most popular ones, in some parts of the country, especially in the South, they also make breads in shapes of animals, it’s very common to find horses, pigs, birds, and more shapes. The bread dough used for these is sometimes a little bit sweeter and softer than the traditional guagua bread dough. [read more]
This is my recipe for Ecuadorian tortillas de platano verde, which are green plantain patties or savory cakes stuffed with cheese (or other fillings). Have I mentioned before how much I love the mix of green plantains and cheese? Probably thousands of times, but I don’t get tired of repeating it. These green plantain patties are made with a green plantain dough, that is basically the same dough as I use to make green plantain empanadas. I just add an additional cooked plantain, since the dough for the patties can have a higher ratio of cooked plantain to raw plantain. I included a list of tips for making the dough on the original empanada recipe, you can read them in more detail there, but the high level summary is that I simplify the recipe by using a food processor. I also find that at least here in the US, where the plantains aren’t always as super green as they are in Ecuador, it helps to add an egg to the dough. Again, that isn’t at all the traditional way, but rather just another one of my carishina (a Quechua term for someone who has no hope in the kitchen or anything domestic) cooking techniques or hacks. This variation of the dough is very simple, some other versions will also add some refrito or sofrito to the dough mix (similar to how you would make llapingachos) or ground peanuts (similar to a bolon).
The plantain patties are stuffed with cheese and then cooked on a griddle, or a frying pan, until golden and crispy. My favorite way to make these tortillas de verde is to stuff them with cheese, however you can make them with other fillings, from chorizo to pork belly, seafood or pretty much anything that you think would work as a filling. I love serving these green plantain patties with a variety of sauces or topping options. Some of my favorites include aji hot sauces, such as the traditional tree tomato aji or the aji criollo. I also really like serving them cebollas encurtidas or pickled red onions, or the close variant of onion and tomato curtido. Recently I also tried serving them with a creamy avocado sauce (or a chunky avocado salsa or regular guacamole) and have to say that it goes really well with the tortillas de verde. My friends from the coastal areas of Ecuador will probably consider it borderline food heresy, but hey, as a Serrana (person from the Highlands) I can get away with the “I put avocado on everything” excuse. [read more]