Pipián Rojo

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The story behind my discovery of Pipián Rojo is an interesting one, because my husband told me about it. His massage therapist is of Mexican descent, and obviously they were discussing food during his massage. That in itself is interesting. I mean, I’d do that, but I didn’t think my husband would! In any case, she told him about this sauce, Pipián Rojo, and he asked me to find a recipe for it.

Before going to my Mexican cookbooks, I looked online and found a recipe by Mely Martinez, whose blog, Mexico in My Kitchen, I already follow. It sounded exactly how my husband described it, with peanuts, pepitas, sesame seeds, chile peppers, all combined in a red sauce.

Here’s a photo from Mely’s blog post on Pipián Rojo, and one that shows her lovely face!


Turns out this sauce belongs to the family of sauces called mole, (pronounced mo-lay), which means sauce. Here’s an explanation from Wikipedia: Mole (/ˈmoʊleɪ/, /ˈmoʊli/ Spanish pronunciation: [ˈmole]; from Nahuatl mōlli, “sauce”) is a traditional sauce originally used in Mexican cuisine, as well as for dishes based on these sauces. Outside Mexico, it often refers specifically to mole poblano. In contemporary Mexico, the term is used for a number of sauces, some quite dissimilar, including black, red/colorado, yellow, green, almendrado, de olla, huaxmole, guacamole and pipián. Generally, a mole sauce contains a fruit, chili pepper, nut and such spices as black pepper, cinnamon, cumin, and chocolate.

Mely writes that this classic sauce originates from her home town of Tampico, Tamaulipas, and although she’s been blogging for years, she only posted on Pipián Rojo in 2016. It just didn’t seem so “fancy” to her I’m guessing!

Well I’m glad she did, because it was fantastic. The first time I made it I cooked chicken in the sauce. Next time it might be beef, or pork, or shrimp…

Pipián Rojo Sauce
by Mely Martinez
printable recipe below

2 Ancho peppers
2 guajillo peppers
1 chipotle pepper
1/4 cup peanuts
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1″ stick cinnamon
2 cloves
2 allspice berries
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 small tomato
1/3 medium white onion
2 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper

Have a pot with 2 cups of water standing by the stove.

Begin by toasting the peppers in a skillet over medium-high heat for about 30 seconds per side. Notice I was so excited to start making this that I forgot to de-stem the peppers! So I did it after they cooled down. Then place in the water.


Then toast the nuts and seeds. The peanuts will take about 90 seconds, the pumpkin seeds toast fairly quickly; get them out as soon as they brown and start wanting to jump.


The sesame seeds take a few seconds. I actually used my seed toaster for them because I’ve experienced them popping out of a hot skillet all over the kitchen!


Place all of the toasted nuts and seeds in the water.
Next, slightly toast the cinnamon, cumin seeds, cloves, and allspice berries. Also place them in the water.

Finally, roast the tomatoes, onion and garlic, turning occasionally to obtain even roasting. Place these in the water as well.


Place the pot on the stove and cook over a medium-high heat. Simmer for about 8 minutes, then set aside to let the ingredients soften.


Place the sauce ingredients in a blender and process just enough to blend the ingredients. Then pour into a skillet.


When the sauce is hot, add pieces of meat, pork or chicken, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.


If the sauce seems to thick, thin with water or broth. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the meat with the sauce with rice and warm corn tortillas.

The only mistake I made with this recipe was not to make a quadruple recipe. This sauce is so good I could drink it.

 

 

My Other Red Sauce

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We’ve all made a red sauce or marinara, sometimes even referred to as spaghetti sauce. But to me there is another, equally important red sauce in my life, and today I’m sharing it with you.

It’s not for pasta, but instead, it is a sauce for meats – grilled meat, barbecued meat, smoked meat, and so forth.

It’s tomato based, but it’s spiced up with mustard powder and dried chile peppers. Intrigued? You should be. But be aware, it’s not for the faint of heart, or tastebuds.

This recipe is based on the one I originally followed in the Foods of the World Series, more specifically, American Cooking: The Great West.

I originally made a major change by omitting sugar. This sauce has no business being sweet! Hope you like it as much as we do!

Red Sauce
Adapted from The Great West

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 – 28 ounce cans high quality diced tomatoes
1 – 10 ounce can tomato purée
2 tablespoons ground yellow mustard seeds
Handful of dried red chile peppers, slightly crushed –
Chile de Arbol, Cayenne, or Chinese chile peppers

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Heat the oil in a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté them for about 5 minutes. Then add the garlic, and stir them around until you smell garlic oil; you don’t want to burn the garlic.

Pour in the diced tomatoes and purée, then add the ground mustard and crushed chile peppers.

If you want, start with just a few whole peppers, perhaps, and cook the sauce until no liquid remains; it should be nice and thick.

It will only take about 30 minutes for the sauce to finish.

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Remove as many of the pods as you can.

Taste it for seasoning; I added 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

If you prefer heat, let the sauce sit overnight with the chile pods; remove them before heating and serving.

The sauce is spectacular with smoked turkey, pork ribs, grilled flank steak, even shrimp.

You’re welcome!

Stéphane’s Calamari in Red Sauce

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When I first met Stéphane, it was April of 2014. My daughter and I visited him for an action-packed four days in southwestern France.

If you’re not familiar with Stéphane Gabart, he is the author of My French Heaven, the beautiful blog that emanates his love for all things food, wine, and France. You immediately grasp his passion and joie de vivre through his stunning photography.

His business, which he has secretly told me is more fun than work, is called Your French Heaven, because one can basically customize a visit. In our case, my daughter and I went mostly, not surprisingly, for the food experience.

We visited a different farmers’ market every day, so that he could cook fabulous meals for us. Can you imagine! Four farmers’ markets in close proximity to your home?!! Not to mention bakeries and patisseries!

Because my daughter is a pescatarian, we ate a lot of seafood, which was wonderful!

Of course Stéphane also had the perfect wines, champagnes, Lillet, and Sauternes.

And bread and cheese, of course.

I’d include photos of the countryside we visited, along with castles, villages, fortresses, vineyards, and even a brocante, because we did do much more than eat, but I need to keep this post about Stéphane and the calamari he prepared one evening for my daughter and I. These are photos from that visit. I’ve never had calamari quite like it.

It’s calamari rings, sautéed, flambéed, then cooked in a red sauce until the sauce is deep and rich. The sunshine beaming down on the calamari just make them glow!

Here’s the recipe, as generously emailed to me by Stéphane.

Calamari Rings in Red Sauce

Sear bacon, shallots and onions in a cast iron pot.

In another skillet, sauté the calamari in olive oil. Flambé with cognac.

You then dump your seafood in the pot and add your bouquet garni. Add 125g of tomato paste for each pound of fish.

Darken the sauce on medium heat and wet it as you go along with a big glass of white wine.

When your sauce is dark enough, you add fish stock to level. Let the whole thing boil on low heat for a good 2 hours, adding liquid as needed.

When the sauce has reduced enough, add some garlic, a pinch of paprika and some cayenne pepper.

Let it all simmer very slowly for about 15 minutes and adjust your seasoning.

Then thicken your sauce with a bit of white roux.

And voila!

I made this calamari dish for Christmas eve, served with white rice.

It was exquisite.

Merci, mon ami!

 

 

Enchilada Sauce

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My enchilada sauce is a simple red sauce that is enriched with ancho chile paste and Mexican seasonings.

It is a rich and hearty sauce that I make to top black bean enchiladas, or just about any kind of enchiladas or burritos. It’s also good on meat, from chicken to ribs.

There are many authentic Mexican sauces in older cookbooks by Diana Kennedy, the queen of Mexican cuisine, as well as more recent cookbooks by Rick Bayless, who I consider the king of Mexican cuisine.

The problem with following those recipes is that they contain multiple chile peppers and other ingredients that I cannot get my hands on, so it does no good to use the recipes.

Because of this, I fall back on my “default” enchilada sauce, using home-made ancho chile paste. And it will taste different depending on the chile peppers used in the chile paste.

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Enchilada Sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 – 8 cloves garlic, minced
1 26.46 ounce carton Pomi tomato sauce
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
Grindings of black pepper
2-4 tablespoons home-made Ancho chile paste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté for about five minutes. Turn down the heat if they brown too much. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds or so.

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Add the tomato sauce and stir to combine. Mix in the cumin, oregano, coriander, salt, and pepper.

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Bring the sauce to a boil gently, then lower the heat and simmer the sauce gently, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, or until isn’t no longer “watery.”

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare your black bean enchiladas by placing refried black beans and Queso blanco, or your choice of cheese on a tortilla. Roll up, place in a greased baking dish, and continue with the remaining tortillas.

Add the desired amount of ancho chile paste to the red sauce and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning.

When you are ready to bake the enchiladas, ladle the enchilada sauce over the enchiladas. Some people like them smothered in sauce, others, like me, like the enchiladas only partially smothered.

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Bake for approximately 30 minutes.

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Let the enchiladas set for about 10 minutes, then serve.

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I love a dollop of sour cream on my enchiladas.

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The sauce goes well with any burritos or enchiladas, with or without meat. And it’s fun to use different kinds of cheese in the tortillas.

The good thing about this enchilada sauce is that you can control the amount of ancho chile paste and other seasonings. If you want it smokier you can always add some ground chipotle pepper and paprika. But always use cumin and oregano if you want a truly Mexican-flavored sauce.

Grits with Eggs and Red Sauce

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Many years ago I came across a recipe for grits with eggs and a red sauce. It was similar to shakshuska, a Middle Eastern dish of baked eggs in red sauce, shown below, but with grits!

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I never had grits until my husband and I visited Charleston, South Carolina, for business a long time ago. We ate at a lovely restaurant And I hesitantly ordered shrimp with grits. I think I assumed grits would be too “corny” for me, but they’re not. They’re lovely, and just as much fun to cook as risotto. Below are pumpkin grits I made last fall. So many variations are possible.
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For grits, I prefer the coarse-grained variety, which do take longer to cook, but I prefer the texture. I’ve noticed that the words “polenta” and “grits” are both on the package now!

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There used to be much confusion about the difference, but there is no difference. To make it more complicated, grits and polenta are also cornmeal.

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Grits with Eggs in Red Sauce
Adapted from Baked Eggs in Creamy Polenta and Pepperoni Tomato Sauce

3 cups water
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup grits
Approximately 1/2 cup cream
Red Sauce
4 tablespooons butter
4 eggs
Goat or feta cheese, optional

Place the water and butter in a deep pot over high heat. When the water boils, add the grits.

Stir, and continue to stir, with the heat on medium. I always have about a cup of water handy to add to the grits as they thicken. It seems that more liquid is required than what is stated on the package recipe.

After about 10 minutes or so, when the grits have cooked about halfway, add cream. Continue to cook the grits, and add even more water if necessary.
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When you feel the grits aren’t thickening up anymore, set them aside.

Make the eggs sunny-side up, over-easy, poached, or soft-boiled. It’s your choice. I used 1 tablespoon of butter per egg and cooked them sunny-side up in a skillet. Add a little dab of butter right before they’re fully cooked.

To serve, spoon the grits into a pasta bowl.
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Place some heated red sauce over the grits and, using a spoon, form a hole in the middle.

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Then place the cooked egg in the hole along with any butter from the skillet.

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Crumble some goat cheese and sprinkle on top.
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You can also add chopped chives or parsley.

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It’s a wonderful and hearty breakfast, but I’d certainly eat this for dinner as well!
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If you wanted to bake the eggs in the grits, like in the original recipe, you must use an oven-proof serving dish or prepare all four servings in a skillet.
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But I would make sure that the grits are first on the runny side. They will thicken – especially in the oven.
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Gnudi with Meat Sauce

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The first time I heard about gnudi, I was ecstatic. And I was also shocked that I hadn’t come across them before, in spite of the many Italian cookbooks I own. It was maybe only five years ago I saw them being made on television, and I knew one day I’d make them. I just sadly forgot about them, until today.

Gnudi, simply stated, are the filling of ravioli. Or any filled pasta. No pasta involved. So they’re like the lazy man’s ravioli!

Today, mine are simple, utilizing the richness and unique texture of ricotta. But any ingredients can be included with the ricotta, just as you would to make a spinach-ricotta filling, or a pumpkin-ricotta filling.

They’re similar to gnocchi and spazele, except that there’s much less flour, which makes sense, since they are the filling and not the pasta. Here’s the recipe.
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Gnudi with Meat Sauce

Gnudi:
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon salt
20 ounces whole-milk ricotta, well drained*
3/4 cup loosely-packed, finely grated Parmesan
3/4 cup flour, plus extra

Begin by whisking the eggs, yolks, and salt together in a large bowl.

Add the ricotta and whisk well.

Then add the Parmesan and whisk until smooth.

Add the flour and fold into the ricotta mixture gently. If you feel more flour is needed – add more – but just a little at a time. The gnudi must end up tender.

Sprinkle a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with a light dusting of flour.
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Typically, gnudi are shaped into quenelles, which are beautiful ovoids. Unfortunately, even if I could make these forms, which requires two spoons, I wouldn’t be fast enough to get through the gnudi batter before the water completely evaporated. So I opted for a little cookie scoop.

Dip the scoop in water, tap, then scoop up the gnudi.

Place them on the floured sheet, and then sprinkle a little more flour over the top of the gnudi, using a fine sieve.

Once you have finished with all the batter, let the gnudi sit for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, get a large pot of water boiling on the stove.

As I do with spazele, I always test one to get the timing right. In this case, my little 1″ round gnudi took 5 minutes to cook. You don’t want them raw in the middle, but you don’t want them to be like rubber.

As with spazele, the gnudi will drop to the bottom of the pot, and about halfway through cooking they will come to the surface. When they’re cooked, remove them with a slotted spoon, and place them on a paper towel-lined platter.

Once you know the timing of the gnudi, make them in batches until the batter is no more.

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I served these with a meat sauce (recipe below), but because I didn’t want the meat sauce to smother the delicate gnudi, I placed the sauce on the bottom of the bowl, topped it with the warm gnudi, and sprinkled on a little Parmesan.

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These ricotta-based gnudi are like soft little pillows of goodness.

I would normally not pair the gnudi with such a heavy sauce, but my husband isn’t fond of meatless red sauce. Just like with gnocchi and spazele, the gnudi could be simply tossed in browned butter.

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* I only buy whole-milk ricotta, and I always let it drain on paper towels overnight or at least for 12 hours. It just makes the ricotta thicker and creamier. It’s amazing how much water comes out.
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Meat Sauce:
Olive oil
Finely chopped onion or shallots
Minced garlic
Ground Italian sausage
Canned tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon oregano leaves

My Marinara

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I have to apologize. Seriously. To all of the people who followed me at the beginning when I was first writing this blog. I mean, I thought I was a good photographer. I really did. I had spent years taking pictures of my kids and my dogs. And I took lots of pictures on vacations. So that made me experienced, right?

Then came food photography, which comes along with having a cooking blog. I thought it would be fairly straight forward. Mostly because I was one of those who’d always taken photos of my food at restaurants, and photos at farmers’ markets. I certainly didn’t think I was a pro. But I didn’t realize how bad I was.

Maybe it’s for the best, because otherwise I maybe wouldn’t have pursued this blog. Because unfortunately, to have a cooking blog means you have to know how to cook, you need to be able to write, you must be a food stylist, and you have to take really good photographs. I had 2 out of 4 going for me. But like I said, ignorance is bliss.

I didn’t realize any of this until recently when I decided to look at some old posts of mine. And I nearly fell off my chair. I’m not kidding. I deleted at least 10 immediately, and then thought about perhaps saving some as future, upgraded posts. It wasn’t the subject matter, or the writing. It was those awful photos. What little there were of them.

But my marinara really is so good, and so easy to make, that I decided to offer up a new post on my marinara, but with better photos. So here it is. Hopefully you never saw the old one.

Marinara sauce is basically an Italian name for a red sauce that can contain quite a few ingredients, although never meat. Of course tomatoes are the base for the sauce, but other ingredients can include onions, garlic, celery, carrots, wine, and so forth.

My marinara sauce contains three ingredients. There might be some dead Italians rolling in their graves when I make my marinara sauce, but that’s ok. No two living Italians can agree on what a marinara sauce is comprised of, so I’m off the hook. And I can talk about Italians, dead or alive, because I’m half Italian. Sicilian, actually, but I’m throwing them in the same proverbial Italian pot.

Here’s my recipe:

My Marinara Sauce

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil*
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces high quality tomato sauce
Pinch of salt

First, heat up the oil over medium heat in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the garlic.

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Stir gently and wait just until the oil warms the garlic and you can smell it, then immediately pour in the tomato sauce. This should only take about 30 seconds. This is my technique for sautéing garlic because I do not like the taste of burnt garlic, and garlic can burn quickly.

Stirring gently, heat the sauce and let it cook for about 10 minutes. It will thicken a little. (An inferior, more watery tomato sauce will take longer to thicken. If it’s too watery, try adding a little tomato paste.) Add the salt and stir.
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And so, that’s it ! This sauce is fabulous for a chicken or veal Parmesan, simply with pasta, as a dip, or even as a pizza sauce.
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But it’s my favorite with any kind of pasta.

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And with chianti, because the San Genovese grape is perfectly with red sauce. Especially with this garlic-spicy one.
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If you don’t want to call it marinara, don’t. Just call it the best red sauce you’ve ever tasted. You’ll thank me!
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* Don’t be scared about the amount of olive oil in this sauce. It’s good for you and it adds a lot of good flavor, because you’re using good olive oil, right?

Breakfast à la Caribe

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My husband and I just had the pleasure of spending an exhilarating amount of time on the beautiful island of St. Lucia in the West Indies. As is typical with our travels, everything revolves around food. We try to experience markets, farms, and the local cuisine, even when it gets a tiny bit scary and you’re hoping you brought the right pills along on your trip.

But nothing was scary in St. Lucia. The people are lovely – they reminded me of the locals we encountered while in Tanzania a few years ago. They are appreciative, gracious, kind, and love to be greeted and acknowledged. In Swahili, the greeting is “Jambo!” That will even make the grumpiest-looking person your new best friend!

In St. Lucia, they speak some English, so they are familiar with “hello” and “good morning.” And that seems to cheer everyone up! But unfortunately, most all locals, especially those who don’t work in tourism, speak a French patois, which is similar to the creole patois in our state of Louisiana. I never could understand anyone in Louisiana, and I couldn’t understand much in St. Lucia. I have even been fluent in French in my life, but the only word I ever recognized was “oui!” Also, we found out that some of the more difficult accents to decipher were spoken by people from different islands, like St. Vincent. (It’s 60 miles away!)

(Just as an observation, it was funny to us that the St. Lucians were always yelling at each other. They even yelled into their cell phones. Whenever I would ask to see if anyone was mad or about to start a fight, they would think I was very funny. So expect some happy yelling if you visit St. Lucia!)

But after our greetings of hello and good morning, and with enough arm waving and whatnot, my husband and I made our way around St. Lucia sampling everything from a freshly opened cacao pod to coconut gelatin. This one guide took us into the rainforest and showed us how nutmeg grows. Isn’t this a beautiful photo?!!!

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So of course I have quite a few posts planned on the foods of St. Lucia, but I thought I’d start by simply posting a couple of Creole breakfasts I had that were served at our hotel. They guaranteed me that it’s what the locals eat. However, one guide we talked to said they actually eat bread and fruit for breakfast, so I’m not really sure… Maybe if you’re not poverty-stricken, you have one of these lovely breakfasts. Alas, the poverty on the island is crushing to observe. At least I was doing my part – tourism is the number one industry, having just replaced banana production.

The breakfast in the top photo was listed on the menu as “Eggs and Black Beans with Red Sauce on Corn Toast.” The corn toast was actually a fried corn tortilla. It makes me a little suspicious because both head chefs at the hotel come from Mexico…..

But the black beans were absolutely delicious. The red sauce was a little on the sweet side, as I discovered everything is in St. Lucia. (As a side note, I am probably one of the few people who did not have great food experiences in New Orleans because they use so much sugar in their food there.)

The other breakfast shown below, consisted of basically the same ingredients in a different format, but instead of the tortilla, what you see is the local bread. I actually stepped into a couple of local bakeries and through the clouds of flies I could always see this bread. Sometimes in different sizes, but always in this shape. Unfortunately because of the language barrier, I was never able to find out much about the origin of this local bread.

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In the photo you can also see my glass of grapefruit juice. Trees there are just bulgingly full of these wonderful grapefruits, so I was so excited to taste the juice. Unfortunately for me, they add sugar to it, and it was almost syrupy.

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So, I may or may not have had a local Creole St. Lucian breakfast. But I know I had the local fruit, because I saw it all growing, from the guavas to the passion fruits, the mangos, various “apples” and different varieties of citrus, to the watermelons in the field. And that made it all worthwhile!

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