It was love at first sight with Mr. Queso de Hoja, the cheese vendor, whose, uh, balls of cheese were always the freshest…
Oh, how I miss the street vendors. All vendors really, but in particular, and in no small part due to their multitude, the food vendors, of course. The travelling hair accessories guy is great, and the baby-clothes dude was an ally, of sorts. But unless you owe these folks money, you can’t be certain of when or where you’ll see them next. I could set my watch on my 5 o’clock empanaditas de yuca or catibías (cassava pasties), however. Without fail, the pastelitero would appear with his hot, savoury pastries, clanking the lid of his big tin and cachú (ketchup) in tow.
Also a welcome sight was Mr. Lambicero, ambling down the street with his giant tupperware full of conch salad, served to you in a styrofoam cup, complete with lemon wedge; a nice treat on a Sunday. There are too many other snack vendors to mention further (the boiled egg kids, the chicharrones guy, the old man and his corn-on-the-cob etc., etc.), to cater to your every craving.
Let us not forget the other food vendors too, the ones who mould your family’s menu into shape. What you have for your lunch could well depend on who happens to pass by. “Berro! Berro!” Hey, a watercress salad for lunch might be nice… “Guanduleeees!” Mmmmm, guandules guisados today sounds like a good idea. And who can resist the travelling fishmongers, proudly displaying their largest catches of the day? Much simpler than racking your brain in the supermarket, searching for ideas, they bring the supermarket to you (and less overhead too, making them that much cheaper).
Now if only they would adhere to some standard of decency in regards to the volumes of their loudspeakers, it would be a perfect street vendor world.
This delicious, gluten-free empanaditas de yuca or catibías (Cassava pasties) are made with the ingredient from which it borrows its name: cassava flour. In this recipe, since we assume you won’t be able to buy cassava flour at your local store, we obtain the same results using a different method.
Jill, a member of our original team (where we knew her as Aunt Jane), and contributor to our book, is Canadian, mom to two Canadian-Dominican boys and resided in the Dominican Republic for several years.
- 1/4 lb. of ground beef
- 4 tomatos, cubed
- 1 small red onion
- 2 cloves of garlic, cut into quarters
- 1 sprig of parsley (optional)
- 1 pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 tablespoon of oil
- 4 cups of oil for frying
- 1 lb. of cassava (yuca, yucca roots), peeled
- Place the tomatoes, pepper, onion, garlic and parsley in the food processor and pulse until it turns into a coarse paste (see notes).
- Place the ground beef in a bowl, mix with the seasoning paste, add a pinch of pepper and a teaspoon of salt.
- In a shallow pan heat a tablespoon of oil. Simmer over medium heat.
- Once all the liquid has evaporated, remove from the heat. Reserve.
- Grate the cassava into a fine paste.
- Using a piece of cloth squeeze the grated yuca to get rid of as much moisture as possible.
- In a deep-bottomed pan mix in 1/4 cup of water and half a teaspoon of salt, Once the water breaks the boil add the grated yuca and cook over very low fire stirring until most of the yuca has turned a slightly darker, transparent-looking color.
- Remove from the heat and stir. Place the mixture on an oiled surface. Cool to room temperature.
- Oil the palm of your hands and knead the dough until it it is elastic and retain its shape. If it looks too fragile reheat in the microwave for 5 seconds and knead again once it's cooled.
- Divide the dough into 12 balls of equal size. On a lightly oiled surface roll out the balls forming thin disks.
- Put a tablespoon of the beef in the center, double over in a semi-circle and seal the border pressing it with a fork.
- Deep fry the pasties submerged in very hot oil until they are golden brown. Place on a paper towel for a minute before serving.
If you do not have a food processor, chop the ingredients for the seasoning, making sure that it is as tiny pieces as possible to avoid breaking the dough disks.