Costa Ricans rate near the top with their hospitality and capacity for comfort. The pure life of “pura vida,” the greeting and spirit shared throughout the country, isn’t simply a marketing catch phrase (though it seems as if the tourism trade has claimed it), but a philosophy to seize the day with a certain degree of nonchalant enthusiasm. An appreciation for easy living has helped ramp up Costa Rica on travel destination routes, and the beauty of the diverse natural environment and its amazing number of species of the Central American country draws visitors from around the globe. We met travelers from the UK to China during our recent family tour where we savored the landscape, wildlife and Costa Rican cuisine.
If you go, take your appetite to indulge in the puravidalicious local food. Sample a taste of Costa Rica with this no-frills take on Gallo Pinto, a signature dish we encountered everywhere. The simple creation of rice and beans started each day with a high-protein foundation, not dressed up yet prepared with care.
1 pound bag black beans, soaked overnight in water
5 cups water for beans
1 medium sweet onion, diced
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
12-15 sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped
2 cups medium grain white rice
3 cups broth or water for rice
2 teaspoons salt
Twist of fresh ground pepper
After soaking beans overnight, drain, rinse and place in large pot of water (at least 5 cups). Simmer beans 3 to 4 hours. Drain, reserving 1 cup of liquid.
Sauté onions in 2 tablespoons vegetable oil until lightly caramelized. Add chopped cilantro, broth or water and rice. Add salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, covered, until rice softens, about 25 minutes. Add additional vegetable oil to pan and fry rice mixture, turning evenly. Fold in beans. Gradually add reserved liquid from beans. Stir. Serve immediately with eggs, tortillas or toast, and fresh fruit.
Yield: 10 generous servings