After a long day of travel yesterday, we thought it would be a good idea to book a cooking class, which would keep us in town out of the high elevations of the mountains that surround Quito, which is already at 9,000 feet. The tour only was supposed to last four hours. Six hours later we were finally back at our hotel filled with great food and new experiences. Our chef had already laid in the shrimp and pork and we headed to the local market for all the produce that would complete the meal. We love to go to markets, but when you go with a local, it's a totally different experience. Quito has supermarkets that would be familiar to us, but our guide said that the local markets are fresher and cheaper for produce. The produce shopping was far less important than all the tasting and explanations that went along with it. Many locals come to this market to eat dishes already prepared and there was a large food court area. The vendors were far more enthused about giving us tastes with our guide interceding on our behalf. I felt sorry that I wasn't able to remember the names of all the fruits until I reminded myself that none of them are available at home. He bought two foot long bean pods with furry, white beans inside that looked like they were surrounded by cotton candy. Very strange! Many of the fruits and vegetables were also available as juices that could be custom blended if you liked. Smoothie lovers would have a ball here. Over 500 varieties of potatoes are for sale here. The corn on the cobs was not up to our high midwestern standards. The kernels were thick and course; much more appropriate for feeding an animal than me. Ecuadoreans do not waste food. Many of the soups and stews contained entrails and organs that we generally turn into pet food. Our guide said that vegetarians would have a hard time here. We only found one booth where tasty bean concoctions were for sale. Everything was clean and sanitary looking and there were no flies buzzing around as we often see in open-air markets. After purchasing much too much food, we staggered back up the steep lanes that keep Quito residents in good condition and got to work in a roof top kitchen overlooking the city.
After donning our custom made chef's aprons and hair nets, we went to work. We made everything from scratch including the empanada dough which we rolled out with pieces of PVC pipe, which the chef said works much better than wooden rolling pins. These were filled with cheese and fried. After a few hours of cooking, we realized that nearly everything but the ceviche was fried. Even the pork chunks, which were initially boiled in water, were moved into a frying pan filled with lard. We fried plantain chunks, smashed them into patties and fried them again. A reddish orange oil flavored with chili, was the go-to seasoning for many of the dishes. Mashed potatoes turned into a gourmet delight after this oil was added and the potatoes were formed into patties, filled with cheese and fried. The ceviche was served with the fried plantains and pop corn. Some of the potatoes became the base for a soup with chunks of cheese and avocado floating on top. Since you can't fry soup, heavy cream was added instead. Not a good day to worry about the condition of your arteries.