John and I have been to Nicaragua several times since our first visit in the ‘90s. At that time, the country was trying to recover from the devastation caused by the conflicts between the socialistic Sandinista junta and the opposition, the U.S.-backed Contras. It wasn’t the first involvement by a group from the United States. It wasn’t the first time this beautiful country has been affected by outsiders.
Every school child in Central America learns about William Walker, an American who invaded Nicaragua with his private army. Walker became president of Nicaragua from 1856 to 1857. We visited the local museum where money issued by Walker during his administration is on display. Around the same time, Cornelius Vanderbilt considered building a canal connecting the natural waterways between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Instead the Panama Canal was built.
In 2016, a Chinese tycoon started to build a canal across Nicaragua; but work is at a standstill. The Rio San Juan connects the Atlantic Ocean with Lake Nicaragua and from there it is only a short distance to San Juan del Sur on the Pacific. Hopes for a new Nicaraguan canal spurred hopes for increased tourism on the projected route that included Ometepe Island.
Ometepe, an island popular with nature-lovers, is home to twin volcanoes connected by a narrow isthmus. In December 2015, John and I visited the island, which is accessed by ferry from Rivas.
We stayed at Xalli Beach Hotel located on the isthmus with views of both volcanoes, (Calle Principal, Playa Santo Domingo, Comunidad de San Fernando, Altagracia, Isla de Ometepe, Rivas, Nicaragua; phone 505-2569-4876, email:firstname.lastname@example.org). We paid $102 for a room with a lake-view porch, breakfast, and Wi-Fi.
Whenever possible, Xalli buys organic and locally-grown produce. It insures freshness and helps the local farming community. I loved the chicken burritos and asked the cook, Lorena Alvarez (with manager Pedro Centeno acting as the translator), to share the recipe with me. She showed me how to make burritos and gallo pinto Nicaraguense. –Sandra Scott
Chicken Burritos Recipe
Food experts believe the burrito originated in Mexico and spread throughout the Americas with each area making their own adaption. The word “burrito” means “little donkey” and possibly referred to the bedrolls carried by the donkeys.
Recipe courtesy Lorena Alvarez, Xalli Beach Hotel
Makes 2 small burritos
Note: Ingredients can be prepared ahead of time and assembled when ready to eat. Assembled burritos can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for several hours.
1 large tomato – diced
1 small green pepper – diced
1 small onion – diced
1 tsp cilantro – diced
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
12 ounces cooked chicken, shredded or diced
¾ cup cheese – shredded (cheddar or white Nicaragua cheese)
Salt and pepper
Mix tomatoes, green peppers, onions, cilantro, oil, and lemon juice in a bowl add salt and pepper to taste.
On each tortilla, add place two tablespoons of chicken, two tablespoons of veggie mix, top with cheese. Fold or roll into a burrito shape.
Lightly oil a pan. Grill burritos about one minute each side. Serve warm with gallo pinto and /or sour cream.
Gallo Pinto Nicaraguense Recipe
1 lb white rice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup onions, finely diced
1 can small red kidney beans (Goya Foods sells Central America Beans)
1 green pepper, finely diced
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook rice, set aside. In frying pan, add oil, sauté onions over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add beans with liquid. Mash beans a little to add aroma and color. Add green pepper. Sauté about two minutes. Add rice, sauté about two to three minutes. Can be refrigerated for later use.