Gallo pinto and Lizano salsa

Lizano salsa

Lizano salsa

A friend went to Peru and Costa Rica, and asked me what I wanted as a souvenir. I’m sure she was expecting me to ask for a sweater or something like that, but I think I surprised her. Food, I replied. Something unique. Maybe a sample of the tea you’re supposed to take when you’re climbing Machu Picchu?

What she ended up bringing back was some Lizano salsa, (Lizano sauce). The taste of Lizano is a little hard to explain. A sauce made out of vegetables and salt, it tastes a little like a slightly sweet and spiced V8-flavoured sauce, minus the tomatoes.

Stick it on tacos, she said, when I asked what it was normally used it for. That seemed kind of a waste though. and then I found a recipe for a Costa Rican gallo pinto – beans and rice.

Now you can apparently substitute Lizano sauce with Worcestershire sauce, but they just do not taste the same. I tried called a couple of places to see if i could find it here in Edmonton, but with no luck so far. Paraiso Tropical said they have carry the same kind of sauce but from a different brand. The person who answered the phone at El Rancho Latin Market told me they didn’t speak English and hung up on me. Anyone know if I can find this stuff here in town? If the other brand doesn’t taste right I’m going to have to resort to ordering the sauce online.

gallo pinto

gallo pinto

Gallo pinto
Adapted from Serious Eats
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 yellow, white or red onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cooked rice (you get better results with day old or defrosted frozen rice than freshly cooked rice)
1 cup of canned black beans, with some liquid
5 tablespoons Lizano salsa or Worcestershire sauce
Salt and black pepper to taste
cilantro, roughly chopped

Directions
Pour the oil into a large skillet or wok set on medium heat. Add the onion and cook until the onion starts to turn translucent. Add the red pepper and cook until the red pepper is soft. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute.

Add the can of beans to the pan, but only add a little of the liquid in the can (reserve the rest of the liquid just in case). Add the Lizano or Worcestershire sauce, stir and let everything cook for about 3 minutes. If the pan starts to dry out, add more of the reserved bean liquid. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the rice, and stir until well coated, and cook until the rice is heated through. Top with chopped cilantro, and add additional salt, pepper, or Lizano sauce if necessary.

Update: I found some Lizano, but it was in Vancouver. So I had someone bring me lots of bottles. 🙂

2nd Update: I keep getting internet stores advertising in my comments, so I am closing comments on this post. Google it if you want to order Lizano online.

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Cactus Club Cafe, Edmonton

Some friends and I planned a dinner out on Saturday, April 25th, so I suggested we try out the newly opened (as in opened two days before on the 23rd) Cactus Club Cafe location over at West Edmonton Mall. Edmonton used to have a local location of this Western Canadian chain a long time ago, but it didn’t fare very well and closed relatively quickly.

Despite its brief stint in Edmonton, the Cactus Club Cafe has been around for many years. More recently in the past few years, much like how Earls and Moxie’s is also doing, the Cactus Club Cafe is working to make their menu, decor and atmosphere more sophisticated. When (Canadian celebrity chef and  Iron Chef America winner against Masaharu Morimoto) Chef Rob Feenie’s assocation ended with Vancouver’s Lumiere and Feenie restaurants, he later popped back into the public eye as the new “Food Concept Architect” for the Cactus Club Cafe. They’ve used his name to great advantage; his face is all over the website, he often talks to the media about the food at the Cactus Club Cafe, and all of his specific dishes are marked on the menus with a special RF logo.

As the restaurant had just opened, I half-expected service to be a bit slow but all of the staff were unfailingly attentive and helpful, and the food arrived quickly. (Other blogs and Chowhound discussions say that staff were flown in from Vancouver to ensure smooth service.)

The restaurant is located in a free-standing location in the northwest corner of the mall where a car repair shop used to be (Sears, I think). There is no entrance via the mall at all; an interesting decision that I hope doesn’t hurt them later when the tourists and locals stay inside the mall and don’t want to walk outside in bad weather.

The decor is modern but comfortable, with a mix of different textures and materials. Red leather seats, wood panelled walls and tables, glass, and even a concrete block wall gives the place an interesting look. The lights are dimmed somewhat so the red of the seats are muted. The booths are spacious, and art is featured on many of the walls (including some from Andy Warhol). A large patio was already set with lounge-style outdoor furniture, although at the time it was still too chilly for people to sit outside.

To start, a couple of people ordered bellinis and promptly declared them delicious. (Sorry, no photo. They stirred and slurped the drinks before I could take the camera out.)

We all shared a couple of appetizers. The first dish was an order of calamari, red pepper and jalapeño, dusted with fresh dill and served with chipotle aioli and tzatziki dips. The calamari was tender and the jalapeños gave the dish a lot of heat. (Lots and lots of heat.)

calamari

calamari

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