Travel is in the air!
More and more people are getting vaccinated, and countries are beginning to reopen their borders and welcome visitors once more. Many people are digging out their passports, counting their vacation days, and dreaming of exotic locales they might actually get to see in person for a change.
It’s been so long since most of us have been able to travel that many people have practically forgotten how to pack a suitcase. The producers of Morning Beats, the morning television show airing on The Heartland Network and The Family Channel, recently asked Mr. Mike Ballard and me to share our packing tips for traveling light. After touring the world nonstop for a year with only a carry-on suitcase, you know we’re experts at that!
As we pulled the bags from the back of our closet to film the segment, we began reminiscing about some of the places we’ve been missing. Turns out, most of them are more about people than places. The countries we love most contain the people we love best.
One of our most memorable new friends from that trip around the world is a guy in Cali, Colombia, named George. He owns a restaurant called Monchis by Coky on the Valle del Cauca, where they serve Colombian-inspired American classics that George grew to love as a student studying abroad in Florida.
Over a pitcher of their house sangria, we learned all about George’s family, his travels, and the things he loves in this world. He has a larger-than-life personality, and by the end of the meal we’d not only made plans to have dinner at Monchis again later in the week but also a promise to return to Colombia as soon as possible to see more of the country with George.
Along with his famous sangria, George treated us to perfectly-grilled octopus and baskets full of fresh-from-the-oven pandebono, a traditional Colombian bread made with corn flour, tapioca flour (made from ground yuca or cassava roots), cheese, and eggs. The soft, steamy, chewy buns were delicious, and Mr. Mike Ballard instantly added them to the list of foods for me to recreate once we’re home.
Turns out, they’re incredibly easy to make. You have to overcome the tendency to want more flour than cheese in the dough, because pandebono is cheese bread, emphasis on the cheese. Pandebono is also gluten-free, which turns out to be a nice surprise for friends searching for quick, tasty bread options.
So bake yourself a batch, mix up a pitcher of sangria, and soak up the spring sunshine as you make plans to venture out into the world again once more.
This week’s subscriber exclusive: This couldn’t be a tribute to George without sharing Monchis’ Colombian Sangria. Bursting with fresh fruit — strawberries, oranges, blackberries, and more — you’ll want to serve it with a spoon so you don’t miss one bit of the goodness. It’s perfect for the outdoor party you’re planning for when all your friends are vaccinated.
Subscribers to Around the World in 80 Plates have exclusive access to this springtime treat.
Colombian Pandebono Cheese Bread
Pandebono is cheese bread, emphasis on the cheese. Use your choice of queso fresco, feta, or Colombian quesito if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on it. You can also use any combination of these with equally delicious results.
Tapioca flour may seem like an exotic ingredient, but I find the Bob’s Red Mill brand at most grocery stores. And if masa flour isn’t in the baking aisle of your market, check the international foods aisle. There is a difference between cornmeal and corn flour, so be sure you’re buying corn flour. If the bag doesn’t say “masa flour,” look for “harina de maíz” on the label.
All the cheese makes for a delightfully steamy, chewy interior when you break into these buns, and it also means they’re best served straight from the oven.
2 cups Mexican queso fresco or Colombian quesito or feta cheese
2/3 cup tapioca flour (cassava starch or yuca flour)
1/3 cup masa flour (harina de maíz)
1 large egg
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Combine the cheese, tapioca flour, and masa flour in a food processor until well blended. While the food processor is running, add the egg and process until fully combined.
Divide the dough into 6 large or 12 small portions and press into balls. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat and bake until golden brown, approximately 15–20 minutes for large portions and approximately 10–12 minutes for small. Brush with butter if desired. Serve immediately. Makes six servings.
For $5 a month, you can get an additional weekly issue of Around the World in 80 Plates that includes bonus recipes not available to the public.
This week’s subscriber exclusive:
- Monchis’ Colombian Sangria: Bursting with fresh fruit — strawberries, oranges, blackberries, and more — you’ll want to serve it with a spoon so you don’t miss one bit of the goodness. Mix yourself a big pitcher and celebrate springtime.