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Dinner Tonight: Gallo Pinto

I was searching for new ways to use black beans and somehow I ended up in Costa Rica. Its national dish is gallo pinto, and though it doesn't sound that spectacular on its own, I figured it had to be a national dish for some reason. The only ingredient that stood in my way was Salsa Lizano, a condiment apparently prevalent in that country. It sure wasn't available at my local grocery store, and I didn't have time to search for it, so I gave up. I thought I'd have to skip making this rice-and-beans dish, but nearly half a dozen recipes I looked at all mentioned that Worcestershire sauce--though, yes, not authentic or quite perfect--would do. Really? An English condiment in a Central American dish?

It worked. I don't quite know what Salsa Lizano would have brought to the party, but Worcestershire sauce added a complex aroma and a surprising subtle sweetness. I even added more to the dish at the table, and it got even better. This is the kind of dish I adore, humble and cheap, but aggressively flavored and completely satisfying. Add some fried eggs to bulk it out, if you want to. I don't think it needs anything else. I'm going to hang on to this recipe, and, who knows, maybe I'll run into Salsa Lizano one of these days.

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