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World Travel On the Wings of Cuisine 001 – Peru

October 8, 2010

A few weeks ago, I had this great epiphany. I realized that, because of all my friends around the world, I use quite a few different languages over the course of the day. I may not be entirely fluent in a lot of them but I know enough to get by! I’m getting there! I feel it shows so much respect to be able to converse or even say just a few things to someone in their native tongue so I do my very best to embrace as many manners of communication as possible. So far, I speak English (being American), Spanish is my second language, I’m fairly fluent in French and know a decent amount of Japanese. Right now, I’m learning Portuguese but also dabble in German and Russian (which, I admit, IS TOUGH!). Oh, I know some Swedish! I grew up obsessed with Swedish movies and spent a lot of time pouring over comparisons between the original dialogue and English translations of Lukas Moodysson’s films “Lilja-4-Ever” and “Fucking Amal” (“Show Me Love” domestically), for example. So that type of dedication lends one some leverage with the language.

On that epiphany! I’ve been a few places but haven’t “seen the world” the way I’d like to — yet! Keyword “yet” because I WILL go everywhere I want one of these days! I feel a great way to experience a people and a place is through their food. So! What I’ll be doing here on this blog is picking a place in the world I admire, would like to go or have gone. Then, I’ll recreate some of their dishes and write a bit of history to coincide.

In choosing my first destination, I had the bright idea from some Twitter inspiration! One of my most favourite people to follow – Pamela Francesca Celiz (@pamelafrancesca) had a birthday Oct 4th! Sooooo, since her family is Peruvian, I thought it’d be fun to start there! She’s so fun and sweet. A real cheer to keep up with! Also, I do encourage everyone to check out her sisters Maryl & Silvie Celiz at HLife: Healthy Living Redefined. It’s an online holistic health lifestyle publication and I literally never close it. HLife has a browser-tab dedicated to it because there is just SO MUCH information! So many fantastic articles. I’m particularly taken by their write-ups on body/mind/spirit because that is subject matter near & dear to my heart as someone who cannot agree more with the power of positive energy and how important harmony with those three aspects of life are to optimal health. See here their piece on Positive Attitude! Priceless!

Oh, and the girls are Vegan! :p So all the stuff I prepared is, too.

Onto the cuisine of Peru! May I just say, Peruvians eat gooooooooood! I basically drooled all through my research. It has so much in common with the Mexican cuisine of my heritage, (not to mention Spanish is spoken there), so this was both homely and fun for me.

First, a short bit on Peruvian Cuisine from PeruGuide.com.
Here, is Wikipedia’s entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peruvian_cuisine
And Karla talks about the origins of causa rellena here. (From GlobalExpressTours.com)
Here, it’s stated that Karla’s entry may be one of several possibilities. Which is to say that this dish’s TRUE origins may very well be unknown or the dish itself has lost a bit of its origin over time.

Causa!

This is my first causa ever! So do forgive if it’s not as elaborate as it could be but it was sooo fun to make! I promise my next causa will be HAUTE CAUSA! This is basically a Peruvian potato salad. In another variation, it’s built kind of like Shepherd’s Pie where one places a layer of mashed potatoes in a dish, then a filling layer of one’s choice, (tuna salad, chicken salad, avocadoes, quinoa or anything, really), then mashed potatoes and chills it. Festively decorate it to the extent of one’s wild imagination and slice!

But I did a version of causa that is stacked. It’s a lil tater tower. :p

For this, I did a bit of a test batch that came out quite nice! I boiled 2 potatoes. 1 white, 1 yukon gold.  Then, I halved them. The layers went like this:

Yellow: 1 half yukon gold potato mashed w/ olive oil, sea salt, pepper, aji powder, turmeric, pinch of cumin.

Red: 1 half white potato, olive oil, sea salt, pepper, tomato sauce, diced tomato (instead of making a solid layer to the tower, I mixed it into the mash).

White: 1 half white potato, olive oil, sea salt, white pepper

Purple: I couldn’t source purple potatoes, which are a staple in Peru. The markets have been sketchy lately! 😦 So I went with a short cut! I mashed 1 half white potato with sauteed purple cabbage. Also had sea salt, olive oil, white pepper.

I molded them separately and stacked them by hand. Then, garnished with some julienned carrot, cilantro, bell pepper and diced tomato. Next time, I’ll do a sauce!

Paltas Rellenas w/ Tomato, Arugula & Baby Spinach Salad and Salsa Criolla (Onion Sauce)

1 large avocado. peeled, halved, pitted
1 cup quinoa
2 cups veggie broth
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp diced tomato
1 tbsp diced celery
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp diced onion
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
2 tsp Turmeric
2 tsp Aji powder
Sea Salt to taste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

Stuffed avocado is a staple food in Peruvian cuisine. I stuffed this one with quinoa, which is another staple but I put a spin on its preparation by going the pilaf route. We do that a lot in Mexican cooking so I thought it’d be a tasty addition.

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add quinoa and stir regularly till it’s browned all around. Make a well in the center and add diced onion, tomato, celery, garlic and chopped cilantro. Let sizzle a bit. Then, mix in with the quinoa and stir it all around, 2-3 minutes. Add Veggie broth, turmeric, aji powder, salt & pepper and stir to combine. Cover and let cook 12-15 mins or until liquid is gone. Turn off heat and remove so the steam will finish the cooking process. It’s like making rice but it’s MUCH more forgiving. If you peak, it’s not like you’ll ruin the grain or the cooking time the way rice can go south if you’re constantly lifting the lid. Also, if you poke or stir the quinoa, it won’t turn to porridge the way rice does if you agitate it too much.

For the Salad:

Half a tomato, sliced in rounds
Handfull Arugula
Handfull Baby Spinach
Olive Oil

Arrange tomato and baby spinach leaves decoratively on your plate and wedge arugula leaves wherever you want to make a pretty presentation. Drizzle with olive oil after salsa criolla is plated. Recipe follows.

Salsa Criolla

This is another Peruvian staple. AND IT’S SO GOOD! And so simple! As I don’t have any Peruvian onions, I used the purple variety.

1 onion, halved & thinly sliced
1 aji pepper, julienned (you can halve the juliennes as I did)
1 tsp lime juice (I used key lime and feel free to go over the 1 tsp if you like it a bit more tart. BUT! Traditionally, the onions should be sliced “a la pluma” — like feathers — and I think I used a lil more lime juice than I’m saying ;p so my onion kinda wilted. Ah well! It was delicious~)
Salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients very well. Let marinade 20-30 mins. so the acid and onion marry. Serve and enjoy! Keep remainder in the fridge.

Tallarin Verde

1 lb noodles (traditionally, it’s made with spaghetti but I felt like using rotini because I love how sauce bunches up in the spirals of the noodle).
2 quarts water
5-6 oz. organic baby spinach (a whole package from the fresh produce section of your local green grocer. I used Earthbound Farms Organic Baby Spinach. But buy local if you can!). Reserve 6 leaves for presentation.
1 cup fresh basil leaves
2 tbsp. diced onion
2 tbsp. diced garlic
2 tbsp. olive oil
Black olives, sliced
Vegan Parmesan Cheese (I used Galaxy Nutritional Foods Vegan Grated Topping because it’s lighter in colour but you would do well to use ParmaRaw. It’s great! As an aside, has anyone tried Parmazano? If so, how is it?
Salt & Pepper
1/3 cup Veggie stock
2 tbsp. Earth Balance Vegan Butter
Rose petal for garnish.

For starters, Peruvians love a pesto-type verde (green) sauce but it’s not just basil. They pack it with spinach! This is a great way to take in all the essential calcium, folic acid, lutein and legions of other good stuff spinach provides!

Boil pasta to package instructions. While that’s working, compile the sauce as it’s super easy.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add garlic & onion, saute till fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add spinach and basil and incorporate with the olive oil, garlic and onion in folding motions. Cover and let wilt a bit, about 2 mins. Remove cover and agitate, pressing down and folding. Add veggie stock and stir till spinach and basil are completely wilted.

Next, transfer to a blender and blend away till smooth. Stream some olive oil in if there isn’t enough liquid but it should be fine. Return to skillet, add Vegan butter and stir till entirely melted and incorporated and silky.

Drain pasta. You can combine sauce and pasta either in the skillet, in the pot where the pasta boiled or in a huge bowl to serve family style. Arrange spinach on individual serving bowls, plate, sprinkle with vegan parmesan cheese, decorate with sliced olives & garnish with a rose petal. 🙂 Pretty and yummy! (And damn healthy).

Above are photos of the olive-less variety. Not everyone likes olives. 😦 When I served this, one of my guests requested no olives so~ their loss!

Limonada de Rosas

I fixed this in honour of Pamela’s birthday. No beautiful girl can have a birthday without beautiful flowers! :p ~Let me just say right off the bat. I’M OBSESSED & ADDICTED TO THIS DRINK! Traditionally, it’s non-alcoholic but IT’S A BIRTHDAY, after all! So I spiked it with Pisco, (Peru’s flagship spirit). I even busted out the vintage crystal to drink from! 😀 Here’s how I made it, (going off this recipe from Peru-recipes.com:

Take the petals of a dozen (12) roses, put them in a bowl and pour 4 cups boiling water over them. Let steep for an hour (or more. I actually steeped them overnight for a tea as rosey as possible).

Strain. Add juice of a dozen (12) key limes and stir to combine. You may also use Persian limes, juice 4-6 of them. Depends how tart you like your limeade. (I like it quite tart). To serve 8 oz. drinks, it’s 2 oz. Pisco, 4 oz. rose tea. You may vary this depending on how strong you like your drinks.

Here’s where it gets ESSENTIAL! Float a whole rose on the top of the drink, like a lilly pad.(No stem, of course). OMG! Everytime you take a drink, the first thing you do is sniff the rose. It’s such a remarkable thing that happens to your olfactory system! As the fragrance of the flower waltzes through your head, the tartness of the drink peppers your mouth and the Pisco warms you inside. One of my guests said it best, “This is like drinking a beautiful woman!” Cannot agree more! And if anyone with allergies has an attack over this, I hope you find it was worth it! I have pretty bad allergies and I was fine. And I, literally, drank these all day. It’s THAT good!

So, that’s my stab at Peruvian yummies. I learned so much and will continue to study all the fantastic dishes Peru has to offer. I’d like to thank Pamela Francesca Celiz for the inspiration and I hope my readers will be inspired to further research and look to experience this unique, exceptional cuisine.

Once again, Happy Birthday, Pamela! 🙂 ¡Salud!

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