The first question I was often asked as a foreigner living in Peru was “do you like the food?” I quickly learned that the appropriate response was an emphatic “I love it” followed by a laundry list of my favorite dishes.
Peruvians are proud and passionate about their food and for a good reason; it’s fresh, local, and made with attention to detail.
I was thrilled to be accepted as one of 24 Foodbuzz Featured Publishers to create a meal yesterday, February 25th, and with the unseasonably warm weather we’ve had in Virginia I was inspired to create a Limeño tasting menu.
Of course no Peruvian table would be complete without potatoes, chilies, and limes.
Peru was the first place to domesticate potatoes and still to this day the humble spud takes center stage in many dishes.
Like Causa, little layer cakes of mashed potatoes mixed with lime, oil, and salt, filled with avocado, hard boiled egg and in yesterdays case, crab.
Or Papa a la Huancaína, a dish from the mountain city of Huancayo that is simply boiled potatoes topped with a cheese sauce, hard boiled eggs, and olives.
My personal favorite is a little salad called Solterito Arequipeño. It was not a staple on the menu in Lima so when I did find it I made sure to order it. It’s also one of the easier dishes to recreate at home.
Makes 2 large servings
- 1 cup each of corn and fresh or frozen lima or fava beans, steamed until tender*
- 1/2 of a red bell pepper, slivered
- 1/4 of a red onion, slivered
- 1/8 of a cup chopped cilantro
- minced hot pepper to taste
- 3 ounces queso fresco or feta cheese
- 12 quartered kalamata olives
- juice from 2 limes
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
In a medium bowl marinate the red onion slivers in the lime juice and a pinch of salt for at least 20 minutes. This will reduce the raw pungency of the onions.
Add everything except the cheese and olives to the onion/lime mixture and stir thoroughly, taste and adjust salt and pepper. Add cheese and olives and gently stir to incorporate. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to a few hours.
*In Peru this salad is made with fresh fava beans and a very large kernel starchy corn called ‘choclo’. It’s not the season for fresh favas here in Virginia so I settled for frozen baby lima beans, which were a decent substitution. For the corn I used hominy from a Mexican food store. Hominy is very starchy and very dry and must be soaked then boiled, like dry beans. You could also use frozen or fresh sweet corn for this salad, which would actually provide more flavor but less authenticity.
The most popular dish of the night, and another one of my favorites, was the Pastel de Acelga, or chard pie.
The final component of any worthy Peruvian lonche is a nice, stiff Pisco Sour. ¡Salud!
I love when you sit down to a meal and the chatter gives way to clinking silverware and sounds of ‘mmmmm’.