Rocoto Relleno, Best Stuffed Red Pepper Recipe

Spicy Peruvian Rocoto peppers stuffed with goodies

Rocoto Relleno, plated with string beans and potato salad.

I love peppers, I like meatloaf and I love the idea of stuffed bell peppers, so why am I usually a bit disappointed with them? The stuffed bell pepper recipes I have eaten my whole life from the States are usually stuffed with ground meat and rice and then topped with a can of tomato sauce. Bland! I never liked the rice part and have tried breadcrumbs as well as zipping it up a bit with oregano, chopped onion and parsley, but always in the back of my mind I was disappointed. This could be better! This could be bold and be packed with flavor! Ah, now I live in Peru, home of the pepper and potato and their rich culinary traditions. And, I’ve since met the Arequipan dish Rocoto Relleno. It is everything I always yearned for a stuffed pepper to be. Oh, I’m in love. One of, if not my favorite, dishes in all of the world.

The secrets that make this stuffed pepper dish so good are removing the starch from the meat mixture (and placing it on top in the form of a potato), enriching the meat mixture with ground peanuts and a very, very mild pepper paste (Panca Pepper Paste) and then topping the whole thing with cheese and a really good foamy cheese sauce that bakes into a crispy, drizzly, cheesy delight. If that wasn’t enough, every Peruvian cook has their own way of embellishing the dish and hiding little treasures inside the meat mass. So there is this surprise element. What will be in there? Egg? Olive? Nuts? Fruit? A wedding ring? Ha Ha. The juxtaposition of the potato wedge in there is brilliant. All of that excitement and the bland starchiness makes this a real comfort food for me. My favorite thing is to take a stuffed pepper the next day and slice it to fill sandwiches. The meatloaf sandwich just got better too!

ready to start cooking Rocoto Relleno

All the ingredients that go into making Rocoto Relleno

Not that Rocoto Relleno is difficult to make or contains particularly elaborate ingredients, just a little prep, that is all that is needed.

Stuffed Red Pepper TRocoto Relleno

Best Stuffed Red Pepper

By ,
August 13, 2013
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Yield: 14 Servings
Nutrition facts:
426 calories,
21.6 grams fat

This is a classic Peruvian, baked, stuffed pepper, entree recipe that takes a bit of prep and a total of75 minutes to make, but is so over the top–great!–that it is worth the time. Kind of fun to make and is an ideal special occasion or prepare in advance and freeze meal. Guaranteed to not disappoint! Note: this is a double recipe, but doesn’t take double the time. So eat half, freeze half and you will have two special meals!

One kilo of Rocoto Peppers

Fresh Rocoto Peppers

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lb. Ground Beef
  • 14 Rocoto Peppers (see Rocoto Red Pepper Alternatives)
  • 1/2 cup roasted coarse ground peanuts (or pure peanut butter)
  • 2 Large Red Onions, diced
  • 4 cloves minced Garlic
  • 1/2 cup Panca Pepper Paste (aji panca molido) or 1/4 cup mild chili powder (see Ground Panca Alternatives)
  • 6 Hard-boiled Eggs
  • 2 Raw Egg Whites
  • 3/4 cup raisins, chopped dates or chopped dried prunes, or double and try two of these!
  • 14 Kalamata olives, halved and pitted (Peruvians use whole, but I don’t want any broken teeth!)
  • 24 whole roasted nuts like: hazelnuts, pecans or cashews or 1/2 cup shelled sunflower seeds
  • Two Large Potatoes
  • 1 lb. Andean Farmers Cheese or mozzarella (see Andean Cheese Alternatives)
  • 2 T. Olive Oil
  • 3/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup Vinegar (any kind)
  • 3/4 cup salt (for the water to boil the peppers)
  • Optional: 1 cup cooked coarsely shredded beef or pork
  • 1 T. Ground Cumin
  • Black Pepper to taste

Instructions:

hollowed out Rocoto Peppers

Ready to make these taste mild!

Prep the Peppers: First we need to render the Rocoto Peppers Mild and edible to most everyone! Using gloves and eye protection (I’m not kidding!) cut off the top of all of the peppers (leaving a nice little top hat, keeping on the stem of it has one) and completely deseed and devein them. Deveining removes all traces of the super hot white parts attaching the seeds to the outside pepper pod. A small teaspoon works nice to scrape everything out. When you are done, carefully wash everything down and don’t touch your eyes! Set aside two of the Rocoto Pepper bottoms, and boil the rest: 12 Rocoto Peppers bottom’s and 14 tops in successive salt and vinegar water baths for five minutes each until the peppers are mild enough for your taste.

Boiling makes the peppers mild

Quick bouts in boiling salted water removes the heat.

Generally, I like two successive baths (a bit spicy), but three baths is usually good for everyone. Four baths and the peppers generally are really soft and super mild. The salt in the boiling water purges the peppers of their heat and the vinegar tends to keep them from disintegrating. If the peppers get super soft and lose their shape (or fall apart a bit) don’t despair! Finally, soak the peppers in a big bath of cool fresh water for at least 15 minutes to allow any salt to exit the peppers. Boil the potatoes (I do it in the second water bath) until done and set aside to cool and then peel (if desired). Slice the potatoes into 14, 1/2 inch round slabs (roughly the diameter of the Rocoto Peppers).

The Rocoto Relleno stuffing

The raw Rocoto Relleno Meat Filling

Prep the Filling: Saute onions until golden, then add the garlic, and when the garlic is golden as well add in the ground cumin and Panca Pepper Paste (or whatever alternative you have chosen) and continue to fry the sticky, red onion mass for about five minutes more. Add a few tablespoons of water if needed to keep everything from burning. Take half the cheese and cut into 14 slices, cube the other half and set aside. Separate the egg yolks from the hard-boiled eggs and cut each yolk in half, set aside and then coarsely dice the cooked egg whites. Mix the raw ground beef, fried onion-garlic-pepper mass, chopped parsley, ground peanuts, raisins, and chopped egg whites in a bowl.

the stuffing for the pepper

An Egg Yolk stuffed into the center of Rocoto Relleno

Stuff the Peppers: To stuff each pepper start with a golf ball sized amount of filling and make a flat hamburger shaped patty. Place half a cooked egg yolk in the center, along with two nuts, the two Kalamata olive halves and a bit of any of the optional shredded meat and then form a ball of meat around the little goodies. Now press the ball into an empty pepper cavity. Note: if your peppers fell apart during boiling just reassemble the pepper pieces (jigsaw style) around the meat ball. Line up the stuffed peppers in a greased baking dish. There is usually some extra filling so I form two balls out of it and top them like the peppers. Top each pepper with a slab of potato, a slice of cheese and the little pepper hat. In a blender blend two raw egg whites, the two raw Rocoto Pepper bottoms (use only one or one half if you don’t like a little heat) the evaporated milk, and the remaining half of the cubed cheese until foamy (about 30 seconds). Pour and spoon this egg mixture over all of the stuffed and topped peppers.

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Baking: If your pan is crowded and not super deep, take some long strips of folded foil and create an extension to the sides to prevent the tops, cheese and potato wedges from slipping off during baking and out into your oven. Bake for 40 minutes in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven until golden brown and bubbly (or until the internal temperature of a stuffed pepper reaches 170 degrees).

Variation: Some Peruvian recipes don’t use the other half of the cheese in the egg white mixture, rather they use three egg whites instead. Also, I’ve included a great deal of items for variation in this recipe. The surprise little goodies each cook hides inside mean: Be creative!

Note: Please consider looking at the nutrition information. It is a good habit to get into and I do my best to give you real options. 😉

Nutritional Information

FYI, we have included the nutritional facts for the recipe and the variation with no cheese in the sauce.

Rocoto Relleno Nutritional Facts

Rocoto Relleno Nutrition FactsFYI – This is a big rich entree item. It is totally possible to slice each rellano, turning each portion into three. I’ve done this many times along with a nice hefty salad and some brown rice or a cooked vegetable. It makes a really striking presentation; the slice reveals all the layers. I usually embellish with a few olives, raisins and nuts thrown on top so the jewels are spilling out. If I freeze the dish and, then thaw it out, I slice each pepper into thirds and lie them out on a cookie sheet. Then, I remake the foamy egg sauce and spoon it over half the slice and then bake until bubbly. This turns the dish into 36 portions! In reality, one pepper is quite a lot.

This dish is high (or very high) in nutrients like: iron, selenium, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and vitamin C.

The main recipe scores a Nutrition Grade of “B+” and the alternative scores an “A-“.

FYI – For such a substantial entree item, this is fairly good for you. The key would be, based on the size of your peppers, to reduce the portion as mentioned earlier. A full portion is 426 Calories and a high proportion of those calories are from fat, 45%, so for added health serve with healthy portions of raw and cooked vegetables. Say a yogurt or vinegar based coleslaw and Asperigas or Green Beans. The good news is that this dish is high in iron, selenium, and very high in Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin C. One of these Pepe’s packs three times the USDA RDA for Vitamin C. The not so great news is that it is high in Cholesterol and Saturated Fat. Being high in Cholesterol isn’t normally a big deal, but being high in Saturated Fat is, because Saturated Fat causes High Cholesterol in your blood. And, for the sodium conscious, I would caution you to rinse the boiled peppers well to reduce salt and to avoid adding salt as there could be a small amount of salt remaining in the cooked peppers.

 

Rocoto Relleno Nutritional Facts, No Cheese in the Sauce Alternative, Nutritional Facts

Rocoto Relleno Nutrition Facts for Less cheese VariationFYI – All of the nutritional info I have just given goes the same for this Variation. However, you do save about 11% in caloric content by eliminating the cheese in the sauce (the egg, Rocoto and Milk do fine on their own). Many Peruvians like it this way. What is key is that you reduce the Saturated Fat content by 26% this way and that is important for those watching their cholesterol.

BTW – This sauce is a very handy thing. Having learned it I now use it to top meatloaf (wait until I post my Rocoto Relleno Meat Loaf Recipe), and baked cauliflower (just this sauce and cauliflower florets in a baking dish and voila!).

Growing and Brewing Coffee in Peru

Fair Trade Organic Coffee in Peru

Below is a brief overview of coffee growing in Peru, followed by photos and instructions on hot and cold brewing using a “La Cafetera”.

Coffee Growing in Peru

woman coffee grower

Shade grown coffee is usually a sign of small scale production

Peru is by far the largest supplier of Fair Trade certified coffee to the United States. Their coffee is largely organically produced, mostly by small family growers with 2-5 acres of coffee trees. A large number of those farmers grow shade coffee, which is coffee grown under the canopy of other taller trees. One of the reasons that the farmers grow their coffee in the shade is that the coffee trees are spread out in small patches mixed among other productive trees such as pacay, achiote, papaya, avocado, etc. which is the traditional, biodiverse, way they have been farming for generations. The concept of clear cutting, was introduced by europeans, and many farmers continue to reject this kind of agriculture. Additionally, because the growers are small and lack resources, their ability to remove all non-productive trees, shrubs, vines and plants is limited, thus the jungle tends to continue to reclaim space, commingling with coffee trees. Shade grown coffee is better as it supports biodiversity that is known to sustain long-term agricultural and support environmental health. According to farmers, the observed benefits are:

  1. Disease and pests are kept in balance naturally; widespread loss of all crops is unlikely.
  2. Supports an ecosystem where birds and other animals thrive, which supports soil health.
  3. Filters sunlight, slowing coffee bean growth, which in turn provides a denser, better bean.
  4. Provides protection to the worker from prolonged exposure to sun.
  5. Provides additional crops in the same space (coffee growing under the shade of a papaya tree).
  6. Resists soil erosion, promoting healthier soil.

Young Man Picking CoffeeIn Peru, when coffee was controlled by foreign land barons, local inhabitants worked for little or no real pay, and they had no say in what farming practices were used, which eventually led to environmental and agricultural issues.

After turmoil in coffee prices sent most of the barons packing, the local inhabitants, whose land the barons had taken, and sometimes forced them to work on, was returned and some of them continued, but grew the way they wanted. Other plantations fell into disrepair and disappeared back into the jungle.

man working in bird friendly coffee field

Peruvian coffee grower, owner, picks his shade grown beans.

Today, the modern Peruvian farmer struggles with balancing the past and the future. Trade aid for farmers worldwide is often tied to monoculture practices, which farmers in Peru know isn’t a long-term positive strategy, so they often reject aid. Without aid, farmers continue to struggle to develop a market for their coffee, which is desirable because of the organic, biodiverse way it is grown, but to have enough resources to get their coffee to faraway markets (where it commands a higher price) they are often asked to do things they think would be unwise. Slowly, Peruvian coffee is becoming more appreciated worldwide, and growers are learning how to access markets themselves, hopefully ensuring that future generations will have a biodiverse ecosystem to farm within.

Brewing Coffee in Peru using a “La Cafetera”

 

Coffee concentrate maker

“La Cafetera”, the Peruvian Coffee Maker

Brewing coffee in Peru is accomplished differently than in North America and unlike most anywhere else in the world, for that matter.

There are two methods: hot and cold brewing.

Cold brewing produces a low acid cup, and takes 12+ hours to produce.

Hot brewing, a method shared with the rest of the world, is efficient in the amount of flavor extracted and the amount of time it takes to extract it.
Hot brewing is far and away the preferred method everywhere including here, but cold brewing is still alive.

What is common to both methods is that, in Peru, an espresso like concentrate is made.

The concentrate is called coffee, though it is much stronger than most prefer to drink straight, so it is often mixed with hot milk or water.

The concentrate takes time to make, so a whole day’s supply is usually made in (or in the case of cold brew, for) the morning.

Then, the concentrate is used to make individual cups throughout the day.

Strainer holes top view

Peruvian Coffee Maker with Strainer Holes

 

To cold brew coffee take one cup of ground coffee and mix with two cups water and place in a large screw top jar.

Twelve hours later the coffee is ready to be strained in a similar method to hot coffee.

Shaking the brew jar, a few times if possible, during the process helps.

Here photos of a La Cafetera, which is used to either strain the cold brew, or make hot brew.

ground coffee in La Cafetera

La Cafetera, loaded and ready to go

 

The simple two chamber La Cafetera has an upper chamber to hold the ground coffee and a bottom reservoir to accept the slowly dripping brew.

Rather than pass a lot of hot water through to extract the flavor, a little bit of boiling water is passed through a lot of coffee.

The fewer successive boiling water passes, the “shorter” the extraction.

“Short” extraction concentrate is used for making certain kinds of coffee drinks and “Long” extraction for others.

Brewing coffee using La Cafetera

The hottest water makes the best coffee.

The strong coffee concentrate is made by filling the top the La Cafetera 3/4’s of the way full with coffee grounds and periodically pouring boiling water into the small remaining head space.

The initial pass, tends to create quite a volcanic effect with the possibility of coffee foaming up and over the sides.

So initially only enough water, to wet the grounds, is used followed by a few minutes of rest to allow the coffee to expand.
Generally, an equal volume of dry coffee grounds produces an equal volume of strong coffee.

strong coffee concentrate

Fresh brewed coffee concentrate

 

The holes of the La Cafetera are very small, and without the aid of any paper filters, the bottom chamber is filled drip-by-drip over the course of about 10 minutes.

The espresso is allowed to sit a few minutes to allow the sediment to settle.

Then, the coffee is poured through a strainer to catch any stray grounds or sediment.

fresh coffee concentrate

Part of my daily coffee ritual

 

Once brewed, the coffee concentrate is stored for use throughout the day.

Over the course of an hour, any heavy particulates settle to the bottom of the jar and this produces a nicer cup.

The last “la taza desesperada” can conversely, be strong and is by some, discarded.

a different way to serve coffee

A thermos, coffee concentrate and evaporated milk: my coffee maker replacement.

For coffee service throughout the day, or at a place of business, hot water is often stored in a vacuum canister or vacuum dispenser to avoid having to boil water for each cup.

Evaporated milk is the commonly used coffee lightener which here, high in the Andes, doesn’t need to be refrigerated, as the kitchen is usually as cold as the inside of a refrigerator, except when cooking.

Ha Ha.

That is what my coffee experience looks like.

The first cup from an electric, automatic drip coffee maker is nice, but the second and third (microwaved) cups aren’t so good.

Making a concentrate produces a fresher tasting cup throughout the day.

The concentrate isn’t continuously heated on a burner, so the concentrate retains the flavor better over time.

†     Pay, Ellen, et al. (2009, September). Re: THE MARKET FOR ORGANIC AND FAIR-TRADE COFFEE [Study prepared in the framework of FAO project GCP/RAF/404/GER and provided in PDF form]. Retrieved from
http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/organicexports/docs/Market_Organic_FT_Coffee.pdf

 

Mushroom Chard Saltado Linguine with Huancaina Sauce

Mushroom Swiss Chard Stir Fry with Huancaina LinguineHere is an excellent Peruvian Chifa fusion dish. It’s different because serving Linguine (Tallerines) with Huancaina Sauce topped with a Chifa Saltado (a uniquely Peruvian Stir fry) isn’t something people would publicize doing (but I know they secretly like it). I’ve had people admit their mothers prepare pasta like this at home, looking at me to see if I will judge them harshly. What a great idea mom! I’m all for it, a cheesy pepper sauce pasta dish! And, here I’ve added a twist on classic Chifa Saltado–it’s now a healthier vegetable stir fry. Often Peruvians will make a Tallarin Saltado, with meat, and then spoon Huancaina Sauce on their plates–but this looks and tastes better because it is decadent, yet mostly healthy! Switch the cheese for tofu (see: Vegan Alternative below), and make the soy sauce low sodium, and you will have a wonderfully healthy combination.

Stir Frying MushroomsTallarin Saltados are basically stir fry pasta dishes that is, you stir fry some vegetables, make a quick sauce at the end of the stir frying and then cook briefly with some al dente pasta. In this recipe I have in essence taken the stir fry, and placed it over an already dressed pasta. This leverages one of the things that is so good about Lomo Saltado, the saucy vegetables dripping over a fatty starch. I think you can only have so much fried food, and Peruvians seem to agree because the basic “Lomo Saltado” popularly becomes “Tallarin Saltado con Lomo de Res” (Linguini with Stir Fried Beef). I believe one can always do with less beef, for many reasons (pick one), so this is a great opportunity to save money, reduce saturated fat, reduce your carbon footprint, save a cow’s life, and exercise your palate a bit by going for the amazingly great taste of sauteed Portobello Mushrooms instead. I’ve provided a great deal of alternatives here, and I hope after cooking this your horizons will be broadened a little. Most of this kind of cooking is very forgiving. You can substitute kale or savoy cabbage for Swiss chard, you could even substitute cauliflower for the pasta (we do it all the time).

So how healthy is it? The big portioned, 411 gram, combined stir fry topped dish has 386 calories, and 15.5 grams of fat, with the vegan alternative having 342 calories, and 13.2 grams of fat. When comparably portioned, a Linguine Alfredo dish has a whopping 1730 calories and 126, artery clogging, grams of fat! So this extremely flavorful dish, comparable in flavor profiles with Alfredo has less than 1/4th the calories and 1/8th the fat. Enough blabbering, on to the cooking!

 

Mushroom Swiss Chard Stir-Fry Linguine Ingredients

 

 

Mushroom Swiss Chard SaltadoMushroom, Swiss Chard Saltado

Peruvian-Chinese Fusion Stir Fry

By ,
July 17, 2013
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Yield: 8 Servings
Nutrition facts:
127 calories,
7.3 grams fat

This adaptation of a healthy Peruvian Chifa stir fry, traditional, entree recipe takes only40 minutes to make and is great over pasta, rice, or cauliflower or as a filling for fajitas or wraps.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. Portobello Mushrooms, thick sliced
  • 2 Heads (20 leaves) Swiss Chard, cut into 1 inch ribbons
  • 3 large Roma Tomatoes cut in to wedges (1/6 or 1/8th’s)
  • 2 Large Red Onions cut into wedges (1/8th’s)
  • 2-3 cloves minced Garlic
  • 2 large Aji Amarillo Peppers, seeded, deveined, cut to approx. 1/5th x 2″ wide strips
  • 3 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons Red Wine (Burgundy will do)
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Soy Sauce (try low sodium)
  • Black Pepper to taste

Instructions:

Wok Method: Saute the mushrooms, onions, peppers, and pepper with oil until golden brown, add the garlic and continue to fry until it is golden as well. Add the tomatoes and saute three more minutes. Add the Swiss chard and saute five more minutes. Add the wine, vinegar, soy sauce and saute until the sauce thickens a bit.

Regular Pot and Pan Method: Saute each of these in batches: mushrooms, onions, peppers, tomatoes and garlic–all in oil until golden brown–setting the browned ingredients aside in a medium pot. Saute the Swiss chard and black pepper with oil until done, about five minutes. Add everything including the wine, vinegar and soy sauce into the pot and cook on medium until the sauce thickens a bit.

 

 

Huancaina LinguineLinguine with Huancaina Sauce

Zesty, Cheesy, Andean Pasta Dish

By ,
July 17, 2013
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Yield: 8 Servings
Nutrition facts:
259 calories,
8.2 grams fat

This is an adaptation of a classic Peruvian stove top, home cooking, entree recipe that takes only40 minutes to make and tastes great.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. Linguine
  • 2/3 cup cubed Fresh Farmers Cheese
  • 2-3 cloves Garlic, smashed with the side of a knife blade
  • 2 large Aji Amarillo peppers, deseeded, deveined and coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 3/4 cup Evaporated Milk
  • Black Pepper to taste

Instructions:

Saute the onions, peppers and pepper in oil until golden brown, add the garlic and continue to fry until it is golden as well. Add this to a blender, along with the cheese and milk blending for five minutes until silky smooth. If you have ever made Huancaina Sauce, this will be much more watery comparably, to allow the pasta to soak some of it up.

Final Preparation and Assembly

Tallarin is LinguiniCook the pasta in salted water until al dente (i.e. slightly undercooked), drain quickly retaining about 1/2 cup of the salted cooking water with the pasta (do not rinse) and return it to the still warm pasta pot. Immediately toss in the Huancaina Sauce. Plate right away, by placing a swirl of pasta in the center of a plate and carefully mounding Mushroom, Swiss Chard Saltado on top. Garnish with thinly sliced scallions. Optionally serve with Peruvian Salsa Macha for added zip.

Vegan Alternative

I’ve made Huancaina Sauce using tofu many times in the states, once for a big dinner serving over 100 environmentalists. It was a hit! Firm Tofu can be used as a direct substitution for the cheese, then replace the evaporated milk with half as much soy or rice milk, doing so reduces the calorie count to 215 and the fat content to 5.9.

 

Note: Please consider reading more as I’ve tried to provide some easy to understand information on how healthy these recipes are, or aren’t, in an interesting way. 😉

Nutritional Information

FYI, we have included the nutritional facts for both recipes and the vegan alternative pasta sauce.

Mushroom Swiss Chard Saltado Nutrition FactsMushroom, Swiss Chard Saltado Nutritional Facts

FYI – the stir fry prepared without the pasta dish can be served alone! So I wanted to show the nutritional facts for this alternative. It has many benefits, and if you use reduced sodium soy sauce (or omit it altogether!) you will be going super healthy. The alcohol is cooked off, and frankly can be omitted as wine often can be in stir fries. This dish has no cholesterol and more importantly, rather than meat we are using the wonderful meat alternative: “Portobello Mushrooms”, which frankly taste like steak! Not using meat reduces the bad fat content considerably and that is what will cause reduced cholesterol in your body.

This dish is high (or very high) in other nutrients like: iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C and is high in dietary fiber.

This is a good meal on its own, but getting some to eat vegetables is a challenge and that is why I’ve paired this with cheesy pasta. Together you have the comfort food (basically a healthier Mac and Cheese or Alfredo Sauce) and a large amount of vegetables, minimally cooked–except the mushrooms with need to be sauteed to the golden brown stage so they taste like bacon! In all, this gets a Nutrition Grade of B. Try this and gradually work toward those A’s!

 

Huancaina Linguine nutrition factsLinguine with Huancaina Sauce Nutritional Facts

FYI – the pasta dish is a much healthier alternative than it may seem, when weighing the alternatives: Macaroni and Cheese and Alfredo Sauce. Both of which usually contain much more saturated fat. Sometimes you want a little bit of comfort in your food, and when the nutritional content isn’t enough, comfort, it might be time for some real comfort food. If you are making the above Saltadao, consider serving it plain or over plain, whole grain pasta. Otherwise, enjoy what is clearly a lesser evil, reduced fat. This dish only has 259 calories, and 8.2 grams of fat, and that isn’t too bad (google some other cheesy pasta alternatives and see what true artery horror is). Pasta is a good source of protein and by all means cook a whole grain alternative. Had I have been able to find a whole grain Tallerin (Linguini) at the market, I would have offered that in this recipe. After all, you are dressing the pasta so it might fly with those usually less enthusiastic about whole grains! This dish gets a Nutrition Grade of B-. Not sure how they do the grading because the next vegan alternative has less carbs and it gets the same score (that might be because soy milk is usually high in sodium).

 

Huancaina Linguine Vegan nutrition factsLinguine with Huancaina Sauce, Vegan Alternative, Nutritional Facts

FYI – and as I mentioned earlier, I’ve served my soy based, vegan version of Huancaina to a large discriminating crowd of tree huggers and they loved it. I think the fact that because the Aji Amarillo, onion and garlic add so much flavor, the use of actual cheese is much less important than usual, for a cheesy dish. This is low in saturated fat, low in sugar, and if you also substitute whole grain pasta it would have a pretty good glycemic index (medium compared to high now). If you have a need to be highly sodium conscious, take a look at the labels on the soy milk you buy, and look for something lower in sodium. I’m sure some other milk alternative would work well because you aren’t cooking this sauce, just dressing the pasta with it. As always with Huancaina, if you find it too thin add a bit of bread or a saltine cracker to the sauce in the blender to thicken it–but the idea is to get the room temperature sauce over the piping hot noodles–so they absorb some of the remaining liquid within a few minutes. This dish only has 215 calories and 5.9 grams of fat. Nice!

 

Avocado Ice-cream Recipe

Avocado Ice-cream is delicious!

Avocado Ice-cream is delicious!

If you have an avocado tree, or a bunch of avocados happen to come into your possession you will quickly get to the point where you’ve had a great deal of guacamole, avocado sandwiches, avocado salads, stuffed avocados (I will share a good Peruvian recipe for this later), and maybe even cold avocado soup. What next? Dessert!

While Avocado Ice-Cream sounds a little weird I assure you that the rich, nutty, oily qualities of avocados make them perfectly suited for Ice-Cream. Avocados surprisingly freeze well, with sugar and they don’t discolor a bit. The above ice-cream was made with Fuerte Avocados, and their green flesh is pleasant when compared to that of Haas (but Hass works well too).

Super easy to make, Avocado Ice-cream, requires no cooking, and can easily be made with low fat milk or yogurt if desired.

Avocado Ice-cream Recipe

Yields one half gallon when frozen

    • 4 cups Avocado Flesh
    • 2 cups Evaporated Milk or Yogurt
    • 1 cup Heavy Cream (or substitute milk if desired)
    • 1 cup Sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
    • optional: 2 Tbs. Creme de Coconut (Coconut-Flavored Liqueur)
    • optional: 1 cup Ground Coconut

Mix avocado, milk, cream and/or yogurt, sugar, salt and liqueur in a blender, strain, add ground coconut and freeze. No ice-cream freezer needed. The alcohol improves flavor and reduces excess crystallization (1 Tbs. of rum, pisco or vodka may be substituted).

Variation #1:

Add candied nuts such as slivered almonds, slivered brazil nuts, chopped cashews, pecans or pistachios.

Candied Nuts Recipe

  • 2/3 cup Nuts (Slivered Almonds, Slivered Brazil Nuts, Chopped Cashews, Ppecans or Pistachios)
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter
  • 1/3 cup Sugar
  • scant Salt
  • 1 pinch Chili Powder

In a hot dry skillet toast the nuts to bring out their flavor, remove the nuts and let the skillet cool a few minutes. Return the nuts to the skillet add butter, salt, chili powder and sugar stirring until the bubbling sugar caramelizes and coats the nuts well. Spread the coated nuts out and let them cool on a plate. Chop the nuts into a good size for ice-cream, generally no bigger than the size of a green pea. Stir the candied nuts in after the ice-cream is well set (3-4 hours into the freezing process) returning them to the freezer to completely set.

Variation #2:

Add rum raisins or figs (figs are great!) to the partially set ice-cream.

Rum Raisin (or Fig) Recipe

  • 3/4 cup chopped Raisins or chopped Fresh Figs
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter
  • 1/4 cup honey (or sugar)
  • scant Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons Rum

Puree half the raisins or figs in a food processor, blender or by hand to a thick paste. In a small sauce pan cook the fruit paste, butter, salt, rum and sugar stirring until the bubbling fruit mixture begins to caramelize (about 6-8 minutes). Add the remaining fruit cooking for two more minutes or until it forms a jam. Allow the jam mixture to cool. Stir the fruit mixture in to well set ice-cream (3-4 hours into the freezing process) returning it to the freezer to completely set.

Variation #3:

Combine your own version of variations one and two above for an ice-cream with swirls of rum fruit and spicy nuts.

Enjoy!

Oven Roasting Green Coffee Beans at Home, Easily!

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As a coffee exporter, we have many green coffee beans to sample, and because we travel around the country a lot, we sadly we don’t always have a coffee roaster on hand. Since anyone here in Peru can get green coffee beans easily and inexpensively, I thought I’d share how we oven roast green beans in any propane fired home oven (all ovens here are propane, natural gas would work better!)

Oven Roasting Coffee Stirring every 5 MinutesIn case you don’t know, coffee leaves the grower in a green state. The bean is full of moisture and quite hard. In this green state, coffee can be properly transported and stored for over a year without significant change to the bean’s flavor profile. However, once roasted the quality of the cup diminishes significantly during the first week. After that, no matter how it is stored you have lost the subtle edges, the wonderful notes, the aroma, and most of the wanted flavor. That is why the specialty roasting business is booming all around the world. Drinkers are getting savvy, buying only a week’s worth of roasted beans at a time, and grinding them daily.

There are many innovative, complicated and more precise ways to roast beans, but this is my simple method. In 40 minutes, I have a week’s worth of coffee (about four pounds), roasted without any burned beans, and very little smoke in the kitchen or the rest of the house! A little bit of coffee smoke smells nice after an hour, but filling the house with lots of smoke is not healthy. So keep your windows open and the doors to other rooms shut.

Home Oven Roasting Green Coffee Beans Instructions:

Oven Roasted CoffeePreheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius (375 degrees Fahrenheit). Evenly layer green coffee beans in a heavy baking sheet no deeper than 3/4 of an inch. Ensure that the coffee goes right to the edges, and the center is no thicker than the rest. Bake in your oven, and pull out every five minutes to stir, beginning after the first 10 minutes. If you hear a great deal of cracking or popping sounds, this is normal for regular roasting, but might indicate that either your oven is too hot or that you should just go ahead and give it a stir right away. Hearing 10 or so cracks is OK. This low temperature method has minimal cracking and minimal smoke, if you are experiencing great amounts of either reduce the oven temperature. You aren’t going to get anything near what an expert will get, with an expensive roasting machine. However, you also aren’t going to get burnt beans and in the end that will pay off. You will likely be soon having a really good cup of coffee!

Grinding coffee in a blender.Each time you pull the beans out, toss them with a spatula for about 30 seconds, smooth them out evenly again and put them back in the oven without delay. Be sure to dig the spatula all along the bottom, incorporating the sides and the center together.

Many people will tell you that roasting at higher temperatures will yield better results, and that can be true with the proper equipment, but only if you can somehow get all those beans to roast evenly. So this is why we are not roasting at the recommended higher temps. If you and your oven are able to get great results with higher temperature methods, by all means do it. When we are in the presence of a roaster we don’t use this method, so use the best method you can for the circumstances you are presented.

Home Roasted Ground CoffeeIdeally, let the beans rest (off gas) 12 hours for optimal flavor (I rarely wait, and I brew a cup ASAP). Grind the beans in a coffee grinder or blender (the food processor it too drastic) as needed just prior to brewing. Store the roasted coffee, after de-gassing for 12 hours, in an airtight, light proof, moderate temperature location.  Store any ground coffee in the same manner, but use quickly, as grinding the coffee accelerates the degradation of the final cup.

Peruvian Salsa Macha

Spoon Salsa Macha over rice, meat or mix with mayonnaise for a zippy alternative

Dried Mirasol peppers further preserved as a condiment sauce with salt and olive oil

 

Not Peruvian at all, but Mexican, I think Peruvians would approve and enjoy what this wonderful Mexican recipe does with their glorious Mirasol pepper. Hope you agree!

Salsa Macha with Aji Mirasol from Peru

Aji Mirasol in a Mexican style Salsa

Salsa Macha is an oily concoction of chopped dried peppers and salt. Sometimes the peppers are smoked, roasted or fried, sometimes not. Often, you will find recipes calling for additional ingredients like: ground, roasted peanuts, sesame seeds, garlic, green garlic, oregano, and other herbs. I’m in love with Salsa Macha and have been making it for over 30 years so I have tried many different recipes using dozens of varieties of peppers. Nearly any pepper, hot or not, can be used and what is important is to try to match up the technique and ingredients to compliment the flavors and characteristics of the pepper. I usually can mine, so I can give it as gifts, but since I’m still discovering the nuances of the many varieties of Peruvian peppers I’m just making fresh single jar batches. Stored in the fridge (or on the countertop if you live in the frigid Andes) a jar will last a few weeks to a month depending.

preserved, dried Peruvian yellow chilies

One half pound of Aji Mirasol costs $2 in my local Huancayo market

 

coarsely chopped Aji Mirasol peppers

Chopped Aji Mirasol peppers ready to mix with the olive oil and salt

While canning 50 jars can take a few days, making a couple of jars of fresh stuff couldn’t be easier. What is essential is to select a variety of pepper and find a dried supply that is of high quality. The peppers should be relatively clean and the pepper should have been dried within the previous six months for optimal flavor. Select dried peppers that have a leathery quality, is pliable, not brittle, similar to that of a dried tobacco leaf (if you know what that is like). Overly dried peppers are often a sign of age and improper storage as well as overly moist peppers with signs of mold. Before processing I take a good stiff kitchen brush (I use a quality, natural bristle, virgin paintbrush) and carefully clean each pepper. As peppers can be dirty from the fields, the drying process, and any subsequent storage I make sure I start with peppers that appear to have been washed prior to drying, and appear to have been handled well (take a close look, especially in the folded areas to see if the peppers are clean there).

example of a cleaned Mirasol chili

Here a cleaned Aji Mirasol Pepper with its hot parts removed

 

There are a few pepper varieties and recipes which work well with the seeds left in (or at least some of the seeds), taste the pepper’s flesh and then a seed (careful it could be hot!) and evaluate if you think the two go well together. Here, I’m making Salsa Macha from Aji Mirasol, the dried version of Aji Amarillo, and because I like a kick I left a few seeds per pod in. If I wanted to make a hot batch I would have left all the seeds in the final product. Regardless, you first have to de-stem and slice open every pepper to remove the seeds and pith (capsaicin glands, septa and placenta). If you are keeping some of the seeds separate them from the pith and set them aside.

dried chiles, salt, olive oil are the basic ingredients for Salsa Macha

Simple ingredients, simple preparation.

 

Peruvian Salsa Macha (made with Aji Mirasol) Recipe

 

  • 1/4 lb., 14 dried Mirasol Peppers from the market made a 6 oz. jar
  • 1/4 lb., about 14 dried Mirasol Peppers cleaned, seeded, depithed and deveined
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
  • approximately 1/4 cup quality, extra virgin olive oil
  • optional: 1 Tablespoon minced garlic (the white part of green garlic if you can find it)
  • optional: 1 Tablespoon ground roasted peanuts or sesame seeds
  • optional: 1 Tablespoon herb: oregano, thyme, huacatay or tarragon
Using a Mexican method on a distinctly Peruvian pepper

A jar of homemade Salsa Macha

Cut the cleaned peppers into one inch strips and chop in a blender or food processor. Don’t over chop it or turn it into a powder. Saute any of the optional ingredients if desired. Mix in half of the oil and salt to taste. Spoon into a jar and slowly drizzle the remaining oil into the jar until the oil begins to collect on top. You want enough oil to saturate the peppers, but not to pool on top. That is it! Refrigerate and enjoy for about two weeks. Pour off any oil that pools on top and add a little more if the salsa seems dry.

Note: We don’t use the term chili in Peru, Chile is a neighboring country. 😉