Authentic Peruvian Ceviche

One of the fondest images I can recall in my mind is sitting on a deck or in the patio area of my favorite restaurant on a sunny day, lounging to the fullest and enjoying a cool authentic Peruvian ceviche.  The fresh ingredients and splashes of lime and doses of cilantro still play on my tongue and evoke loving memories.

I have been fortunate to have sampled many delicious ceviche recipes from all over South America and for me to distinguish one as my all-time favorite would be an absolute fallacy but there is no harm in discussing a particular recipe for the sake of enjoyment, is there?  I didn’t think so either.

Ceviche Peruano is a unique ceviche recipe so why not talk about it?  If you were born and raised in the states you probably have a good handle on what ceviche is at its core.  The basic ingredients are the same across the board.

Nine time out of ten, with all ceviche you are fortunate enough to try you will taste tomatoes, onions and probably some form or another of seafood.  Authentic Peruvian ceviche puts a few interesting twists on this time tested formula however.

Authentic Peruvian Ceviche

Authentic Peruvian Ceviche

Authentic Peruvian Ceviche Recipe

You don’t have to travel to Peru to enjoy authentic Peruvian ceviche.  The recipe is simple enough and you can easily find the ingredients in your local grocery store but of course, when it comes to the fish, try to find the freshest source near you.

You will need garlic cloves (smashed), red onion, chopped cilantro, limes (freshly squeezed and separated from pulp to the best of your ability), sweet potatoes (steamed), habanero peppers (chopped and de-seeded), and your favorite firm, white fish like fluke or flounder (cubed).  Chunks of corn on the cob are also added to authentic Peruvian ceviche recipes but I tend to omit this ingredient due to personal tastes.

Once you have all of your ingredients prepped you are going to mix them all together and let them marinate the fish you have selected. You can let them marinate in the fridge for an hour or two and while the authentic preparation entails serving the ceviche at room temperature, there is nothing better in my mind to enjoy on a hot summer day than some chilled ceviche.

If you want it keep it as authentic as possible simply take the ceviche out well before you want to eat it and let it get to room temperature.

After that you are pretty much ready to feast. There are a lot of different ways to eat Peruvian ceviche and when it comes to the matters of the stomach, one can hardly be blamed from breaking from tradition.

Again, if you are determined to taste authentic Peruvian ceviche how it was intended you will do well by eating the ceviche on its own on a small plate. If you are like me however and prefer your ceviche to be accompanied by a salty hint, you can enjoy the ceviche on top of a tostada or lightly salted, preferably panadería fresh, tortilla chips.

Make Sure to Enjoy

No matter how you intend to make this simple recipe your own, the most important thing is to make sure you enjoy in a lovely setting, surrounded by your best people.

Peruvian ceviche should always be enjoyed in the light of a glorious day, savoring the light of the sun just as you savor every delectable morsel of this amazing dish.  For more information on Peruvian delicacies, check out this article on The Food Festival of Mistura.

Typical Venezuelan Breakfast

If you are looking for a light breakfast, a typical Venezuelan breakfast may not be the best choice for you. If however you are looking for a hearty start to your day (and perhaps a great meal for soaking up the previous night’s festivities) you will have all of your needs, wants and desires met by a typical Venezuelan breakfast.

A Brief History of Venezuelan Cuisine

Before we dig into the main course we should temper ourselves with a bit of background on the nation’s culinary influences.

Before the arrival of Christopher Columbus and the conquistadores from Spain, Venezuela was inhabited by an indigenous people closely related to the South American Indians (Incas, Mayas).  This was the first amalgamation of cuisines that the nation saw.

When the Spaniards arrived, they brought with them staple Spanish foods that were integrated into native entrees.

As time went on and due to the proximity of the nation to the Caribbean, more exotic spices and flavors were added to the palette. Today, Venezuelan cuisine has tapped ethnic roots from Europe, Africa and the Caribbean to become one of the most unique and delectable types of cuisine on the world.

For Breakfast

You cannot mention a typical Venezuelan breakfast without talking about Venezuelan Arepa.  Arepa is not only one of the most prominent and famous Venezuelan foods, but is commonplace in typical Venezuelan breakfast.

The arepa uses possibly the most abundant foodstuff in South America: corn.  It is made of corn and is essentially a pancake stuffed with all kinds of mouth-watering ingredients.  However, arepa was not always stuffed.  In its humble beginning, Arepa use to be a basic bread that was meant to simply accompany main dishes.

Today however, it is stuffed, or filled if you will (think of a pita bread only thicker and made of corn) cheese, butter, chorizo, pretty much any kind of meat you can think of, avocados and eggs.

Arepas can be grilled or fried and they are typically used in place of bread.  Now you see what we meant when we mentioned a hearty breakfast.

Typical Venezuelan Breakfast

Arepas

Typical Foods in Venezuela

Another dish that you will likely see in a typical Venezuelan breakfast is something called Cachapa.  In a nutshell, a Cachapa is a thick pancake that is folded over with some cheese in the crease.  Of course, since we are talking about a South American country, corn is used as the main component of this fat pancake.

Mandoca is a sweet little treat for Venezuelan breakfasts as well.  You can consider it the Venezuelan incarnation of a donut but it is made of, you guessed it, cornmeal.  Like the donuts we know here in the states, Mandoca is deep fried, seasoned with plenty of sugar and served topped with bananas or plantains.

Perico is another name that you will hear when sitting down to Venezuelan breakfast.  It is a scrambled egg dish that features onions and tomatoes.  You will see Perico commonly inside of your arepa but sometimes unbound by the cornmeal bread as well.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention in this Latino corner of cyberspace the existence of Hallaca in Venezuelan cuisine.

The Hallaca is an extremely important dish in Venezuela because it is the pride of every family. Arguments are not uncommonly roused as to who’s family makes the best Hallaca.

Hallaca is made during the holiday season and is a family affair.  Production lines of sorts are formed by family members to stuff cornmeal (the same used for arepas) with beef, olives, raisins and other ingredients and then to wrap the whole deal in a banana leaf.   To find out even more about Venezuelan culture and cuisine, check out the Legend of El Silbón.

German Chilean Food

German Chilean food history is a study in harmony. Our world is so rife with conflict and confrontation that it can be easy to forget the things that all humans can bond over no matter where they are from. These bonding points include music, sport and of course food.

Whenever I think about the history of Chilean food, I am immediately warmed by the thought that the simple things in life are what truly make us human and of the same ilk.

Germany is located essentially on the other side of the planet from Chile but that did not matter when the first German settlers immigrated to Chile in the late 19th and early 20th century. These Germans brought with them the recipes of the father land and embraced the culinary practices of their adopted country.

A Bit of History of German Chilean Food

The history of Chilean food is inexorably tied to German culture. As I have already stated, the first German immigrants arrived on the shores of Chile between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. These European settlers made their communities in the Southern and as of yet un-established area of Chile.

The Germans thrived here and among their number were all kinds of tradesman, scientists, beer-brewers and of course chefs. Soon, the German community began to mingle and assimilate to the native Chileans and this is where the love affair between German and Chilean cuisine took place.

Today, a visit to Chile will undoubtedly include delving into the cooking practices of both Germany and Chile. You can sit down at a shcoperia (essentially a beer house) in Santiago and be treated to popular Chilean beer that was crafted by German brewmasters. You will also be treated to a menu that you may not expect to find in South America- menus that include German brats, hotdogs and sandwiches.

After all the influence the Germans had on Chilean dishes however, what can be easily eaten throughout Chile has a definite retention of Latin flare. In the end, German Chilean food is a perfect melding of the two styles and an altogether unique branch of cuisine that is a must for any exploratory diner.

The Food

Thankfully, pairing of German and Chilean foods has been refined over the centuries to a masterpiece medley of tasty entrees. For example, you will commonly find sauerkraut paired as a side to more traditional Chilean dishes like Pernil which is essentially a pork hock veiled in a fatty skin that hides a succulent and tender meat underneath.

German Chilean Food

German Chilean Food

Resembling something that Americans would recognize as meatloaf is German Roast or Asado Aleman. In Chilean restaurants, you will find this dish in menus that may be otherwise devoid of German-influenced dishes but it is well-worth a taste. It usually includes hardboiled egg and sometimes included within the actual loaf which is made of ground beef, you will find cooked carrots.

If you thought you had to travel to Germany for a unique Oktoberfest celebration think again. Many Chilean cities due to the large German community therein celebrate this German festival.  Should you happen to be in Chile during Oktoberfest, you can enjoy a Chilean dish that has been very Germanly dubbed Escalopa Kaiser. This dish is a breaded and fried sandwich with sliced beef, cheddar, ham and topped with another slice of beef.

Over the years, German-influenced dishes have been popularized in many South American countries including Brazil, adding to the extended palette of flavors that can be found throughout the Latin world. Chile and all of Latin America offer some of the most sought after dishes in the world and if you would like to learn more about them check out the article Latin Food.

Meet Juan Valdez, the Face of Colombian Coffee

“Do you know Juan Valdez?” If you were watching TV in the 80s and 90s, you probably do.  Representing Colombian coffee and the small farmers who grow it, Juan Valdez is one of the best-known fictional characters in marketing history.

“Juan Valdez”, a mustachioed Colombian farmer, was created in 1958 to represent the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia. An association of over 500,000 small farmers from this country in South America, as opposed to plantation owners, the Federation wanted a way to differentiate their coffee.

Juan Valdez and Colombian Coffee

Juan Valdez at a promotional event.

Juan Valdez at a promotional event.

Specifically, the Federation wanted to be able to distinguish 100% Colombian coffee from that of blended coffee, which used beans from different countries.

By putting a face to the brand, they were able to personalize the coffee-buying experience and create brand recognition for a commodity product. As such, it was a groundbreaking in terms of marketing.

DDB, one of the most famous and influential ad agencies in the world, created the Juan Valdez ad campaign. This is the same agency that gave us the ground-breaking Volkswagen ads of the 60s, the Avis slogan “We Try Harder,” and even Little Mikey of Life cereal ads.

This legendary agency even plays a role in the series Mad Men, being frequently referenced as an envelope-pushing competitor to the show’s fictitious company.

This kind of advertising hasn’t come cheap: since 1960, The National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia has spent $600 million on branding.

Juan Valdez, Famous Worldwide

The character Juan Valdez, when he appears in television and print ads, generally is dressed in traditional Andean Colombian clothing, wearing a hat and poncho typical of the region’s attire.

He is also accompanied by his donkey Conchita and sacks of harvested coffee beans. Given the success of the character, the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia even changed its logo in 1981 to reflect the images of Juan and his donkey.

Juan has been placed in different situations throughout the years, depending on the purpose of the campaigns. While previously ads showed him picking coffee cherries by hand, modern-day ads often show him in the aisles of the supermarket, donkey in tow, with humorous results.

He is very popular and is one of the most famous Hispanic people.  The character has also received its share of parodies over the years, and even figured into the Jim Carrey movie Bruce Almighty.

The Real Juan Valdez

The “real” Juan Valdez has been portrayed by three people in the campaign’s history: José Duval, a Cuban-American opera singer turned actor; Carlos Sánchez, a Colombian coffee grower who had the role for over 30 years; and Carlos Castañeda, another Colombian coffee grower who took over in 2006.

Nowadays, there are even Juan Valdez coffee shops. Founded in 2002 with the rise of the gourmet coffee shop, there are now 300 worldwide. The uniqueness of these coffee shops is reflected on the varieties they offer, especially in the coffee shops located throughout Colombia.

Here in Manhattan, the Juan Valdez coffee shop I know doesn’t serve any maracuya or lulo coffee.  Somthing I can easily find in a Juan Valdez shop in my native Medellín.

If you want to enjoy a real Colombian coffee look for the Juan Valdez coffee brand also available in supermarkets around the world.

Do you know Juan Valdez? Tell us in the comments!

Food Festival of Mistura Peru: One of the Best in the World

If you pay attention to food trends, you’ll know that in recent years, Peruvian food has been exploding in popularity throughout Latin America and the rest of the world. Peru itself has also become a favorite travel destination for food lovers and for three years’ running has been named the World’s Leading Culinary Destination by the World Travel Awards.

Whether you are already a fan or are intrigued by the popularity of this unique South American cuisine, your best opportunity to try it is this September at the food festival Mistura of Peru in Lima.

History of Mistura Peru

Mistura, or mixture in Portuguese, is the largest food festival in South America and one of the largest in the world.

In 2014, over 400,000 people attended during the ten-day run. Some 30,000 of those were foreign tourists.

With over 200 food and drink stands and a market with some 1,300 people selling fruits, vegetables, and other raw ingredients, this food festival is a feast for the eyes, the nose, and the palate.

The APEGA (Sociedad Peruana de Gastronomía – Peruvian Gastronomy Society) organizes the event.

The festival started in 2008 as Perú Mucho Gusto, and in its first year it was able to attract some 23,000 visitors. Since then, each year the festival has grown both in scope and in number of attendees.

In recent years, Mistura has incorporated themes such as sustainability, nutrition, and biodiversity, with the intent of showing the many facets of Peruvian food and agriculture.

Tips for Attending Mistura Peru

Vendors at Mistura Food Festival in 2012.

Vendors at Mistura Food Festival in 2012.

Mistura Perú is held each September, with the date announced in the spring. Since it’s in Lima, travel to and from is as simple as an international flight. But it definitely takes planning.

In order to see everything – as well as to have room to try a number of dishes – you may want to visit the festival more than once.

Try going during the week, as weekends tend to be very crowded. For most food purchases, you have to buy “Mistura money,” so be sure to leave time for the lines – they can get heavy around lunchtime when locals visit the festival.

If you are headed all the way to Peru, don’t just make time for Machu Picchu.  You’ll also want to take the time to check out the fair’s schedule, as well as details of the Mundos (worlds), which are the different sections of the fair.

Past examples included Carretillas (pushcarts that sell street food), regional sections such as Del Sur (From the South), Andino (Andean) and Amazónico (Amazonian), and Dulces (Sweets).

What to Try at Mistura Peru

Food on offer runs the gamut: drinks like pisco, chilcano, and uvuchado; desserts including suspiro a la limeña, queso helado, and rafañote; and more exotic fare, such as cuy (guinea pig), anticuchos (beef heart), and frog milkshakes.

Beyond the opportunities to try Peruvian dishes, there are also activities at the festival like master classes, talks, cooking competitions, and even dance performances and concerts. So you will have lots to fill your time while you rest your stomach.

With some planning, a plane ticket, and an appetite, you’ll be on your way to one of the most unique culinary experiences on the planet.

Are you planning to go to Mistura or have you been? Tell us about it in the comments!

Enjoying a Mexican Horchata and How To Make One

If you’ve ever had the chance to go to a Mexican taquería, you’ve probably been faced with a delicious choice: jamaica or horchata? These two Mexican drinks are characteristic of the strong, aromatic flavors of Mexican cuisine.

And horchata, the milky-white cousin to the bright-red jamaica (Hibiscus flower), is a great complement to the spicy Mexican food we all love. With the basic ingredients of rice, cinnamon, and sugar, it also makes a refreshing treat over ice at the end of a meal.

History of Mexican Horchata

While many of us associate horchata solely with Mexico, in fact, it is originally from Spain.

Mexican horchata

Mexican Horchata

Valencia is considered the home of horchata, where horchaterías sell the traditional drink along with a sweet bread called farton.  Unlike in Mexico, Spanish horchata’s base ingredient is the chufa, or tiger nut.

Legend has it that when King James I took Valencia from the Moors, a local girl offered him some of the sweet, white drink. When told it was tiger nut milk (llet de xufa), supposedly he said, “Això no es llet, això es or, xata!” or “This isn’t milk, this is gold, pretty girl!”

The current name comes from Catalán: orxata (ordiata), since horchata at the time was made from barley (ordi).

Regional Variations

As with much Latin food and drinks, the beverage changed by the time it was brought to Mexico by the Spanish, using rice as a base instead, and also frequently incorporating almonds.

Given its Spanish origins, it’s not surprising that horchata is also found in other countries in Mesoamerica. However, its ingredients vary.

For example, in Honduras and El Salvador, the base is morro seeds, not rice. It can also contain cocoa, sesame seeds, nutmeg, and vanilla. Some horchata recipes call for other nuts, such as cashews and peanuts. Parts of Honduras and Nicaragua use jícaro seeds. Depending on the ingredients, some versions of horchata are usually strained before serving.

Believe it or not, despite its milky appearance and texture, traditional Mexican horchata is non-dairy. This works out well for the street vendors who sell it from customary barrel-shaped jars on hot days.

However, even Mexican horchata recipes have differences. Some do include milk to make it creamier, and you can find recipes that call for boiling the rice and recipes that call for grinding it raw.

Make Your Own Mexican Horchata

In today’s What’s This Food, host Daniel Delaney explores the classic Mexican and Latin American rice (or nut) based milk beverage, Horchata. Unlike rice milk, Horchata is frequently sweetened and spiced with cinnamon and other spices. It’s also vegan friendly, though today’s recipe includes a small, optional splash of milk.

These days, it’s possible to buy horchata at Latin food markets in powder form or ready-made, but it always tastes best if you make it fresh. Want to give it a shot? It’s time-consuming but fairly simple.

The most basic Mexican horchata recipe has just five ingredients: rice, water, cinnamon, vanilla, and sugar, and even the vanilla is optional. It’s best served chilled over ice, and it’s amazing on a summer day.

Are you a fan of horchata? Let us know in the comments!

How to Make Tortilla Bowls for 5 de Mayo

Once you’ve mastered the art of making your own fresh tortillas, you’ll probably be eager to try out all the different ways you can use them. Of course there are the classic recipes like tacos and enchiladas, but did you know that you can make your own tortilla bowls for taco salad at home too?

Taco salad is a really popular dish, because it eliminates a common problem that happens while eating tacos: you’re munching along quite happily, and then all of a sudden all your taco fixings fall out the bottom of the taco!

It’s hard to eat a taco politely when half of the meat and cheese is threatening to slide out the bottom and little flakes of shredded lettuce are raining down all over your plate.

Of course, sometimes getting a little messy is part of the fun of eating tacos. But for other occasions where stricter table manners are required, you can serve taco salad.

Taco salad includes all the goodies you would find in a regular taco, layered inside of a tortilla bowl so you can eat them with a fork or with chips made from broken pieces of the bowl.

Serving Taco Salad in Tortilla Bowls

Taco salad served in a tortilla bowl looks fancy, but it’s actually really easy to make. All you have to do is make your tortillas as you normally would, mixing up your masa, forming it into balls, and then flattening and cooking them into perfect, round tortillas using your tortilla maker. Here are my tips on making perfect tortillas using a tortilla maker.

Place your finished tortillas into a handy tortilla server to keep them warm as you finish making the rest of your batch.

Making Your Tortilla Bowl in 3 Steps

Making a s

Making a small flower tortilla bowl

Here is the best part, keeping your tortillas warm in a tortilla server gives you the most desirable shells.

1-Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and get out some olive oil, a cookie sheet, and something ovenproof to drape your tortillas over.

While you can purchase tortilla bowl molds for this purpose, as long as you don’t require perfectly symmetrical fluted-bowls you can use a regular ovenproof bowl instead. I’ve even seen people use the backs of muffin cups to create mini bowls.

2-Take your tortillas out of the tortilla warmer. They should still be very pliable, but if they’ve cooled too much you can always microwave them for a few seconds. Not the best though as microwaving tends to take the moisture out of them.

Lightly brush both sides of each tortilla with your olive oil, and then gently press them into place over the back side of your bowl or mold.

3-Bake the tortillas for 12 or 13 minutes or until lightly browned and crispy. You can use other molds to achieve creative shapes.

Be the talk of the party by serving unique mini taco salads with mini-bowls made with different sizes cupcake molds and there you have it: piping hot, fresh and crispy bowls for taco salad.

Because they’ve been baked instead of fried, they’re much healthier than those you would probably get at a restaurant. If you have any bowls left over, break them up and serve them as chips with queso or one of your favorite Mexican salsa recipes.

I will experiment soon with small taco salad shells so I am thinking about serving 3 on a plate to make it fun. Each can have different ingredients.

Simple, right? Try this twist and let me know how you do by writing to me on the comments

Capirotada, a Favorite Mexican Dessert

It seems that most cultures have a form of bread pudding. They’re delicious, they’re fairly simple, and they use up extra ingredients in the kitchen that may go bad soon. Mexican cuisine is no exception, and capirotada is its answer to bread pudding. Well-known and well-loved by Mexicans and Mexican Americans, capirotada is one of those Latin treats that seem to fly under the radar, but that deserve a wider audience.

If you’ve spent time with a Mexican family during Lent, you’ve surely tasted Mexican capirotada. This aromatic dessert is a Lenten staple, when it is eaten on Holy Days and on Fridays.

Ingredients and Recipe of Mexican Capirotada

When it comes to recipes for Mexican capirotada, there seem to be as many as there are families.  The basics include old or toasted bread, cut and stacked with chunks of fruits and nuts, covered with a cinnamon- infused piloncillo (brown sugar), syrup and baked with cheese on top.

But each ingredient can vary: depending on the recipe, the bread might be a baguette or a bolillo, and the cheese fresh or aged.

Fruits can include raisins, bananas, guavas, apricots, apples, coconuts, pineapple, and dates, and nuts range from peanuts and pecans to almonds and pine nuts. Some recipes even include meat, tomatoes, and onions.

Beyond family variations, every region has its variations on the basic capirotada recipe, like many other kinds of Latin foods. For example, Jalisco doesn’t use fruit, Nuevo León uses queso chihuahua or manchego cheese, and in Central Mexico, aged cheese is used, but no fruit or nuts.

Capirotada is a Mexican bread pudding made with cinnamon, piloncillo, cloves, raisins, bread, and cheese.

This video shares simple tips such as resting in between layers so bread soaks up the syrup like a sponge and you end up with a soft sweet dish. You will also learn the rich religious symbolism and history of the dish.

History of Capirotada

Not surprisingly for a dish with so many variations, capirotada has a long, rich history. Formally known as capirotada de vigilia, the dish itself is some 500 years old.

It has gone through a number of changes in 500 years. Originally a savory dish in the Middle East and North Africa, in pre-colonial Spain it was associated with the Moors and the Jewish community.

After Ferdinand and Isabel’s edict banishing Jews from Spain, the dish was included in a book during the Inquisition called the Regimento de Inquisitor General as a way to tell if Hispanic Jews had really converted to Christianity or if they were “fake converts” (crypto-Jews). The dish made its way to the New World, where it eventually became a dessert.

Capirotada’s association with Lent probably relates to its being a good way to use up leftovers before fasting. The word capirotada is derived from caperuza, or hood, likely due to the cheese forming a “cap” on the dessert. Given its Lenten history, this cap was seen as a friar’s cowl or hood.

Many Mexican families associate the dessert’s ingredients with the Passion of Christ: the bread represents the Body of Christ, while the syrup represents His blood; the cinnamon sticks, the cross; the raisins or cloves, the nails; and the cheese, the Holy Shroud (el Santo Sudario).

So if you haven’t gotten a chance to try capirotada, make sure to look for it this Lenten season.

Are you a fan of capirotada? Share your recipe in the comments