By New Contributor Aviva Baff
July 28th is a special time if you’re Peruvian. 28 de julio or Fiestas Patrias is Peruvian Independence Day! And as someone who has been in a relationship with Peru for 12 years now (not surprisingly, the same amount of time I’ve been with my Peruvian husband), I want to encourage everyone to celebrate this wonderful day…mostly because it’s a good excuse to eat Peruvian food! I know I’m biased about Peru and its food, but around the globe foodies and travel gurus agree: “Peru is One of the World’s Top Gastronomy Countries,” Peruvian food is the “single most important cuisine in Latin America,” and for Peruvians “food [is] religion.” Celebrate Peruvian Independence Day with Delicious Peruvian Recipes
Although I have several Peruvian cookbooks and a few websites I refer to, I have not been able to find a complete resource for Peruvian recipes for the U.S. cook. Thanks to some trial and error, the wonders of the Internet, and some help from my brother-in-law (the real chef of the family), here are a few of my kid-friendly and easy-to-prepare Peruvian favorites! All recipes include:
- How to serve the dish
- Recommended cooking modifications
- Suggestions to include your kids in the food preparation/cooking
These are the yummy Peruvian version of fried dough with cheese, both popular with kids and easy to make. Tequeños are one of the only Mexican foods that Peruvians have adopted as their own. Peruvian Tequeños are less doughy than their Mexican counterparts, and are usually served as an appetizer with an avocado sauce.
- Package of fresh wonton wraps/squares – 12 ounce package/48 wonton squares
- Mozzarella – 16 ounce package (or any other firm cheese)
- Vegetable or olive oil
- Cut the cheese into small, thin strips, about 2 inches long and .5 inches wide and .5 inches thick. Cut as many cheese strips as you have wontons. If your wontons are extra large, just cut the cheese a little bigger. Older kids can help cut the cheese strips.
- Get a small bowl or glass and fill it with water. You will use the water to ‘seal’ the folds and edges by dipping your finger into the water and then wetting the wanton. Kids can help with the folding and sealing!
- One by one, take a wonton and put the cheese strip in the middle. Fold two sides, using the water to ‘seal’ the folds together. At this point, the wonton should be in a rectangular shape, like the cheese.
- Next, use the water to seal the top and bottom edges. It’s important the sides are sealed; otherwise, the cheese will leak out during cooking.
- Pour a generous inch or two of oil into a medium-sized frying pan. Heat the oil until it’s hot (approximately 375 degrees) and then gently add four to five tequeños at a time, turning the heat down to medium. Let the tequeños cook about 1 minute and then flip them over for another minute or two until they are just browned and crispy, anywhere from 2-4 minutes total.
- Remove the tequeños, placing them on a plate with a paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Continue until all tequeños are cooked. Add oil as needed.
You can serve the tequeños immediately. Surprisingly they do keep well if you cover them and wait a couple of hours to eat. Alternatively, they can be stored overnight in the refrigerator and eaten cold or re-heated another day.
- Fill the tequeños with ground meat, tofu, onions and other vegetables
- Bake instead of frying
Avocado Sauce for Tequeños:
- 1-2 large ripe avocados. Hall or Choquette avocados work best but the smaller and more common Hass avocado may be used. Use 2-4 avocados if they are Hass. Click here to see how to tell if an avocado is ripe.
- Regular mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons (low-fat mayo, veganaise, or Miracle Whip can be substituted)
- 1 lime
- Cut open the avocado and scoop out the insides into the blender. Kids can help scoop out the avocado!
- Add 1 tablespoon of mayo.
- Add 1 teaspoon of lime juice. Kids can help juice the lime into a cup and pour into the blender!
- Add a generous pinch of salt.
- Blend together until smooth. Remember kids love to press the buttons on the blender!
- Taste to see if the sauce needs more mayo, lime juice, salt, or other additional flavors you may want to add.
The avocado sauce can be served immediately or made a few hours ahead of time and kept refrigerated until ready to serve. Consider reading the hilarious history of the word avocado to share with your guests.
- Add additional flavors to the avocado sauce, such as cilantro or onion
- Add chili flakes or some spicy pepper to give the sauce some heat
Tallarines Verdes – Pasta with Peruvian Pesto
This dish is one of the few things that my picky five-year old will eat. I don’t mean one of the few Peruvian dishes, this is one of the few things she will eat period. This dish is made up of two main parts: 1) Pasta. Tallarines are noodles so usually I use linguine, but you could use spaghetti, elbow macaroni, or whatever shaped pasta you want.
2) Salsa Verde – Green Sauce. Salsa verde is essentially a Peruvian version of pesto (and I would not want to hear an argument between a Peruvian and an Italian about which sauce came first). The major difference is that Salsa Verde is mostly spinach, basil, and cheese. It is delicious and you can make a double batch and freeze the sauce for a later time. For the recipe below you’ll have enough sauce for 1+ pounds of pasta. Editor’s note — this looks so good and I think my kids would love it.
Note: Salsa is not just what you eat with tortilla chips in a Mexican restaurant. Salsa translates to sauce, but really it is either a sauce (like Salsa Verde or Tomato Sauce which you serve over pasta) or a condiment (like the Avocado Sauce which you use to dip tequeños)
Ingredients for Salsa Verde:
- 20 ounces of washed spinach (I prefer to buy a box of pre-washed baby spinach)
- 5 ounces of fresh basil, washed (Kids can help with this part! They can pick off the leaves and wash them.)
- 1 red onion (yellow or white onion would work too)
- 1-2 cloves of garlic
- Queso fresco or farmer’s cheese – 8 to 10 ounces
- Olive oil or any other oil such as vegetable or soy oil
- Evaporated milk – 5 ounce can (or whole milk or cream)
- Salt & Pepper
- Heat oil in a large skillet and cook onion and garlic until very soft. Put onion and garlic into the blender.
- Add more oil and cook all spinach and basil, bit by bit. The spinach should be just cooked, but fully cooked. It’s best if you can cook some of the spinach and basil together at the same time. This will most likely take a few pan fulls depending on the size of your pan. Remember to add more oil as needed. With each pan, add the cooked spinach and basil to the blender. When you are about half-way with all the spinach and basic, stop and do the following:
- Add about a quarter of the cheese and 1-2 tablespoons of milk and blend the mixture in the blender until smooth (remember kids love to press the button on the blender if your little one is helping you). Add a little more milk if needed to blend together the mixture. Then continue cooking the spinach and basil and adding it to the blender.
- Add the remainder of the cheese and additional tablespoons of the milk as needed to blend together until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste
If serving the salsa verde immediately, make sure you’re cooking the pasta while making the sauce. If making the salsa verde in advance, then put it in a covered container in the refrigerator until ready to use. The sauce can be heated via microwave or stovetop when ready to use.
- Add a few walnuts to the sauce
- Add an avocado to make it smoother and milder in flavor
- Use more milk for a creamier sauce
PISCO SOUR COCKTAIL
Pisco Sour is the delicious national cocktail of Peru. Pisco is a clear, strong liquor made from grapes; if your local store has it, it is usually in the same section where they sell brandy. I suggest calling a few large stores to find out who sells pisco in your area.
- Limes to juice – about a dozen
- Simple syrup
- Egg white
- In the blender add 3 parts pisco, 1 part lime juice, 1 part simple syrup (suggestion: measure with a shot class or ½ cup).
- Add about half a blender full of ice and blend. Taste and add more ice and blend again if it’s too strong.
- When the taste is just right, add the egg white to the blender and blend for about 1 minute until the top is frothy.
Pour into a glass, shake a tiny bit of bitters into the center, and serve immediately. Enjoy!
- Add cinnamon instead of adding bitters (or don’t add anything)
- Don’t add pisco for a kid-friendly virgin version.
- Skip the egg yolk for a vegan version (this means it’s not as frothy but doesn’t change the flavor)
So, have you ever tried Peruvian food? What’s your favorite dish?
Contributing Blogger: Aviva and her family like to travel and explore the world – and a big part of that is eating and cooking. In total, they have lived in four states and two countries, one of them Peru. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All content and photos are courtesy of Aviva Baff and are used with permission.