Tag Archives: potatoes

Papas Arequipeña

When Spanish conquistadors reached Peru, they found an incredible wealth of new foods. The potato, in particular, impressed them. Spanish soldier, poet, and, later, secular priest Juan de Castellanos, who traveled in South America in the mid-1500s, in comparing the potato to some of the rougher food he had encountered as he explored, declared that it was “a dainty dish even for Spaniards.” The potato’s potential as a means of feeding the masses was immediately recognized, and speculators were soon flooding into Peru, buying potatoes from the Andean natives, then reselling them (at a large profit) to mineworkers back home.

Since the potato is indigenous to Peru, it is not surprising that it still figures largely in the local cuisine. This recipe originates in the city of Arequipa, in southern Peru. It combines Inca traditions (potatoes, peanuts, chilies) with colonial introductions (milk, cheese, eggs and olives). It is delicious, filling, and easy to make. In more aristocratic Peruvian homes, this might be presented before the main course, but for most people, it’s a meal in itself.

Papas Arequipeña
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1/2 cup evaporated milk
salt and pepper to taste
2 to 3 serrano or jalapeño chilies, seeded
1/2 cup grated Münster cheese
3 to 4 scallions (depending on thickness), including some green
2 lb. small boiling potatoes
4 to 6 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1/2 cup ripe olives
parsley or cilantro, to garnish

In a blender or food processor, combine the peanuts, evaporated milk, salt and pepper, chilies, cheese, and onions. Purée until the mixture is about the consistency of heavy mayonnaise.

Scrub the potatoes, cut them into quarters and boil until tender. Drain them, then return to pot. Pour the sauce over the potatoes, add the chopped egg, and mix together. Mound it all onto a platter. Arrange olives around potatoes, decorate with sliced egg, if desired, and garnish with parsley or cilantro. Serves 6.

Notes: I think regular roasted peanuts are better in this recipe than dry-roasted peanuts. (They are also more authentic.) Dry-roasted peanuts have lots of additional seasonings that alter the taste of the dish. You may like the difference, but you might want to try it with regular roasted peanuts first.

When you make this the first time, wait to add salt. The peanuts and cheese are both salty, and you may not need any additional.

I prefer to use small, red, “new” potatoes; they are higher in protein, so they don’t crumble when you use them in a recipe like this. If you use really tiny potatoes, you can just cut them in half. The idea is to have each chunk be about one or two bites.

As for the eggs, use 4 if this is a side dish and 6 if it’s a main course. If you want to present the dish at the table, then slice one egg, rather than chopping it, and use it as a decoration on top of the potatoes.

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Peruvian Pumpkin Stew

While squash was consumed by indigenous peoples pretty much throughout North and South America, chilies and potatoes were strictly southern delicacies. South American Indians in the area of Brazil and Peru were eating wild chilies as early as 6500 B.C. Potatoes have their roots in the high Andes, and were possibly domesticated in Peru as early as 3000 B.C. The recipe below is from the region where potatoes and chilies got their start. It is a delicate yet flavorful dish. Though it is traditionally served with rice, the potatoes may be enough starch for you, in which case, other indigenous American fruits, like tomatoes and avocados, could be served on the side.

When preparing this dish, I find that squash is sometimes easier to work with than pumpkin, since it’s generally smaller. The last time I made it, I used half butternut and half acorn squash, and that yielded a wonderfully sweet, mellow stew. The chunks of squash and potato should be about 1-2 inches in whatever direction you choose (I love recipes that tell you to cube something that has no flat sides—bite-sized chunks are your goal here, and a vague sense of uniformity, so things cook at the same rate.) If you don’t have a kitchen scale, two pounds of pumpkin/squash chunks comes to about 8 cups. Continue reading

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As I traveled around Ecuador, the food I saw most often, from Otavalo’s street markets (where I first tried one) to the restaurants of Quito, was the llapingacho (yop-in-GAH-cho), a potato and cheese cake with as many variations as there are people making them. It was common to see llapingachos on griddles next to fried eggs, a popular accompaniment, or offered with fried platanos or peanut sauce. I also had them as a side dish, along with highly-spiced roast pork and buttery, white hominy. But however they were prepared, they were always wonderful.

The Andes are where potatoes originated, so it is not surprising that Ecuador has them, but the variety and flavor were impressive—many types I’d never tried before. Of the varieties we have here, my choice for this recipe has always been new (red skinned) potatoes, because they have more protein and moisture, and hold together better. Yukon golds would probably be good, too. Russets or baking potatoes, which are dry and crumbly, wouldn’t work quite as well. However, farmers markets are now offering us more varieties than these grocery-store staples. You may want to experiment. Continue reading

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The Original Potato

Sweet potatoes, popular street food in China, roast on a make-shift roaster.

Sweet potatoes, popular street food in China, roast on a make-shift roaster.

“What’s in a name?” Well, sometimes a good bit of confusion—take yams and sweet potatoes, for example. If you’re in the United States and you’re calling something a yam, odds are you’re talking about a sweet potato, in which case, you’re wrong. Sweet potatoes are members of the morning glory family. Yams, on the other hand, are the tuberous roots of climbing plants of the genus Dioscorea. The two are entirely unrelated. Yet in parts of the U.S., the habit persists of calling sweet potatoes yams. Continue reading

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Tortilla Española

Back in April of last year (April 23, to be exact), I wrote a bit about tapas and offered a recipe for datiles con tocino, a very popular tapa. There have been so many searches for this recipe that I thought perhaps another classic tapa might be in order—just in case you’re all throwing tapas parties.

Actually, Spain’s wonderful tortilla española can be served as a tapa or as a main course, with nothing more than a variation in portion size. The ingredients are simple and inexpensive, but for all its simplicity, this recipe is remarkably delicious.

A true tortilla española always includes potatoes, but there are many variations. I recommend trying it “straight” first, so you know how good it is plain, then go ahead and improvise. Roasted red pepper, ham strips, sautéed asparagus—almost anything could be added to the basic recipe. But the original is so tasty, you may never want to change it. Be sure to use a skillet, which has sloping sides, not a frying pan, which has straight sides. Nonstick pans make this recipe a lot easier. Continue reading

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