Archives for the month of: April, 2013

Wow. Is this really the final recipe of my 30-day March cooking challenge?  How the month flew by (actually, not really)! Despite some ups and downs along the way, the good news is that this challenge ended with a bang – a Peruvian bang, that is. It was also fitting to cook a Peruvian feast on Easter Sunday: you see, last year I lived in Peru and my host family cooked a 12-course potato-based Peruvian Easter feast. It was probably the most… memorable… meal I’ve ever had!

Thus, it was only appropriate to rejoice in being back in the states  commemorate that (now infamous) meal with some Peruvian food on this holiday. With lots of help from Mark, we decided to attempt to make three of our favorite Peruvian dishes: causa, ceviche, and ocopa.

Clockwise from the back - ceviche, causa, and ocopa dip

Clockwise from the back – ceviche, causa, and ocopa dip

The recipes:

  • Causa – this is a sculpted, chilled, yellow aji pepper-flavored mashed potato dish, stuffed with some type of creamy meat salad and topped with any combination of olives, avocados, and hard-boiled eggs. This is the recipe we used as our basis.
The causa without its potato topping

The causa without its potato topping

  • Ceviche – many people are familiar with this raw white fish ‘cooked’ in lime juice dish. The Peruvians serve it with sweet potatoes, corn, red onions, and cilantro over a bed of lettuce. This recipe more or less fit the bill.
This dish involved squeezing about 10 limes

This dish involved squeezing about 10 limes

  • Ocopa – this peanut sauce goes great with potatoes and chicken. It’s made with peanuts, crackers, milk, cheese, tomato, aji, garlic, cilantro, onion, and a Peruvian black mint called huacatay. We made this from memory.

Peru 3

Quick recap: I was THRILLED to find both aji amarillo (yellow spicy pepper) and huacatay (black mint) paste in Pike’s Place’s El Mercado Latino. We used sushi-grade cod for the ceviche — and first soaked it in salt water. For the causa filling, I made a chicken salad with greek yogurt (since I’m not a fan of mayo), mustard, salt and pepper.

Peruvian huacatay or  'black mint'

Peruvian huacatay or ‘black mint’

Peru 7

The verdict: With every bite, I had visions of llamas, alpacas, the high Andes Mountains and lots of potatoes. And I didn’t even need an antacid for this year’s Easter meal! The aji amarillo and the huacatay really made these dishes taste authentic.

From Ethiopian food to falafel to chicken tikka masala, this month has been quite the culinary journey and the Peruvian feast was a GREAT meal to end this challenging month-long cooking challenge!


Ever been to Nando’s Peri-Peri? Or cooked meat over a flame? Or been to Africa or Portugal?  If so, you probably know how not difficult my decision was to leave the city to go camping for the weekend with a steak and some North African/Portuguese (in origin) peri peri spice in hand. I wouldn’t call this one of my tougher challenges, but it did involve bringing two items together that I had never cooked or eaten together before.


The recipe: Peri Peri spice (purchased at Penzey’s Spices) + steak.

Quick recap: Covered steaks with peri peri spice. Made fire. Place marinated steaks on grill. Enjoyed.

The verdict: Spicy! There is a kick! But very flavorful and nothing close to my usual steak marinade. It made me think that I was in a foreign country… perhaps somewhere in Portugal… or in northern Africa!


Seattle has been experiencing some particularly gorgeous spring weather lately.  So nice, in fact, that I scrapped my plans for an oven-based dish in favor of something cool and refreshing. Like a cold soup! Gazpacho has been on my to-do list for awhile and the sunny, breezy weather on Friday finally presented me with the perfect opportunity.

The recipe: I like all things tomato and spicy, so this recipe fit the bill.


Quick recap: If you are good at chopping veggies and have a good food processor, then gazpacho is probably the easiest meal ever. I used some fresh tomatoes in addition to the canned ones and added some parsley. I served it with some chicken picata and leftover dinner rolls.

gazpacho 2

The verdict: It tasted like… gazpacho! So if you like gazpacho, make it – it’s easy and healthy.