Peru is still on my mind even though it has been almost a month since our return. How can I forget the majestic misty mountains, the terraced landscapes, my visit to Machu Picchu on a spectacularly bright and beautiful day. The mighty Amazon River and its verdant jungle and the sightings of Pink Dolphins, yes Pink Dolphins. I had not known about their existence until then. I loved Lima, the very modern capital city accented with colonial churches and Spanish architecture, old world charm blending in with a hip cityscape. Not to mention the wonderful people of Peru, so warm and easy going and so very helpful. Peru, I truly heart you!
Not even the food was a problem as it can be in many countries if you are a vegetarian. Most of what we ate were simple meals, heavy on fresh fruits and vegetables. On the lodge on the banks of the Amazon River, at every meal we had a different variety of beans cooked to a creamy consistency in just water and seasoned only with salt. Then there was salad steamed to a perfect crunch, a raw salad and fresh fruits from the jungle. Once we were served shaved heart of palm which was beyond delicious and so fresh tasting, it had me seriously thinking about a simpler way of preparing food. But who am I kidding, I have already gone back to my old ways since my return. But it is good to punctuate once in a while what we eat, with fresh, simple and not too doctored food just to remind us of the taste of purely grown produce.
I can’t say I made any serious observations about non vegetarian alternatives but I got the sense that even with these options they kept it simple and fresh. There was plenty of ceviche which is raw seafood marinated in citrus juices and tossed wih raw vegetables, corn and fruit.
I think the simplicity of the Peruvian food comes from the geography. Most of the country is either jungle or mountains and such people generally live in a close symbiotic relationship with nature. They most probably eat seasonally and regionally as it would be difficult to procure stuff from other parts due to the terrain. Even though times have changed and with easier access to food from other parts, I think philosophically they respect nature and live and eat in sync with what is around them.
Like the Avocado Salad or Palta a la Jardinera, a very typical Peruvian dish. Avocado which grows in abundance is split open, the seed removed and served with a mound of vegetables with a minimal amount of dressing. When I had it for the first time, a salad of red peppers with steamed carrots, green beans and peas was piled high onto an Avocado half and served with Rocotto, a red pepper sauce .
The standard dressing for the salad is mayonnaise and I’ve used sour cream instead. You can add any dressing or seasonings you want but I kept it simple in honor of the tradition of how it is served in Peru
Of course you don’t need a recipe but here is how I made it.
Palta a la Jardinera or Avocado Salad
For the dressing
2 tablespoon sour cream
1/2 tablespoon light olive oil
A good squeeze of lime juice
A few dashes of hot sauce [I used habanero sauce]
Salt to taste
1/2 cup mixed, diced peppers
1/4 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/4 cup cooked black beans
2 scallions [only the green part] chopped
I ripe Avocado
Salt to taste
Some cilantro for garnish
Mix all the ingredients for the dressing well. Season with salt.
Mix the peppers, corn, beans and scallions. Add the dressing to the salad and adjust for seasoning. Set aside till serving time.
Just before serving split open the Avocado into two. Remove the seed. Remove each half of the Avocado from its skin. Cut a small slice off at the curved bottom of the Avocado to stabilize it. Squeeze some lime juice on the cut up side to prevent discoloration. Sprinkle with salt. Pile with the salad and garnish with cilantro.
Here is a tip for prepping the Avocado that I picked up at this vegetarian restaurant called Govinda in Cusco, Peru. It makes a lot of sense to cut up the Avocado this way and pile it with the salad so it is much easier to serve yourself small portions of it. I served the salad with corn tortillas and quinoa. Corn tortillas however are not a part of Peruvian cuisine which I found surprising considering so many varieties of corn have been grown in Peru for thousands of years.
Thanks for dropping by,