If, like me, you are fascinated by the many cultures that influenced Peruvian cooking — arguably the next “hot” cuisine to fascinate foodies in this country — you’ll enjoy Ricardo Zarate’s The Fire of Peru, in which he engagingly explores its fusion of flavors.
“I often refer to the food of my homeland as one big estofado, or stew, that has been simmering for 500 years and is finally ready to serve,” he writes. “It is Peruvian cuisine’s finest hour.”
Zarate, who is from Lima and has had several trendy Peruvian restaurants in Los Angeles (and will open another soon), has a relaxed style that makes his recipes very approachable. He explains that the food of Peru is influenced not only by its South American indigenous ingredients but by the people who have settled there — Spaniards, Italians and other Europeans, Africans, Japanese and Chinese.
The recipe here for chaufa, he says, is the Peruvian version of Chinese fried rice. The name comes “from Spanish-speaking locals mispronouncing the Cantonese name for fried rice, chaufan.”
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Chaufa is much like fried rice, but is often made with quinoa and with the distinctive chiles of Peru. In his country organ meats would commonly be added, and the green onions would be replaced with red. I found this recipe a great way to use up leftover quinoa. Zarate says of the dish “There’s something about making dinner with leftovers that is relaxing, like you are just messing around in the kitchen.”
Zarate, one of 13 children, with Peruvian-Chinese roots, learned to cook from his mother, then went on to sell street snacks — anticuchos — of fire-grilled meats and vegetables on skewers. His first restaurant job was as a dishwasher at a London Benihana, and from there he moved to upscale Japanese sushi restaurants in the United Kingdom, before moving on to Hollywood and Asian fusion, and finally introducing Peruvian cuisine to Los Angeles. The cookbook takes you on an absorbing journey.
Adrianne Calvo of Chef Adrianne’s Vineyard Restaurant and Wine Bar in Kendall will be at Macy’s in Aventura on Jan. 30, demonstrating how to create a vineyard-themed bridal shower. She’ll be cooking recipes for candied jalapeño lamp chops, Key lime pie and the pretzel-crusted crab cakes here, and will sign copies of her cookbook. For reservations: januarycookingdemo-aventura.eventbrite.com.
Q. While home visiting family in Manhattan I ran into something at a restaurant I’d never seen here in Miami, a chocolate tres leche cake. It was amazing. How would you make it?
Ana G., Coral Gables
A. Tres leches cake is pretty ubiquitous now, but I remember when it first came to Miami in the 1980s, when Nicaraguans fleeing turmoil at home brought this fabulous dessert to our restaurants. Now you can even find it in the supermarket.
I am pretty fond of the original tres leches, but have indeed run into the chocolate version a few times, most recently in an outrageous dessert that not only had a dark chocolate sponge cake soaked with three milks (sweetened condensed, evaporated and cream), but also had a topping of caramel, a dulce de leche sprinkled with coarse salt! One bite of this melting pot evolution and I was nearly in a coma.
You can find many recipes for chocolate tres leches on the internet. I’ve seen ones that call for a chocolate devil’s food base. Personally I would simply whisk 1/3 to 1/2 cup dark unsweetened cocoa to the flour when making the traditional recipe, and I would blend 4 ounces melted semisweet chocolate into the three milks before spooning them onto the cake to soak in. I’ve also seen a version where the milks were flavored with the chocolate and then soaked into the traditional yellow sponge. You get a marbled effect that way.
If you need the traditional Nicaraguan Tres Leches Cake recipe, pop me an email and I’ll send you the one in our archives.
Linda Cicero: @TasteMemories. Write to Cook’s Corner at Food, Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172.
Chaufa (Peruvian Fried Quinoa)
Recipe from The Fire of Peru by Ricardo Zarate (HMH, $35). You can use any leftovers you have, or fry up some chicken or beef instead of shrimp, he says. Unlike leftover rice, when you stir-fry quinoa, you need to add it to the hot wok or pan toward the end of the cooking time, or it can break down.
2 to 3 tablespoons canola or other vegetable oil
2 teaspoons pureed ginger or finely zested ginger
2 teaspoons pureed garlic
12 ounces peeled and deveined shrimp with tails intact, butterflied if extra large
2 to 2 1/2 cups leftover cooked quinoa, drained on paper towels
About 1/3 cup leftover scrambled eggs (or scramble 2 eggs)
2 green onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce or 1 1/2 tablespoons tamari
1/4 cup (2 ounces) homemade fish, chicken or vegetable stock or low-sodium store-bought broth
1/4 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves and tender top stems finely chopped
About 1/4 cup aji amarillo aioli (mayonnaise, aji amarillo paste and lime juice to taste)
1/4 cup thinly sliced pickled radishes or pickled ginger, drained (optional)
Heat a wok or large sauté pan over high heat until hot — a good 2 minutes. Pour in the oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan and heat the oil for 2 to 3 minutes, until very hot. The oil shouldn’t be smoking, but close to it. Swirl the oil around the pan, toss in the ginger, garlic and shrimp, and shake the pan or use tongs to flip and sear them on all sides until they just begin to turn pink along the edges, 30 to 45 seconds, depending on their size. Add the quinoa, toss again, and fry the chaufa until the grains begin to lightly brown and smell toasty, about 1 minute, stirring often.
Toss in the scrambled eggs and about half the green onion, mix well, then drizzle the soy sauce along the edges of the wok or pan (not on top of the stir-fry ingredients) so the sauce sizzles, and cook for a few seconds.
Next, pour in the stock around the edges of the wok, then add the cilantro. Toss everything together one more time, taste, and add another drizzle of soy sauce if you like. The chaufa should be really flavorful. Spoon the chaufa straight out of the pan into serving bowls, and sprinkle the remaining green onions on top. Top each serving with a generous spoonful of the aioli and the radishes or pickled ginger (if using).
Yield: 2 servings
Adrianne Calvo’s Pretzel-Crusted Crab Cakes
From chef Adrianne Calvo’s cookbook #MaximumFlavorSocial. You can use the same recipe to make 4 to 6 entrée-size crab cakes.
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup mayonnaise
2 pounds lump crab meat, picked clean of shell and cartilage
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon ketchup
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 large eggs
1 bag of hard pretzels, crushed until pulverized
Canola oil for frying
1 cup dark beer
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup spicy brown mustard
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
Heat oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion and celery and saute vegetables for about 5 minutes, or until they are translucent. Remove onion and celery and drain off. Combine butter and mayonnaise in a large mixing bowl. Using a handheld electric mixer or a wooden spoon, beat until mixture is well blended and very smooth. Fold in crab meat, chives, Old Bay, ketchup and cayenne along with reserved onions and celery. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.
In a mixing bowl, whisk eggs. In another bowl, place pulverized pretzel crumbs. Pull crab mixture from refrigerator and make tablespoon-sized spheres using the palm of your hands. Dip into pretzel bowl to cover, then into egg wash, and then into pretzel once again. Repeat for all crab mixture. Heat a tall saucepot filled halfway with canola oil to medium high. Fry pretzel crusted crab cake spheres for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden and warmed through. Place on paper towel to drain. Serve with beer-mustard sauce.
To make sauce: In a small sauté pan, whisk together all ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes and serve warm.
Yield: 36 bite-size crab cakes