Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ají Amarillo: Peruvian Hot Sauce

Raw ají amarillo peppers
Adding in the oregano, pepper, and cumin
Time to remove from heat
Adding a bit of water and salt before mixing
The Amazing Lucy finishing off the Ají Sauce
Bon appetite
Today marks the first recipe shared on the blog! I have to say after the launch of the site yesterday I was pretty happy to see that within 24 hours there were over 140 views from 19 countries, thanks to everyone who was a part of that first day! That aside we are now going to look at how to make ají amarillo, a typical Peruvian hot sauce. Since my first day in Lima I have been in love with this salsa and I put it on almost everything! If you are a spicy food lover this will definitely be a recipe you will need to try!

Ají is a native Peruvian pepper from the andes and many Peruvian dishes use it to add extra flavor and color. While I love to have a strong and spicy ají sauce it is not necessary to make it super hot. In a one-line description of the importance of ají in Peruvian cuisine I will share a quote from a blog I was reading that states, "Ají is the soul to Peruvian food." I don't know about you but learning how to cook with soul sounds pretty good, so why not give this recipe a try and see what happens! 

One warning is that ají is a native pepper to Peru so you will probably not find it in stores in the United States or other countries. The best bet is going to a whole-foods store and crossing your fingers that they have them. If they don't then I have read that habaneros are a good substitution for the spice lovers, serranos are also a decent substitute, or any other medium heat pepper that you enjoy. While the taste will not be exact to the Peruvian flavor I am sure the sauce will still taste delicious! After experimenting yourself please report back with your findings!

For this recipe all you will need the following:
  • 6 ají amarillo (or varied amounts of your substitute to taste)
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 clove of garlic (or a garlic paste if you prefer)
  • About 1/4 tbs. of pepper (Lucy said for pepper, cumin, and oregano it is more of seasoning to taste so you may want to change these amounts after tasting it)
  • About 1/4 tbs. of cumin
  • About 1/4 tbs. of oregano 
  • 1 tbsp. of salt
  • Enough oil to fry ingredients
First off you will need to chop up the ají peppers, onion, and garlic. If you like you can gut the seeds of the peppers and peel them in order to have a smoother sauce but at my house we don't do either. If you want to peal the peppers put them in a hot water bath first and then afterward peel off the skin. After your raw ingredients are chopped put them in a median frying pan over a medium heat with enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. After adding the ají, garlic, and onion add the pepper, oregano, and cumin as well. Continue to stir all these ingredients as they sweat in the frying pan for about 8-10 minutes in order to help bring out the flavor. The third photo above is what our ingredients looked like when we took them off the heat. Once you take the pan off the heat let it sit until the contents are relatively cool, this may take 20-30 minutes. After your ingredients have cooled down put them into a blender with a little bit of added water to help with mixing purposes and then add your salt. Finally turn on the blender and watch as your ingredients turn into the delicious ají sauce! Once you feel your sauce is well mixed turn off the blender, take a taste, and experience the mind-blowing taste of ají! This recipe should make about 2 small containers similar to the laste photo. 

Well folks I hope you enjoy getting down to business and making your ají sauce because it will add amazing flavor to many meals to come! As always please share this link on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and whatever other social media sites you are plugged into. Also if you are a student studying abroad in another country please leave a comment below if you are interested in doing a guest post! For those of you that do make the ají sauce please share your experience with us on how it went! Best of luck! 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Journey Starts Now

Throughout the past year I have been to Greece, Jamaica, many different states in the United States, and I am currently studying in Lima, Peru for 5 months. During all my travels I have begun to realize that my experiences with food have been limited to say the least. Now don't get me wrong, I am not trying to blame this on my family or anything, I am just noticing that through living in the United States, and not eating out very often, I have been unaware of all the varieties of delicious foods out there. 

I have been in Peru now for three months and at first all I could think about was the amazing food, so my photo blog, Finkster Photos, quickly became overridden by pictures and stories of peruvian food. That's when I got the brilliant idea to start up a second blog that had the soul purpose of talking about food, sharing recipes, and hopefully highlighting ethnic foods from around the world through the vantage point of myself and other international students studying in other countries. While this is still the focus behind the blog, I must confess that my studies and other social activities have swallowed me up and spit me out and so about a month after I had planned to launch my blog I am finally doing so. Today I would like to give you just a little taste of what is to come by giving you this nice photo collage of one of my resent dinners I had here with my Peruvian Host Family. This past weekend we ate this delicious spread of peanut chicken with potatoes, a salad mixture, and a peach dessert to top it all off. Based off of this photo alone you may be able to infer that my living situation in Peru has been pretty fantastic, between the warm interactions with my host family and the abundance of delicious food. 

Since you will be hearing a lot more about my culinary adventures in Peru I should let you know that my inspirations stemmed not only from peruvian food, but also from a specific Peruvian woman, Lucy. Who is Lucy do you ask? Lucy works at my host family's house and prepares the most amazing food in all of Peru. Yes that sounds like a pretty broad generalization, but I am serious, her food is to die for! There is one other international student at my house, from the United States, and we have started to tag out Tweets and Facebook messages with the hash-tag #ILoveLucy whenever we talk about food. So as a heads up I wanted to let you know that you will be hearing of Lucy a lot through my following blogs and you will hopefully be able to see pictures and videos of her preparing authentic Peruvian dishes. While I would love to take videos of us preparing food together all the time I unfortunately haven't found a good way to capture the video yet, so if I can do so I will be able to not only provide commentary, pictures, and recipes but I will also provide step by step videos. 

As I finish this first blog entry I would like to say thanks for reading and ask that you help me make this blog a hit by following my blog, liking my Facebook page, and sharing this entry on your social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +, and whatever other social media sites you use. Also if you are a student who is currently studying abroad please leave a comment on this blog entry and let me know so we can work together to get a blog post up about your culinary adventures in your host country.