Archive for the 'Peruvian cuisine' Category

The Incas considered the fertile valley of the Urubamba River to be a sacred place. One legend claims that the sun refreshes itself at night in the chilly waters underneath the river. The lush grasslands of this high plateau support sheep and grain production, and the mountain backdrop provides the ideal setting for an authentic pachamanca, or Andean pit roast. Usually undertaken at harvest time, as a thank-you to Pacha Mama, or Mother Earth, a full-scale pachamanca, is a major endeavor that engages the entire community. For his visiting American guests, Chef Pio Vasquez of El Huacatay restaurant in the town of Urubamba has orchestrated a pachamanca out of season, on a friend’s farm in the picturesque Sacred Valley.

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The majestic Peruvian Andes stretch the length of Peru and have witnessed the rise and fall of many civilizations. By 3000 BC, highlanders were cultivating a wide range of crops in this difficult landscape—hardy, life-sustaining foods such as gourds, corn, potatoes and quinoa. Potatoes provide the foundation of the Andean diet, and varieties number in the thousands. A stroll through the Cusco market provides a glimpse of the tantalizing potato options: at some stalls, the selections extend almost as far as the eye can see.

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On the eastern slopes of the Andes is a Peru that few people know. Far from the bustling streets of the capital, the vast Amazonian jungle teems with tropical fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices that remain to be discovered. Botanists say that this lush, remote paradise contains more than 500 types of fruit, most of which never make it to Lima’s markets. At Malabar restaurant in Lima, chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino has made it his mission to introduce Peruvians to the Amazon’s wealth of ingredients.

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The multicultural stew that is modern Peru gets much of its spice from two waves of immigration—the Chinese in the mid-19th century, and the Japanese at the turn of the 20th century. These two immigrant groups have put down roots, and their descendants are fully integrated into Peruvian life. But at the table and in markets, such as Lima’s Central Market, the Asian impact is hard to miss.

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Pisco is the clear brandy that Peruvians have enjoyed for 450 years. Through the popularity of the refreshing pisco sour, a lime-laced drink known in bars everywhere, pisco is enjoying some well-deserved fame. But as Peruvians know, this sophisticated brandy is far more than just a mixer. Made only in a limited coastal area of Peru according to strict regulations, it has all the elegance and polish of French Cognac. Johnny Schuler is the president of the Pisco Tasters Guild and widely considered to be the world’s leading expert. According to Schuler, Peruvians owe this beloved beverage to the requirements of the Catholic Church.

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Whether eaten on the street, at a stylish cocktail party, or as a prelude to Sunday lunch, anticuchos are uniquely Peruvian. Although the most traditional anticucho is made with beef heart, modern cooks have expanded the repertoire to include anticuchos made with chicken livers or chicken breast, beef tenderloin, alpaca, even fish. What distinguishes anticuchos from other brochettes is their fiery marinade, a concoction that varies with each chef but almost always includes chile hot pepper paste and vinegar.

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At Huaca Pucllana restaurant, Chef Marilú Madueño reinterprets traditional Peruvian dishes with haute cuisine style. Chef Madueño prepares causa, a signature Peruvian potato dish that invites a chef’s creativity. Legend has it that causa originated during Peru’s battle for independence from Spain, when the wives of Peru’s soldiers would make and sell the dish to earn money for the cause. Think of it as an elaborate layered potato salad, made with finely minced potatoes. The mise en place is simple: starchy yellow potatoes; fragrant peppers, such as the aji amarillo; lime juice; and olive oil; and sometimes cilantro.

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Peru is the birthplace of ceviche, a dish that has now conquered the world. But although it may seem like a modern creation, ceviche can trace its roots to the Incas. Long before the Spanish introduced limes and other citrus fruits, the Incas were marinating raw fish with acidic fruits from the Amazon, such as tumbo, a type of passion fruit.

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Lima is Peru’s capital, its commercial hub, its beating heart. More than a third of the country’s population lives in Lima, 11 million people whose appetites and ethnic diversity nourish an especially lively dining scene. Limeños like to eat, a fact evident on the street, where vendors sell the skewered and grilled meats called anticuchos and Andean corn on the cob, known as choclo, with its plump white kernels.

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Like the richly patterned textiles worn by Peru’s indigenous people Quechua-speaking peoples, the nation’s table weaves together strands that you might think incompatible—Chinese and African, Spanish and Japanese, Italian and native Quechua. Peru’s cultural diversity, the result of waves of immigration, contributes to a culinary scene that celebrates fusion. Every arriving immigrant group has left its mark on the Peruvian kitchen and enriched it with techniques and ingredients.

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Home of the legendary Inca culture and the lost city of Machu Picchu, Peru stirs the imagination of all who are captivated by the past. But today, Peru faces forward, and its restaurant scene is luring international travelers who seek the culinary world’s cutting edge. Visitors who make the trek will find a land of astonishing contrasts, with landscapes ranging from coastal desert to high plains to jungle. Few countries can match Peru for biodiversity, whether the focus is plant life, wildlife or the ethnic heritage of its people.

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Travel to the South American nations of Peru and Brazil, where leading chefs and food authorities demonstrate their culinary techniques in step-by-step detail. The Culinary Institute of America, in association with Unilever Food Solutions, presents "Savoring the Best of World Flavors," the fourth edition of the World Culinary Arts DVD Series. For recipes, visit www.ciaprochef.com/WCA  

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