Category Archives: Peru

Mango and Avocado Quinoa Salad with Blackened Shrimp

When I was precisely 16 years and 5 months old I went on a trip to Peru. I remember my age exactly because only my 16 year and 5 month old self would get on a plane to one of the most amazing and culturally rich places in the world, kicking and screaming.  It’s quite embarrassing for me to admit it today since I would go absolutely anywhere in a heartbeat, but at the time, I didn’t want to go.

I was the only one left in the house after my older sisters had all moved out and my mom and step-father (a native Peruvian) wanted to bring me along with them to South America.  Being the dramatic teenager I was I thought for sure that my life would end immediately if I missed out on three whole weeks of summer happenings in my tiny Ohio town.  The idea of doing anything other than painting my fingernails and reading teen magazines did not interest me.

The plan for the trip was to first fly into Lima to stay with some family.  After a week of exploring the city we would continue on to a few smaller towns, visit more family, and then eventually end up in Cusco to do a four day hike to Machu Picchu.  Which, by the way, I showed up in the Andes mountains for this half of a week long hike up a mountain, never having hiked before, wearing a pair of Sketchers boots, and a backpack full of Seventeen magazines and nail polish. I vividly remember standing on the top of the mountain next to a group of four Frenchmen, who had been training for this hike for months, as I flipped through and re-read my test scores from the “What kind of boyfriend is he” quiz. 

Lima, Machu Picchu, Cusco…none of those words really meant anything to me at the time because, not only had I never been to Peru, I had never been out of the country before.  I had no idea what it was like to see the world and my expectations were low (how could anything be better than Ohio?).  I was skeptical all the way up to, and even after, getting off that plane and stepping foot into Lima.  I remember how we sifted through taxi after taxi lined up outside to make sure we got in a legit car since they’ve been known to just slap a “Taxi Cab” sticker on the door to make a few bucks.  I remember how I was told that sometimes they’ll even kidnap you and hold you for a ransom to make a few bucks more.  I remember how we got in the taxi with a driver going 720 miles an hour, swerving through traffic while almost hitting a man walking a goat on a leash downtown Lima.   And then I remember thinking, Oh my god.  I’m going to love this place!

It was all so new and exciting and everything about it was intriguing. I especially loved the food. I had never experienced tasting the cuisine and dining cultures of a different group of people before and of all places, Peru seriously does it right.  Foods like quinoa and ceviche are everywhere. Fresh avocado, freshly squeezed oj carts going down the streets, I loved every bite of everything I put in my mouth.  Even some questionable things that I will refrain from sharing with you!

I am so grateful for the experience and it truly helped shape me into the passionate traveler and food lover that I am today.   When I eat foods like quinoa it always makes me nostalgic thinking back to the time when I had it first.  Every bite of the mild and nutty grain is better than the next.  It’s times like this that food…is more than just food.

 Mango and Avocado Quinoa Salad with Blackened Shrimp

Serves 2 large lunch sized portions, or 4 smaller portions

Quinoa

(you can use all water if you prefer, but I think the chicken stock gives it a nice added flavor)

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • salt
  • 1 large mango, pitted and diced
  • 1 large avocado, pitted and diced
  • 2 green onions, diced
  • Cilantro, a large handful chopped (about ½ cup)
  • Freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1-2 tbs olive oil
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • salt
  • pepper

Blackened Shrimp

  • 1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and devained
  • blackening seasoning (or you can buy prepared blackening seasoning)
  • salt
  • 2 tbs olive oil

Begin by rinsing your quinoa under cold water.  Next, add your quinoa, water, chicken stock and pinch of salt to a medium sized pot.  Bring to a boil and then cover with a lid and turn the heat down to a simmer. Continue to simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. 

For the shrimp, place all the shrimp in a large ziplock bag, add your blackening seasoning, a little salt and a drizzle of olive oil and shake to coat completely.  Heat another tbsp olive oil to medium-high heat in a large pan.  Cook the shrimp on each side for just a couple minutes, or until they turn pink.  Shrimp cook very quickly, so be sure not to overcook.

Mix the quinoa with the remaining ingredients, season with salt and pepper and serve with the shrimp and fresh cilantro garnish

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Filed under All Posts, Appetizers and the likes, Fruity Flavors, Healthy Options, Peru, Recipes, Scrumpdidily Salads, Seafood, Seasonal - Spring, Side Dishes

Shredded Pork Carnitas and Purple Potato Flatbread with a creamy Queso Sauce

Let me start by telling you how my mind works.  Or more appropriately, I should say how my mind doesn’t work. Literally speaking.  This was originally supposed to be a recipe for Peruvian Arroz con Pollo (Chicken with Rice), but somewhere along the way it all fell apart.

I had the ingredients neatly lined up on my kitchen counter waiting to be used.  Then, during my daily grocery store stroll (between work shopping and personal shopping I can officially say I live at the supermarket) I spotted the most gorgeous, sexy, dark purple potatoes in the produce aisle. They had my name written all over them – and I’m pretty sure it was Spanish. “Natali-yahhhh.

My initial thought was to throw them into the arroz con pollo since I’ve seen lots of variations of Peruvian rice and potato dishes.  But then I thought I should keep them separate and showcase them on their own.  That’s when it all started to go down hill.  My mind began racing and I started thinking of a ridiculous amount of ideas, as if I had never seen a potato before. The.entire.car.ride.home.

One thought led to another, which led to another, which led to…three days later.

I literally spent three days pondering over these darn little spuds until my brain broke down and completely stopped working all together.  At that point, I had no idea what to do with them. 

I gave it a rest for a while until it finally hit me – flatbread!  Hmmm, or maybe potato salad.  Ok, flatbread.

Typically, I would be too embarrassed to admit that these are the types of problems I face, but because I have an end result like this one, I’m beginning to think it’s a good thing that my brain stops working every now and then.

…although, I’m fairly certain my husband would beg to differ.

1. Pizza Dough

My local grocery store has a great pizza counter where I purchased my dough from.  A lot of local pizzerias also sell good dough for just a couple dollars.

2. Toppings

  • Corn
  • Purple Potatoes, sliced 1/8 inch thick
  • Hot peppers (or mild if you prefer)
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Avocado, diced

3. Pork Carnitas Recipe

Pork carnitas means “little meats” in Spanish.  This is a very delicious, flavorful and inexpensive way to prepare pork, but make sure you allow yourself time since you want to cook it on low heat for several hours to get that fork tender meat.  You could also prepare it in a crock pot if you prefer.

  • 2 lb bone-in pork shoulder
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 3-4 adobe chipolte peppers
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven and season pork liberally with salt and pepper.  Add pork and brown on all sides.  Remove pork from pot and add onions, scrapping up all the brown bits.  Add garlic, cumin and oregano to pot and cook for a minute longer.

Add chipolte peppers, chicken stock and pork back to pot.  Cover pot and cook for about 7-8 hours or until the pork is fork tender.  In crock pot cook on low for about 8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.

4. Queso Sauce Recipe

  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 tbs Tabasco sauce
  • salt and pepper

In small-medium sauce pan melt butter. Add flour, whisk and cook for a few minutes to create the roux.  Whisk in milk and cook until the milk begins to thicken into a sauce and coats the back of a spoon.  Turn heat off and add cheese slowly. Add Tabasco sauce (for flavor, not heat — but you can add extra if you would like the heat).  Add salt to taste.

Assemble the Flatbread

For the flatbread, first roll out dough on a floured surface.  Place the dough on a pizza stone or if you do not have a stone, place on the back side of a baking sheet.  Arrange potatoes, corn and peppers on the top of the dough.  Cook in a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven, add pork and cook for about 5-10 minutes longer or until the dough is cooked.  Remove from oven, top with chopped cilantro and diced avocados and serve with cheese sauce.

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Filed under All Posts, Appetizers and the likes, Great for a barbeque, Happy hour, Happy hour anyone?, Peru, Peru, Pizza, Pork, Recipes, Regional Cuisine