By Anna Dantoni –
A new health/cookbook supports a growing trend – Peruvian food. More and more Peruvian restaurants are opening in big cities and suburbs and supermarkets (devoting ever more aisle space to the cuisine of Central and South America) are stocking Peruvian ingredients such as the aji amarillo or the yellow chili pepper, which has been a staple of Peruvian cooking since the days of the ancient Incas. Mainstream America is hip to Peruvian cuisine, which makes the debut of Peruvian Power Foods by Manuel Villacorta and Jamie Shaw quite timely.
Besides including 101 tasty recipes, (nutritional values and calories listed for each recipe) this particular book promotes 18 specific Peruvian superfoods that the authors insist lead to improved health and that have anti-aging properties. One of them, maca, is said to be nature’s Viagra. Optimal health through consuming these 18 power foods is the theme of the book. The book has plenty of photos of the power foods and gives both a history of each food as well as health benefits you can expect by including the food in your diet. Some of the 18 power foods, you’ll recognize – sweet potatoes, quinoa, cilantro, avocado, purple corn, cacao, papaya and beans.
Others, such as camu-camu, sacha inchi, llucuma, maca or yacon may be new. All the more reason to investigate them through this book. An example of an underexposed berry is the pichuberry, which the authors say is a “little treasure bursting with nutrients. This fruit packs a healthy mineral and nutritional composition that surpasses most other conventional and exotic fruits,” according to Manuel Villacorta.
This husk-encased little yellow fruit enhances dishes both savory and sweet and can be eaten plain or used in everything from breads to salads and desserts. You could add pichuberries to yogurts, oatmeal, waffles, smoothies and more. It’s as versatile as your culinary imagination.
Pichuberry is just one of 18 fruits and vegetables to explore in this fascinating book. Many of the recipes are vegan, gluten-free, and vegetarian. Not one of the 18 power foods is a meat or fish. If you’re on a medically restricted diet, you’re trying lose weight, your want eat healthy, or you want to incorporate more nutrient-rich fruits, grains and vegetables into your diet that sound exotic, you’ll want to acquire Peruvian Power Foods. And the next time you’re in a Peruvian restaurant, look closely at the menu and see how many power foods you can spot. Here are some recipes to try at home.
Pichuberry Orange Champagne Vinaigrette
(this dressing is ideal over mixed greens, avocado slices, or baked white fish such as sea bass or cod.)
3 ounces pichuberries, husked and pureed in the blender
2 ounces orange muscat or regular champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons sacha inchi oil
Pinch of salt
Combine all of the ingredients in a shaker bottle or a blender and thoroughly blend. The vinaigrette will keep in an airtight container for up to a week in the refrigerator.
Purple Potato Cilantro Soup
(This meal-in-a-bowl soup is a power-food powerhouse. Loaded with nutrients it is also colorful and very flavorful. Serves 4-6)
1 bunch cilantro leaves
32 ounces chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic
1 pound chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
3 celery sticks chopped
3 medium purple potatoes, diced
2 carrots, sliced
1 cup dry/raw quinoa
½ bell pepper, chopped
½ cup frozen peas
½ cup frozen or fresh corn
In a blender, liquefy the cilantro with the broth. Put all 32 ounces of the broth into the blender with cilantro. Set aside. Sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until soft. Add the chicken breast pieces and mix well. In a large stock pot, combing the sautéed mixture with the celery, liquefied cilantro broth, purple potatoes and carrots. Bring to a boil. Add the quinoa and bell pepper. Once the quinoa is cooked, about 10 minutes, add the peas and corn. Heat until thoroughly warmed.
Maca is a starch and you purchase raw maca in powder form, although there is gelatin version too. On its own, maca has a bitter taste so combine it with other ingredients.The powder is great in a smoothie and in power bars. Peruvians regard maca as a potent sexual stimulant. Maca is rich in iron, calcium, protein, vitamin C. and is said to boost the immune system.
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons maca powder
¾ cup milk
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped walnuts
In a large bowl, sift together the flour baking powder, maca and salt. In a medium bowl, combine the egg, milk applesauce and vanilla extract. Make a small well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the liquid mixture into it. Gently combine all the ingredients until batter is just smooth. Pour the batter into a preheated waffle maker and cook until golden brown. Top with the chopped walnuts. (You can make pancakes with this recipe).
(Peruvian Power Foods by Manuel Villacorta and Jamie Shaw. Health Communications, $18.95)