Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Spicy Balsamic Shrimp Kabobs

Recipe created by Amie Valpone, HHP, AADP Nutritionist and author of The Healthy Apple.

1 lb. uncooked medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 red bell peppers, cut into chunks
2 yellow bell peppers, cut into chunks
3 cups button mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. Zócalo Gourmet Aji Limo Powder
Wooden skewers


Preheat grill.
Thread shrimp, peppers, and whole mushrooms onto skewers.
Brush kabobs with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with Zócalo  Gourmet Aji Limo Powder.
Grill for 5 minutes or until shrimp are cooked.
Transfer to serving dish.

Amarillo and Garlic Focaccia

Recipe created by Amie Valpone, HHP, AADP Nutritionist and author of The Healthy Apple

3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups bread flour
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
2 tsp stevia or other sugar substitute
1 tsp Matiz Mediterraneo Flor de Sal
2 tbsp La Masia Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 cup water
2 Tbsp. Zócalo Organic Amarillo Aji Paste

In a small pan over medium heat, saute garlic with olive oil for 2-3 minutes; set aside to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, combine bread flour, yeast, sugar and sea salt.
Whisk to combine.
Add in olive oil, water, sauteed garlic and Zócalo Organic Amarillo Aji Paste; mix well.
Transfer dough to a floured surface; knead until smooth.
Place dough in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, approximately 2 hours.
Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
Transfer dough onto pan until it has evenly filled the pan.
Cover with a clean dish towel and set aside for 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Brush dough with additional olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.
Set aside to cool; serve warm or at room temperature.

Stuffed Pesto Peppers

Recipe created by Amie Valpone, HHP, AADP Nutritionist and author of The Healthy Apple

6 red bell peppers
2 cups beans
½ cup Zócalo Gourmet Kañiwa grains cooked
2 cups broccoli florets, steamed and chopped
4 Tbsp. basil pesto
1 Tbsp. Zócalo Gourmet Aji Panca

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cook Kañiwa as directed on package. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, remove and discard the tops, seeds and membranes of bell peppers.  Arrange peppers in a baking dish with the hollowed sides facing upwards.
In a bowl, mix kañiwa, beans, chopped broccoli, basil pesto and Zócalo Gourmet Aji Panca; mix well. 
Spoon mixture into hollowed peppers.
Bake for 30 minutes or until peppers are tender.
Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Spicy Cauliflower Soup

Recipe created by Amie Valpone, HHP, AADP Nutritionist and author of The Healthy Apple

2 Heads Cauliflower
2 Tbsp. Oleum Viride Extra Virgin Organic Olive Oil
1 White Onion, diced
3 Celery Stalks, sliced
4 cloves Fresh Garlic
1 Tbsp. Zócalo Gourmet Aji Amarillo
2 cups Almond milk
2 Leeks, sliced thin (use only the white part)
1 cup Water
Matiz Mediterraneo Flor de Sal to taste

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees
In a large pot, saute onions, leeks, celery for 20 min on Medium heat
Place fresh garlic (peeled) onto a piece of aluminum foil drizzled with olive oil and place into oven for 20 minutes
Add cauliflower to the sauteed mixture.  Add 1 cup water. Cook until cauliflower is very soft
Add garlic into the pot and mix with a hand blender.
Add 2 cups of soymilk and blend until smooth consistency.
Add Zócalo Gourmet Aji amarillo.
Sprinkle with sea salt, to taste.Enjoy!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Aji Limo Butternut Squash Fries

Recipe created by Amie Valpone HHP, AADP Nutrionist and author of The Healthy Apple

1 Butternut Squash
3 Tbsp. Zócalo Gourmet Aji Limo
1 Tbsp. Matiz Sea Salt
2 Tbsp. honey

Preheat oven to 425 degrees
Cut squash into french fry shapes using a knife or fry cutter
Place fries into a large ziplock bag
Sprinkle Matiz Sea Salt and Zócalo Gourmet Aji Limo into bag
Seal the bag and shake well until all fries are completely coated
Spread fries onto a baking sheet; drizzle with honey.
Bake for 45 minutes.

Double Chocolate Basil Zucchini Bread

Recipe created by: Amie Valpone, HHP, AADP Nutritionist and author of The Healthy Apple

2 cups Zócalo Sweet Potato Heritage flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup olive oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
3 cups zucchini, shredded
10 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. Zócalo Gourmet Huacatay (Black Mint)
1 cup dark chocolate chips
Greek plain yogurt, for topping
Xoxoc Prickly Pear Marmalade, for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a loaf pan with nonstick baking spray
In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, buttermilk and vanilla. Add to dry ingredients and stir until almost fully combined. Add in the zucchini, basil, Zócalo Huacatay and chocolate chips; mix well
Bake for 60 minutes, or until golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack before slicing.
Serve with a dollop of Greek plain yogurt and Xoxoc Prickly Pear marmalade


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sweet Mesquite – A Peruvian Forest Treasure

Mesquite trees are a wonder to behold. They can reach 40 meters in height, while their roots reach a similar depth underground. Their ample canopies offer shade to a wide variety of other plant species and an abundance of fauna.

The trees have a male (with thorns) and a female (with pods) variety. The rains come from January to March, a time when the community plants beans, onions, and sweet potato, while also tilling the ground below the trees to encourage them to produce more pods.

The larger the canopy of the tree the more pods it will bear – up to 100 kilos of mesquite. During the two harvests (a first in November and a smaller one in June), the long flat green-bean like pods are gathered from the ground once they have fallen, and are then laid out in the sun for 3-4 days to dry. The pods will last for up to one year dry, but are preferably processed sooner to avoid the risk of being damaged by insects.

Milling the mesquite pods produces a fragrant flour that can be added to baked goods, imparting a warm, sweet, slightly smoky taste while enhancing the flavors of cinnamon, chocolate, caramel, and coffee. (Medical studies of mesquite have shown that despite its sweetness, it is quite effective in controlling blood sugar levels.)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Latest Adventures from Peru - Spring 2010

The chicha looked good an hour ago, a refreshing corn and strawberry drink served up in glasses the size of a big gulp by an elderly Quichua woman. But here, a few thousand feet above the Sacred Valley market town of Pisaq, gasping for oxygen, my stomach was having regrets. Was it the fermented corn (she promised it was not alcoholic!), the filthy glass, or the altitude that was making me want to heave?  I stopped on an ancient Incan step to catch my breath, and coax my stomach down, wondering to myself why I was the only gringa silly enough to actually climb the two hours to the ancient ruins instead of taking a taxi like the rest of the sun-creamed tourists. And then Amuro bounded up, a young Quichua man offering his guide services. “No, no. I’m fine, thank-you.” But he trotted along side me anyway, regaling me with stories and playing ancient Incan tunes on his flute. Ten minutes later, we passed two men lounging in the sun, chewing on coca leaves, the best cure for altitude sickness. They kindly offered me the ancient remedy, and I happily accepted. Coca, fermented corn, why not pile it on?! Fortunately the latter seem to counteract the former and I made it to the ancient site with at least one lung left.

I have been in Cusco for almost a week, but have spent most of my time catching up on sleep and work, with a well-worn path to the public market for delicious juices and local food. Today was my first excursion out and I was determined to get some exercise.  But why start small? Fortunately hiking down was a lot easier than crawling up – and I made it back to town in time to catch some grub in one of the stalls before the market closed up – counteracting the narly hygiene with enough hot sauce to blow a hole through my stomach.

In the last three weeks I have visited an organic trout cooperative in a lake neighboring Lago Titicaca, producers of kaniwa and quinoa in the high altiplano, a community of farmers who grow maize and native beans, using the corn stalks as beanpoles, a family of native potato farmers, a cooperative of gooseberry producers, a community of quichua women who harvest sauco (elderberry) from their wild trees to supplement the family income, a community of fair trade cacao producers in the fringes of the Amazonian jungle, and an association of mesquite producers who jointly manage an organic native mesquite forest.

In every case, the producers are either certified organic or working towards certification, in a country that places no value on organic produce. It is a leap of faith for these producers to go against the norm and they look to the outside world to keep this faith alive. In many of my visits, I am the first and only Gringa that has ever visited their farm, town, or community. In the outskirts of Huancayo, the tiny village of Dos de Mayo received me with a heartfelt speech and the ceremonial Pachamanca – a traditional meal cooked in the ground for three hours. Layers of native potatoes, whole chickens, home-made sweet tamales (humitas), and fresh lima beans in their pods, intermixed with hot stones, covered in cloth and earth. When it is time to eat everyone starts digging to uncover the wonders that the earth has provided. It was one of the most amazing meals I have ever participated in.

It is not difficult to understand why it is rare for these communities to receive outside visitors.  Getting to them is no easy task. The native bean producers are only 60 miles from Huancayo, but we left at 4:30 am, for a butt-numbing 3 hour ride on some of the worse roads I have ever felt. Once over the 14,000 foot pass, the sun started to rise and bring the blood back to my extremities, but it also shed light on the frightening precipice to my left as we crawled along, clinging to the side of mountains. I was told it was best to leave this early in the morning to avoid the terrorists.

The village with the native sauco trees is only 25 miles from Huanuco, but two hours by car. As we pulled off the glorious pavement onto the bone-jarring country route, Violeta, one of my hosts declared “the first hour is on good road like this, the second hour the road gets bad.” I thought she was joking until we hit hour number two. If we hit 10 miles an hour we were cruising! Our trusty vehicle was my other host’s beautifully maintained blue Datsun ’77, which was either produced without shocks, or lost them somewhere along the way.  Poor Roger had to stop every 30 minutes to pour water over his radiator to keep us from overheating. By the time we were on our way back home late in the day, and a very large Quichua women, begging a lift, piled in with a sack of chickens and cuy (guinea pigs), I gave up trying to make sense of it and dreamed of a hot shower which never materialized.

But the voyage to the mesquite producers tops the list of most astonishing form of transportation. My hosts picked me up at the airport at 5:30 am, dropped my luggage off at a hotel, and drove me 90 minutes to a bustling town alongside a river. They told me that the mesquite forest and the producers were on the other side of the river, but there is no bridge. They had not wanted to warn me of this prior to my arrival because they thought I might not come. “um, do you mean we need to swim?”. “oh, no, no. We take an innertube!.” Dozens of men were lined up along the river’s edge each with his own large black innertube. For $0.30 I had the privilege of climbing aboard and being pushed, towed, and swum across the river, while all the passengers going the other way stared at the blue-eyed stranger. It was a new experience for us all! (see the video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8b_4KJngYM)

You can imagine that by the time I reached Cusco, I was thoroughly exhausted. Yet it is all well worth it. It is inspiring to meet farmers dedicated to producing native products in ways that are restorative to their environment. I have learned so much about the food that we import and that I eat on a regular basis – did you know that mesquite trees can grow to 40 meters in height, with a similar depth under ground? Or that cacao trees are polygamous, producing many different varieties of pods on the same branch? I have a notebook full of information and a hard drive overwhelmed with pictures and videos. I think that my own internal hard drive has reached capacity, and I look forward to heading home in a couple of weeks after another round of visits.