Sunday, September 27, 2009
A squeeze bottle with my homemade Peruvian restaurant-style green sauce.
This sauce is positively addictive!
A poster on my open forum has started somewhat of a revolution in my house, and I think it's happening elsewhere. "Quizeen" asked about "a particular green-colored sauce served at every Peruvian restaurant I've ever been to in Southern California." She goes on: "At each of these restaurants they serve a pale green, light sauce in a squeeze bottle. I always get a Peruvian-style vegetable stir-fry and load it up thoroughly with this sauce. I've begged and pleaded with every server I've ever encountered to tell me what's in the sauce or even what it's called. They never spill the ingredients and the only name they'll give me is "aji," which just means "pepper." The sauce is pale green/white, very thin, isn't particularly spicy and might have cucumber blended in it, but that's just wild speculation. I will be eternally grateful to anyone who can shed some light on this magnificent condiment."
Now I knew what that Peruvian stir-fry is-- Lomo Saltado, more than likely. My father was Peruvian and I have "veganized" that dish and quite a few other Peruvian dishes for my newsletter and for various workshops that I've given. But this green sauce was news to me and I just had to find out what it was! I have been housebound due to a bad cold for the last few days, so I have occupied myself with researching this "mystery green sauce" or "magical green sauce", as I was subsequently heard it referred to.
How could I have missed this sauce? Well, after much research, I believe that it is simply because I don't live in a place where Peruvian restaurants are common, such as SoCal and Miami. But I'm getting ahead of myself!
I have discovered that one of the possible origins of this green sauce is a sauce consisting of the leaves of the Andean herb huacatay, vinegar, salt, peppers, and sometimes oil.
"Huacatay (Tagetes minuta), is a native Peruvian herb related to marigold and tarragon, has a pungent aroma somewhere between mint and basil. Among thousands of native herbs, huacatay has given Peruvian seasoning its unique zest from Incan to contemporary times.
... Because this herb has such a special flavor, there really is no substitute, though a combination of mint and coriander comes closest."
From: Field Guide to Herbs & Spices, by Aliza Green
Huacatay, if you can find it, is rarely sold fresh in North American, but I understand that the leaves are available in some Latin American grocery stores, either frozen, dried, or in a paste form in jars.
I found some recipes online for "Peruvian Aji Sauce" that were described as similar to those found in Peruvian restaurants in North America (aji means pepper, BTW). Most were variations on a theme-- lettuce, mayonnaise, jalapeño peppers, cilantro, and garlic were the main ingredients. It seemed that inventive expatriate Peruvian cooks were using lettuce leaves and cilantro for the huacatay herb and jalapeño peppers instead of the fresh Peruvian yellow peppers ( aji amarillo). But mayonnaise? Well, that was explained with a little more digging. Although many of the traditional huacatay sauce recipes I encountered were very simple mixtures of the herb with vinegar, peppers, and salt, a few of them instructed the cook to whip in oil as if you were making mayonnaise, resulting in a creamy sauce-- a-ha! And, it must be noted that Peruvians are very fond of mayonnaise-y things!
To further confuse me, though, I then encountered comments and recipes by some Peruvians saying that green sauce should contain evaporated milk (or cream) and queso fresco! This didn't sound to me like something you'd leave on restaurant tables in a squeezy bottle-- it would need to be kept refrigerated. But several posters insisted that this was the authentic green sauce. Hmmmmm...more digging. After some Web research and reading the few Peruvian cookbooks that I own, I have come to the conclusion that this is a different sauce altogether-- derivitives of a sauce used on a dish called Ocopa a la Arequepina, a potato dish with a creamy pepper sauce made with evaporated milk (or cream) and cheese (queso fresco), huacatay, and often peanuts or walnuts. Here is an example of such a recipe.
So, my opinion is that the Peruvian Green Sauce served in North American restaurants as a table condiment, usually in a squeeze bottle, is a slightly Americanized version of the Huacatay Sauce that is emulsified with oil to make it creamy. Mayonnaise is used instead of oil as a shortcut, jalapeño peppers are used when Peruvian yellow peppers (aji amarillo) cannot be found, and cilantro and lettuce are used in place of the hard-to-obtain huacatay. The result may not be absolutely authentic, but it stands on its own as a delicious condiment!
I once got a lecture from a Peruvian about some of the substitute ingredients I was using in a Peruvian dish. But, in my opinion, one should not let the inability to get the EXACT ingredients deter you from making ethnic foods. Immigrants have always had to "make do" and be creative when they settle in new countries. Immigrant populations who came to Peru also had to do just that-- witness the interesting Chinese/Peruvian cuisine, which mixes Cantonese Chinese cuisine with local Peruvian flavors. (" Chifa [from the Mandarin words 吃飯 "chi fan", meaning "to eat food"] is the Peruvian term for Chinese food, or for a Chinese restaurant. In the 150 years since its arrival in Peru, the Chinese Peruvian culture has revolutionized Peruvian cuisine, gaining international recognition from those who have had the opportunity to sample it while visiting Peru. Chifa reflects a fusion by Chinese Peruvians of the products that the Chinese brought with them to those that they found in Peru, and later cultivated themselves." From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peruvian_cuisine#El_Chifa )
Anyway, I came up with a vegan version of this sauce that we LOVE! I would like to make it with Peruvian yellow peppers and huacatay when I can find those ingredients. My next foray to Vancouver, perhaps...? UPDATE: I did find aji amarillo paste and huacatay paste on my last trip to Vancouver, at the Killarney Market (sounds like an odd place, but they have a great selection of Latin American foods!). I'm going to try to grow some huacatay next year. I don't know where to get the seeds in Canada yet, but you can get them online in the US here (from Oregon). It should be possible to grow aji amarillo, too, through yellow habañero peppers make a good substitute and are widely available.
We loved the sauce on sweet potato oven-fries, and also on veggie burgers and even tomato sandwiches! They use it as a dip for bread and yucca fries in Peruvian restaurants, too. It's pretty addictive! (But, my recipe has negligible fat and calories.)
The Green Sauce was delicious on Camote Frito-- Sweet potato "Fries" (oven-fried!-- recipe below)
From my book "20 Minutes to Dinner".
Sweet potatoes (and I mean the orange-fleshed kind) cook more quickly than regular potatoes, and they are delicious oven-fried. Sweet potato fries are sold by street vendors in Lima, and other Peruvian towns and cities.
PS: These are not "yams", no matter what it says in your supermarket! See about the difference here.
4-6 medium orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, peeled
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Cut the sweet potatoes into 1/8" thick wedges, like French fries (or use a French fry cutter). Place the "fries" on two nonstick or lightly-oiled cookie sheets. Spray lightly with oil from a pump-sprayer and toss to coat.
Bake for 5-7 minutes, then turn over and bake 5-7 minutes longer, or until light golden and crispy outside and soft in the middle. Sprinkle with coarse salt and serve hot.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
A breakfast burrito at The Naam with the new Daiya vegan cheese melted on top-- yum!
This is going to be a photo blog today, as I just got back from 3 days in Vancouver and am playing catch-up! Apart from visiting with friends and family, and enjoying the balmy weather, we spent time eating exotic foods and shopping for foods and kitchen implements I couldn't find on the Island (Vancouver island, that is).
I particularly wanted to taste the newest vegan cheese, Daiya, because I had heard it tasted good and melted beautifully. It is not available in retail yet, but will be soon, I understand. So far, though, you can only taste it in restaurants and, even though it is made in the Vancouver area, it is only available in one Vancouver, BC restaurant, The Naam. (See where to enjoy Daiya cheese here. Contact them to let them know you are waiting for it!) So, I made my companions (DH, my cousin Chris, my stepsons Laurence and Sean, and Laurie's girlfriend Meghan) go for Saturday brunch at the The Naam, a vegetarian restaurant. Now, the Naam has been around since the early 70's and the food is plentiful, good and pretty reasonable. The restaurant is famous for its slow service (a remnant of its hippy past), but nobody seems to mind.
Our waiter informed me that anything that had cheese in it could be made with Daiya. I chose the Breakfast Burrito (scrambled tofu with onions, mushrooms, and tomatoes mixed with vegan sausage in a whole wheat flour tortilla, topped with cheese and served with salsa).
It was very hearty and delicious... and the Daiya cheese? It was melty, creamy and surprisingly tasty. Please let them know you are interested! It might speed things up!
We then spent some time in the Kitsilano area and made our usual foray to the Parthenon Supermarket, a great Greek and Middle Eastern grocery owned by a friend of ours who used to live on Denman Island, Kyriakos Katsanikakis. I always go there for gigante beans (giant lima beans) and cannellini or Great Northern beans. We were lucky to see Kyriakos this time!
For dinner on Saturday night we went to a South Indian vegetarian restaurant called Saravanaa Bhavan. It is part of a worldwide chain of restaurants originating in India. The decor is pretty basic, but the food is great, with good prices and friendly, helpful service. They have lots of dosas (Indian crepes) and other wonderful dishes. We concentrated on dosas and biryani. I would definitely go back again! (Here's the Vancouver menu.)
Adai Avial-- crepes made from mung beans-- DH had this one.
Rava (semolina) dosa
How they make the dosa in restaurants.
I had the semolina and rice dosa with masala potato filling and 3 chutneys-- delicious! The vegetable and mushroom biryanis were spicy and tasty. Nothing tasted greasy at all.
On Sunday morning we took my cousin's partner, Roxanne, to work at the new Ten Thousand Villages store she opened and manages on Granville Island, a major tourist attraction (especially for foodies!) in Vancouver. We did some shopping and looking and worked up an appetite (we ate lunch at home this time, bringing home some yummy sourdough peasant bread).
The new Granville Island Ten Thousand Villages store:
More Granville island shots:
Sunday night we picked up Roxanne and met my daughter Justine, her partner George and son L., our friends Brenda and John, my stepson Laurie and his girlfriend Meghan At the Pondok Indonesia Restaurant on Broadway. The service was pretty slow and uneven, but the food was very good! DH and I shared a Vegetarian Rice Table, or rijsttafel (often misspelled rijstaffel), a Dutch word that literally translates to "rice table", and is an elaborate meal adapted by the Dutch from the Indonesian feast called nasi padang:
It consisted of sticky rice, stir-fried bean sprouts, stir-fried tofu with tomatoes, "Hawker-style" noodles (Bami Goreng) with cabbage, and deep-fried tofu with peanut sauce and vegetables.
Roxanne ordered a young coconut-- you drink the coconut "water" and then scoop out the pudding-like flesh of the unripe coconut--very refreshing!
My grandson wanted nothing more than a bowl of edamame!
Dessert for some of the group was deep-fried bananas with vanilla ice cream-- a dish I make vegan and low-fat at home by rolling the banana with a little brown sugar in phyllo pastry and baking until crispy, and then serving with nondairy vanilla "ice cream"-- the perfect combination of crispy and soft, hot and cold!
Glad to be home, but it was a tasty trip!
Thursday, September 17, 2009
It wasn't a huge haul, but not bad considering our dry weather!
We went chanterelle hunting in the woods on a good friend's property yesterday. It was lovely walking in the woods! We saw very tall ant hills made of pine needles here and there, and something new for me-- "ant highways", as my friend called them. They were skinny little tracks about a 1/2-inch deep into the dirt, like a a very skinny bicycle tire had made the track, and if you bent down to look, you could see armies of ants busily traversing the forest floor via these "highways". Amazing!
The weather has been very dry for BC this summer, but we have had a couple of good rains lately, so we were hopeful that we might find some beauties in our friends' wood-- they have the "motherlode" of chanterelle hunting on their property. Our friend doesn't like them very much, and her husband (who does) is away, so whatever we found was all for us! We didn't find alot (it's early days yet), but they were some of the nicest-looking, clean, firm chanterelles I have ever picked!
When I got home, I cleaned them up and made this delicious dish, both elegant and low in calories, for our supper:
This is a vegan (and considerably lower-fat) version of a recipe from
OR 12 ounces [340 g] low-fat vegetarian chicken substitute strips (Gardein; Yves; Morningstar Farms; Lightlife; or President's Choice)
1 tsp dried tarragon
freshly-ground black-pepper to taste
1 tablespoon unbleached flour
1 1/2 tablespoons vegan buttery spread (try my homemade palm-oil-free vegan "Buttah")
12 oz. chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed and sliced 1/4” thick
1/2 a medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2/3 cup dry red wine, can be non-alcoholic (I used an Australian Shiraz)
1 1/2 cups vegetarian chicken-style broth (see here for info on broths)
2 tablespoons nondairy milk
1 tablespoon silken tofu
Chopped fresh chives or parsley
In a large (10-12”) nonstick skillet, melt the
vegan buttery spread
over high heat. When it’s hot. Add the “chicken” strips and sauté them briefly, just until they start to brown. Remove them from the pan and set aside.
Add the remaining vegan buttery spread and heat until melted. Add the chanterelles and salt lightly. Stir-fry them until they brown lightly. They should exude their juices and then evaporate most of them. Place the chanterelles in a bowl and set aside.
When they soften a bit, pour in the wine and cook over high heat until it is reduced to a few tablespoons. Add the broth and cook over high heat until this is reduced to about half. Taste the liquid for seasoning.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
I had a delicious pear pizza at a friend's house one time, and I've been wanting to make something similar ever since. Since I had some nice ripe pears on my counter, I decided to try my own version the other day. I used my own pizza dough, and added a creamy vegan "goat cheese spread", arugula and pecans. It was excellent, if I do say so myself! I hope you'll give it a try, now that pears are in season.
BRYANNA'S PEAR PIZZA WITH VEGAN "GOAT CHEESE", PECANS AND ARUGULA
Yield: 4/ 9-10" pizzas
This is a deliciously savory way to enjoy pears!
1 recipe Bryanna's Neapolitan Pizza Dough
1 recipe Bryanna's Creamy Tofu/Cashew "Goat Cheese" Spread
OR Bryanna's Creamy Tofu/Tahini "Blue Cheese" Spread Variation (see recipe below)
(recipe below) OR, if you are pressed for time or don't care to make your own,
3 cups thinly-sliced baby arugula
3 large pears, ripe but firm
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pecan halves, roughly chopped
smoked paprika or Aleppo pepper
(Aleppo Pepper substitute: 4 parts sweet paprika and 1 part cayenne or ancho chile powder)
Earlier in the day, follow the recipe for the pizza dough. Prepare and refrigerate the "Goat Cheese" Spread.
When the dough is almost ready to roll out and bake, heat your oven up to 500°F (heating your pizza stone for 30-60 minutes in the oven, if you have one). Chop the pecans and set aside. Wash, dry and slice the arugula and refrigerate in a plastic bag.
Wash, quarter and core the pears. Slice into 1/4"-thick slices. Toss in a bowl with the olive oil.
Roll out the pizza dough into 9 or 10" rounds as directed in the pizza dough recipe. If you are baking one at a time, top each one just before it goes into the oven.
Spread each pizza crust (leaving a rim around the edge) with 1/4 of the "Goat Cheese" Spread. Sprinkle the "cheese" with 1/4 of the sliced arugula. Top with 1/4 of the pear slices. Sprinkle the pears lightly with smoked paprika or Aleppo pepper and 2 tablespoons of the chopped pecans.
Bake each pizza for about 8 minutes, or until the dough is puffy around the edges and golden and crispy on the bottom. Serve immediately.
Nutrition (per serving): 396.9 calories; 28% calories from fat; 13.5g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 683.2mg sodium; 419.3mg potassium; 59.3g carbohydrates; 6.9g fiber; 9.6g sugar; 52.4g net carbs; 13.2g protein; 8.3 points.
BRYANNA'S CREAMY TOFU/CASHEW "GOAT CHEESE" SPREAD with Tofu/Tahini "Blue Cheese" Variation
5/8 cup (1/2 cup+ 2 tablespoons) raw cashews, ground fine in a food processor, mini-chopper or coffee/spice mill
1 to 2 tablespoons light miso
1 to 2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 black olives, such as Kalamata, pitted and chopped
(or substitute 3 large sun-dried tomatoes in oil, rinsed and chopped)
2 tablespoons minced chives or green onions
Omit the cashews and use 2 tablespoons tahini instead
Omit the miso and use 3 cubes of white Chinese fermented bean curd instead (see Cooking Tips below for info and where to buy)
Use only 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
Place tofu in a clean cotton cloth or fine cheesecloth, gather the ends up and twist and squeeze for a couple of minutes to extract most of the water.
This is a very inexpensive Chinese condiment that has a kind of "blue cheese" flavor. (The cubes are very strong-tasting when eaten by themselves, which they aren't meant for-it's used as a condiment.) It comes in little jars (you can see white cubes of tofu in a clear liquid)
and you can get it in Asian grocery stores or the Asian section of large supermarkets. It keeps forever in the fridge, so you can get a few jars when you find it, if you like this dressing.
There are several varieties of this product and may be referred to by different names. If the liquid is reddish, it's got chile in it. Some white varieties have sesame oil in them, too. (amazon carries one with both chile and sesame oil in it.) Check the label. Ideally, you want the kind with just soybeans, salt, water and wine, but I must confess that I have used both the sesame and the chile kind when I had nothing else! I rinsed them gently with running water in a mesh sieve before adding to the recipe. It actually worked fine!
UPDATE: I found some on plain fermented tofu this American website!).
Here's a very informative essay about preserved beancurd (and it's names!) from Dom's Culture-Foods of