Sunday, September 27, 2009


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A squeeze bottle with my homemade Peruvian restaurant-style green sauce.
This sauce is positively addictive!

A reader
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 was--
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.
(Update: The Lomo Saltado recipe [and quite a few other Peruvian dishes as well] is in my book World Vegan Feast, under the name "Peruvian Stir-Fry".) 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 (US online source: 
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 stating 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 squeeze 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 perusing (not to make a pun) the few Peruvian cookbooks that I own, I have come to the conclusion that this is a different sauce altogether-- derivatives of a sauce used on a dish called Ocopa a la Arequipena, 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 (US online source: 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! (UPDATE: If you live in the USA you can order this combination aji amarillo and huacatay sauce from or from this Latino market in Miami)

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:

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 to find Peruvian ingredients, but they have a GREAT selection of Latin American and international foods. Here's their interesting story! See address and contact info below.)  
I would like to try to grow some huacatay (also known as  Tagetes minuta ) one of these days. You can purchase the seeds 
online in the US here (from Oregon), and in Canada, has a few sellers-- this one sounds reasonable and free shipping, too.. It should be possible to grow aji amarillo, too. (For Canadians, this Quebec seed company carries them.)

Killarney Market
2611 East 49th
Vancouver, British Columbia
Phone (604) 438-0869

We loved the green sauce on sweet potato oven-fries, and also on veggie burgers and even tomato sandwiches!  It is used as a dip for bread and yucca fries in Peruvian restaurants, too. It's pretty addictive! (But, my recipe has negligible fat and calories, so who cares?)

The Green Sauce was delicious on Camote Frito-- Sweet potato "Fries" (oven-fried!-- recipe below)

Printable Recipe

serves 6
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.

THE PERUVIAN GREEN SAUCE, UPDATED RECIPE: (I have updated the recipe since I found a source of huacatay paste and aji amarillo in Vancouver (see above in the text for US and Canadian sources.)

NOTE: If you have the opportunity to use the fresh herb huacatay instead of the paste, or cilantro and mint, I'm afraid you're on your own in regards to how much, because I haven't been able to try it. I would assume that you would leave out all or some of the lettuce, as well as the cilantro and mint, but it will take some experimenting. Any of the recipes that were remotely like this one (i.e.: creamy) did not specify how much huacatay to use-- maddening! I would perhaps start with 1 cup of the leaves (fresh) or 1/3 cup dried. If you used dried huacatay, I am imagining that some lettuce would be a good idea, too.

Yield: @ 1 1/2 cups         (Updated Nov. 29, 2010)
In this recipe, I have given you the option of using dried herbs, which is what I did the first time I made it because I didn't have any fresh and could not justify going off-island on the ferry just for that.

1/4 head crisp curly green or romaine lettuce, torn into pieces (about 1 1/2 cups sliced)
5 medium green onions, trimmed and chopped (the white and green parts)
1 to 2 tablespoons aji amarillo paste 
OR 2 to 3 similar sized fresh or jarred whole Peruvian yellow peppers/aji amarillo (Cnd. source and American source) or yellow habañero peppers 
OR 2 large (about 4" long) fresh jalapeño peppers, seeded and trimmed and chopped
Other Ingredients:
1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise (such as Vegenaise, Original or Reduced-Fat-- I used my homemade Eggless Low-fat Mayonnaise (this includes links to several variations), or you could use my Tofu Mayonnaise)
2 tablespoons huacatay paste (This is an American link-- in Canada, unless you live near a Latino market that carries it, or know someone who could send it to you from another location,you may have to use the option below.)
OR If you don't have huacatay paste, use 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro (or 4 teaspoons dried cilantro) AND 1 tablespoon fresh chopped mint (or 1 teaspoon dried mint)
Optional: 2 tablespoons water (use only if you use dried herbs)
6-8 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 to 3/4 teaspoon salt (according to your taste)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper (freshly-ground)

To Make:
Process all of the ingredients together in a blender or food processor until the mixture is smooth. The color should be bright green. Scrape into a jar with a tight lid, or a food-safe plastic squeeze bottle used for sauces and condiments.

Serve with bread or meat subs; with chips, fries and oven-fries of all sorts; on sandwiches and tacos; etc..

Nutrition Facts (were calculated using my Eggless Low-fat Mayonnaise.)
Nutrition (per 2 T.): 18.6 calories; 34% calories from fat; 0.7g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 182.8mg sodium; 69.7mg potassium; 2.6g carbohydrates; 0.6g fiber; 0.3g sugar; 2.0g net carbs; 0.7g protein; 0.3 points.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009


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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


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               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:

Printable Recipe

Serves 3
This is a vegan (and considerably lower-fat) version of a recipe from Southwestern France. It was delicious! Crusty bread would be perfect to soak up the juices, but we served it on brown rice this time.

2 cups reconstituted Soy Curls® (see here for info on Soy Curls® and how to reconstitute)
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"), divided
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 
(OR use 3 tablespoons unflavored, not-too-sweet  nondairy creamer, such as So Delicious Original Coconut Milk Creamer)
OR use 3 T. vegan mayonnaise (can be homemade GARNISH:
Chopped fresh chives or parsley

In a medium bowl, toss the Soy Curls® or alternative with the tarragon, freshly-ground black-pepper to taste, and the flour. 

In a large (12”) nonstick skillet, melt 1 T. of  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.

Add the onions and garlic back to the pan and sauté without fat (what I call “steam-frying”) over high heat, squirting a bit of water into the pan to keep the vegetables from sticking and burning. Keep them moving!

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..

Add the “chicken” strips and the chanterelles back to the pan and simmer briefly over low heat. With a hand/immersion blender, whip the nondairy milk with the vegan mayonnaise or tofu until smooth like cream. Add this (or the creamer, instead) to the sauce, stirring well. Taste once again for seasoning and serve immediately. 


Thursday, September 3, 2009


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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 (see for posts with various pizza dough recipes and techniques), 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.

Printable Recipe

Servings: 8
Yield: 4/ 9-10" pizzas

This is a deliciously savory way to enjoy pears!

1 recipe Bryanna's Neapolitan Pizza Dough (or other)
1 recipe Bryanna's Creamy Tofu/Cashew or Sunflower Seed "Goat Cheese" Spread
OR Bryanna's Creamy Tofu/Tahini "Blue Cheese" Spread Variation (see recipe below)
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 60 minutes OR cast iron skillet or griddle for 30 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 Facts
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.

Printable Recipe


Yield: 1 1/2 cups
This makes a perfect appetizer for a party. It's rich tasting and attractive-- one of those things that guests won't be able to stop eating! So, perhaps you should double or triple the recipe!

I have given you a range of how much miso and /or lemon juice to use, depending on how strong-tasting you want the spread. There is also a tangy "blue cheese" variation.  Serve it with celery sticks, crackers, pita or bagel crisps, melba toast, or crostini (toasted baguette rounds).

1 box (12.3 oz.) extra-firm SILKEN tofu (squeezed dry as directed in the recipe)
5/8 cup (1/2 cup+ 2 tablespoons) raw cashews or sunflower seeds, 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 or sunflower seeds 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.

Place everything EXCEPT the olives and chives, and the Coating ingredients, in a food processor and process for several minutes, or until the mixture is VERY smooth. (You may have to stop the machine and loosen the mixture with a spatula once or twice.) If using, pulse in the olives and chives briefly. Scrape into a covered container and refrigerate until it is firm, at least 3 hours.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per 1/4 cup): 124.1 calories; 55% calories from fat; 8.0g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 277.1mg sodium; 210.5mg potassium; 6.7g carbohydrates; 0.9g fiber; 1.7g sugar; 5.8g net carbs; 7.8g protein; 3.0 points.
NUTRITION FACTS FOR "BLUE CHEESE" VARIATION: Nutrition (per 1/4 cup): 96.3 calories; 49% calories from fat; 5.6g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 631.5mg sodium; 167.2mg potassium; 4.6g carbohydrates; 0.9g fiber; 0.8g sugar; 3.7g net carbs; 8.1g protein; 2.2 points.

Cooking Tips
To make a vegan "bleu cheese", you need a Chinese product-- fermented  or preserved bean curd (tofu). It is called doufu-ru, fu-yu, su-fu, and various other names, confusingly.


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!

Here's a very informative essay about preserved beancurd (and it's names!) from Dom's Culture-Foods of Asia in-site:
and something about the history of this food:
Here is a page about buying Chinese foods online, if you don't have an Asian grocery store near you: