From the Kitchen of Ana Lucia Simpson
By: Wendy Castellanos-Wolf
Peruvian food has become all the rage with the influx of world renowned chefs like Gaston Acurio and Jose Garces, creating unforgettable cuisine based on tradition, while at the same time utilizing innovative techniques. The cuisine of Peru is rich in flavor and in history and is a direct reflection of the culture. It is a mestisaje of Spanish, African and Asian influences and flavors.
I am fortunate to partake in Peruvian cuisine quite often thanks to my friend Ana who loves to eat and share the food of her homeland with friends. But alas, I am a vegetarian and while Peruvian food is extremely accessible to a vegetarian lifestyle, with traditionally meatless dishes like Arroz Chaufa or Papas a La Huancaina, I had never been able to enjoy the Saltado. It smells delicious, but it is usually made with lomo, or beef and so, I have always been left to take in the savory scent and imagine how good the sauce must taste. One day, (Peruvian Independence Day of all days), Ana said, “Come to my house and I’ll make a Lomo Saltado you can eat.
I ate conchitas, Peruvian cooked corn kernels, as I watched Ana make this amazing meal.
She was agile as she moved from place to place in her kitchen. The phrase that kept coming to mind was that she is una mujer de su casa. There is no real way to translate this and the connotation into English so I will say it crudely, she owns the kitchen, the kitchen is her bitch.
I watched Ana make Saltado de Portabella. Brilliant!
In a skillet, stir fry onions, garlic, tomato and fresh oregano. Add salt and pepper to taste, a splash of vinegar, soy sauce and aji, (which is a sundried red hot pepper paste), to make the base of the saltado. Throw in Portabella mushrooms instead of beef and once the mushrooms have released their moisture, adding more flavor to the sauce, top with fresh parsley. She served this with white rice and papas a la huancaina.
And to celebrate Peruvian Independence, Ana introduced me to Pisco Sour which is absolutely delicious and totally una bebida traidora. It’s the type of drink that sneaks up you so beware.