Monday, March 14, 2011

March Daring Cooks' Challenge - Ceviche and Papas Rellenas

Mid-March already? That means Spring will be here any day now!! I am more than ready for Spring - for the warmer weather and all that it brings, from playing outside to the promise of the fresh fruits of the summer. This month's Daring Cooks' Challenge gave a hint of the tastes to come in the very coolest of ways.

Kathlyn of Bake Like a Ninja was our Daring Cooks’ March 2011 hostess. Kathlyn challenges us to make two classic Peruvian dishes: Ceviche de Pescado from “Peruvian Cooking – Basic Recipes” by Annik Franco Barreau. And Papas Rellenas adapted from a home recipe by Kathlyn’s Spanish teacher, Mayra.

Ceviche is a very popular seafood dish throughout Central and South America, that is thought to have originated in Peru. It is traditionally made with raw fish that is "cooked" by being marinated in citrus juice. It both looks and sounds delicious and refreshing and very summery-tropical.

The only problem is that we are not big fish eaters in this house, and that none of us is all that comfortable with the idea of raw fish. What to do... Well, the first thing that I did was hop over to Google to search for vegetarian versions of this specifically non-vegetarian dish. As luck would have it, there are tons of options available for making this dish, or a dish very much in its style, without raw fish. I chose this one, using fresh mozzarella as the protein instead of the fish. Definitely in the spirit of the challenge, just making it so that the family will eat it!

The recipe involves lots of fresh, colorful vegetables, and the majority of the prep work involves the cutting, slicing or chopping of those fresh, colorful vegetables. Red onions are thinly sliced and soaked in cold water and the juice of one lime (I added the squeezed-limes to the bowl, too, just to get the most out of that lime).

Meanwhile, corn, red peppers and avocado are chopped and mixed together. The recipe also calls for chile peppers, but I didn't want that much heat in this dish, so I omitted it. I then added the cutest little mini-mozzarella balls to the prepared vegetables and mixed them together. I then drained the onions and added them to my bowl. The final step, to make it truly ceviche style, was to squeeze fresh limes over the mixture, sprinkle on some chopped fresh cilantro, and let the whole thing marinate in the refrigerator for the day.

While I was chopping veggies and preparing the ceviche, I was actually also preparing the second half of this challenge, as well. Talk about multi-tasking! The second portion of this challenge was papas rellenas, literally "stuffed potatoes." This is a dish that exists in one form or another throughout much of the Caribbean, but that is very traditional Peruvian fare. It is generally made from a dough made of mashed potatoes, wrapped around a filling of seasoned ground meat. So while I was making the ceviche, I was also roasting an oven full of potatoes for my mashed potato doughs. Yes, I know, mashed potatoes are usually made from boiled potatoes, but I prefer the flavor of roasted potatoes, so that is what I chose. I had two different ideas for my papas rellenas, so roasted two different kinds of potatoes - yukon golds and sweet potatoes.

The first idea that I had for these was a side-dish style stuffed potatoes, for which I used the yukon gold potatoes. I prepared a simple filling of broccoli and cheddar cheese.

The process of preparing these is very interesting. And messy. And requires patience and well washed hands. I scooped up the dough and flattened it into a pancake in my hand. A generous spoonful of the filling was then scooped into the pancake, which I then closed up around the filling to seal it up. The stuffed papas are then dipped once in flour, then in egg, then into bread crumbs. For these, I chose to use whole wheat panko bread crumbs. Once rolled, stuffed and triple dipped, the papas are deep fried to a nice golden brown.

The second variety that I chose to make, with the sweet potatoes, are what I called my dessert papas. For the filling, I chopped three types of apples (braeburn, pink crisp and mcintosh) and sauteed them in butter with cinnamon, brown sugar and dried cranberries. The process for preparing the dessert papas was the same as the side dish version, only much, much messier. Sweet potatoes are so much softer and creamier than yukon golds that the dough was very difficult (to the point of being very funny) to work with. Once filled, they were so soft that they were difficult to dip in the flour, egg and bread crumbs (not actually bread crumbs for this version - I chose honey-crunch wheat germ as the breading for the dessert version). But by the time everything was fried and drained, we were all very excited to see give everything a taste.

As it turns out, everything worked out really well! Our simple dinner (shredded beef) was beautifully complemented by both the ceviche-mozzarella and the broccoli and cheese papas. The ceviche was light and fresh and full of fresh flavor, and the papas were very filling, but made for a very fun side dish. I would imagine that using the meat filling would make them almost a meal in and of themselves, not just a side! As it was, they came out so big that little miss and I split one as our side that night.

And the dessert papas? The sweet potatoes were so smooth and creamy, and the filling was absolutely delicious. Like the side-dish papas, these were pretty heavy, so I am not sure I would recommend doing a double-papas night like we did, but I am really glad that I made both versions.

Kathlyn, thank you for being such an amazing hostess for such a fun, delicious and educational challenge! I love that you challenged us to take a step into your world, and that your teacher let you share this wonderful recipe with us.

To see the beautiful, fresh, creative and delicious dishes cooked up by the Daring Cooks this month, check them out here.

22 comments:

  1. Shelley, I LOVED,LOVED,LOVED, your 3 versions. You were so creative with your mozzarella Ceviche and also your dessert Papas. The messy sweet potato you experienced was exactly what happened with my savory Papas. They were very difficult to work with. I can imagine how delicious your dessert was. Hats off to you!!

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  2. I made roasted sweet potato papas also but a savoury version, I adore your sweet version with apples as the filling that would be so delicious. Everything is stunning that veggie ceviche is something I MUST try. It sounds like you had so much fun doing this challenge.

    Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

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  3. OMG, I absolutely LOVE your versions of papas! I absolutely adore broccoli and cheese filling. I think I am going to try that, when I make this dish again. Great idea about the veggie ceviche.

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  4. Love the broccoli and cheese filling. And how adventurous doing the sweet one! Looks great and so inspiring!

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  5. I never thought to try to make the ceviche as a vegetarian dish! This sounds and looks like the perfect way to go if you don't have access to fresh seafood or don't enjoy it :)

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  6. Ah you made both! How very good and I love how both your dishes look! Sounds like a great filling for the papas! I do feel soooo ready for spring so the ceviche in my mind is the perfect spring starter!

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  7. Such an adventure! Loved the variations you did, and that mozzarella ceviche is going to be on my to-try list.

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  8. Delicious! I love the corn in the ceviche, it looks so amazing!

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  9. Oh, how awesome! You really went all out. You did a great job using your creativity in the kitchen.

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  10. Great idea to do a dessert version! I also liked the idea of the cheese ceviche - that would make a great summer salad.

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  11. I love the avocado and the corn! Great job, this is gorgeous!

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  12. All of these dishes look so delicious! Kudos for making them your own, and those dessert papas. What a cool idea! :D

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  13. It all looks great - I especially like the dessert papas.

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  14. Fabulous job on this challenge. I love your desert papas!

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  15. Wow! I love your broccoli and cheese papas...they are making me hungry now! And your ceviche is beautiful..I love all the colors and the dessert papas is brilliant. Excellent job on this challenge!

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  16. the mozarella ceviche was a real hit, I suppose? great job!

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  17. Awesome for finding a veggie ceviche version and I have not seen another sweet papas yet so double wow. It looks great, even if messy.

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  18. I like the idea of sweet papas! Well done!

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  19. Dessert papas are brilliant! Great job getting the crusts so golden.

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  20. The dessert papas sounds awesome! Very adventurous, glad it worked out so well!

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  21. Once again you so rocked a challenge. The broccoli and cheese papas and dessert version is just wow, as is your veggie ceviche! I totally forgot about this month's DC challenge and put up boring noodles instead..lol

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