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.