Thursday, February 2, 2012

More bocaditos!

I don't want you to think that every dinner I make is this complicated or takes 6 hours to eat, as this one did, but it sure was one of the most fun dinners I have ever researched, cooked and/or eaten! When we leave South America I will share some of my own simple creations with you, but for now on to the Little Bites!

Quinoa croquettes
Quinoa is a high protein grain that has been cultivated for centuries in the Andes mountain regions of South America.

  • 1 cup quinoa (uncooked)
  • 2 cups chicken stock or water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter or oil
  • 1 tablespoon Aji Amarillo Paste* or minced hot chile pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup finely diced ham or crumbled bacon
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
* I bought the Aji Amarillo (Yellow Pepper Paste) online at Just Google it; there are several sources. It has a unique flavor and is fairly spicey, but delicious!
Place quinoa in a saucepan and cover with the chicken broth. I like to keep my own home-made chicken broth in the freezer at all times. Later we'll talk about how easy and simple it is to make chicken broth.

Add bay leaf and bring to a boil.

Cover and reduce heat to low and simmer quinoa until the liquid is absorbed, about 10-15 minutes. Turn off heat and leave pot covered and undisturbed for 10 minutes more. Remove bay leaf.

Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat, and cook the onions and garlic with the Aji Amarillo until soft, about 8 minutes.

Stir the onions and garlic into the quinoa, along with the parmesan cheese, ham, parsley, bread crumbs and cream cheese. Stir in two eggs. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Chill quinoa mixture for at least an hour, or overnight. I am a big fan, especially when making a complicated dinner, to do as many things a day or more ahead...makes the final preparation much easier and less stressful!

Break two remaining eggs into a shallow bowl and whisk in a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar. Place the bread crumbs into another shallow bowl or dish.

Shape the quinoa mixture into small balls or oval croquettes. Dip each croquette into the egg mixture, and then into the bread crumb mixture to coat. Set aside on a plate until all the croquettes are breaded.

Heat 2 inches of oil to 350 degrees. Fry croquettes in batches until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm.

Croquettes can be kept warm (or reheated) in a 200 degree oven for up to an hour.

Makes about 15 golf-ball size croquettes.

Serve with Ranchero Dressing*:
  • One cup ranch dressing, already made
  • 1/4 teaspoon chile powder (any flavor)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
Home-made Ranch dressing is so easy to make and much better than the bottled stuff. Mix 1 cup mayo with 1/2 cup sour cream (or fat free plain yogurt-I use the Greek style), 1/2 tsp. dried chives, parsley, dill, 1/4 tsp. garlic powder, onion powder, salt/pepper to taste. Let the flavors blend for at least 1/2 hour. If you are making Ranch as a salad dressing rather than dipping sauce, add a little buttermilk to thin it out.

Manchego Cheese and Quince Paste
In Argentina and Uruguay this treat is known as a "Martín Fierro", after the gaucho in the epic Argentine poem by José Hernández. This doesn't get easier. I ordered Bolivian wheat crackers online and simply sliced the cheese and quince paste and placed on the crackers.

Papas a la Huancaina-Baby Potatoes with Creamy Aji Amarillo Sauce-from Peru and Beef Bruschetta from Argentine

Peru has an amazing cuisine, one that has evolved from both local and immigrant traditions. Foods that were prepared by ancient civilizations are still enjoyed today, while typical Peruvian dishes also benefit from European, African and Asian influences. Peru's geography yields diverse ingredients: abundant seafood from the coast, tropical fruits from the jungle, and unusual varieties of grains and potatoes from the Andes.

Peruvian cuisine is recognized around the world as one of the best in South America - try it and see what everyone is raving about.
  • 2 pounds baby potatoes
  • 1-2 tablespoons Aji Amarillo paste*
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 2 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup queso fresco cheese (or other firm, salted white cheese)
  • Juice of 1-2 limes (to taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
* Some Latin markets carry Aji Amarilla Paste, but as I said before, I bought mine online at

Boil the potatoes in salted water until just tender. Drain and sprinkle with kosher salt.

While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the sauce: Coarsely chop the white parts of the green onions.

Add the chopped onions with all the rest of the ingredients (except the salt and pepper) to the bowl of a food processor or blender.

Process until mixture is smooth and creamy.

Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste, and chill until ready to serve.

Serve potatoes warm, with huancaina (wan-kay-enna)sauce for dipping.

Serves 5-8 as appetizer.

About Huancaina: This versatile, spicy yellow sauce is the perfect accompaniment to almost anything: roasted chicken, vegetables, french fries, or fried yuca. The star ingredient is the aji amarillo chile pepper, a staple in Peruvian cooking. The sauce seems to taste even better after 24 hours in the refrigerator. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Beef Bruschetta from Argentina
Here's another easy addition to our Bocaditos.
2 lbs. either sirloin or filet, sliced thin
1 loaf Italian bread, sliced 1/2" thick
EVOO-Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Huancaina Sauce (see recipe above)
1/2 cup grated provolone cheese

Rub each slice of bread with EVOO. Toast lightly under broiler, set aside to cool. Spread a thin layer of Huancaina sauce on each slice. Toss beef with salt/pepper. Add 1 Tablespoon of EVOO to a heavy (cast iron-type) frying pan. Get it hot. Very quickly (1-2 minutes)fry beef tossing as it cooks. Put about 1 Tbsp. of beef per slice and top with grated provolone. This can be done ahead of time. Put under the broiler to melt cheese when ready to serve. Makes about 16 slices depending on how generous you are with the beef!

Are you full yet?? Hope not, we have just begun our fiesta.

Next we will have our Entrada (first course) which is a delicious Ecuadorian Ceviche and then on to the Platas Principales, otherwise known as main course-Chicken Breast in Creamy Coconut Sauce and Coconut Rice from Columbia and easy to prepare and yummy Garlicky Collard Greens from room for Postres(dessert)!...It's a surprise!

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