When I was a kid, Sundays always meant something was simmering on the stove. The day was filled with lots of food, playing outside, family; and the focus was always to enjoy the thing we never have enough of: time.
What you see pictured is the Sunday food of my childhood. It’s the dish my mom and dad would get started in the morning and let cook in the oven for hours and hours. The smell is intoxicating—it’s the smell of my mama’s homeland, and in turn the smell of Sundays growing up. The other day when I recreated it, I had forgotten for a moment what the smell meant to me; I missed home for a bit.
Last Friday I bought a $13 movie ticket, along with a small bag of $6 popcorn, and joyfully watched the new Jon Favreau movie, The Chef. I loved it! Sure, there were problems with the movie, like the relationship between him and Sofia Vergara (seems a little unrealistic) but whatever, I took the ride.
Not to give too much of the movie away but part of it was shot in South Florida, where I grew up the majority of my life and it made me miss home in a way I never do. I miss my family, but I rarely miss Florida. My meh-ness toward Florida can usually be summed up with one word: humidity.
Despite the excessive moisture in the air, Miami does have a vibrancy and energy that I really do love. And I love all the Latin people (and food) in South Florida. It made me want the food of my peeps. For as long as I can remember I’ve always been obsessed with this Peruvian Aji.
If you go into a Peruvian restaurant, most likely it’ll be on every single table. We eat it with everything. The ingredients can be tough to find. There’s usually a bit of black mint and fresh aji amarillos peppers in the sauce. So, in order to make it as assessible, I altered the recipe below to be as United States-friendly as possible.
Aji amarillo paste might be the toughest ingredient to find, though if you live near a Latin American market, it’ll most likely be there. It’s also online. If you can’t get a hold of it, you can always add a bit more jalapeño.
This is what my Sunday afternoon lunch/dinners looked like growing up. Minus the beer. My mama never gave me beer.
My dad, however, did give me whiskey when I was two. He figured if he let me try it that I’d end up hating it and would never drink it again. I did hate it…until I didn’t. Only a temporary success, papa.
Back to seco.
This stew was designed for a cold Sunday.
I recommend putting on a pair of big, warm socks and prepping this thing in the late morning, sticking it in the oven and forgetting about it for a few hours. When you return, the flavors will be all combined, rich and delicious, and the meat will be so soft you won’t even need a knife. Just a fork will do.
It has been so hot in Los Angeles. This unattractive heatwave inspired me to make my favorite cooling-off-drink of my childhood: Peruvian Chicha Morada. This is what my mama would make me when I was little.
What is Chicha?
Let’s talk about Chicha Morada. This is a drink from Peru. This drink is made from corn. Yes! Corn! Beautiful Peruvian dried purple corn. You can find it at most Latin supermarkets and online here.
Note: It should run you about $4 at a latin market, so amazon is a little bit more expensive. If you’ve watched a food tv show about Peru, you’ll most likely be familiar with chicha as a drink that people make in Cusco, Peru. But it’s actually made all over Peru in varying ways. In Lima, it’s made from boiling dried purple corn.
Look how pretty the purple corn is!
The corn is tossed into a pot with water, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and the peel from a pineapple (waste nothing! and plus it gives it a hint of pineapple flavor).
And then it simmers for 45 minutes and when it’s done your house will smell spicy and fruity. The mixture will go from looking like water with ingredients mixed in to a beautiful, bright purple color!
Next, it’s time to add the fresh lime juice and sugar. Below it says 1 cup of sugar. This wasn’t super sweet, so feel free to taste it after the 1 cup of sugar and add more if you like!
There are different types of Chicha!
Chicha usually comes in two forms: fermented and non-fermented.
That’s not what we’re making today! But if you decided to add a splash of rum or pisco to this, I wouldn’t be angry with you.
Top each drink of Peruvian Chicha Morada with a small handful of diced pineapple and apple. Screams summer time.
To a large pot, add the dried purple corn, water, cinnamon sticks, cloves, the pineapple peels, sugar and apple peel. Heat over high heat and once the mixture reaches a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 45 minutes.
Remove the chicha from the heat. Place a strainer atop a large bowl and pour mixture through it, catching the large corn ears, pulp and pineapple. Transfer to a pitcher and allow to come to room temperature before refrigerating until cold. When the chicha has gotten cold, stir in the lime juice, diced pineapple and diced green apple. Divide amongst glasses and serve.
If you like, you can reuse the scraps of the dried corn/pineapple peels/apple peel once more. You can make more chicha by adding 8 cups of water and 3/4 cups of sugar. Any more water and I fear it'll be bland!
Lomo Saltado is a Peruvian stir-fry that was influenced by the Cantonese-Chinese community that migrated to Peru. The beef is tossed and cooked in tomatoes, red onion, soy sauce and ginger. Serve it over rice for a delicious dinner.