Take a culinary tour of "the other Americas" by experimenting with traditional flavors of Venezuela, Chile, Peru, and more.
September 29, 2010
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Churrasco with Pebre (Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Chilean Cilantro Sauce)
Churrasco typically refers to grilled beef and is a favorite main dish in Argentina, Brazil, Nicaraugua, and Uruguay. In this recipe, we call for beef cut in the Nicaraguan tradition and seasoned with Salvadoran spices, then topped with a Chilean sauce, making this entré a true celebration of Latin American flavors.
Horchata originated in Spain as a drink made from tigernuts, but its Latin American cousin usually features a rice base flavored with cinnamon, sugar, and vanilla. In some heavily Latin areas of the U.S., it is available ready-made. To jazz up this drink, try combining 2 parts rice milk with 1 part coconut rum and a dash of Goldschläger for a delicious Southern California cocktail known as a "Rice Rocket."
Tamales are extremely popular throughout both Central and Latin America. They consist of a meat filling wrapped in corn dough and corn husks, plantain leaves, or chard. Tamales vary in size, depending on the country and whether or not they are served as a main meal or smaller side dish or appetizer. These beef tamales take some time to prepare, but are well worth the wait!
Both Nicaragua and Costa Rica claim gallo pinto as the national dish, though each nation prepares it in different ways. Essentially it is pre-cooked rice fried with beans and spices, and in Costa Rica is a common breakfast staple. In some areas, cooks top the rice with grated coconut.
Both Chile and Peru take credit for the creation of the Pisco Sour, which features pisco (a South American brandy), lemon juice, simple syrup, egg whites, and bitters. Chile attributes the origin of this drink to an English sailor who settled there in the 1870s, while Peru claims that it was invented in Bar Nichole in the early 1920s. Like the Mojito, the Pisco Sour continues to gain popularity in the U.S.
Quinoa originated in the South American Andes and was honored by the Incas as the "mother of all grains." It has a very high protein content, making quinoa a popular choice for current-day vegatarians and other health-conscious cooks. This dish combines the staple grain with other common Latin American ingredients, such as poblano chiles, jalapeños, and cilantro.
Tres leches cake is extremely popular throughout Central and South America, though it probably originated in either Mexico or Nicaragua. It consists of a sponge or butter cake soaked in evaporated milk, condensed milk, and whole milk or cream. Serve with whipped cream, melted chocolate, or dulce de leche.
Though located in South American, Uruguay traces much of its traditional cuisine to its European roots, especially Italy, Spain, and France. Italian pastas dishes like ravioli, spaghetti, and lasagna are all common, and gnocchi (Italian potato dumplings) is often eaten on the 29th of each month, traditionally the day before payday. This simple gnocchi dish features asparagus, shrimp, and pine nuts.
Chayote, an edible gourd related to cucumbers and squash, is a staple of Costa Rican, Venezuelan, and Mexican diets. This dish swaps boiled chayote for traditional cebiche (or ceviche), which refers to seafood that's been partially "cooked" in citrus. Serve the salad on sweltering summer nights for truly Latin atmosphere.