markets of the world…
hoofs, nostrils and gold of the incas

Peru market hoofs and nostrils

ALL PHOTOGRAPHY BY CATHY NELSON ARKLE

“Waste not, want not” or so the saying goes. The Peruvians excel at this when it comes to food.  They are as resourceful as they are creative in their diverse cuisine.

Today’s market adventure finds us in Cusco, Peru.peru countryside

The countryside was a lush backdrop for the intriguing Peruvian lifestyles.

People in Peru

The people were gracious, gregarious and gorgeous.

kids in Peru

The children were as inquisitive about us as we were about them.

donkey in Peru

There were many opportunities to explore, and new friends to make.

llama farm in Peru

Sharing a meal with one of the locals was entertaining to say the least.  Later in the trip I encountered “llama drama” when one spit in my face… not so entertaining!

human skulls in a local peruvian house

There are many strangely fascinating practices and customs in Peru.  In one home, skulls of relatives are given a prominent place of rest, gracefully displayed next to the soft drinks. I think they need something harder to drink to deal with this décor.

peru farmer market  & elongated skulls
Not sure what these market gems were before dehydration, or what strange heads these skulls came from.

Peruvian ladies selling their goods at market

There was always some local specialty to be found in the markets, on the farm, and on the streets.  Did I mention hats are standard fashion?

Potato Farmers in Peru

The three traditional staples of Peruvian cuisine are corn, potatoes, and beans.  A potato farmer and his family were proud of their crop.

Peruvian Farmers with cows

We watched farmers in action in a land relatively untouched by time.

Peru cornfields and street food

My dad is a corn farmer, and even he was surprised by the height of corn in Peru. Corn is a staple of the Peruvian diet with its history dating back to1200 B.C. Ancient farmers achieved a degree of sophistication in the selection and creation of new varieties, which then adapted to various conditions.  Could this be the first genetically modified corn?

Big corn in Peru

The tall corn produces very large kernels!  My parents sample some of the many varieties.

Peru is graced with a plentiful bounty of food sources and diversity including: 2,000 species of fish, 2,000 varieties of potatoes, 35 varieties of corn, 650 species of fruit.  Ancient Inca civilizations grew nutritionally rich plants that are now being “rediscovered” by contemporary Peruvians.  One such plant bursting with lots of good stuff is quinoa.  
Today’s recipe is based on this “gold of the Incas”.

Facts about quinoa:

quinoa growing in field

  • Most commonly considered a grain, quinoa is actually a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach, swiss chard and beets.
  • Peru is one of the world’s top producers of quinoa.
  • Quinoa is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids – a good choice for vegans concerned about adequate protein.
  • Because it is a good source of manganese, magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus, this “grain” may be especially valuable for people with migraine headaches, diabetes & atherosclerosis.

Today’s Featured Recipe:

Get creative with this quinoa salad. It is a great base for a variety of different herbs and vegetables. Add 1/2 cup pine nuts for an extra crunch. I choose red quinoa because of the vibrant color, white tastes the same. Washing or roasting quinoa before you cook it essential to eliminate the bitter taste.
* The adventurous cook would add 1 finely diced jalapeno.

Quinoa Salad with Corn & Fresh Herbs recipe

Quinoa Salad with Corn & Fresh Herbs

Very loosely adapted from Gourmet on Epi
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 ½ teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (or lime)
  • 1/8 cup extra virgin cold press olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoon agave (or honey) optional
  • 1 cup quinoa (red or white)
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro (can add fresh herb of your choice)
  • 6 oz. feta cheese, cut into cubes (or goat cheese)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small cucumber, chopped

Preparation:

  1. Defrost corn, set aside.
  2. Whisk together lemon zest and juice, oil, honey, salt, and pepper in a large bowl until combined.
  3. Wash quinoa in 3 changes of cold water in a bowl, draining in a large sieve each time.
  4. Place quinoa it in a skillet over medium-low heat and stir constantly for five minutes to dry roast. This creates a nuttier flavor. Take off heat when quinoa starts to pop.
  5. Transfer quinoa to a small pot and add 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, covered for 15 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. Move quinoa to a large bowl and let it cool.
  6. Add dressing to quinoa and toss until dressing is absorbed, then stir in corn, scallions, cilantro, bell pepper, feta, and cucumbers. Mix until well coated.
  7. Refrigerate at least one hour.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas from WH Foods:

  • Combine cooked chilled quinoa with pinto beans, pumpkin seeds, scallions and coriander. Season to taste and enjoy this south-of-the-border inspired salad.
  • Add nuts and fruits to cooked quinoa and serve as breakfast porridge.
  • Sprouted quinoa can be used in salads and sandwiches just like alfalfa sprouts.

Hope you enjoyed your arm chair journey to Peru. If quinoa is currently not in your repertoire, I hope that you will consider adding this power packed food to your mix. Please let me know of your favorite way to cook it.
 …and then, she paused for thought.

I just entered the top photo in Junglefrog Cooking On Location Photo Challenge.
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About Cathy Arkle

Cathy Arkle is a food blogger, culinary explorer, graphic artist, and cooking class junkie. Her inspirations come from her travels across the globe (50 countries) in the last 20+ years partaking in various ethnic cuisines while working as a graphic artist for major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX & ESPN). She has collected a few Emmys in the field of graphic design for sports & entertainment. Cathy is also a graduate of the Pro Chef courses at The New School of Cooking in Culver City, CA

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