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Monday, June 10, 2013

Oh, this has gotta be the good life

Back to the kitchen.
 
Sky Kitchen Cooking School, that is, with my two glamorous friends, Shuko and Dalia.
 
 
This time I had talked them into taking the "Andean Delicacies" class with me.  Which didn't take too much effort on my part, to be honest.
 
I showed up with a bottle of wine and enthusiasm (practically synonymous) to Christian and Yurac's beautiful residence where the kitchen and the rooftop garden flow into one another and all of Lima spreads out beneath and to the horizon, melding into a cooking nirvana.
 
The first course we were to attempt is called Ocapa. Now, like me you might be tempted to think this has something to do with octopus, but they are quite rare in the heights of the Andes Mountains. To compound the problem they quite deceptively show up on menus at sea level under the moniker of pulpa. Which, honestly, sounds a lot more like what we made;
 
 the potatoes, pre Ocopa-ing
 
a rather exotic looking potato found locally, smothered in cheese sauce. Ladies and Gentlemen, start your cholesterols.
 
The cheese sauce included such diverse ingredients as yellow chili peppers, garlic, vanilla crackers, peanuts, and key limes. And it was delicious.

Christian and Yurac threw in a mini class about Peruvian potatoes, which are starchier than their North American counterparts and also kind of pretty:
 
 
 

But no time to linger over the potatoes! There was a feast to be made! Second course, Chupe.
 



 Chupe is a hearty soup, potatoes and rice (welcome to Peru), crayfish and more fish and pumpkin and corn and a bunch of other vegetables and eggs and cheese and condensed milk and I do believe the kitchen sink sneaked in there.


An ingredient that was new to us and in both of the first dishes was huacatay, also called black mint.

Yurac showed us how to properly slice an onion, and though I had seen it done before, this time I managed to  not only understand but actually pick up the technique. Had I come away with nothing else, this was worth the price of admission.

However, I was crying so much every time I tried to cook said onions that Dalia and Shuko had to take turns rescuing me. My eyes instantly water up and slam shut as though I've been hit with pepper spray -more than once Mike has had to leave the kitchen laughing after catching me wearing swim goggles while preparing onions.

I know; the weak blue eyes of the Gringa betray me. 

Now the alpaca.

Yes, I said alpaca, those fuzzy cutenesses of creatures. Going in the pot.

The pressure cooker, actually. I was gratified that not just me but all three of the ladies showed the whites of our eyes not at the alpaca meat but at the pressure cooker. We're all terrified of the thing.


While we were assembling the non-exploding portions of the dishes, Dalia, Shuko and I were also explaining how we knew each other to our hosts, which was rather fun: Dalia, who is Mexican, met Shuko, who is Japanese, during a job in Poland. They both went on to the Dubai job, where they met me. Then the two of them moved on to the Peru job and currently live in Lima, though Shuko does spend a good amount of time in Texas as well, and I went back to the Pacific Northwest region of the States. However, my husband travels back and forth to the Peru job and I'd come with him this time. Again.

And we're all good friends.

Got that?



(note the nice little gal in the background doing plenty of prep work as well as all the cleaning up and setting out while we pretend at cooking and get photographed doing so. Quite expat, that.)

It was about here that I said something about something going catawampus.

Dalia and Shuko started laughing and Christian, who is German, just to make it that much more fun, said "what language is THAT?"

"Er, english..." I insisted, and had to argue that it is indeed a real word, giving both definition and examples of usage. Dalia immediately set about trying to learn the new word. Shuko and Christian were still giving me the eye. Albeit lovingly.

The alpaca had pressure cooked (sans explosion) into a tender piece of meat and we added another shopping cart full of vegetables including butternut squash and good sloshfuls of Peruvian maize beer called chicha de jora and white wine until we had a flavorful delicacy indeed, which we plated it over quinoa with fresh steamed asparagus.



Without further ado, we dug into our enormous lunch.

But wait! The best was to come.

We'd also whipped together a mousse, something I had made before and understood the basics of constructing such, but this mousse, ah this mousse was made with another exotic bit of wonderfulness, the Lúcuma fruit, a real find, that tastes like a perfumed caramel custard.


Which we drizzled with carob syrup and passion fruit alongside paper thin mango slices and a Physalis for looks. Shuko wrote her name in Japanese with the carob syrup and jsut as she finished  a tiny piece of the mousse escaped and besmirched her carob-y calligraphy.

It did what? The three of them asked me.

"Besmirched. Yes, that's English too."

They laughed at me.




We wrote in three languages in Yurac and Christian's guestbook.
That's how many it took to say thank you for such an afternoon.

*****
an additional thank you to Shuko...I will someday learn that cameras work much, much better with batteries in them. But until them, I will be indebted to her for sharing her photos so selflessly so that I could share them with you. Sky Kitchen's website is http://www.skykitchen.pe/ 

4 comments:

  1. How fabulous! Sign me for dessert! All of the food looks wonderful - I wish I could taste it. And of course I know catawampus and besmirched. :)

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    Replies
    1. Of course you do! You're a quality kind of gal whose first language is English, yes? :)

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  2. Oh you were brave to take a cooking course! The mango dish looks divine. But I couldn't cope w/ those onions. Good thing David is the cook at our house (onions and all).

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  3. Beyond price is the man who will cook and indulge his wife's photography and wntique habits. He's a keeper!

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