Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bolivia - cornhusks and salsa

Bolivia is the poorest country in South America but rich in natural resources and an interesting place to visit. This landlocked country does not have beaches, but it does have Sorata, a colonial escape on a hillside beneath the snowcapped peaks of Llampu and Ancohuma, and the extremely cold Uyuni, and the jungles of the Amazon Basin and the grasslands of the Southeast. This country has a lot to offer its tourists. They can explore among the ruins of ancient civilizations mixed with the reminders of the country’s colonial past.

Kevin and I knew a couple that moved to Bolivia. I could kick myself now for not taking the opportunity to visit them. But the friends and I got in an email spat over the war in Iraq (they were for the war and I was against) and I haven’t heard from them since. It’s a pity.

We loved the Bolivian food. It was simple, and yet, one could (and should) spice it up with salsa. I made plato paceno, salsa cruda, and leche asada. I went to three different stores to get the ingredients, but I got the majority of my stuff at a Latin grocery store in Oakville. The man in charge was very helpful and he asked me why I was cooking a Bolivian dish. I told him. He laughed and asked us questions about it and we both agreed that one could learn so much about a country through the food. After I paid for our groceries he gave Julia an Argentine cookie. Julia gobbled it down and then said to the man, “We’ve done that country.”

For the main dish, plato paceno, I needed to use cornhusks. In a big pot I placed cornhusks on the bottom, poured boiling water over them and then, on top of the cornhusks I placed some corn on the cob, and then more cornhusks, then lima beans, more corn husks, then potatoes. The water evaporated and I burned the bottom of my expensive William Sonoma pot (one should keep an eye on the water level and add more when needed). The smell that arose was the same as when John burned the popcorn this past summer. The house reeked so bad we had to open all the windows and turn on our fans at full blast. It took days for the smell to go away and the pan, John popped the popcorn in, was ruined. The burn corn husks wasn’t as bad, but I’m still trying to get the burned husks scraped off my pan.

Despite all that, the dish was wonderful particularly since the meal was topped off with fried cheese and salsa. The dessert, leche asada, however, was a different story. I didn’t care for it. It tasted like an omelet with sugar on it.

Now I suppose I’ll try and find my friends who went to Bolivia. I’ll look on facebook. If I find them I’ll try and remember not to talk politics.

Plato Paceno

A package of corn husks
4 corn on the cob
2 cups of lima beans
4 potatoes
4 thick slices of fresh cheese
1/4 cup oil or butter
1 cup spicy salsa (or llajwa)

At the bottom of a large pot put in corn husks and add boiling water until covering them. Place the pot over high heat. When the water boils, add the corn, then more corn husks, then the lima beans. Let it boil for 25 minutes.

Add the potatoes and cover with more corn husks. Let it boil for another 20 minutes, or until all vegetables are cooked. In a fry pan, heat oil over high heat. Fry cheese slices until golden.

On each plate, serve one corn on the cob, lima beans, one potato and a slice of fried cheese. Add llajwa or salsa.

Salsa Cruda

1/2 cup white onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup tomato, peeled and finely chopped
1 chili pepper, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh parsley, finely chopped.
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper

Mix all ingredients and mix in a few drops of olive oil.

Leche Asada

6 eggs
2 cups milk
1 cup granulated sugar

In a bowl, beat eggs and then add sugar and milk. Mix very well. Pour the mixture into a baking dish and bake at 400 degrees for one hour. Let it cool before serving.

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