Aji Amarillo

We were introduced several years ago. One of the ladies in the church we attended in Bogotá was Peruvian, and she invited us over for a meal.  Everything she prepared was Peruvian: from the papas huancaina to the mazamorra.

Just this past weekend, we got reacquainted. One of the ladies in the church we are attending in Pennsylvania is Peruvian, and she invited us to share lunch on Sunday. Everything she prepared was Peruvian: from the papas huancaina to the chicha morada. The chicken in the arroz con pollo was very flavorful, and everyone raved about the salsa criolla (an salad made from thinly sliced red onion).

One of the important ingredients in Peruvian cuisine is a yellow hot pepper by exactly that name, aji amarillo.  The heat is pretty strong, but it has a pleasant touch of fruity-ness about it. It can be used for the sauce of potato salad, to give kick to the salsa criolla, or to marinade chicken for the grill.

Aji amarillo isn’t as easy to find as your jalapeño, serrano, and habanero. Most people won’t even know what you are talking about when you use the word “aji”. While you can find those three in the fresh produce section of your local grocery store, don’t be confused by the bags of multi-colored sweet mini peppers. They may be the right color and almost the right shape, but they aren’t aji amarillo.  Your best bet is to look in the canned / bottled hot sauce section or in the Latin American section of the grocery aisle.

Even there, you probably won’t find this yellow Peruvian hot pepper. Only one of the Whole Foods Market stores in our area carry it—and that at a high price.  A lady at one of the stalls at the indoor Flourtown Farmer’s Market tipped me off to an international grocery store that sells the aji in a pepper paste for a fraction of WFM’s price. Most of the product at Assi Plaza is oriental/Asian, but they do have a wealth of products from other regions across the globe.


Categories: Chicken, Food and drink, Herbs and Spices, Potato, sauces & condiments | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Recipes for Entertaining: Chili


My first full-time, permanent job was working in the logistics department of a company that made power supplies. Office staff crossed paths with factory workers occasionally. Once, they organized a chili cook-off. The guy that won called his recipe “canada chili”, because he used a can of this and a can of that.

My approach to making chili is similar. I don’t have specific ingredients or amounts; whatever I have on hand gets browned and mixed in. When you have company, though, it is safer to have something you can count on. One of the families from church shared this tried-and-true recipe:

1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1/4 c chopped onion
1 rib chopped celery
1/2 c chopped green pepper

Saute and drain fat. I like a clove of garlic too.

29 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 16 oz cans Kidney beans

Undrained. [I did drain the kidney beans, though.]

1/2 c ketchup

Can add tomato paste if you like it thicker

1 1/2 t lemon juice, brown sugar, and salt
2 t vinegar
1 t Worcestershire sauce
1-2 T chili powder
2 t cumin

I cook in crock pot for a few hours.

10-12 servings

Categories: beef, Food and drink, Meat, Soup | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spanish Rice No Noodles

paella pan

Shop Window at the Philadelphia Italian Market

Two aromas greeted me when I opened the door to our apartment this afternoon: freshly ground coffee and something a little bit more difficult to identify. After I had removed my coat and had set down my things, I went into the kitchen. My husband had offered to start supper; the glass lid to the frying pan was clouded with steam, and I could tell by the empty box on the counter that he was cooking “Spanish rice”.

Rice-a-Roni describes it’s product as “tender rice and vermicelli with zesty Spanish seasonings”. It is easy to prepare, and if you add a few extra ingredients it can be quite tasty.

When my husband chose to prepare Spanish rice this evening, he didn’t know that March 27th is “National Spanish Paella Day”. Who knows how people choose one date over another as that food’s “national day”. Spain would certainly laugh at the thought of our instant rice and noodles meal being an adequate substitute for paella.

paella rice

Short-Grain Rice

Paella is a dish made with three essential ingredients: Spanish short-grain rice, olive oil, and saffron. Your recipe will vary based on what kinds of meat and/or vegetable you include.

I’m a novice at paella preparation, but it isn’t difficult to find people with opinions and suggestions. I ordered packets of paella seasoning online, Valencia rice was available at a local grocery store, and I already had a bag of seafood mix in the freezer.

Unfortunately, I was not patient enough to really read how to cook the seafood, so that part ended up rather tough. The pungent(?) saffron flavor didn’t seem to really stand out, so I may have to try again (with a different meat combination, too!).


First Attempt at Preparing Paella

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