Do Fries Come With That Steak?

lomolede

I love Peruvian food. Like, I loooooooove it. A lot.

Peruvian cuisine is special in that it celebrates a vast cultural mélange–lending itself to Inkan, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, African, and Italian influences. The food is as deeply rooted in tradition as it is culturally rich.

I was first introduced to Peruvian cuisine 7 years ago through my friend Yolie, when I was living in Los Angeles. She took me to this little South Bay gem heralded by all the in-the-know locals–a family-owned Peruvian chain called El Pollo Inka. 

And let me tell you, I still have cravings for their Pollo a la Brasa and Aguadito soup with extra aji verde. But my love…<raises both arms into the air> my LOVE, is for their famous, Lomo Saltado (stir-fried beef).

<Arms are still in the air> I can’t even begin to express how much I miss those tender chunks of wok-fried steak, crispy French fries with tomatoes, sweet red onions, fresh herbs, aji amarillo and soy sauce atop a bed of steamed rice. My body craves it like how I imagine a heroin addict yearns for another high–ploddingly reaching for the syringe:

“Just one more. One more hit is all it will take,” I can hear the addict saying.

But Lomo Saltado is a healthy addiction that I can speak openly about without reservations. It is the one dish I will always order at every Peruvian restaurant I encounter in my travels. San Francisco-based restaurant, Limón, has an exceptional take.

Lomo Saltado is a Chifa dish–the name for Peruvian-Chinese cuisine. Chifa comes from the Mandarin word, chī fàn, which means “to eat” or some will argue, specifically “to eat rice.” The dish is a perfect example of old- and new-world fusion.

As with most traditional dishes, recipes differ ever so slightly, depending on the kitchen. This recipe is an amalgam of the three very different versions I cited above.

lomo2

lomoplate

Lomo Saltado
Yields 2-4 servings

FOR THE MARINADE

INGREDIENTS
1 pound sirloin steak, cut into medium-sized strips
2 each garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (apple cider vinegar works, too)
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

METHOD
Place all items in a medium-sized bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until ready to cook.

lomomarinade

FOR THE STIR-FRY

INGREDIENTS
2 large Russet potatoes, washed + peeled, cut into matchsticks
vegetable oil, for frying
1 medium red onion, cut into thick wedges
2 Roma tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 amarillo chile, deseeded and julienned*
(*Cook’s note: aji amarillos are often hard to find. If that’s the case for you, substitute for 1 serrano chile)
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
4 cups steamed rice

METHOD
Fill a deep, heavy-bottomed pan (or deep-fryer) halfway with oil. Heat to 300 degrees. Fry potatoes for about 10 minutes or until softened. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and place onto a plate with paper towel to drain excess oil.

Crank up the heat to about 375 degrees. Return the fries to the fryer and cook for an additional 5 minutes and golden brown. Remove from the oil and drain, keeping them in a warm place while you do the stir-fry.

Heat a deep cast-iron skillet or wok over medium-high heat with a tablespoon of oil. Drain the meat from the marinade (keep the marinade!) and when the oil is hot, add the meat. Use a wooden spoon to quickly sear the meat. Lower to medium heat, add the onion, stir-frying for about 2 minutes. Then add the tomato and chile. Cook for 1 minute. Then pour over the marinade. Allow the meat and vegetables to fully cook. Turn off the heat and add the reserved French fries to coat. Sprinkle with the cilantro and stir. Pour over the steamed rice and serve.

lomofries

lomo3

A Fine Farewell

IMG_7432

I first made these rasta-style popsicles last year as a surprise farewell treat for my sweet roommate and friend, Gina, who was moving out of our Oakland abode for an amazing teaching job. The popsicles were devoured after we had yummy Shan Dong take-out while watching Cry Baby. (Perfect night in, right?) She and her circle of friends from college started photographing every collective red, yellow and green sighting on their Instagram accounts and hashtagging them with “#jahworksinmysteriousways.” (And it turned out that the clever man who coined that hashtag is now my current roommate, Brian.) So I thought it would be a cute (and tasty!) idea to make her these vegan “Jahsicles.” I later posted a pic of the popsicles on my personal Instagram account and it became the 300th #jahworksinmysteriousways post! Next level! (The hashtag has more than 500 posts to date.)

How fitting is it that while I type this, I find that this recipe has gone full-circle? Looking around my bedroom, it is now filled with my boxed-up belongings, as I, too, am in the process of moving out of the house. To new adventures! (And yummy popsicles!)

IMG_7424

Roasted Strawberry Base
Recipe slightly adapted from Joy the Baker 

INGREDIENTS
1/2 pound strawberries, stems removed and halved
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/2 lemon, juiced
7 ounces cultured almond milk yogurt (I used Amande)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

IMG_7423
METHOD
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place your strawberries in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Stir to fully incorporate. Place the strawberries onto a baking sheet tray and into the oven to roast till they’re softened, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and add the roasted strawberries into a food processor. Add the sugar and lemon juice and blend till smoothie-like. In a separate bowl, using a rubber spatula or spoon mix the yogurt and vanilla extract, adding the strawberry puree. Refrigerate.

IMG_7427

Mint Lime Coconut Base
Recipe slightly adapted from Kitchenette Blog

INGREDIENTS
7 ounces canned coconut cream
1/2 cup almond milk
1/4 cup lime, juiced
1/2 bunch mint, picked
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

METHOD
Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend till smoothie-like. Refrigerate.

IMG_7429
Pineapple Coconut Base

INGREDIENTS
1 cup (8 ounces) frozen pineapple chunks
7 ounces canned coconut cream
1 tablespoon light brown sugar

METHOD
Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend till smoothie-like. Refrigerate.

IMG_7431
POPSICLE ASSEMBLY
Once all of your bases are made, gather three liquid measuring cups (this makes it easier to pour) or cups (if you don’t have more than 1) and place each flavor into a separate cup. Pour a third of the strawberry puree into the bottom of each popsicle mold. Freeze the popsicles for about 30 minutes to an hour to set the puree before adding in the next base. Once set, pour in a third of the mint lime coconut base into the molds. Freeze for another 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until the base is set. Then pour a third of the pineapple coconut base into each mold. Freeze for at least 6 hours before serving.

IMG_7430

Split Decision

Secret Ingredient: Chickpeas!

Secret Ingredient: Chickpeas!

My sweet tooth is becoming a problem. A major problem. The kind of problem that goes straight to the thighs and derrière, so much so that my pants (two pairs, thus far) are waging a war against me–splitting at the most unpleasant of areas at the most inconvenient of times. Perhaps *they* are trying to tell me something?

Within the first few weeks of working at a former job, I had experienced one of the most embarrassing moments in a cook’s life–I had bent down to pick up a sheet tray from the rolling rack, and eek! my 3-year-old, culinary school-issued, black pants had split at the seam of my, err, caboose. I was exposed. Completely embarrassed, I had to scurry (apron now wrapped around my waist, concealing said ripped pants) to my sous chef and ask him for an emergency pair of black chef pants. My sous chef then contacted our restaurant’s general manager about the “situation” who then ran over to the human resources building to get me a new pair. Before I knew it, nearly everyone working in my cafe had found out about my pant mishap. Not only was I the “New Girl”, I was now the “New Girl with the Incredibly Splitting Pants!” I felt like a really bad circus act.

For this I blame a lack of exercise. Working 8-13 hours a day is hard on the body and doesn’t allow me the time to work out after-hours. By the time I get home from work, I’m extremely exhausted. While my job is very physically demanding–heavy lifting, running around, standing for long periods of time, etc.–I was missing the fat- and calorie-burning cardio exercise I needed to counter my sweet tooth-crazed problem. To combat this issue I’ve now begun walking to work, a mere 3.5 miles, 7 miles roundtrip. I’m now able to eat the sweet things (very sparingly!) without all the guilt.

Even still, cookies are my vice. Always have been. They’re my go-to snack whether they’re fresh from the oven (the best kind) or of the grocery store variety. I began researching for a healthy cookie option to help ease my daily sweet cravings. Does a healthy cookie even exist? I found a recipe via The Texanerin of a grain-free cookie made of (hold your breath now) chickpeas! Yes, I couldn’t believe it, either, when I first read about it. I immediately got to recipe testing. With some slight tweaking (I substituted the peanut butter for almond butter and added Nutella and brown sugar to the mix), this cookie does make me feel less guilty. And just to be sure, while I wait for the cookies to bake, I do squats and leg lifts in between.

==

IMG_1644

A Different Kinda Chocolate Chip Cookie

Grain-free Vegan Nutella-Almond Butter Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe slightly adapted from Texanerin Baking
Yields about 17 cookies

INGREDIENTS
1 1/4 cups canned chickpeas, well-rinsed and patted dry or (350g cooked)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup almond butter
1/3 cup + 1 teaspoon Nutella or hazelnut spread
1/4 cup (80 grams) honey
1 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
1/8 cup (70 grams) brown sugar
1/2 cup (90 grams) dark chocolate chips (65% cacao or more)

IMG_0578

Other ingredients: honey, almond butter, and of course, Nutella

IMG_0581

Dark chocolate chips

IMG_0597

Hey batter batter batter!

METHOD 
Preheat your oven to 350°F/175°C. Combine all the ingredients, except for the chocolate chips and brown sugar, in a food processor and process until very smooth. Make sure to scrape the sides and the top to get every little chunk of chickpeas and process again until they’re well combined.

Add in the chocolate chips and brown sugar and stir till just combined. The mixture will be very thick and sticky.

Transfer dough into a small bowl and place into refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour to congeal. Allowing the dough to cool makes it slightly easier to handle.

When you’re ready, use an ice cream scoop or spoon to form 1- to 1/2-inch balls. Place onto a Silpat- or parchment paper-lined sheet tray. Bake for 10-15 minutes.

IMG_0662

Post-bake!