peruvian potato salad with pepper black beans

Apparently, there is a fantastic Peruvian restaurant in our hometown, slightly less than a mile from our house.  In a neighborhood with plenty of low- or no-frills taquerias, this sophisticated little spot is more than it seems from the outside.  Sure, it’s not as cheap, but again, in a town that has more than its fair share of Mexican food from various parts of Mexico, there’s astonishingly little food from the rest of Latin America, despite the fact that our immigrants are certainly diverse.

Our gregarious waiter recommended the causa, a popular Peruvian cold potato salad.  Usually, the potato salad is made with vegetable oil, lime juice, and aji amarillo (a spicy local pepper), then spread thinly with mayonnaise and layered with avocado slices and a salad of chilled tuna, chicken, crab, or other protein.  Usually it is accompanied by hard-boiled egg and olives.  In the search for a meatless alternative, I thought some saucy, peppery black beans, though untraditional, would be just the thing.  In lieu of avocado slices, I just used a smear of guacamole to make things simpler.

Peruvian Potato Salad with Pepper Black Beans (4 servings)

Ingredients:

For the Potato Salad:

  • 8 medium Yukon gold potatoes (or if you want to get really crazy and alliterative, use purple potatoes!)
  • aji amarillo paste or peppers, to taste (I used 4 minced pickled hot wax peppers, but I also hear that hatch, anaheim, or jalapeno peppers can all be used)
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 sliced avocado, or 1/2 c. guacamole

For the Black Beans:

  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. ancho chile powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 can of black beans, undrained
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Place potatoes in a saucepan and cover them with cold water.  Bring to a boil and cook through.
  2. Meanwhile, cook minced onion, garlic, and bell pepper in olive oil over medium heat until softened.  Add spices and saute another minute, until fragrant.  Add the black beans and their juices.  Stir until well combined, and then simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Take off the heat before chilling the potatoes.
  3. When the potatoes are cooked through, run through a ricer or food mill (I used the grater on my food processor).  Add peppers, olive oil, lime juice, cayenne, salt, and pepper.
  4. Line ramekins or miniature loaf pans with plastic wrap.  Press potato mixture into the containers and wrap ends of plastic wrap over the top.  Chill until cold, about 30 minutes or so.
  5. Unmold cold potato salad onto plates.  Top with a spoonful of guacamole and spoon the bean mixture over the top.
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