June 30, 2007

Rocoto

The rocoto (Capsicum pubescens) is a very hot rounded medium size chili pepper, same family of plants as bell pepper, paprika, cayenne, jalapeño, ají, habanero and other. The rocoto ressembles a bell pepper, both having a similar shape and the pod walls being thick and juicy. Rocotos are somewhat smaller than bell peppers, although some are almost as big as bell peppers and are used to prepare rocoto relleno (stuffed rocotos). They differ from bell peppers on the color of seeds which are dark brown or black when ripe and the thickness and color of the fruit stem which is thin and dark in rocotos while thick and much lighter in bell peppers. When not ripe the rocoto taste is kind of sweet, not being too hot, and its seeds are whitish or light green. Rocotos can be red, orange, yellow or green.


The rocoto is very common in Peru where it is appreciated because of its taste and smell. It has been used for thousands of years and is still widely used on several dishes all around the country but it is probably in Arequipa where it is used the most. It can be cut on slices or small pieces to be added to cebiches and salads, as well as to soups and stews. Many different hot sauces can be prepared with rocotos like llatan (ocopa de rocoto). It can also be used to prepare appetizers like escribano or dishes like rocoto relleno (rocoto stuffed with a spicy mixture of meat, onions, olives, egg whites and baked with potatoes covered with cheese and milk).


Llatan

This is a traditional hot sauce from Arequipa which can be eaten with potatoes, pasta (specially good with pastel de papa or pastel de tallarín - baked layers of potato slices or pasta with fresh cheese, butter, milk and eggs), rice, meat, bread or whatever you want.

Ingredients:

Rocoto, onion, garlic, huacatay (tagetes minuta or marigold), corn or soy oil and salt. You can still try it without the huacatay if you don´t get it.

Preparation:

Boil the rocoto for a few minutes being careful not to break it apart while boiling. Then take out the seeds (if you want something extremely hot you can leave them). Cut the onion in pieces and slightly fried it with two or three garlic cloves. Blend the boiled rocoto with the fried onion and garlic, some huacatay leaves, oil and salt.
Some people like to add roasted peanuts, tostado (cancha - roasted corn) or crackers and fresh cheese.

Escribano

This is an appetizer served in picanterías (traditional restaurants in Arequipa), but they don´t serve you the finished dish but they actually give you the ingredients for you to prepare it.

Ingredients:

Potatoes, rocoto, tomato, red vinegar, corn or soy oil and salt.

Preparation:

Boil three or four regular size potatoes with their skin, then peel them. Cut one or two slices of fresh rocoto and take out the seeds and central part of the rocoto where they are attached (you can leave this part if you want it really hot). Cut the tomato in slices. Put everything on a flat dish, add red vinager, oil and salt and serve.

The fun part starts after it is served. Now you need to cut the rocoto, tomato and potatoes in small pieces, crush and mixed them using a fork. Add some more vinager, oil and salt if necessary.