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You Say Avocado, I Say Palta
A celebration of the green "butter of the forest"
¡Hola! This month’s newsletter is about the avocado, or as we call it in Peru, “palta.” Palta Rellena is a stuffed avocado piqueo or small bite, and Verde Que Te Quiero Verde is a pisco and avocado cocktail. I also share the story behind my first Zoom cooking class and my farmers market recipe for a summer Gazpacho Andino.
Palta Rellena / Stuffed Avocado
For a long time, I thought palta rellena was from Peru. Most Latinx countries call the fruit aguacate so “palta” seemed uniquely Peruvian. But avocados are native to Mexico and stuffed avocados have a complex colonial history.
In Peru, home cooks stuff the halved and pitted avocado with a chicken or tuna salad. To make it vegan, I mashed canned chickpeas and mixed in vegan mayo, chopped red onion and celery, salt, and parsley.
What I like about making this dish is that it comes together quickly. There’s little preparation, and I don’t have to cook on the stove top. Also, one batch of the filling and two avocados make an appetizer course for four people.
Verde Que Te Quiero Verde
The green color of a cocktail with an avocado syrup on PUNCH inspired my pisco version. I play flamenco percussion, and green is “verde” in Spanish, so I thought of a poem by Federico García Lorca for the cocktail’s name.
“Verde que te quiero verde,” or “Green, how I want you green,” is a line from Lorca’s “Romance Sonámbulo.” And in Carlos Saura’s film Flamenco, musicians transformed the poem into a song with a rumba rhythm.
Verde Que Te Quiero Verde
2 oz. pisco, quebranta grape varietal
1 oz. lime juice
1 oz. avocado syrup
Combine the pisco, lime juice, and avocado syrup in a shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into a glass with ice and garnish with a slice of roasted poblano hot pepper.
For the avocado syrup, combine 1 oz. agave syrup, 1 oz. simple syrup, 1 tablespoon avocado flesh, 1/4 teaspoon lime juice, and a dash of salt in a container. Use an immersion blender to purée the mixture.
Cookbooks I Am Reading
Here are some cookbooks I’ve enjoyed reading, cooking, and learning from. They feature vegan recipes, from cultures around the globe, that have the power to transport you to the Caribbean, Asia, and Africa.
Musica Pop de Japón
After finding this catchy upbeat Japanese pop tune about the avocado, I asked my dear friend Yukari Sakamoto of Food Sake Tokyo about the song and the avocado’s popularity in Japan. Her reply was, “fun song!”
Yukari also told me that the song’s lyrics are about the health benefits of the avocado, its soft and delicious texture, how to eat it on sandwiches or as sashimi with soy sauce, and how it melts in your mouth.
The song also mentions that the avocado is originally from Mexico and that in Japan it’s called “the butter of the forest.”
Zoom Cooking Class
I am grateful to cook at home for family and friends during this pandemic. But I miss teaching in-person cooking classes and sharing Peru’s food culture with others. Enter Zoom, and my long-time friend Chris Schlichting.
We’ve chatted about creating space for conversation on the intersection of food and art. One idea is a residency space that hosts chefs, farmers, artists, activists, and community members. Coming together can be challenging due to COVID, so Chris invited me to do a virtual cooking class.
Over the span of an hour, I talked about the multicultural heritage of Peruvian cuisine, answered questions, and showed participants how to prepare my vegan palta rellena. What a joy it was to watch everyone prepare the stuffed avocado dish and enjoy it for lunch immediately after. Now, I am hooked and can’t wait to teach another Zoom class.
Farmers Market Recipe
One reason we enjoy going to farmers markets is to find seasonal produce for our home cooked meals. Supporting local vendors is important too. And this time of year, peak season vegetables like heirloom tomatoes are bursting with color and flavor. Lil’ Starts grows theirs in Portland!
Fill Your Pantry is celebrating Tomato Week from September 5 to September 11 at various Portland area farmers markets. As part of the event, Cook First published my heirloom tomato Gazpacho Andino recipe.
Gazpacho is from Spain, but the word “tomato” comes from the Náhuatl “xitomatl” and tomatoes are native to Mexico and Peru. It was colonial foodways that brought the tomato to Europe. Can you imagine Spanish or Italian food without tomato? So, to honor the Indigenous roots of the tomato, I added quinoa and mint to the soup.