Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Just Like They Make It In Peru.


Just to be clear, I will not be cooking guinea pig tomorrow.  Will not.

Ditto for beef heart.  Not gonna do it.

This is relevant, because for the past four months, my daughter's sixth grade humanities class has been working on "International Day."  Students are assigned countries from around the world, researching the culture, geography, history and yes, cuisine.  The only part requiring parental assistance -- or more accurately, parental intervention -- is the cuisine portion.  For tomorrow night's International Day Festival, we're to bring food representative of the student's assigned country.

Perfect.  Because really, who better to intervene than me?

Of course it's not that easy.  Never is.  Darling Daughter's assigned country is Peru.  Riiiiiiiiiiiiiggghhht.  Peru.

A quick Google search turns up a number of recipes, including such national favorites as beef heart and guinea pig.  Apparently, beef heart (anticuchos) is a popular casserole dish.  I actually enjoy a good casserole, but this one doesn't have to touch my tastebuds for me to know that I'm anti-anticuchos.  Guinea pigs (cuyes) can be prepared any number of ways -- grilled, roasted, fried, stewed and baked.  (No mention of Bubba Gump-style gumbo, pilaf and scampi.)  However, since none of the cuyes actually survive to spin the wheels in their little cages another day, I can't go there, either.

I interrogate Darling Daughter:  Why couldn't you get France?  Croissants, boeuf bourgogne, coq au vin?  Sign me up.  How about England?  Shepherd's pie may not be the most sought-after dish in middle school, but at least it's familiar.  And Mexico?  Hello, four-one-one, can you give me the number to Taco Bell?  

I'd even go with Australian Vegemite (yeast paste) sandwiches before noshing on a pet.   Or a rodent.  Or a pet rodent.

(As an aside, it does tickle my funnybone to imagine going to my neighborhood Harris Teeter and asking Frank the Butcher for a couple dozen guinea pigs, gutted, skinned and butterflied as described in one recipe.  But I digress.)

Hey!  Isn't Juan Valdez of the coffee commercials from Peru?  My dear friends at Starbucks could cater!  Except, sadly, a Google search indicates that Juan isn't from Peru.  He's from Colombia.  Which means he's got other problems on his plate.  And probably wishes he lived in Peru.

Still, I may be on to something.  A Peruvian beverage might be just the ticket.  Pisco sours look interesting.  But I suspect Darling Daughter would be transferred to another school, posthaste, if I were to serve Peruvian brandy to 100 kids and parents.

Just when I'm ready to throw up my hands, I see it.  Quinoa Salad.  Who knew?  Even though I've never made it before, I'm certain it will work.   And given the alternative, I bet I can even get Darling Daughter to give it a taste.  More to come ...

PS -- Darling Daughter concurs that the salad was very tasty and should become a regular staple here at the Wiles house.  It may not be authentic, as I adjusted some of the quantities to my taste, but still, it's very good!

Quinoa Salad

6 cups cooked quinoa (more, of course, if you're cooking for 100), cooled
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 seedless cucumber, cut in fine dice
2 roma tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

1/3 cup fresh lime juice
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
fresh ground pepper

1 head iceberg lettuce, shredded (optional)

In a large bowl, whisk together lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper until creamy.  Gently fold in remaining ingredients.  If desired, serve over bed of shredded lettuce.  Garnish with additional mint leaves if desired.  Be glad you're not eating guinea pig.

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