When we were approached a while back to be part of this campaign sponsored by the National Peanut Board, we couldn’t say no. Many people are allergic to peanuts, and in recent years, even those who aren’t have become increasingly suspicious of this nut. In Peru, however, we use this ingredient for many dishes, such as tamales, Rocoto Relleno, Carapulcra, or Ocopa, and we don’t buy into the bad publicity because we’ve been eating this way for centuries, and we are just fine. On top of this, Peruvians are not very fond of compromising on flavor, and what could ever replace the uniquely gratifying taste of peanuts?
So yes. We like peanuts, and we’re proud of it. On top of simply “liking” them, and that peanuts and peanut butter are affordable and extremely convenient to carry around or to add to any recipe, it turns out this little nut can even be considered a superfood, as it has more energy boosting protein than any other nut, and boasts of having more than 30 essential vitamins and nutrients.
For this campaign we were asked to reinvent one of our traditional family dishes, so we immediately thought of Ocopa, a cream that we pour over slices of cold potato. This dish is very similar to the better known Papa a la Huancaina, but has a very unique taste given by the addition of peanuts and huacatay (black mint). If you’ve never heard of huacatay before, don’t let this put you off from making this recipe. You probably won’t find the fresh leaves outside of Peru, but just like the mirasol chili pepper recommended to make this cream, you can easily buy it in paste form in many Latin American grocery stores, or through the internet, like we did.
So what’s new and different about the Ocopa we prepared for this occasion?
What we made was a simple traditional North American meal (baked potato), and topped it with a creamy Ocopa sauce, to show you how you can make a nutritious, flavorful, and quite affordable meal in just a few steps. We also used peanut butter instead of regular peanuts, decreased the amount of oil used to make a healthier variation, and replaced the animal crackers for brown rice crackers to make this meal gluten-free. Having this for lunch or dinner will give you and your family all the energy needed to breeze through the increasingly hectic lives we all live nowadays, and will bring some Latin-infused excitement to your table!
- 4 russet potatoes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ white onion, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 1-3 teaspoons aji mirasol paste (try with one, and increase according to your taste)
- ½ cup milk (or more, if needed)
- ¼ cup crushed brown rice crackers
- ½ cup queso fresco or feta cheese
- 1-3 tablespoons huacatay paste (try with one, and increase according to your taste)
- ⅓ cup peanut butter
- Salt and pepper
- 4 lettuce leaves.
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- Wash the potatoes, rub them with oil, and bake them for 40 minutes.
- In the meantime, heat the oil in a pan over medium heat, and saute the onion, garlic, and chili paste until golden.
- Transfer to a blender, and process with the milk, crackers, cheese, huacatay paste, peanut butter, salt and pepper, until smooth. It should be creamy, something between heavy cream and yogurt. If it's too thick add more milk.
- When the potatoes are ready take the tops off, and scoop out some of the flesh, leaving a hollow center. Mash the flesh you scooped out, and put it back in.
- Place one lettuce leaf on each dish, and one potato over each leaf. Pour the cream on top, and sprinkle with extra cheese (crumbled), and peanuts (chopped).