Andean corn, fava bean, and chili pepper salad.
Originally from Arequipa, a beautiful southern region in the Peruvian mountains, Solterito is an appetizer that is always served cold. The recipe is cheap and easy, using the ingredients people have at hand, and as is usually the case, there are as many versions of it as there are cooks in kitchens, and the name varies accordingly. For example in Cusco, capital of the Inca Empire and home of Machu Picchu, the summery dish is called Soltero. In Spanish, a soltero is a single man. Solterito is a diminutive of soltero, as in “little single man.” There are no records of the history of Solterito, so our own interpretation (which we by no means know to be true, but is possible), is that the dish has that name because it’s so easy and simple that it’s the perfect meal for a single man.
Some like to add cooked potatoes cut in cubes; others add hot peppers, sweet potatoes, or even shrimp! Amelia, our cook of a lifetime, who is originally from a small town in Ayacucho, up in the Andes, makes a delicious version, which is actually the better known in street markets and households, as opposed to the formal recipe found in books and prepared by trained chefs. That variation is made with fresh coriander instead of parsley, and has no olives. This colorful salad is so versatile that you can give or take any ingredient of your liking to the preparation.
Rocoto is the most typical chili pepper of this part of the country. It has the appearance of a sweet and innocent red bell pepper, but beware! It can be difficult to take its dangerous heat. If you have a sturdy tongue you may actually enjoy it a lot, and may even start blending fresh rocoto and pouring it over everything you eat, like some brave Peruvians do. Behind the first layer of fire, this is a juicy, aromatic, colorful feast for the senses, and it will always bring any recipe alive and fill it with excitement. To bring down the heat of this powerful veggie, you need to remove the seeds and ribs, and rub it with sugar on the inside. Another effective method is to boil it 3 times over in water mixed with a tablespoon of sugar and vinegar, changing the water every time it boils. But don’t worry too much about all this. If you live abroad, chances are you won’t have this Andean treasure at hand, so you can always replace it with a mix of red bell pepper and any red hot chili pepper.
Regarding the cheese, which is actually quite easy to find in supermarkets or Latin grocery stores, you can replace it if needed with any other soft tasting cheese, such as quesillo, or even mozzarella, and vegans can use tofu, cashew cheese, or just ignore this step. You will be happy with the results however you choose to make it.
- 1 cup fava beans, cooked in boiling salted water for 5 minutes. Strain and peel.
- ½ cup red onion, diced
- 1 cup tomato, seedless, diced
- 1 cup giant kernel corn (or white corn), cooked
- 1 cup white fresh cheese (queso fresco) cut into cubes
- ¼ rocoto (Peruvian red chili pepper), diced
- 3 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- ¼ cup black olives, sliced
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- In a bowl combine the fava beans, onion, tomato, corn, white cheese and rocoto.
- Season with vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Add the parsley and black olives. Serve over lettuce (optional).