Exciting Flavors for Every Day
(Family Features) In restaurant kitchens nationwide — and at home — Latin American flavors continue to be a hot trend — and it’s not because of spiciness. The unique culture and geography of countries such as Chile offer exciting possibilities for everyday cooking, adding flavor and excitement to American dishes and dinner tables.
Chilean cuisine is full of flavor and color and owes its delicious variety to a combination of cultural influences: native Indian, Spanish (including Arab and Jewish), French, German, English and Italian.
Chile is about twice the size of California and stretches along the Pacific coastline of South America. This narrow country — only 265 miles at its widest point — boasts a variety of climates, allowing for richly varied agriculture. Also, the seasons in the southern hemisphere are opposite those in the northern hemisphere, so fresh fruits and vegetables associated with summer in the U.S. are available from Chile during the winter.
Chilean products you may already have in your kitchen include:
- Olive oil
- Stone fruits such as peaches, nectarines and plums
Seafood. With nearly 3,000 miles of coastline, Chile offers an extraordinary bounty of seafood. The clean Pacific waters teem with oysters, prawns, salmon, abalone, sea bass and more.
Wine. Chile is the world’s fifth largest wine exporter, and culinary writers regularly sing praises for Chilean wines. Michael Green, the wine and spirits consultant for Gourmet Magazine, said, “Chile is a sleeping giant in terms of the quality, diversity and value of its wines. The region is home to some of the most thrilling and tasty wines in the world.”
Spices. One of the most unique flavors of Chilean cooking comes from a spice blend called merkén from the Mapuches, a native people of Chile. It’s an aromatic mixture of dried and smoked red chilis, toasted coriander seeds, cumin and salt. Merkén is an extremely versatile spice with an attractive copper color and smoky flavor. It can be sprinkled on fish, shrimp, poultry, beef and vegetables, or added to soups, sauces, cheese and pasta. Available in specialty grocery stores, it can also be ordered online.
Produce. Chilean chef Pilar Rodriguez has created recipes featuring unique Chilean flavors. One centers on the carica, also known as Chilean Golden Papaya, and ulmo honey. Carica is a unique fruit that has been described as a combination of a mango and a peach. It can be used as an appetizer or dessert, in salads and hot dishes. You’ll find it sold in jars in specialty stores and online. Ulmo honey comes from the ulmo tree, native to Chile. It has a creamy texture and a buttery sweetness that make an excellent accompaniment to mild cheeses. It is also available at specialty stores and online.
Chile offers a wide variety of fresh foods and rich flavors to discover.
Chile’s food growing regions
goats, llamas, subtropical fruits such as carica, scallops
avocados, olives, apples, grapes, wine
Central Valley South
dairy products, razor clams, kiwi, grains, cattle, wine
cattle, dairy, berries, salmon, Chilean abalones
Extreme South and Patagonia
beef and sheep, Chilean king crab
Seared Salmon & Avocado Tartar
By Chef Pilar Rodriguez
- 1/2 cup fleur de sel (coarse sea salt)
- 1/2 cup cilantro seeds
- 1 tablespoon merkén
- 1 tablespoon cochayuyo molido ahumado (smoked seaweed powder), optional
- 6 3.5- to 4-ounce boneless, skinless salmon fillets
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups avocado, cut in small cubes
- 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoon finely diced yellow chili pepper
- Salt to taste
- Pinch sugar
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
- 1/2 parsley leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
- Lemon zest
- Coarsely grind and mix salt and all the spices. Reserve in shallow bowl.
- In a non-stick pan, sear salmon filets with olive oil on both sides, just getting a nice golden color (about 90 seconds per side). Do not over cook. The center of the fillet has to be raw.
- Press one side of each fillet into salt-spice mixture and set aside.
- Mix all ingredients for Avocado Tartar in a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve the salmon fillets over the tartar. Serve immediately.
Ulmo Honey Panna Cotta, Grilled Citrus Carica Salad
By Chef Pilar Rodriguez
Makes 8 to 10 4-ounce portions
- 1 quart cream
- 1/4 cup ulmo honey OR honey of choice
- 4 gelatin sheets OR 1 package powdered gelatin
- 4 full caricas OR fresh papayas cut in half to grill
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Lemon zest
- Fresh mint leaves
- Heat cream in small sauce pan and turn off the heat right before boiling point. Add honey and, using a wooden spoon, mix well with the cream. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate.
- Put the gelatin in cold water until you see the gelatin is soft — about three minutes. Discard excess water (gelatin will be softened) and dissolve gelatin in the cream mixture.
- Fill panna cotta containers (or 4-ounce ramekins) 3/4 full and chill until set (about three hours in the refrigerator).
- Brush the caricas with olive oil and grill them over medium heat until color browns a bit (one minute per side). Right before serving, sprinkle lemon juice, sugar to taste and lemon zest on top. Serve on the side of the Panna Cottas (in containers) with mint to garnish.
Source: Trade Commission of Chile