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Cook's Corner

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I still want to learn…
A. Besides the guitar? I still want to learn to play the piano.
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A. Travel to Europe.
Diana Parker | The Journal Gazette
Local resident Ed Valdizan, 54, shows off his Lady’s Sigh Dessert and Shrimp in Olive Sauce. Valdizan is a native of Peru and has lived in Costa Rica.

Peru native brings tastes of homeland to city

– Ed Valdizan studied hotel management in his native Lima, Peru, and spent 20 years working for large hotels with European management.

Now the 54-year-old is enjoying life in Fort Wayne, working at Burlington Coat Factory and writing recipes for hors d’oeuvres for the website About.com (recetasfiestas.about.com).

When thinking of Peru, the yearly food festival Mistura may come to mind. Valdizan says he and his wife, Robin Grose, had already moved to the United States when the festival started about 10 years ago.

Explaining what the event is, he smiles and says, “It’s like Taste of Chicago. It’s a special kind of Peruvian Fair and Expo where every important hotel and restaurant is competing for first place. This year they are doing it near my mother’s home. It’s in front of the beach.”

Within the country of Peru, Valdizan says that there are three types of regions: desert, highlands and Amazon jungle. Each one has a specialty.

“The coast has sand dunes and dessert, like Israel,” he says.

“And lots of olives,” adds Robin, “Those are grown on the coastal region.”

The other two regions are the highlands which include the Andes (mountains) and different seasons. This is where the alpaca or llama meat comes from.

“It’s more lean than beef but basically the same taste,” Valdizan says.

The third region is the Amazon jungle, known for tropical fruits and vegetables such as plantains and yucca.

“You can use (yucca) like a potato, just different texture. The ones they have around here are from Costa Rica,” he says.

Valdizan, who has three adult children from a previous marriage, said he moved his family to Costa Rica when the political situation in Peru turned bad. His children still live in that country.

“My daughter, Raquel, is a psychologist. Sam works in a bank. The little one, Jair, works in customs in Costa Rica,” he says.

Asked what he likes to do in his free time and Valdizan says he likes to paint. His colorful paintings hang throughout his home.

“I like to watch movies,” he adds, “I like the Food Network. Those programs that the competition ones. “Iron Chef (America)” also “Cutthroat Kitchen” with Alton Brown. I’m going to start guitar lessons Thursday as a beginner.”

Q. How is Peruvian cooking different from other South American cuisine?

A. We have different ingredients like potatoes. Peru has two languages, Quechua and Spanish. Papa or potato and quinoa, grain, those are Quechua words.

Robin: You eat a lot of rice in Peru.

Ed: Yes, a lot of rice, potatoes and fish.

Robin: Chile peppers.

Ed: Yellow one is not hot. It’s like a banana pepper. The red one is hot. Rocoto. The yellow one, I can get that in jars at George’s.

Q. What’s something people wouldn’t find in your refrigerator?

A. Eggplant. We are not friends. I do not like that it gets dark really fast. I prefer to use zucchini.

Q. What’s your favorite food?

A. It would be cheese. Aged cheese like parmesan or Romano. No carbs. When I’m watching TV, I have cubes of parmesan or Romano, celery with dip, olives, a drink and I’m ready for the next episode of “MasterChef.”

Q. What’s your favorite cooking utensil?

A. Chef’s knife. That’s the first thing I look for in the kitchen. Second is a cutting board. For when I tell people in recipes, I tell them “Grab your knife and grab your cutting board and start.”

Shrimp in Olive Sauce

24 large (21 to 30 per pound) shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 small head of iceberg lettuce

4 ounces ( 1/2 cup) mayonnaise

4 ounces whipped cream cheese

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons lime juice

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

6 large pitted black Kalamata olives (not green olives)

Cook the shrimp in boiling water for about 5 to 7 minutes until they turn pink; drain. Rinse them under cold water to stop the cooking process; drain again, then put them aside. Chop the lettuce into 1-inch pieces. In a small food processor mix the mayonnaise, cream cheese, salt, lime juice, pepper and olives until creamy. Spoon the sauce into a plastic squeeze bottle. Make a bed of lettuce on each small plate and place on top 6 shrimp, forming a medium-sized circle. Squeeze the sauce in a decorative pattern over the shrimp and lettuce. Makes 4 servings.

Causa Rellena / Potato & Tuna Appetizer

5 medium-size potatoes

1/2 yellow onion

3 tablespoons lime juice, divided

1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided

1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

2 Peruvian chilies, veins and seeds removed (can substitute jalapeños)

2 (5-ounce) cans chunk tuna in water, drained

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon dried parsley

Lettuce leaves (optional)

Peel and chop the potatoes into cubes. Cook them in abundant water until they are soft. Mash them. Mix in 1 tablespoon of lime juice, half the salt and pepper, 1 finely chopped chili pepper and 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Set aside. Finely chop the onion then add the rest of the lime juice, the other chopped chili pepper, tuna, olive oil and the rest of the salt and pepper. Mix well. Spread half of the potato mixture in an even layer at the bottom of an 8-inch-by-8-inch glass baking dish. Cover that with the tuna mixture, and then make another layer with the rest of the potatoes. Finally, spread the mayonnaise over it all as a top layer. Sprinkle the dried parsley on top. Cut into squares and serve cold or at room temperature (over leaves of lettuce, if desired) as an appetizer. Makes 6 servings.

Lady’s Sigh Dessert

For the creamy layer:

2 cups granulated sugar

1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk

1 (14-ounce) can condensed milk

5 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup shredded coconut

For the meringue layer:

1 cup granulated sugar

5 tablespoon cold water

5 egg whites, at room temperature

To make creamy layer: Mix sugar and evaporated milk. Heat it stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it thickens and you can see the bottom of the pan. Add the condensed milk little by little while stirring the mix on the stove. Add the egg yolks one by one while stirring the mix. Add the vanilla extract. In a dry, small pan, toast the shredded coconut until it turns light brown and add it to the original mix. Pour into individual dessert dishes, filling each one only a third of the way up.

To make meringue layer: Heat the sugar and water in a small pan on the stove. Whisk this syrup until thick, then set it aside and let it cool. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Keep beating while you add little by little the room temperature syrup. When done, fill a pastry bag with the meringue and squeeze the mix on top of the creamy layer. Decorate with a piece of fresh fruit or colored sprinkles on top. Refrigerate; serve cold. Makes 8 servings.

Cook’s Corner is a weekly feature. If you know of someone to be profiled, write to Cook’s Corner, The Journal Gazette, P.O. Box 88, Fort Wayne, IN 46801-0088; fax 461-8648 or email dparker@jg.net.

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