Latin American Flavors | Torrance Memorial

Published on February 21, 2022

Latin American Flavors

Latin American spices

by Rebecca Tran, MS, RDN and Briana Jacinto, Dietetic Intern

Like the traditional Latin American textiles woven with ancient cultures and rich traditions, Latin American cuisine is infused with regional spices and herbs that create dynamic and rich flavors. Let’s explore Peruvian cuisine for example. Regional Peruvian food carries influences from three main areas - the bordering Andean highlands, the Coasta (coast), and the Amazonia (rainforest) that create a diversity of dishes sure to delight any food enthusiast!

Popular Peruvian dishes are often referred to as Criolla, or Creole, due to the blending of Spanish, Asian, Incan, and other European influences. Although varying by region, many Peruvian dishes contain vegetables including tomatoes, avocados, asparagus, spinach, as well as roots and tubers. Fresh fruits like passion fruit, banana, mangoes, lucuma, and pomegranates may also make an appearance in both sweet and savory dishes. As far as flavor is concerned, chili peppers are a staple of Peruvian cuisine with over 300 varieties of peppers in Peru, with the aji chilis being most common. Spices will commonly include basil, cilantro, cloves, cumin, huacatay (Peruvian black mint), oregano, paico, paprika, and turmeric.

Our recipe this week, Peruvian Lime Chicken Breast with Aji Verde Sauce, explores a blend of these rich Peruvian flavors. This recipe features fire-braised chicken, a heart-conscious lean protein, hand-rubbed with a combination of spices and herbs rich with nutritional benefits topped with a drizzle of aji verde sauce. The Peruvian rub contains cumin, which not only provides flavor but aids in digestion and contains antioxidants to help prevent diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Paprika and garlic are also incorporated, further enhancing flavor and providing additional health benefits. Paprika contains capsaicin, a compound that plays a role in improved immunity. Meanwhile, garlic supports heart health and stabilizes blood sugars. Lastly, fresh cilantro not only adds a splash of color but may help prevent gastrointestinal infections, inflammation, bloating and heartburn.

The popular Aji Verde sauce makes this dish complete. The sauce incorporates Peruvian black mint, called huacatay, which gives its vibrant green color and tangy, citrus flavor. Peruvian black mint helps aid in inflammation and fight off free radicals. Enjoy this sauce with any meat of your choosing (we recommend fire-braised chicken) and consider pairing it with fiber-rich quinoa and sautéed Peruvian green beans for a balanced, nutrient-dense meal!

Save the Date!

Join us for a free LIVE virtual cooking class on March 24 at 5pm where Torrance Memorial’s Executive Chef Sam Sellona will teach you to cook a healthy, tasty recipe from the comfort of your own kitchen!

Be sure to obtain ingredients prior to event. Spice packets and recipe cards available for purchase at TMMC cafes.

Zoom Link


Peruvian Lime Chicken with Aji Verde Sauce

Peruvian lime chicken with aji verde sauce

Servings: Approximately six 4 oz. chicken breasts

Ingredients:
  • 6- 4 oz portions of chicken breast
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • ¾ cup onion, minced
  • 2 tsp garlic, fresh
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
Peruvian Rub
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp kosher salt (or less to taste)
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • ¾ tsp black pepper
  • ¾ tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
Directions for Peruvian Chicken:
  1. Combine all ingredients from the Peruvian rub. Mix well.
  2. Combine all ingredients except chicken with Peruvian rub. Mix well.
  3. Toss mixture with chicken to evenly coat.
  4. Marinate in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours. Drain and discard excess marinade.
  5. Preheat the grill. Grill chicken until the edges start to char. Cook to an internal minimum temperature of 165 degrees.
    1. To bake instead of grill: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cook for 20 minutes and flip mid-way or until chicken reaches an internal minimum temperature of 165 degrees F.
  6. Serve cooked chicken with Aji Verde sauce (see recipe below). Suggested to enjoy over a bed of quinoa, paired with Peruvian green beans.

Aji Verde Sauce (yields ¼ cup)

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt
  • 1-½ Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • ⅛ tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1-½ jalapeno (seeded or deseeded to reduce spice)
  • ¾ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Directions:

  1. Combine ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.
  2. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Serve fresh and refrigerate leftovers.

If you are interested in learning more techniques to help build a healthy and nutritious lifestyle, contact one of our Registered Dietitian Nutritionists at the Outpatient Medical Nutrition Therapy Office or our Diabetes Self-Management Program to schedule a consultation! Located in the Torrance Memorial Specialty Center, 2841 Lomita Blvd., Suite 335, Torrance. Call 310-891-6707. Visit our Nutrition Blog for our monthly recipes and posts: https://www.torrancememorial.org/Nutrition