The Fire of Peru: Recipes and Stories from My Peruvian Kitchen

This beautiful cookbook (276 pages) was published in October of 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The book takes you to Peru. Melissa read The Fire of Peru and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.

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The Fire of Peru

Recipes and Stories from My Peruvian Kitchen

Ricardo Zarate, Jenn Garbee

Ricardo Zarate has been called ‘the godfather of Peruvian cuisine’ with good reason. A graduate of culinary colleges in both Lima and London, he’s established restaurants in LA and Las Vegas that celebrate Peru’s irresistible combination of South American ingredients with international influences.

Zarate grew up in Lima’s oldest district in a large Catholic family with 13 kids. It was a family tradition for the elder siblings to help the younger get established in life. When his turn arrived, Zarate’s older brothers and sisters sent him to culinary school in Lima and later to London’s Westminster Culinary College. Although his first job was as a dishwasher in an outpost of Benihana, he soon worked his way up to the hibachi — and then to Los Angeles, where he opened his first Peruvian restaurant: a lunch stand in a Hispanic market.

All of which inspired and influenced Zarate’s recipes. From classics like ceviche and lomo saltado (beef stir-fry) to creative recipes like Peruvian-style sushi and an irresistible Peruvian burger (made spicy and luscious with chile peppers, avocado, amarillo-pepper-yogurt sauce, and quick-pickled cucumbers), Zarate’s recipes are bright, bold, and easy to make at home.

The scene is set with beautiful photos of the food, people, and scenery of Peru. What makes this book a real stand-out is the headnotes that introduce each recipe and the informative sidebars sprinkled throughout. Zarate is a wonderful storyteller, and he packs charming details and helpful how-to tips in his notes. You, too, will want to hang out with his Uncle Lucio or learn to slice tuna sashimi-style at Zarate’s side.

From starters to desserts and cocktails, this book has everything you need to bring the tastes of Peru into your home kitchen. So pour a pisco sour, pop some Andean corn, and maybe even spin an Yma Sumac tune on the hi-fi.

My uncle Lucio on my mom’s side of the family was from the mountains, a man of pure Incan blood. In addition to Spanish, he spoke Quechua, the traditional language, and looked like a living Ekeko good luck charm, from his chiquito stature right down to his yankees, traditional shoes made from old tires. Mi tío never wavered from tradition, even when it came to snacks, and would only pop his maíz chulpe (large-kernel corn) straight up. In the Andes, herders stash the dried and toasted kernels in their packs as fuel for treks up the mountainside, and restaurants all over Peru serve the crunchy corn before a meal or as the traditional side for ceviche. — Ricardo Zarate

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