El solterito arequipeño, a great summer salad
When I was in culinary school and studied in Peru, I learned of a super simple salad from Arequipa called Solterito, which literally means "little single man." I was told that it was most likely named "little single man" as it is easy enough for even a single man to make. Ha! You can vary the ingredients depending on your taste! Arequipa is in the southern region of Peru (Cusco has its own version, also in the south) and is known as the other gastronomic city of Peru, second to Lima, its capital. It has an incredibly wide range of iconic dishes as it is a district that stretches from the coast to the Andes mountains. The city is set up a bit further north and is said to have some of the most beautiful colonial architecture in Peru. Its unique blending of European and Indigenous styles is known as "Escuela Arequipeña." It was the capital of Peru from 1835-1883, not long after gaining independence from Spain in 1821. Lima was the capital before independence and after 1883. Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire.
There are many typical and well-known dishes that come out of this city like: rocoto relleno (stuffed spicy red pepper), adobo arequipeño (stewed meat, usually pork), chupe de camarones (shrimp chowder), ocopa arequipeña (boiled then chilled potatoes in spicy peanut and mint sauce), cuy chactado (roasted/fried guinea pig), pastel de papa o choclo (layered baked potato or corn), among many others. The reason for the diversity in food and foodways? It's location! It's cradled in an area where so many delicious things can thrive.
Solterito, or it is also simply called soltero, has some standard ingredients. Part of why I appreciate this dish so much, besides its simplicity, is that it is thought to have been eaten since Incan times. I like a dish with some history, even when its not well-documented in writing but its story (recipe) is passed down verbally from person to person. The ingredients still used today -- rocoto peppers, choclo (corn), potatoes, tomatoes -- are all indigenous to South America and some even more specifically to Peru. Today, people also use botija olives (Peruvian black olives named for the fact they are cured in clay jars, or botijas), fava beans, red onion, queso freso and parsley. I imagine that tarwi, or chocho, which is an Andean bean, would have been used in the past.
This is a light salad that contains fiber, protein, and many vitamins and minerals from the different vegetables that are added. It also hits many of our taste buds with vegetal, tart, acidic and salty components that compliment each other beautifully. Typically a spicy pepper would be added for a little kick as well, but you can always forgo this ingredient and bring some sweetness by adding sweet red bell peppers instead of the red rocoto pepper. Let's get on to that recipe! Buen provecho, amig@s!
Solterito -- serves 10
1 pound choclo kernels (Peruvian corn), cooked
1.5 pounds fava beans, cooked
10 ounces boiled yellow potato, cubed (optional)
1.5 pounds queso fresco, cubed (You can use tofu to make it vegetarian!
1-2 red onion, diced
1 aji rocoto (rocoto pepper)*, finely diced (can replace with sweet red bell pepper)
5 aji amarillo pepper*, diced
10 ounces cherub tomatoes, halved
8 ounces botija olives, sliced lengthwise
3 limes, juiced
1/2 bunch parsley, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons vinegar (I prefer apple cider)
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
*Rocoto and aji amarillo peppers are spicy. You must deseed and devein them before dicing. Additionally, the rocoto should be soaked in water with a tablespoon of sugar and teaspoon of vinegar to remove more of the heat. In Peru, after we deseeded and deveined the rocoto peppers we would boil them 3 times in water with vinegar and sugar and disgard the water each time. Otherwise, they are super, super hot!!
Optional: dice potato and gently boil for about 15 minutes. Let cool.
Boil choclo for 10 minutes. I used frozen kernels that have already been removed from the cob, as it's way easier! Let cool.
Dice red onion and place in a bowl. Add lime juice and a bit of salt and let sit for 10 minutes then drain.
Cook fava beans in boiling water for about 4 minutes. Let cool.
Get a medium sized serving bowl to place all your ingredients. Add all of your cold and prepped ingredients:
Cut cherub tomatoes in half, lengthwise.
Slice botija olives lengthwise, you should get about 5-6 slices per olive. I usually find them in jars, with the pits still intact. If this is also true for you, you'll have to remove the pit before slicing. Add to bowl.
Drain onions and add to bowl.
Dice spicy peppers, use gloves if you are concerned about the oils getting on your fingers. Add to bowl.
Cube queso fresco. Add to bowl.
Add the remaining cooled down ingredients: potato, choclo and fava beans.
Chop parsley. Add to bowl.
Make vinaigrette with vinegar and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add to bowl and toss. Done!! Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Note: I use fresh fava beans from my CSA. They come in the pods still. I had to remove them from the pod, cook them, then take them out of their shells. You can also easily buy them frozen (I would recommend this instead of buying them from a can). If you do buy them dry or fresh, here's a great site with information of how to prepare them. If you cannot find fava beans you can replace with lima beans.