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Salsa de Aji Ecuatoriana

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    Posted: 10 March 2011 at 13:17

Salsa de Aji Ecuatoriana
Ecuadorian Hot Pepper Sauce
 
Salsa de Aji, or sauce made from hot chili peppers, has been made in the Andean region of South America for thousands of years, with archeological evidence of the hot pepper plants in the Andes dating back to 2,400 BC.
 
"Aji" is an old Quechuan word for "hot pepper." Quechua is the language that Andean peoples- including the Inca - have spoken for thousands of years. It is still spoken today by indigenous people in the Andes, from Bolivia down as far as northern Argentina. This region includes Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina.
 
The word "aji" was described by Father Jose De Acosta in the mid to late 1500's. Father Acosta was a Jesuit priest who extensively chronicled the New World from a societal, moral, botanical, and scientific viewpoint, among others. One of his books, The Natural And Moral History Of The Indies, was published in Spain in 1588. It was in this book that the aji, and sauce made from it, was described. His Historia Natural y Moral de las Indias also described Inca and Aztec customs and history, along with much other information such as winds and tides, lakes, rivers, plants, animals, and mineral resources in the New World.
 
Salsa de Aji is a ubiquitous condiment in South America. In Ecuador, two kinds may be found: the traditional "hot" (spicy) one which is made from red (ripe) serrano peppers, and the milder one made from "less-hot" green (unripe) Serranos. In Ecuador, Salsa de Aji is always made from Serrano peppers. Salsa de Aji is spooned over everything - sides, main dishes, breads, and especially potato or rice dishes. It is very tasty, and the green one is not very hot at all. Mrs Rivet found beautiful Serranos at Sam's club the other day, and since we'd been talking about Ecuador recently, she bought all we needed to make Salsa de Aji. Ripe red Serrano peppers won't be available until I grow them and let them ripen on the bush later this summer. They never sell them red at the store around these parts.
 
Here are the ingredients needed for about one quart:
 
1/2 pound Serrano peppers, about 20 of them
1 bunch cilantro, stems and all
5 - 10 peeled garlic cloves
Juice of 2 or 3 limes (more if you like)
1 medium white onion, diced
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon salt
 
This recipe is quite easy - for mise en place, just cut the stems off the Serranos (you need to use seeds and all for authentic salsa de aji), juice the limes, dice the onion and mince the garlic. It's always a good idea to rinse cilantro (or parsley, for that matter) very well under running water before giving it a rough chop. There is a lot of dirt from the farm that is still trapped in the stems and leaves.
 
To prepare this, you can use a blender, although I think a food processor works better. Simply run the ingredients through the food processor in batches (it took me 3 batches) and then combine everything together. When done, you will notice that there is a slightly-greater amount of liquid than in a more-traditional Mexican salsa.

Salsa de aji is very nice when spooned over grilled meats or fish, letting the flavor can run all over everything. It is best to let the sauce rest in the refrigerator 24 hours before serving - to let the flavors mix and meld - though freshly made Salsa De Aji is welcomed everywhere, especially over seafood where the lime is still very bright. It keeps almost indefinitely in the refrigerator.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 March 2011 at 14:35
this is the stuff, john! i have often read about salsa de aji, but never truly knew what it was about ~
 
thanks for a great post for a latin staple!
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