This versatile Roasted Sweet Potato and Giant Corn Peruvian Salad takes its cues from Solterito, a beautiful chilled salad from Arequipa, Peru. Giant corn (choclo), fava or lima beans, salty queso fresco, hot rocoto chiles, roasted sweet potato, black olives, red onion, and fresh tomatoes get tossed with a simple lime and cilantro dressing... Delicioso!
Something I learned when I was very young: with cooking, it doesn't matter where you are; you can always cook. You can end up in a small village in Peru where somebody's cooking, take a spoon and taste it, and you might not be too sure what you're eating, but you can taste the soul in the food. That's what is beautiful with food.~~ Daniel Boulud
👩🏻🍳 Tamara Talks - Peru and Inspiration
Ah, the food of Peru! My love of Peruvian food came in middle age, when my brother married a lovely Peruvian woman who just happens to be an amazing cook. Prior to Josselin's joining our family, I knew nothing of the cuisine.
Fast forward about 15 years, and our move to south Texas, and we began hanging out with an art history professor who studies Peru, and his Peruvian wife. It has only been in the last couple of years that I began to "play" with Peruvian flavors.
My experience with the food and flavors of Peru is about to become real, as we look forward to the entire month of June in Cusco, Pisaq, Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu... The climax of this trip will be the 5 day/4 night Ausangate trek, with several passes above 15,000 feet elevation. I know that we will have 1 or 2 opportunities to try cuy (guinea pig), along with other classic Peruvian dishes. Exciting, yes?
I'd best get back on topic. 😃 What is solterito?
🥗 About Peruvian Solterito
The word "soltero" means "single," and "solterito" loosely translates to "little single man." Some say that this traditional dish from the Arequipa region is named for singles that are dieting in order to attract a partner. Lol.
Seriously, though, this dish is full of nutrients and loaded with fiber, and relatively light compared to many Peruvian dishes. It is a chilled salad, and there are as many "recipes" as there are cooks that make it. Today I bring you my version (one that has the approval of our friends) that is based on Peruvian flavors and made with ingredients that are pretty widely available outside Peru.
When pursuing an idea for a Peruvian-inspired dish, I frequently look to Peru Delights. I knew I wanted a salad with giant corn that included fresh veggies. I came across this recipe for Solterito. I made it my own, but I will always credit my inspiration.
I could not find fresh fava beans, but opted to include dried. They cook in about the same time as the giant corn, and my pressure cooker sped up that process. Sweet potatoes are an important ingredient in Peruvian cooking, and I have included roasted sweet potatoes in my version. I also opted to dress my Peruvian salad with lime juice and cilantro. This is a versatile recipe, so feel free to change it up to suit your tastes and availability of ingredients.
📋 Ingredients You'll Need
Here is a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe – it’s handy to use at the grocery store or as a summary of what you need. Skip to the recipe for quantities.
- corn - Choclo (aka Peruvian corn or Cuzco corn) is a very large kernel field corn from the Andes. It is not a sweet corn. In Peru, choclo is served as an accompaniment with dishes like ceviche. I use Goya Giant White Corn in this salad. If you can't find it, you can substitute hominy (prefereably dried and reconstituted), but keep in mind the flavor and texture will be good but different. You can substitute posole (hominy), sweet corn, or omit it entirely.
- beans - Fresh fava beans are extremely popular and widely available in Peru. They're amazing. Unfortunately, they're not widely available in the US. When I originally published this recipe, I used dried fava beans. They were just "okay." I far prefer frozen baby lima beans.
- sweet potato
- olive oil
- tomatoes - I like tiny tomatoes cut in half lengthwise. The choice is yours.
- onion - Peruvians LOVE red onions, and I usually use red onion. A sweet onion is fine too. I usually take the time to soak my thin-sliced onions in a bowl of salted ice water as in my salsa criolla.
- peppers - Rocoto peppers are typical, and if I have them, I use them. NOTE: Rocoto peppers are hot! Fresno chiles are my preferred substitute. If you want to avoid the heat, substitute roasted red bell pepper. Alternatively, you can use jalapeños.
- black olives - I love black Peruvian olives while in Peru, but I have not been impressed with the brands I've found in the US. I use pitted kalamata olives.
- cheese - Queso fresco is my first choice for this Peruvian salad. I love the fresh cheese in Peru, and this comes closest IMHO. Feta would be a good substitute.
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Cilantro Lime Dressing
- vinegar - I prefer a smooth, mild vinegar like sherry vinegar, champagne vinegar, or white wine vinegar. Red wine vinegar is fine as well.
- olive oil
- cilantro leaves
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper
- fresh ground pepper
I get excellent results cooking the giant corn with the dried fava beans in my pressure cooker on the "beans/legumes" medium setting and doing a natural release. That process does not require soaking, and is done in about an hour. If you cook on the stove, follow the package instructions. The corn and beans must be cooked prior to making the salad. While the corn and beans cook, I prep and roast the sweet potato.
The rocoto peppers are hot, and not always easy to find. You can substitute Spanish piquillo peppers, or roasted red bell peppers. I specify queso fresco (a semi soft fresh cheese) cubed. Any mild, fresh white cheese (i.e. mozzarella) will work.
We have turned this tasty salad into a main dish by adding Gulf shrimp marinated in aji amarillo chile paste and lime juice, skewered, and grilled. Pair with a citrusy IPA or crisp sauvignon blanc... Fabuloso!
Make this salad? I cannot promise you a date, but I'm pretty confident you'll enjoy it! Looking for more Peruvian-inspired dishes? Try my Peruvian Chicken and Rice (Arroz con Pollo), or Peruvian Chicken and Cilantro Soup...