aji_amarillo_pepperWhile traveling through Peru, I was introduced to the aji amarillo chili, a ubiquitous chili of South America that’s the size of a jalapeno. And although it packs its fair share of heat, its unique flavor profile is reminiscent of berries, sweet bell pepper, tomato, and citrus. Aji amarillo sauce is to Peruvian cuisine what curry is to Southeast Asian and Indian cuisine. Aji is the South American term for this strain of chili and amarillo, in Spanish, denotes the color yellow. Hence, its name. aji-amarilloIt added such a bright burst of flavor to everything it touched, I knew I had to bring this little guy home. Tempted as I was to buy a jar of the paste, I wanted it fresh. Unfortunately that wasn’t an option once I returned home. But I managed to source them frozen at a local market that specialized in hispanic foods. If unavailable fresh or frozen, they can be purchased dry online. Dried, they yield 5-per ounce. Although I added sweet bell peppers and grape tomatoes, traditionally they aren’t used in making the sauce. I added them for color; to cut the heat; and elevate the flavor of the chili.

Recipe notes: What you will need: Blender or Cuisinart food processor. Active prep time 30-minutes. Yields:2-cups. Difficulty level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1-lb or 12-aji amarillo chiles, fresh, frozen, or dried, stems and seeds removed (if only available dried, hydrate in warm water for an hour before processing), cut into strips
  • 1-lrg yellow bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed, cut into strips
  • 1-lrg orange bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed, cut into strips
  • 1-pkg yellow grape tomatoes
  • 8-garlic cloves peeled
  • 1/4-cup water
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  • 1-cup regular dry parmesan cheese or vegan parmesan
  • 1-cup grape seed oil

Preparation:

  1. Wash and prepare chilies and vegetables.
  2. In blender or Cuisinart food processor, place seeded chilis, bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, water and puree ingredients.
  3. Transfer puree to strainer.
  4. Pressing on pulp with the back of a spoon, strain puree until all liquid is removed from pulp.
  5. Discard pulp.
  6. Rinse blender of any residue or sediment and return puree to blender.
  7. Add cheese. With blender running, slowly add oil. If sauce is too thin, and you prefer more of an aioli, add more oil. If too thick, add more water. It isn’t an exact science. Sauce will firm up once refrigerated.
  8. Pour puree into ice-cube trays and freeze.
  9. Can be kept frozen for 6-months. Thaw, and use as a dip, a sauce for chicken, fish, and vegetables, or add to rice and soups.

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