The Food Desert Project: Causa Limeña (Spicy Mashed Potato Salad)

The Food Desert Project: Causa Limeña (Spicy Mashed Potato Salad)

We think of American and European foods as being meat-and-potatoes, but of course the true potato culture is Peru, where the potato was first cultivated; we are late adopters.  Ancient Peruvians preserved potatoes by naturally freeze-drying them: they were dug up and left outside to freeze during the night, after which the heat from the sun would evaporate the moisture.  The resultant dried pulp, called chuno, could be stored a long time and re-hydrated with water and seasonings.

Of course, freeze-dried potato flakes are readily available today, even in the food desert.  This simple, traditional Peruvian salad is made with highly seasoned mashed potatoes mixed with spicy bright-yellow aji chili paste, which I’ve imitated by combining canned sweet peppers and chili flakes: if you want it hotter, use canned chilis.  I’ve filled it here with a quick crab salad, but it would be just as good filled with mediterranean-style tuna.

For two individual Causas:

3/4 cup potato flakes
1/2 cup chicken stock or 1/2 cup water + 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp salt
1 whole canned roasted bell pepper (there are usually 2-3 in a 12 oz jar; you can use pimiento as well)
1/2 to 1 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 6oz can of crabmeat (or tuna,) drained well (save the can, you’ll need it for a mold)
1 tbsp mayonnaise
Gently combine the stock or salted water and the potatoes, and microwave for 30 seconds to rehydrate; they should be relatively dry.  Set aside and allow to cool slightly.


001Put the canned pepper, pepper flakes vinegar, and salt in your blender and puree until smooth (I screwed a canning jar to my blender insert.)  Gently fold this mixture into the potatoes until they are a beautiful, smooth orange color (try not to overwork the potatoes or they will turn gummy.)

Fold the crabmeat, yogurt, and mayonnaise together.

004Line your tuna or crabmeat can with plastic wrap and spread a thick layer of potatoes on the bottom.  Top this with a layer of crab salad, and top the salad with another layer of potatoes.

006Gently remove the Causa from the mold, and set the entire thing in the refrigerator to chill.  Repeat.

Remove the plastic wrap and invert on a plate; enjoy!



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