My boss had a party last night with some investors in a new movie that will be coming out in the near future and I really wanted to do something that was light but tasty and different. I had some peruvian aji paste that I knew I wanted to use but really didn't know how or with what. I thought of the classic huancaina sauce that is made from the yellow aji peppers along with cheese and milk and other ingredients. I had a lot on hand, beets, sunchokes (jerusalem artichokes), olives, fresh garbanzo beans, chestnuts, and tons of other fresh ingredients including dried pantry items. The typical peruvian dish is potatoes a la huancaina which is basically boiled potatoes served cold with huancaina sauce (aji) boiled eggs, olives and parsley. Very simple but very tasty. I took the basic ingredients from that and turned it into a modern version for a salad or first course.
3 large chioggia beets
2 medium yellow beets
1 1/2 lb sunchokes
1 cup fresh shelled garbanzo beans
1 cup of french sheep's feta
4 hard boiled eggs quartered
1/2 cup of sunflower sprouts
6 tbsp of extra olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Green Olive puree
12 oz castlevetrano olives pitted
3 garlic cloves
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Yellow beet huancaina sauce
1 medium yellow beet boiled and peeled (take 1 beet from the 2 above)
4 garlic cloves
6 boiled and peeled chestnuts
5 tbsp of hot aji puree
3 saltine crackers
1/3 cup of ground parmesan
2/3 cup of buttermilk
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups grape seed oil for frying
First place chioggia and yellow beets in a pot. Fill with water and place a handful of salt in the pot. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Cook for about an hour until the beets are tender. Strain out the beets and let the cool for a few minutes. I like to take a towel (paper) and use it to peel the skin right off the beets. This avoids your hands getting stained if you don't have gloves. Set aside until they are completely cooled. Once they are completely cooled take the third sized round cookie cutter and cut 1/4 inch round beets for both the chioggia and yellow beets.
Then take the yellow beets and with a mandolin, shave paper thin yellow beet round slices. Set aside until ready to serve.
For the sunchokes peel all of them and place in a bowl of water (this helps them not oxidise) . Take 1/2 of the sunchokes, place in a small pot and fill with water. Add salt and bring to a simmer. lightly simmer the sunchokes until they are just tender. Strain and cool. After cooled take the smallest round cookie cutter and cut out small rounds of sunchokes. Do this until all the boiled sunchokes are uniform. Reserve the scraps for another use. The other half of the sunchokes shave on a mandolin paper thin for frying. In a small pot with grape seed oil at temperature of 325 fry the sunchokes in small batches draining on a paper towel and salting straight out of the fryer.
Once you are done with the sunchokes, turn up the heat to 350. Take the fresh green garbanzo beans and fry them in small batches. You will need a lid for your pot with this because the garbanzo beans tend to splatter and pop when they fry. So place them in the fryer and place the lid on top for about 15 seconds ( you will be able to tell when they have stopped splattering ). Let them fry for another 15 seconds and then strain, drain on a paper towel and season with salt.
For the yellow beet huancaina sauce, place garlic, chestnuts, yellow beet, aji puree, cheese, buttermilk, and crackers into your vita mix (blender). Puree until very smooth, then add salt and a continuous of drizzle of the olive oil. This should be a smooth, creamy, spicy, aji sauce. Adjust seasoning if needed. Set aside until ready
For the Olives
For the green olive puree (tapanade) place olives and garlic into a food processor. Puree and add the oil during the process. No need to season because of the saltiness of the olives.
For the sunflower sprouts take a pair of scissors and cut just the green tops off and set aside until ready to plate.
For the french feta simply dice and set aside.
To plate this labor intensive salad, take a spoonful of the huancaina sauce and place in a circular motion around the plate. Place three feta cubes on the sauce in three different positions. Take a small bowl and place the chioggia beets inside. Toss with a lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and place three chioggia beets near the feta cubes. Take a quartered egg and place in the center of the plate. Then take the green olive puree and place three small spoonfuls nest to the feta. Then take the same bowl for the beets and place the thinly shaved yellow beets inside. Season with lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper and place in-between the feta and olive. Then take three sunchokes and season with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place them around the egg. Then take a handful of the fried garbanzo beans and sprinkle around the plate. Then take the tops of the sunflower sprouts and place next to the beets. Take a little olive oil and drizzle all over everything. To Finish add the fried sunchokes and serve.