Oca du Pérou

Traditionally cultivated throughout the Andes (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela), oca (Oxalis tuberosa) is an annual plant that overwinters as underground stem tubers.

Unlike potatoes, oca can be eaten raw with a carrot-like crunch (try them with salt, chili powder and lime), but are more commonly bolied or roasted, with a familiar,  potato-like texture.   Due to its tolerance for for poor soil,  high altitude and harsh climates, oca is hugely important as a staple crop in the Andean highlands.

In this preparation, oca are parboiled in lightly salted mineral water, then drained and sauteed in cumin oil with Aji Amarillo (a medium-hot,  orange-colored chile with a light citrus/apricot flavor),  purple garlic and shallots.   Finished with sea salt, freshly-ground pepper, cilantro and a squeeze of lime, oca make a distinctly delicious side dish..

Oca du Pérou

Oca du Pérou  (ratios given here are for 2 servings)

8-12 oca
mineral water
2 cloves purple garlic, slivered
2 shallots, slivered
1/2 whole mild grilling pepper, julienned
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon Aji Amarillo chile powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon clarified butter (increase olive oil & omit butter for vegan use)
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, torn
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Scrub and trim the ends from a dozen similarly-sized variously-colored oca and plunge into a pot of rapidly-boiling mineral water (substitute plain, filtered water) along with a good pinch of sea salt.  Allow the tubers to cook until almost, but not quite tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain oca and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat and sauté cumin seeds until fragrant and lightly toasted.  Add butter and potatoes and cook, turning often until slightly crisp and browned, about 7 minutes.

Add garlic, shallots, grilling pepper and Aji Amarillo and cook until peppers are soft, about two minutes.  Remove pan from heat and add torn cilantro.  Season with salt and pepper, toss and serve hot with a wedge of fresh lime on the side.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday!

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