The Giver of Life (Or at Least Good Food)

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Causa is one of the most famous dishes from Peru. Not only is it delicious, healthy and beautiful, it’s easy to make too!

The word Causa comes from the Incan Quechua word meaning “giver of life,” which is the word they used to describe the potato. While the shape, size and color may vary, Causa is generally recognized as layers of colorful mashed potatoes and a saucy meat (usually seafood). Causa can be an appetizer or an entrée. The potatoes can be yellow, green, purple, you name it. And the filling is determined by the creative mastermind of the chef. Causa can be displayed as a single layer, a sushi roll, or a stacked tower. Like creating a work of art, there’s no wrong way to make Causa. 

Before leaving Peru, Jeremy and I decided to try our hands at creating one of these beautiful dishes by taking a Peruvian cooking class (highly recommended!) 
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The lesson was great! Whoever thought to add lime juice to mashed potatoes and cover them with juicy crabmeat had the right idea. After the ingredients were prepped, it took us about 15 minutes to create our masterpieces, garnishing our plates with sauces and tomato-peal roses.  Of course the best part about cooking is eating, which we did happily throughout the rest of the class. 
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If you’d like to try creating Causa at home, here’s some guidelines for what you’ll need:

– yellow potatoes
– ají amarillo paste (a Peruvian speciality – to make put yellow or orange chillies in a blender with some oil, no mas)
– vegetable oil (olive oil not recommended)
– key lime juice
– your choice of meat filling (crab, tuna or octopus recommended, but chicken is nice too. For vegetarian, try sliced tomato)
– finely chopped onions
– chopped veggies (optional)
– mayonnaise or aioli (traditionally used, but lime juice makes a good alternative)
– avocado
– salt & pepper
– kalamata olives, tomato, and parsley to garnish

First, boil the potatoes. Mash when cool with lime juice, aji amarillo paste and a little oil until the consistency feels like a dry play-dough. In a separate bowl, mix your meat filling and veggies with your sauce of choice. Then, get your mold or serving dish ready. Tip: The key for a perfectly formed Causa is having right the mold. First press a layer of mashed potatoes in the bottom of the mold, then meat, them potato, then avocado, then potato. Top with something yummy, like more avocado, olives or more seafood. Drizzle sauce, add garnish to your liking and enjoy! Note: Do not bake. All ingredients must be cooked and cooled beforehand.

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