Valentine's Day Dinner at Machu Picchu Restaurant

On our second Valentine's Day as a couple, Carlos and I ventured out to one of our top favorite restaurants: Machu Picchu in Somerville, MA (Union Sqaure). We did this last Valentine's Day so we thought it would be a nice treat to go back again for the same celebration. Machu Picchu serves wonderful authentic Peruvian food. I've been here numerous times and it never disappoints.

When you sit down, you are greeted with a plate of Peruvian Cancha and dipping sauce. Cancha is toasted kernels from Choclo corn (a type of corn with super big kernels which is also used in soups and appetizers served at the restaurant). I forget what's in the sauce but it's a wonderful blend of spicy and cool. You take a spoon, scoop up a few canchas and dip into the sauce. Much better than any buttered popcorn!

For beverages, Carlos got an authentic Peruvian beer called Cusquena and I got a mixed drink called Pina Borracha (translated into Drunk Pineapple) which was a wonderful mixture of coconut, pineapple, cherry and rum. Mmm...

For an appetizer, we shared a plate of Chicharrones de Cerdo. These are large cubes of pork, salted and deep fried and served with thinly sliced and grilled sweet potatoes and pickled red onions. Oh. My. Goodness. This is so amazing. I fell in love with this dish the first time I had it with my friend H. It's something I always look forward to when I come to visit this restaurant.

But the piece de resistance is the Lomo Saltado. This is by far Carlos' favorite dish and it's my favorite too. Strips of beef cooked with tomato, red onion and fried potatoes served with a big scoop of rice and topped off with cilantro. Wow! It's salty and greasy and delicious. We split our plates in half so we could enjoy the goodness the next day for lunch.

See how excited Carlos is to dive into his plate of Lomo Saltado?


The waiter, who is super nice and has waited on us several times before, offered to take our picture at the bar. Aren't we a cute couple?

If you live in the area, please make a special trip to Machu Picchu. It won't even cost you a plane ticket! And on certain nights they play live music, so make sure you call ahead to reserve a spot.

Miniola Heaven

Sorry I haven't around much. Been concentrating on developing recipes for my column Thoughtful Eats on the Woburn Patch while also trying new recipes so I can advance my cooking knowledge.  So far it's been working but I also don't want to neglect this little haven of mine, so here I am!

A few weeks ago, Bill from Wilson Farm encouraged me to try a Miniola. I bought one to test it out and was a little disappointed by how fibrous and full of seeds it was. When I explained my experience with him, he told me to try it again and even cut me a piece to try it right then and there. Oh my! What a taste explosion that little bite was and I have been hooked on these ever since. Bill explained that fruit is always the most flavorful and juicy when it's in season. I concurred because what's more delicious than a summer peach? There have been so many instances of me biting into a luscious peach in August only to be wearing the juices on my chin.

My first bad Miniola was just a one-off because ever since then I've had nothing but juicy delicious ones. I buy anywhere from 6-8 each Friday and I'm lucky if I still have any in my fridge by Thursday. I take my pairing knife and remove the rind while also making sure to cut into the flesh a little bit. I take the sections of rind and run them along the bottom of my top teeth, scraping any meat off the inside (like you would with artichoke leaves). Once I get all the rind off, I cut the Miniola into 6 sections making sure flesh is exposed. The reason I do this is because the outside of each segment is really fibrous whereas the inside flesh is really tender and juicy. If you eat them by sections you'll be gnawing on the segment and not fully appreciating the juice inside. Instead, when I expose the flesh it gives me an opportunity to just eat that part and throw out the skin of the segment. It's really messy to eat these but boy is it worth it. I eat one at work almost every day and I make sure to bring my special paring knife (a gift from a great friend!) and load up on the paper towels.

If you can find a Miniola, buy one immediately. Nay, buy 5! You won't regret it. Make sure the Miniola is a bit firm to touch and that it feels heavy when you hold it in your hand. That's how you know you have a good one! 

And do make sure you buy your produce at a reputable place. Especially one that focuses on quality produce and great customer service. If you live near Lexington, MA, Wilson Farm is the place to go!

I may or may not have overdone it in the citrus-purchasing department. Eek!
(Miniolas, red grapefruit, cocktail grapefruit, lemons and limes)

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies

This recipe was originally posted on my Thoughtful Eats column on the Woburn Patch.


1 heaping cup of flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup of creamy or chunky peanut butter
1 stick of butter, at room temperature grape jelly

Makes around 2 dozen cookies.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Then add the peanut butter, eggs and butter. Mix until the batter is smooth. Scoop out batter with spoons and roll into 1 inch balls with your hands. If you keep a small bowl of water next to you and dip your hands in occasionally, this will make the process go much easier. Add the balls to a baking sheet that's been lined with aluminum foil. Make sure they are about 1-1/2 to 2 inches apart. With your index finger, poke the center of each ball, creating a well for the grape jelly. Add a tiny scoop of jelly to the well, only enough to fill it. Bake in the oven for 12-14 minutes and let cool before eating. Enjoy with a glass of milk or a hot cup of tea.
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