Everywhere you go in Vilcabamba, in Ecuador, every traditional restaurant has the most awesome, delectable Aji. And every day its completely different, so you know the chefs are doing it to taste. Oh, my gosh, it’s so good, and sometimes a trifle too hot, so you always taste it before you cover the rice, or veges, or avocado with it.  And I couldn’t figure out why their salsa tastes so completely different than mine!                                                                                            

So, then I went to my Spanish class, and another Gringa lady asked the same question to the teacher. And we were like, “This is ridiculous, and puts us to shame, that we can’t re-create their salsa, and feel compelled to keep buying it all the time.” So our Profesora gave us her recipe, and here it is, vamped, of course to my liking. Go ahead and play with it! You know what the secret is? Not tomatoes, but Tomates de Arbol- tomarillos that grow on a tree, and are red and roundish, oval, sometimes yellow, green or purple! They are amazing, and also make the most delicious juice you ever had. Even my son, who doesn’t like tomato juice, loves Jugo de Tomate de Arbol. It’s sweet! And that’s the secret to the best Aji!

Recipe of the Day:  Aji!

2-3 Tomates de Arbol, cooked and peeled.

1/2 c. coarsely chopped onions (about 1 1/2)

6 cloves garlic

1/4 c. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro (or more! The Ecuadorians here go heavy on the cilantro.)

2 Tab. (or more) lemon juice

3/4 tsp. garlic salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper 

1/4 tsp. salt or more to taste

1/2 tsp. olive oil

(options- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped seeded jalapeño chiles (about 4 large), vinegar, green onions instead of white)


Cook the tomatoes, peel and blend without the skin, but with all the juices of the tomatoes. Strain. Combine onions, sweet onion, garlic and cilantro in processor. Puree until a paste forms, scraping down sides of bowl with rubber spatula several times. Add lemon and process until mixture is blended but some texture still remains. Transfer to small bowl. Stir in the salts and pepper. Add the tomatoes, then spoon in the olive oil.  Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

Word of the Day: Aji – (aH HEE) -Salsa

Travel Tip of the Day: Taste the Aji with one little, miniscule sip, before putting it all over everything!

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