Food is the universal language as students from 70 countries taste and share dishes from all over the world.
by Jennie Hess / photos by Aaronvan
The flavors of our youth burst with memories of home. An herb, a spice, a cup of chilled summer soup can ignite a powerful nostalgia that warms our hearts and soothes our souls. When students at the Adult Literacy League (ALL) gathered to share favorite dishes from their home countries, they cooked up a global buffet of goodness that mirrored Central Florida’s diverse population, says Gina Solomon, ALL executive director.
“We’re serving adult learners from 70 countries of the world, students who speak 42 different languages,” Solomon says. “We love our diversity—just take a look at the colors and flavors of the dishes at our potluck—isn’t it delicious?”
Clara Amalia Pérez y Pérez of western Spain shared her tangy gazpacho. “In my memory,” she says, “it is linked to the sun of Spain and joy because it’s typical of a cheerful Spanish region.”
Julia Santana of Puerto Rico whipped up her savory rice and pigeon peas dish, a twist on the traditional rice and beans of her childhood. “There’s something special and nostalgic about food that’s passed down through generations,” she says, recalling how her grandmother and mama cooked big portions for everyone “with great joy.”
And Fabiola Villanueva Huntley of Peru had everyone’s taste buds dancing with her Peruvian spicy creamed chicken. “My mother always made it perfect for lunch gatherings,” she says, adding that she loves Orlando’s Latin supermarkets and all the Peruvian ingredients she has discovered.
Below are recipes shared by these dynamic students. To learn about volunteer opportunities for tutoring or more about the programs, visit adultliteracyleague.org; (407) 422-1540.
Ají de Gallina (Peruvian Spicy Creamed Chicken)
Fabiola Villanueva Huntley, Peru
4 yellow potatoes
4 slices white bread
¾ cup evaporated milk
1½ pounds skin-on boneless chicken breast
3 to 4 yellow ají Peruvian peppers, in frozen food section of Latin or Hispanic supermarkets
½ cup vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large red onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped walnuts
2 cups chicken broth, reserved from cooking chicken breasts
2 boiled eggs, thinly sliced
10 black olives, halved
Cook potatoes in salted water until tender when pierced. Cool, peel and thinly slice; set aside.
Place bread in a small bowl and pour milk over bread to soak; set aside.
Boil chicken breasts until cooked through, saving 2 cups broth; set aside to cool, then remove skin and shred chicken into bite-sized pieces.
Rinse peppers and remove stems and seeds. Heat oil in a large sauté pan, add peppers, garlic and onions, stirring over low heat until onions are soft and golden.
In food processor, blend milk and bread mixture with walnuts and pepper-garlic-onion mixture. Return to sauté pan and add 1½ cups reserved chicken broth; bring to a simmer. Stir in chicken and heat until warmed through, adding more broth if sauce is too thick.
Serve over potatoes garnished with egg and olives.
Clara Amalia Pérez y Pérez, Spain
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
4 ripe tomatoes
¾ barra de pan (baguette), torn into pieces
1 cup water
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons good-quality vinegar
1 teaspoon pimentón (Spanish sweet paprika)
Salt, to taste
Roughly chop onion, garlic, peppers and tomatoes and place in blender with remaining ingredients.
Blend until smooth, then pass the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve. Refrigerate until chilled.
Arroz Con Gandule (Rice and Pigeon Peas)
Julia Santana, Puerto Rico
3 cups water
1 pound pork meat pieces
½ cup canola oil
2 packets Goya Sazon Achiote
1 cube Goya chicken powdered bouillon
½ cup Goya Sofrito
2 cans pigeon peas
½ cup olives, pits removed
Salt, to taste
3 cups white rice, medium grain
1 small can sweet red peppers, sliced, optional
Add all ingredients except rice and red peppers to a large pot and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add the rice, stir and cover, cooking over low heat until liquid absorbs and rice is tender. Before serving, top with sweet red pepper slices.