Ask the Expert: The Best Recipes to Eat Like a Local

Grandma’s Apple Clafoutis
Tuula Rampont, IL‘s France Correspondent

4 apples
1 cup of flour (can substitute corn starch to make recipe gluten-free)
1/2 cup sugar + 1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted + 2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon rum
4 eggs
1 cup of milk


Preheat the oven to 325°F.

  1. Peel the apples and cut them into cubes. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan; add the apples, 1 tablespoon of sugar and the rum. Brown the apples until the rum has evaporated & set mixture aside.
  2. Melt an additional 2 tablespoons of butter and set it aside.
  3. Mix the flour, sugar, & eggs together in a large bowl. Add in the milk and melted butter and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth.
  4. Place the apple mixture in a well-buttered pan (an 8-inch round Pyrex or similar). Pour the clafoutis batter over the apples and bake for 30-35 minutes. Clafoutis should have a firm center and apples should be brown on top.
  5. Remove from oven and sprinkle with sugar as desired; serve warm with your favorite coffee, tea, or ice cream.


Ajiaco Recipe
Nancy Kiernan, IL‘s Colombia Correspondent

(Serves 6 to 8)
3 chicken breasts, skin removed
12 cups water
3 ears fresh corn, cut into 2 pieces
¼ teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
2 chicken bouillon cubes
3 scallions
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoon chopped cilantro
2 cups papa criolla Andean Potato)
3 medium white potatoes, peeled and sliced
3 medium red potatoes, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup guascas
1 cup heavy cream for serving
1 cup capers for serving


In a large pot, place the chicken, corn, chicken bouillon, cilantro, scallions, garlic, salt, and pepper. Add the water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook for about 35 to 40 minutes, until chicken is cooked and tender. Remove the chicken and set aside.

Continue cooking the corn for 30 more minutes. Discard green onion and add red potatoes, white potatoes, and the guacas. Cook for 30 more minutes.

Uncover and add the frozen papa criolla and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, season with salt and pepper.

Cut the chicken meat into small pieces and return to the pot. Serve the Ajiaco hot with capers and heavy cream on the side.


Tarta de Santiago Recipe
Marsha Scarbrough, IL‘s Spain Correspondent (recipe provided by Chef Juan Jose Galan)

400 grams almond flour (ground, peeled raw almonds)
200 grams powdered sugar
4 eggs
200 grams butter at room temperature.


  1. Preheat the oven to 190 C/375 F
  2. Mix the ground almonds with the powdered sugar.
  3. Beat the eggs and add to flour/sugar and mix.
  4.  Add the butter and mix into a smooth batter.
  5. Place the mixture in a metal springform cake pan and bake 30 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.
  6.  Sift powdered sugar on top over a paper cutout of the Cross of Santiago. Remove the paper.

Here’s a link to the stencil.


Peruvian Ceviche Recipe
Steve LePoidevin, IL‘s Peru Correspondent

(Serves 4)
½ medium red onion, heart removed (used in the Leche de Tigre below)
1 pound of firm, FRESH white fish cut into 1½ inch cubes, well chilled
1 cup of Leche de Tigre (see below)*
Salt to taste
Pureed garlic as desired
1 habanero chili or other spicy chili pepper, diced
1½ cups of cooked choclo
1 or 2 cooked sweet potatoes, cubed or cut into larger pieces
¼ bunch of freshly chopped cilantro

*Leche de Tigre
2 tablespoons chopped white firm fish
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 (1/2 inch) piece of fresh ginger, chopped
¼ stalk of celery, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped red onion hearts
1 to 1 ½ tablespoons of rocoto paste
¾ cup fresh lime juice
1 ½ tablespoons salt
5 or 6 ice cubes

Directions—Leche de Tigre

  1. In a blender, combine fish, garlic, ginger, celery, onion, rocoto paste and a few tablespoons of the lime juice. Puree.
  2. With blender running, add salt and the rest of the lime juice.
  3. Slowly add the ice cubes until the sauce is well blended and frothy.
  4. It is better to use immediately but can be refrigerated for up to an hour.

To finish ceviche

  1. Slice the onion into long thin strips and set aside (“a la pluma”).
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the Leche de Tigre and the fish. Gently toss the fish until it is well covered. Add the onion and toss again. Add salt and pureed garlic to taste.
  3. Spoon the ceviche into four shallow serving bowls or onto four plates. Garnish with a few small chili pepper slices, if desired.
  4. Accompany with the choclo and sweet potato.


  1. Any firm white-fleshed fish is good (e.g. corvina, sole, halibut).
  2. The fish is essentially eaten raw so it must be very fresh and chilled.
  3. Add more rocoto pepper paste to taste for extra spicy.
  4. It is customary in Peru to pick up the bowl and drink the juice after you have finished!


Christmas Tamales
Kathleen Evans, IL‘s Coastal Costa Rica Correspondent

(Makes approx. 20 to 30 tamales)
2.5 lbs. banana or plantain leaves
3 lbs. pork, chicken or beef roast
5 cups cooked rice
2.5 lbs. potatoes
2 lbs. instant corn masa mix
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground achiote
Olive oil
Pressed garlic
Chopped onion
Diced carrots
Sliced red pepper


  1. Chop the meat into small-medium chunks and brown in a frying pan. Season with garlic, peppers, onion, salt, cumin, and black pepper. Cover with water and simmer for 2 to 3 hours. Separate the meat from the broth and shred it. Set the broth aside.
  2. Cook rice.
  3. Boil the potatoes until soft and then cut into cubes.
  4. Add 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1 teaspoon ground achiote to the masa and mix dry. Add oil and broth. Mix with hands to make a paste.
  5. Cut the banana leaves into 8-inch squares. Spread 3 to 4 tablespoons of masa paste in the center and fill with potatoes, rice, meat, and any chopped veggies that you like.
  6. Fold the banana leaves over and tie with cotton string.
  7. Boil the tamales in a large pot of water with a low rolling boil for one hour.

Other notes:
Vegetarian tamales are also gaining popularity. Simply leave out the meat for a separate batch and use vegetable stock instead of the meat broth.

For gifts or consumption later, tie two in a package with string. This is called a piña in Costa Rica and is typically the way they are gifted or sold.

Tamales freeze well and are often kept to enjoy after the holidays.


Piera’s Spaghetti al Tonno (Pasta with Tuna and Fresh Cherry Tomatoes)
Valerie Fortney, IL‘s Italy Correspondent

Mouthwatering scents are always wafting out of my neighbor Piera’s window, and she gladly, albeit quickly, rattles off her recipes to me. Her version of the popular spaghetti with tuna is by far the best I’ve come across and takes the simple dish to a higher level. The preparation is easy; I’m sharing it as she narrated it to me. You can use a cooked tuna steak, flaked, instead of the canned tuna.

Piera’s narrated recipe

(Serves four)
1 lb. fresh cherry tomatoes
1 packet of good spaghetti
½ onion thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic
1 can of tuna
Good-quality olive oil
1 glass white wine
2 handfuls grated pecorino cheese
Good pinch of crushed oregano
A few leaves of fresh basil


  1. Take a bunch of fresh cherry tomatoes and cut them in half or quarters. Throw them all in a baking dish, along with half an onion, thinly sliced, and a minced clove of garlic. Stir it, then drizzle on olive oil, and sprinkle on salt, pepper, and a spoonful of crushed oregano.
  2. Put it in the oven (190 C/375 F) for about 10 minutes. Stir it, add a can of tuna packed in oil, and pour in a glass of white wine—then pour a glass for yourself.
  3. Put the tomatoes back in the oven and start a pot of water to boil for the spaghetti. Sip the wine, and throw in the spaghetti to cook.
  4. To the tomatoes, add a handful or two of good-quality grated pecorino cheese (from Sardinia, of course) and put it back in the oven for a couple of minutes to melt and meld, adding more wine if needed to keep it from drying out.
  5. Drain the pasta, keeping a third-cup or so of the cooking water aside. Toss the spaghetti with the tomatoes and the cooking water, stirring it all well, and serve with a few leaves of basil torn up over the top.
  6. Enjoy!