She retired from doing the accounting for the family business and lives in Ronkonkoma with her husband.
How would you describe your native Peruvian cooking? It's really good, not as spicy as Mexican food. There is ceviche, which is marinated fish. Escabeche, another fish dish marinated with onions. One of my favorites is causa, a potato salad that's completely different from American potato salad. You boil the potatoes, mash them with oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice and then layer them with a filling -- tuna, chicken, vegetables. I make all of this now. I was a picky eater as a child, and I would only eat spaghetti or rice. I never cooked anything before I came to the United States. After I got married I got interested in cooking, and that's when I started to learn to make Peruvian food.
Are there special ingredients that you buy? We use cilantro, chilies, onions, potatoes -- you can easily get most everything at the supermarket. There are a few things I miss. There's a yellow potato from Peru, nothing like a Yukon Gold, that is my favorite.
Your husband is Polish, and you have learned to make a lot of Polish specialties. What are some of your favorites? Stuffed cabbage, pierogies, potato pancakes. I never had pierogies until I moved here. I learned by tasting and looking at recipes. And when I cook, it's all by eye. I never measure. A few years ago my daughter put together a book of my recipes and got me to measure everything out, so my children and grandchildren could make their favorites.
Where did you learn this shrimp soup recipe? I grew up with this one; it was a meal we had all the time, whenever you could buy shrimp.
Any tips for success? My mother always made the soup with evaporated milk. I've tried it with fresh milk and don't like it as much. Be careful not to bring the soup to a boil once you add it, or the milk might curdle.
NINA’S PERUVIAN SHRIMP SOUP
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1 quart clam juice
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
¼ cup uncooked white rice
1 cup water, if necessary
1 pound shelled and deveined shrimp
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
¼ cup corn kernels
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until clear. Do not brown. Add the garlic and tomatoes and mix well. Add the clam juice, diced potatoes and rice. Add up to 1 cup water to thin if necessary.
2. Mix well, bring to a simmer and cook, covered, until potatoes and rice are cooked, 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Add shrimp and let cook until shrimp are pink, about 2 minutes. Stir in evaporated milk and corn and heat through, but do not boil. Season with salt and oregano to taste and serve. Makes 4-6 servings.