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Mother-Daughter Chefs, Morena Cuadra and Morena Escardo, Explore Peruvian Flavors, International Foodways

First Posted: Aug 08, 2015 05:00 AM EDT
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Morena Cuadra and Morena Escardo

Photo : Morena Cuadra and Morena Escardo

Estofado de Champiñones, Yucca Causa with Chipotle, Radish Salsa Criolla and Ajíes Rellenos de Choclo are just some of the stunning, tantalizing and homey Peruvian dishes mother-daughter chefs, authors and bloggers Morena Cuadra and Morena Escardo regularly showcase on their extraordinary website, Peru Delights.

Moreover, crisp vegetables, colorful fruits, savory meats and robust flavors fill the page of their numerous, beautiful cookbooks: "The Everything Peruvian Cookbook," "Detox Juicing: 3-Day, 7-Day, and 14-Day Cleanses for your Health and Wellbeing" and "The Peruvian Kitchen: Traditions, Ingredients, Tastes, and Techniques in 100 Delicious Recipes." While their publications and their extensive career as chefs prove that the Morenas are no stranger to profound flavors and fragrant kitchens, their joint culinary journey isn't a typical one.

Born in El Salvador and raised in Nicaragua, Cuadra learned to cook from the women in her life, each of them great cooks who produced meals from scratch each day. From them, she learned about fresh ingredients, and the flavors and aromas that rose in their kitchens nurtured her, encouraging her to make her favorite desert, gnocchi and meringue, at a young age -- which she would promptly devour. Cuadra trained to become a professional chef after she moved to Peru, where she married and had two children, Eduardo and Morena. However, Escardo didn't have that early life interest in cooking that her mother had, and didn't know how to cook until she was 20 years old, unable to make a fried egg. That quickly changed after she moving to the U.K. for college.

"I couldn't get used to the food students ate, which consisted mostly of baked beans, fish and chips, and pizza. I was used to eating fresh, home cooked food every day," Escardo told Latin Post. "That's when I decided I needed to start cooking, and to my surprise, it was something very easy and natural for me, because I spent all my childhood and teenage years in the kitchen, watching what my mom and Amelia, our cook, did."

In 2011, the mother-daughter duo realized that Peruvian food was becoming well-known abroad, but there were no English-language online resources for interested parties to learn about Peruvian food. Escardo learned how to make Peruvian food by herself, creating vegetarian versions of almost every dish she grew up with. That sparked the idea to create Peru Delights, which poses as an educational tool for anyone who has ever been interested in learning how to create truly ambrosial and fresh Peruvian dishes.

Escardo, an adventurous amateur cook with bold recipe concepts, followed the guidance and techniques of her mother, and she prepared things she'd never created before. Simultaneously, Escardo learned a great deal about food photography and styling, which has helped to make their site distinct.

"My daughter is a natural vegetarian. At home we used to make two versions of every dish: a regular one (with chicken, fish or beef) and a vegetarian one, just for her. She never missed the flavors of her favorite Peruvian dishes," said Cuadra. "On the other hand, I cook and eat everything. I love desserts and baking, my daughter is sugar and gluten free, so it´s a challenge when we are together because she loves me to cook for her. In all these years, I have learned many things about different diet requirements, thanks to her."

Escardo is a proud health freak and she loves vibrant and tasty seasonal fruits and veggies because they need little adornment. Her favorite ingredient is chocolate, and her favorite recipe is her mother's pesto, which has been her favorite food all of her life; she never grows bored of it, no matter many times she eats it. Cuadra is fond of tropical fruits and vegetables. She loves exotic flavors and spices; breads baked within her own oven; pasta and beans; and cakes and pastries.

"You learn a lot about food as a child. If you eat a varied diet, with fresh food made from scratch, you will eat like that all your life. Maybe that´s why I try to recreate lunches and dinners with all of us sitting at the table, with flowers, conversation, having delicious food and sharing the experiences of the day," said Cuadra. "When you cook for your family you are giving them love and good energy. I know this is difficult because the family is always so busy, but you must try to stay together as a family and share good food and good times.

"Living in Peru for many years we used to cook mostly Peruvian dishes. When we are living abroad, that is not always easy because the ingredients are not always at hand, but we try to adapt the ingredients we have to create stunning food for our family and friends."

Beautifully layered causa and creamy tallarines verdes are among Escardo's favorites. Zesty cebiche, fragrant arroz con pato, spicy ají de gallina and hearty chupe de camarones are among Cuadra's favorites. The Morenas' favorite dishes are a reminder that Peruvian foods are so amazing because those dishes borrow from around the world, yet they have great native ingredients, like potatoes, tomatoes, quinua, kiwicha, etc. Peruvian cuisine is a perfect melting pot of cultures, flavors and traditions.

The jetsetters have embraced the gathering nature of Peru. As they travel, they're most excited about trying the local food. A lifetime of traveling and tasting the native fare as they survey the world and explore foodways has turned them into adventurous cooks who've fallen in love with various styles of food and different types of dishes, and they've written about them.

The women have created magazines and cookbooks, and they plan to continue to produce writing about food in the future. Escardo's goal as a chef is to grow her business as a health coach, so she can "continue teaching people how to nourish themselves with healthy, seasonal and organic foods." Her mother, Cuadra, would like to teach people how to prepare simple food from scratch for every single meal. She wants people to teach people how to nourish themselves, so they might stay healthy and look younger for a longer time, which will result in lives filled with energy and improved health.

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