You Say "Potato", I Say "Patata": Latin Twists on Popular American Dishes

If there were a universal language, food just might be it. A meal, a new ingredient, an exotic cooking technique can connect you to a culture or bring them together. With summer just around the corner and picnics to be packed with American staples like burgers, hot dogs and potato salad, here are some ideas for serving up the classics with a twist; you may even like these versions better than the original! Certainly you don't have to talk the language for these Latin dishes to speak to you.

Ensalada RusaEnsalada RusaInstead of potato salad, try Ensalada rusa. The South American version of the salad adds mixed vegetables and stuffed olives, while a Caribbean version adds apples (Red Delicious are best), diced green peppers, onions and minced pimentos. Both recipes make good use of hard boiled eggs as an ingredient and garnish. Give it a try!

Instead of a hamburger, try a Lomito Sandwich. This version of the sandwich, based on an Argentinean recipe and also known as lomito italiano in Chile, uses a slice of pork tenderloin instead of ground beef. Besides the expected mayo, lettuce and tomato, the lomito adds palta or mashed avocado. This "burger" adds no cheese, though. The recipe also provides a simple way to make your own mayonnaise. Find it here.

Hot DogHot DogInstead of a regular hot dog, try a Perro caliente colombiano. Traditionally popular street food in Colombia, this version of the hot dog has toppings limited only by your imagination. Some include quail eggs, thousand island sauce, ketchup, relish, mozzarella cheese and more. We loved the combination of cole slaw, pineapple sauce and crushed potato chips. Get the recipe.

Instead of regular meatloaf, try an Enchilada Meatloaf.
Tex-Mex food, with its tacos, nachos and burritos, is now a regular part of the American diet. So, it's no surprise to see Mexican influence on the reinvention of traditional meatloaf. This version tops the loaf with corn muffin mix; the full recipe can be found here.

ѐoquisѐoquisInstead of macaroni and cheese, try ѐoquis and cheese. These delicious potato dumplings came to South America via Italy, and the Argentineans have made them their own. Although usually served with a white cheese sauce, simply swap it out with yellow cheddar to keep that mac & cheese look. You can go a step further by blending red peppers into the sauce.

Instead of lemonade, try
Agua de limón. Using limes instead of lemons is the most common way of making limonada in Latin America. This particular recipe comes from Mexican aguas frescas, or naturally-flavored waters. This is a particularly tasty version called Agua de Limon Molido.

Instead of espresso, try Café cubano: Cuban coffee is not only strong, but very sweet. This particular recipe is easy, but requires an espresso machine. A great after-lunch brew to end a robust meal and keep you awake the rest of the day.

Instead of rice pudding, try Arroz con leche (or Arroz con dulce): This is rice pudding taken to the next level. Besides the expected ingredients, this version includes raisins that have been soaked in rum or pisco, a South American liquor. When served, the strong aroma of cloves and cinnamon overwhelms the senses. Add the dessert to your repertoire.

ArepasArepasInstead of biscuits, try Arepas: A staple in Colombia and Venezuela, arepas are made of white corn flour. Most Latinos pan-grill them and then eat them at breakfast with butter, cream cheese or sour cream, but they are generally consumed like bread at all meals. Larger arepas are used like you would a taco, filled with meat, chicken or any of your favorite ingredients. Central Americans (Salvadorans have a similar version called pupusas) are also some of the biggest consumers of the classic staple. Here's a good recipe.

Instead of beef stew, try Carne guisada (or Carne con papas): The Latin version is actually simpler than the American-Irish recipe; it has no vegetables at all. A favorite among Cuban and Puerto Rican families, this stew is served over hot rice along with maduros (fried sweet plantains) and a lettuce and tomato salad. Here's a must-try recipe.