Quinoa was not born out of a corner of Whole Foods, but is actually a staple of the Peruvian diet.  Unlike in the states where quinoa is more of a “dry” ingredient, added to salads or served as a side, in Peru it’s common to find quinoa served like a porridge, warm, thick, and a bit soupy. Peruvian food is experiencing a bit of a renaissance here in LA, in a large part due to the Chef Ricardo Zarate.  His restaurants celebrate Peruvian food culture, but present it in an elegant and refined way.  Inspired by Peruvian ingredients and this totally cozy way of serving quinoa, I created my spin on Locro De Quinoa, a quinoa and pumpkin (or in my case, butternut squash) stew.  This is delicious and hearty as a vegetarian dish, but it would be great with chicken or beef served on the side.  Enjoy!




For 4

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon of aji amarillo paste (yellow chili/pepper in paste)

I had to order this online.  It’s an integral ingredient to Peruvian cuisine, but if you can’t find it, add in your favorite hot sauce instead

1/2 teaspoon of fresh oregano, finely chopped

1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut in 1/2 inch pieces

2 yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/2 inch pieces

1 cup quinoa, rinsed with water and strained

3/4 cup of frozen peas

1/2 cup milk

1 cup queso fresco (or a ball of fresh mozzarella), cubed, plus more for garnish

cilantro, roughly chopped, for garnish


Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium heat and add the onion, garlic, aji amarillo paste and oregano. Cook for 5 minutes, until the onions are slightly softened, and add the squash and potatoes.  Cook for another 5 minutes, until the potatoes and squash are slightly tender. Add the quinoa and 1 1/2 cups of water. Turn up the heat and bring to a simmer, then turn down to low and cover the pot. Cook for 15 minutes, until the quinoa is fully cooked and the potatoes and squash are completely tender. While on heat, add the peas, milk and the fresh cheese. Cook for 3 minutes, until the peas are cooked through. Remove from the flame. Serve with fresh cheese pieces and chopped cilantro.