The quinoa isn’t traditional but adds a slightly chewy texture to contrast with the vegetables. The fried egg and tomatoes are not always included but make it more substantial and interesting.
½ medium kabocha squash (about 1¼ lbs), peeled and cut into ¾-inch cubes
1 pound red or small white potatoes, peeled & cut into cubes about ¾ inch wide
4 leafy sprigs fresh thyme
1 large sprig fresh rosemary, broken in half, or 2 small sprigs
8 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
¼ cup Salsa Madre (recipe follows)
1 cup frozen choclo, or fresh corn kernels
About 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock or broth
About 3 cups cooked quinoa
1 (4 ounce) block feta cheese or queso fresco, in ½ inch cubes (about 1 cup)
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
4 large eggs, fried as you like (optional)
4 whole pan-fried tomatoes (instructions follow)
1. To make the confit vegetables, preheat the oven to 300 F.
2. Put the squash and potatoes in separate deep baking dishes that fit the vegetables in a single layer with a little breathing room between each piece.
3. Divide the thyme, rosemary, and the garlic between the roasting dishes and generously pour enough olive oil over each so the vegetables are completely covered by a good ½ inch of oil.
4. Cover the baking dishes snugly with foil and bake until the vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes.
5. Strain the vegetables through a fine-mesh strainer (it’s fine to mix the potatoes and squash together) over a bowl and reserve the oil, herbs, and garlic.
6. Set liquid aside and, when cool, transfer the oil, herbs, and garlic to a storage jar to confit vegetables again, or to use as cooking oil. Store the oil in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
7. Season the potatoes and squash with salt and use right away, or let cool completely, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
8. Bring the vegetables to room temperature before making the locro.
To make the locro:
1. Heat a large Dutch oven or saucepan over medium-high heat until hot, a good two minutes. Add the salsa madre (recipe follows), stir it around with a wooden spoon for a few seconds, then stir in the choclo/corn.
2. Cook the corn for a minute or two, then stir in the stock, followed by the quinoa. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the quinoa soaks up most of the stock. Add a little more stock if the quinoa looks dry.
3. Fold in the potatoes and squash very gently. Some of the squash may be so tender that it almost melts into the quinoa; it will only make the quinoa taste better.
4. Stir in the cubed feta or queso fresco and remove from the heat. Sprinkle about two-thirds of the Parmesan on top and turn off the heat.
5. If topping the locro with eggs, fry them now, and get your serving bowls ready
6. Stir the locro one more time to incorporate the Parmesan, and mound the stew into the center of wide, shallow serving bowls or individual plates (the “stew” is pretty thick, more like risotto, so a plate is fine). Top each with a fried egg and nestle two pan-fried tomato halves alongside. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan on top and serve the locro immediately.
Making Pan-Fried Tomatoes:
Halve 4 (or as many as you need) ripe but firm plum tomatoes lengthwise. Dip your finger or a spoon in a little pureed garlic and spread it generously on the cut flesh of each tomato (or rub each side lightly with a smashed garlic clove). Lightly season each tomato with a sprinkle of salt, pepper and dried oregano if you’d like. Heat a drizzle of olive oil, enough to coat the bottom of a large iron skillet or saucepan (2 to 3 Tablespoons) over medium-high heat until very hot, a good 2 minutes or longer. Add the tomatoes, cut-side down, in batches if needed so you don’t crowd the pan, and sear them for about 15 seconds, until they just begin to color. Flip and sear the opposite side just until they look juicy, about 15 seconds more. Transfer the tomatoes to a plate. Add a little more olive oil if the pan looks dry before cooking the remaining tomatoes.
Recipe from The Fire of Peru, by Ricardo Zarate and Jenn Garbee