Quinoa is grown in the Andes of Peru and Bolivia up to around 4000 meters above sea level. Just like potatoes and corn, quinoa stands out for its important role in feeding the people of Cuzco.
Quinoa is an annual that normally grow to between one and three meters high. Its leaves are wide, colored and sometimes multicolored. They can be green, red, or yellow. Though its stems grows straight and tall, it can double over because of the quantity of seeds that it produces, maybe 250-600 seeds in the same color as the plant.
Though seed, quinoa is often considered a grain. It is similar to the kiwicha, another popular food in Cuzco that is much consumed and sold. When one looks at the fields that are planted with quinoa it is a magnificent view. They are red or yellowish. Sometimes they are a mixture of colors as we can see in the sacred valley.
You can find quinoa in all of Cuzco’s markets, as well as in some supermarkets and stores. It is generally sold by kilos. Quinoa is a long lasting product that can be stored without spoilage.
In Cuzco’s gastronomy and nutrition quinoa is very important. We eat it for breakfast with milk and have main dishes of quinoa with cheese for lunch after hard work.
The main dish of quinoa with cheese is well known among the people who live in Cuzco because of its ease in preparation and its exquisite taste. The main secret is that the quinoa has to be soaked some days before this dish is made.
We must wash the quinoa several times, rubbing it between our hands, until the water is completely clear and the quinoa stays in the bottom of the bowl. We then make a dressing by sauteeing garlic and onion in a little oil to give the quinoa flavor. Accompanied by diced potatoes and cheese melted throughout the dish is wonderful. We serve it with rice.
The flavor is superb. Each grain of the quinoa is cooked in a cheese sauce and married with rice.
1 cup of quinoa
1 cup evaporated milk
1 kilo potatoes
1 onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon garlic, finely minced
½ kilo diced cheese
Wash the quinoa various times, rubbing it between your hands and letting it go to the bottom of the bowl before changing the water. Repeat this process until the water is clear. Drain in a fine seive or collander.
Prepare a dressing base of onion, garlic, and sautee in a little oil. Then add 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Pour in the quinoa. Cook for about twelve minutes until it is soft. Once cooked add the milk.
In a separate pot cook the potatoes in salted water until they are cooked. Then peel and dice them. Add the cooked potato to the pot with the cooking quinoa. The add the cheese, salt, and pepper to taste. Heat through until the cheese melts.
Serve with cooked rice.