We may have grown accustomed by now to having quinoa as a grain option, but a quick chat with chef Ricardo Zarate of Picca, Mo-Chica, and Paichewill prove we've only just begun to explore its potential beyond having it as a side dish.

“I really like to work with quinoa, because it's so flexible. It cooks really fast. You can use it in many different forms. You can make it into a salad or you can stew the quinoa,” Zarate says.

Take his quinotto, a porridge of sorts made with quinoa (available at Mo-Chica in downtown) inspired partly by a childhood favorite made with white quinoa, aji amarillo, garlic, and cubed potatoes. “My mom used to cook quinotto for us. She would add spices and we'd add a stew or fried egg on top. I wanted to add something like that to the menu here,” the Peruvian chef recalls, adding that the mushroom risotto he learned how to make in London was also a reference.

Zarate's quinotto is not necessarily difficult to make, but it does require some time to put together. It's cooked with a mushroom broth and grated Parmesan cheese, then garnished with grilled king oyster mushrooms, microgreens and truffle oil. It's a easy dish to love both in taste and presentation — hearty, but with less heaviness than you'd find in a traditional risotto. “An important thing about the Peruvian cuisine is the layering of flavors. I want you to taste the quinoa. You can't have too many flavors or you'd get lost.”

Zarate says there are hundreds upon hundreds more types of quinoa varied in color and texture in Peru that we have yet to be acquainted with. A history buff, he likens the development of quinoa varieties to that of potatoes. “The Incans used to mix potato strains and make new varieties. They were playing with different seeds. You have over three thousand varieties of potatoes. I believe they used to to do the same for quinoa.”

Turn the page for his recipe…

Ricardo Zarate; Credit: Kevin Scanlon

Ricardo Zarate; Credit: Kevin Scanlon


From: Ricardo Zarate

Servings: 2

Cooked Quinoa:

8 ounces dry quinoa

1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced

2 cloves garlic, smashed

1 thyme sprig

1. Place the quinoa in a small pot. Add cold water enough to cover around one inch above the quinoa with carrots, garlic cloves, and thyme.

2. Cook for 30 minutes and strain it immediately to stop the cooking process. Remove garlic cloves and thyme.

Pan-Fried Mushrooms:

16 ounces dry blended mushrooms (available online or at speciality stores)

4 quarts water

6 Tablespoons vegetable oil

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

3 Tablespoons garlic paste

2 thyme sprigs

Ground black pepper to taste

1. Soak dry mushrooms in for two hours with the four quarts of water. After mushrooms reconstituted, remove mushrooms from water and set aside to dry for 15 minutes. Save the the water for the broth.

2. In a saucepan, heat vegetable oil over high heat. Add four tablespoons of butter and sauté mushrooms for 4-5 minutes.

3. Lower to medium then add garlic paste and a sprig of thyme. Sauté for another 30 seconds to a minute. Season mushrooms with salt and pepper. Set aside a third of the pan-fried mushrooms for the quinotto and save the rest for the broth.

Mushroom Broth:

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

3 Tablespoons garlic paste

2/3 portion pan-fried mushrooms

2 celery stalks, chopped

2 medium carrots peeled and chopped

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons black peppercorns

Kosher salt to taste

1. In the same saucepan, add butter and cook to a light brown over medium heat. Add garlic paste and sauté for a few seconds before adding the mushrooms, celery, and carrots.

2. Sauté vegetables for a minute before adding in the reserved mushroom liquid. Add bay leaves and peppercorns. Season with salt. Bring the broth to boil then lower the heat to simmer for 30 minutes. Strain broth and set aside.


4 King Oyster mushrooms, sliced

1 ½ Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ cup mushroom broth

Cooked quinoa

1/3 portion pan-fried mushrooms

2 teaspoons garlic paste

6 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

½ teaspoon oregano

Kosher salt to taste

Ground black pepper to taste

6 Tablespoons sour cream

2 teaspoons truffle oil

¼ cup micro greens

1. Brush King Oyster mushroom slices with olive oil. Grill on a griddle until light golden on both sides. Set aside.

2. Heat mushroom broth over medium heat. Add quinoa, mushrooms, and garlic paste. Stir and cook through for 30 seconds. Continue to stir, adding in grated Parmesan cheese a little at a time.

3. Season with oregano, salt, and pepper. Serve quinotto in two bowls. Spoon sour cream on top, then add King Oyster mushrooms on top. Drizzle truffle oil over the top and garnish with micro greens.

And in related news:

Meatless Mondays: Brandon Boudet's Recipe for Oven-Baked Almond Milk Ricotta

Meatless Mondays: Vegan Cooking at Mohawk Bend + A Recipe for Mole Pizza

Meatless Mondays: Olive & Thyme's Roasted Beet Farro Salad Recipe

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