This is a compensated campaign in collaboration with California Sweetpotatoes and Latina Bloggers Connect. However, the stories, recipe, and views are our own.
Peruvian food may be heavy on fish, seafood, and other kinds of animal protein, but there is always room for a few vegetarian dishes. Andean food in particular has a wide variety of recipes that cater for the needs of those of us who don’t eat meat. This may come as a surprise to some people, but Andeans have traditionally followed an almost completely vegetarian diet. And before the Spanish conquerors taught them to consume milk and cheese, most of their staple dishes would have even been considered vegan today. I say this semi-vegetarianism may surprise some people because Andeans eat uncommon meats such as guinea pig and llamas, which gives them the reputation of being big meat eaters. The truth is that these meats are mostly reserved for special occasions, and are not part of their every day meals.
If you go to the mountains in my country, the street food you will find would probably include Peruvian giant kernel corn or potatoes with cheese, bread with avocado, and other tubers or legumes. The daily diet of these people consists mostly of soups and stews, which have all kinds of powerful whole grains such as quinoa or amaranth, all kinds of native tubers like potatoes, and legumes such as fava beans. Chili peppers are usually added to these stews as well, as are some native herbs such as huacatay (black mint).
My favorite of these homey and comforting stews is a dish called locro. I didn’t try this dish until I was a fully grown woman because as a kid and teenager I found the name strange and unappealing. Silly me! Once I had my first bite of it I realized what I had been missing out on! Locro is not only delicious and meat-free, but it is also very nutritious thanks to the squash used to make it, which for me makes it the ultimate vegetarian dish from my country. Delicious, vegetarian, and super nourishing? Yes please!
For this collaboration with California Sweetpotatoes, we were challenged to turn one of our favorite family dishes into a new version using this sweet and awesome ingredient. This was not hard at all to do, as sweet potatoes are one of my favorite ingredients to cook in all kinds of different ways, such as roasted, mashed, grilled, steamed, baked, and both in savory and sweet dishes. The latter is especially true since I quit sugar and now stock up on “natural sweets” such as sweet potatoes to make up for it. I also like that sweet potatoes are such a versatile vegetable that pairs beautifully with just about any taste. And don’t even get me started on how healthy it is. My friend Manuel Villacorta included this ingredient as one of the stars of his book Peruvian Power Foods, because that’s exactly what it is: a power food full of vitamin A, fiber, protein, and more.
I thought of many different things I could prepare with them, but locro was the winner. For one, sweet potatoes have a color and sweetness that can easily replace the pumpkin used to make locro. Also, the second key ingredient for locro are potatoes, so sweet potatoes are an easy variation.
What I decided to do was replace the potatoes with sweet potatoes, and replace the pumpkin with zucchini. I also used diced tofu instead of cheese, although this recipe is not completely vegan because I did use some cream. Use cubed feta instead of tofu if you prefer, or keep the tofu and pass on the cream if you want to make it fully vegan.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ red onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 teaspoons aji amarillo paste (optional)
- 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
- 1 large zucchini, cubed
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- ½ cup corn
- ½ cup peas
- ½ cup cubed tofu (or feta cheese)
- ½ cup heavy cream or half and half
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- Heat the oil in a medium pan over medium heat, and sauté the onion and garlic for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the chili pepper paste, sweet potato, zucchini, salt, and pepper, stir well for two minutes, and add the vegetable stock.
- Turn the heat to high, and when it boils cover the pan and turn the heat to low.
- Cook for 20 minutes, add the corn and peas, and cook for an extra 3 minutes.
- Turn of the heat, add the tofu or cheese, and cream, and serve sprinkled with cilantro.