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Quinoa Soup

Quinoa Soup

This time of year it is too easy to slip into a woeful longing for escape. When the cold night exhales a deep blustery breath into my face, my mind usually wanders to places far away, but more immediately… hot soup!

If the desire to be elsewhere is raw material for getting me there, then the ingredients in this dish should be able to transport me to a different season, to Peru, where I first had quinoa soup.

Snow in Warwick, NY on New Year's Day (left), Snow in Andes of Peru and Chile (right)

Snow in Warwick, NY, my parents’ house on New Year’s Day (left), Snow in Andes of Peru and Chile from last year (right)

Quinoa is a Quechua word for the red or white grain which originated in the Andean region of Peru. The Incas regarded quinoa as sacred and referred to it as chisaya mama or ‘mother of all grains’. The Inca emperor would traditionally sow the first seeds of the season. It contains amino acids and good quantities of calcium, phosphorus, and iron.

I first had it in a soup this past September at a restaurant in Cusco called Greens from a chef named Coque Ossio. It was perfect comfort food, high in protein and steaming hot. I cannot tell you what a joy it was to eat. My favorite part about this dish is that prior to having this soup, I had only had quinoa as a side dish or a bed for something grander. This dish shifted it from a supporting character to the star of the show. It was a simple, but brilliant move. Last night I attempted to recreate my own version. The soup in Cusco was vegetarian, but tonight I threw in some grilled shrimp, as my husband believes that anything without some form of animal or fish will always remain a side dish (though every once in a while I can get away with disguising a portobello mushroom or tofu).

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 avocado chopped (Incidentally, the word avocado comes from the word for testicle in Nahuatl, the main native language in Mexico. It was presumably named for its shape)
  • 1 potato thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • hot pepper
  • 1/2 pound of shrimp (optional)
  • 1 cup spinach (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice

Preparation

1. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven medium-high. Add garlic and chopped onion and cook until it begins to brown. Then add thinly sliced potato.
 
2. Rinse 1 cup quinoa and add it to the pot with the onions and garlic. Stir to coat and cook for about three minutes. Add 4 cups vegetable stock and the 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until quinoa is cooked through. You can tell by tasting, but usually they swell up when they are saturated, like rice or pasta.
 
3. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Remember there should be enough water to make it a soup so don’t hesitate to add more stock or water if need be. If you want to add some heat use cayenne pepper or a small amount of chipotle pepper for smokiness. Simplicity is the name of the game here, though. Less is more.
 
3. Chop up an avocado and pour lime juice over it (about 2 tablespoons) to preserve its color.
 
4. Add shrimp (either already boiled or grilled- however you prefer) and the chopped avocado to the soup. Add a handful of cilantro and a handful of spinach.
 
Serve hot and enjoy!
 
 
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