avocado, cilantro, cooking, Cuzco, dinner, grilled shrimp, healthy, high-protein grain, hot soup, Incas, main dish, Peru, Peruvian food, Quechua, quinoa soup, side dish, snow, vegetable stock, vegetarian, winter
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.
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).
- 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
- hot pepper
- 1/2 pound of shrimp (optional)
- 1 cup spinach (optional)
- 2 tablespoons lime juice