Friday, October 8, 2010

Quinoa Soup: an updated Peruvian specialty

A few months ago we spent some time exploring Peru and a bit of Bolivia with our friends and travel buddies Matt and Mackenzie.  As much as the locals raved about it, Cuy (guinea pig, often translated guinea pick or something similar) turned out to not really be my thing.  I did try it, and since my US diet is 90 percent vegetarian, with the other 10 percent being chicken or fish, that was an accomplishment.  Picture REALLY greasy chicken wings, then add four legs and usually a head, and you have Cuy.  

Peruvians have another local specialty that quite fit my fancy: Sopa de Quinoa.  Thanks mom, for buying me 2 pounds of bulk quinoa my senior year of college and introducing me to this lovely seed.  For that is what quinoa is: a seed.  I used to argue with the boyfriend, he had read somewhere that it was a seed, but I insisted it was a grain.  Alas, settled by wikipedia: it is a seed.  In Peru, it is frequently cooked into a brothy, flavorful soup and served as a first course.  I have created my own replica, which I have to say, I liked a bit better than the originals.  The Peruvian version is always made with chicken broth, and is typically very salty, but vegetable broth makes a nice alternative.  
Sacred Valley: May 2010

Sopa de Quinoa
·         2 cups chicken or vegetable broth*
·         3 cups water
·         1 cup quinoa, well rinsed
·         ½ onion, diced
·         2-3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
·         2 stalks celery, chopped
·         2 carrots, chopped
·         2 teaspoons cumin
·         ¼ teaspoon chili powder (or to taste)
·         2 red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
·         1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
·         1 ripe, firm avocado, sliced or cut into small pieces
·         ¼ cup chopped cilantro
·         ½ lime, cut into wedges
·         2 tablespoons olive oil
·         Salt and black pepper to taste
*Using vegetable broth provides a fat-free alternative to the more traditional chicken broth-based soup. 
1.   Heat olive oil over medium high in a large pot or dutch oven, add celery, onion, garlic, carrots, potatoes, cumin and chili powder and sauté 1 to 2 minutes.
2.   Add quinoa, sauté 1 minute longer
3.   Add broth, water and corn, bring to a simmer over medium low heat.  Simmer 45 minutes, or until potatoes and carrots are soft. Add salt and black pepper to taste while simmering. 
4.   Serve topped with cilantro, lime and avocado

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