I decided to start the year featuring very healthy and delicious recipes using some of the super foods of the Incas. Quinoa was their Mother-Grain and almost disappeared after the Spanish conquest, but thanks to the growing interest in health and nutrition it is being revived. Quinoa is grown on the eastern slopes of the Andes, sometimes along with potatoes and corn. The plant grows at altitudes above 9600 feet and is frost resistant thanks to the size of its germ, or embryo as compared to the size of other grains. The latter also explains its nutrient profile, characterized by an outstanding balance of protein, minerals, and vital amino acids, it is one of the few complete vegetable proteins There are about 200 varieties of quinoa, which range in size from as small as a grain of sand to the size of sesame seed, and in colors that vary from ivory, brown, red and black. Its centuries-old history as a staple protein for hardy mountain tribes has been confirmed by modern laboratory evaluation of its nutritional content, with credentials of being very close to a “whole” food. Quinoa is an extremely versatile grain, suitable for almost any kind of dish. It is a good substitute for rice and bulgur and can be used in salads, soups, stews, croquettes, casseroles, or to stuff vegetables and make desserts. Since quinoa does not contain the gluten of grains such as wheat, it is a valuable alternative for those who suffer from grain allergies.
ECUADORIAN QUINOA CHOWDER WITH PORK AND CABBAGE
Sopa de Quinua con Chancho y Col
People from the Andean countries are particularly fond of chowders. The Indians used the green leaves of the quinoa plant to flavor the soup and did not add meat. When the Spaniards introduced the pork, the Indians adopted it immediately and incorporated it into their specialties. This nourishing soup can be made without the pork and will be just as delicious; it is a complete meal by itself. I get many requests for this particular recipe from people who lived in Ecuador and were delighted to find quinoa was becoming more readily available in this country.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground annatto or paprika
1 cup finely chopped leek (use 1-inch of the green)
1 large tomato (about 8 ounces), peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, passed through a garlic press
1 teaspoon salt and
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed oregano
Pinch red pepper flakes
3/4 pound lean pork cut from the leg or shoulder cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 cups hot water
1 pound red or yellow potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
8 fresh cabbage or kale leaves, chopped (about 2 cups)
3/4 cup raw quinoa (well rinsed)
4 tablespoons dry roasted peanuts (or peanut butter) pureed with
1 cup 2% milk or soy milk
1 cup frozen peas
Fresh minced parsley for garnishing
1. Heat oil in a heavy 6-quart casserole over low heat. Stir in annatto powder or paprika, add leek, tomato, garlic, cumin, oregano and pepper flakes. Cook stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium, add pork cubes and cook for a couple of minutes tossing them so they are well coated with the leek mixture. Add water, cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. Add potatoes, cabbage, quinoa and peanut puree, partially cover and continue cooking until potatoes are done, about 20 minutes. If soup is too thick add more boiling water to get desired consistency. Add peas, cook for a couple of minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Serve hot in soup bowls or plates, garnished with parsley.
Makes about 12 cups
For more recipes with quinoa see The Art of Cooking with Quinoa and The South American Table.