Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Quinoa Soup from Ecuador

Zola: I'm all mixed up. I just learned that Obama won the nomination (yay!) but am sitting in my apartment that would more accurately be described as a sieve (boo!). Oddly enough, it's raining in Seattle and the water is leaking through all the construction. There's not much more a girl can do in such a situation except to cook. And empty pans of water.

Emily: This was my favorite dish from the year I spent in Ecuador. None of the recipes I have found included the big matzo ball like thing that would float in the middle of the soup, but to me that is the crucial component.

The quinoa soup has a nutty flavor, and reminded me of the peanut soup my mom used to make when I was kid. Floating in the soup is a matzo ball like thing, that surrounds a boiled egg. You break up the matzo ball with your spoon and use it like a cracker to soak up the yummy soup.

I don't remember if people ate this with popcorn. The Ecuadorian family I lived with ate a type of soup lately, and usually served with popcorn instead of crackers. I'm not sure how much of a story I can share about this. I generally ate lunch by myself, as I was a boarder, in the kitchen. Sometimes I would talk to the maid, who lived in a tiny room with her young son off the kitchen. I have strong memories of the smell of the kitchen, bananas, flowers, and the smell of soapy water. The drinking glasses were made of metal, and I remember their glinting taste with the sugary lemonade that always was served.
Fried plaintains were also a staple, and often served with a piece of fried fish along with the soup of the day. The quinoa soup, however, was a special dish, and only served occasionally. I don't know if it was expensive to make, or too-time consuming for daily preparation, but it was definitely my favorite of may wonderful soups I had in that house. My other favorite was a green plantain empanada, which the mother of the house made for me on my 21st birthday. Neighbors and their family gathered around in their dining room for an afternoon spread of empanadas, horchata, and rosa de jamaica.

My other favorite food memory from Ecuador was trying to make my grandmother's cornbread dressing on a Thanksgiving meal that some American friends and I wanted to make for our host families. It was my first Thanksgiving away from home and I had to call my grandmother on the phone [very expensive - before we had Skype] to get the recipe for it. It was a challenge to translate it when I went to the market to find the ingredients, but I came to a close approximation. The Ecuadorian family I was staying with loved it so much they asked for the recipe.

Zola: I'm also mixed up about this recipe. I looked high and low for something that gave me some indication of what this egg/matzoh ball thing could be and came up empty. When I checked in with Emily she said she remembered it being perfectly round and with a breading on the outside. Anything? Ringing any bells for anyone? All I could find were references to hard-boiled eggs as a garnish to the soup. So, I'm hoping someone out there can solve this eggs garnish mystery for us. I just went with a plain old hard-boiled egg. Lame. But true. I actually tried breading the egg once it was hard-boiled (I even stuck it in the oven to crisp it up) but it just got soggy (much like my apartment) when it hit the soup. Until we get to the bottom of this, I suggest just sticking with the naked egg.

1 cup quinoa, cooked according to package and set aside
4 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup thinly sliced leeks, white part only
1/2 cup sliced onion
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 cups low-fat (2%) milk
1/2 cup whipping cream

Heat butter and oil. Add leek and onion, cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, without browning. About 20 minutes. Season with paprika, salt, pepper, and cumin. Add peanut butter and quinoa, and stock. Stir in milk and cream. Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally. If desired, thin soup with a little milk or stock. It's very thick and rich. Serve hot, garnished with eggs (mystery or otherwise), avocado, and cheese.


Emily said...

increible! the soup's flavor was exactly as I remembered it. I was also thrilled to be able to share the taste with Paul. Thanks so much for the trip down memory lane.

Anonymous said...

I was in Ecuador for 6 weeks last summer. I like the quinoa soup too. I also had the soup with the "ball" thing in it. A friend there told me it's made with ground up plantains--like a dumpling. I'll send her an email and ask what it's called.

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I had never heard of that dish sounds interesting thanks for the info