Easy to cook, nourishing and beautiful in it’s simplicity, quinoa has been a staple in the South American diet for hundreds of years. It’s been turning up in North American grocery stores in the last few decades to the delight of vegans and omnivores, alike. I enjoy it’s rich taste and high protein content…and, I can sneak it into a dish that my 7 year old will actually eat!
Here is my favorite recipe for a chowder that is perfect for warming up on a cold day. It is lovely to serve, if you are having company or for a special dinner. It’s high in protein and iron (from the spinach) and is a meal unto itself. Fresh bread and slice of apple pie for dessert!
Adapted from one of my favorite vegetarian chefs — Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I’ve made some changes to her original recipe and I’ve added a vegan option.
Quinoa, Spinach and Potato Chowder
3/4 cups quinoa
8 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 cloves chopped garlic
3 baking potatoes (such as russet), peeled and chopped
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
2 bunches of fresh spinach (not frozen)
7 oz of good quality feta cheese chopped into cubes (optional)
1/2 package of silken tofu (optional)
Rinse the quinoa in a sieve and drain. (This step is important because quinoa has a naturally occurring bitter oil coating the outside of the grain.)
In a large soup pot, add the rinsed quinoa and 8 cups water, bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer the quinoa for 10 minutes.
Drain the quinoa and reserve the liquid. I use a sieve over a large 8-cup measuring cup. The quinoa goes into the sieve and the water (which is now the broth for your chowder) is in the measuring cup. You should have about 8 cups of water/broth reserved. Add more water to bring it to 8 cups, if some water has evaporated during cooking.
Without rinsing the soup pot, return the pot to the stove and raise the heat to medium. Add the oil, cumin, garlic and potatoes. Cook for 3 minutes stirring constantly. Add the 8 cups of quinoa water. Scrape any bits off of the bottom of the pan. Bring the soup to a gentle boil and reduce heat. Let the soup simmer for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender.
When the potatoes are cooked through, add the quinoa and stir to combine, cooking another 5 minutes. Remove pot from heat, add spinach, feta cheese and silken tofu (if using). Stir again, and let sit for several minutes or longer to let the flavors blend and the quinoa to thicken the soup.
People often think vegan cooking is complicated with esoteric ingredients that no one has on hand. Well, here is how to make this soup vegan without any extra ingredients or complications–Are you ready? Omit the cheese. There, now you’re a vegan. Enjoy!