quinoa, corn and spinach chowder
in the middle of the night, in the middle of the week, smack in the middle of a bout of insomnia, i…. went shopping. clad only in paint-stained sweats, holy sweater and bunny slippers, i ......went online. i logged onto……amazon……and emptied my wish list……..straight into my shopping cart. and then, with matted hair, wild eyes, bad breath and ratty clothes, i shuffled my once pink now brown little one eyed bunnies down the cyber aisle, and…….checked out.
a few days later i was awoken from a fitful mid afternoon nap to the bing-bonging of my front doorbell. as i peered through the peephole i realized just what i had done……that my hazy recollection of a fantastical midnight shopping spree was not a sleep-deprived delusion and had materialized into a brown-clad, ups-emblazoned, brawny young man at my front gate. gleefully i ripped open the monstrous box, littered the tiny living room floor of my tiny little apartment and……rolled around on a mountain of new books. i snapped the spines, dog eared the pages, and warmly welcomed them home. buried in this cornucopia of fallen trees was deborah madison’s newish book, vegetable soups from deborah madison's kitchen.
since rediscovering vegetarian cooking for everyone I’ve become a big fan of the big DM. she has an interesting and light touch with flavor combinations which, for the most part, work beautifully. i also love soups. soup is my favorite food, hands down (well, maybe one hand down because the other hand will invariably find itself insided a bag of salty chips). i was a little skeptical about this recipe because of the quinoa. i know all the rap about this little grain who could, but somehow it just never floats my boat. regardless of how i cook it and how i season it, there is something, well, boring about it. but i had some quinoa on hand, some fresh white corn, a few butter gold potatoes, and a wrinkled jalapeno pepper that needed to be put out of its misery, and so i gave it a shot. and once again DM surprised me. i love this soup. the quinoa makes this soup hearty without being heavy and the fluffy little grains look so pretty floating around the bowl. the corn adds textural interest as it’s not overly cooked, providing a bit of snap, crunch and sugar sweetness into each mouthful. the only major modifications i made were to omit all dairy and egg products, add some diced carrots for color, and use a vegetable stock (actually knorr vegetarian vegetable bouillon cubes). because i omitted the cheese i added a few squeezes of lemon juice to brighten things up a bit. i've put the egg and dairy options in the recipe, but you don't need it, really!
quinoa, corn and spinach chowder
3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed under running water
7 cups water/stock
2 ears of corn, shucked
1 carrot, diced
2 Tablespoons olive oil (optional)
1+ cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno chile, diced and seeded (leave some seeds if you want it hotter)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper
2 waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4" cubes
1 bunch of spinach
3 scallions, minced
1/3 cup chopped cilantro leaves
lemon juice to taste
1/4 lb. feta cheese, cubed (optional)
1 hard boiled egg, chopped (optional)
simmer the quinoa in 7 cups of water or stock for about 10 minutes. if using water you will probably want to add some cubed stock or bouillon later to give the dish some body. drain and reserve the cooking liquid. while the quinoa is cooking, cut the kernals off two cobs of corn. then using the flat edge of the knife scrape those last little juicy bits off the ear into the bowl with the kernals. if you are using the oil, heat the oil in a 3 quart saucepan and cook the garlic and chile for about 30 seconds, then add the cumin salt and potatoes. add 6 cups of reserved quinoa cooking water, quinoa and simmer for 15 minutes. add corn. turn off heat and stir in spinach, cheese (if using) and scallions. just before serving mix in egg (optional) and cilantro. if you are not using the oil or the dairy ingredients, just place all of the reserved cooking water in a pot (again, if you used water to cook your quinoa you will want to add some bouillon now) with the potatoes and quinoa and simmer 15 minutes. then add corn, spinach and scallions. adjust seasonings with salt, freshly ground black pepper and a few squeezes of lemon juice to taste.
or the non vegan version as it appears in her book, add 1/4 lb. cubed feta cheese and 1 peeled and diced hardboiled egg.