Crema de Quinoa
When I’m asked how I decided what to post, I always say that one recipe leads to another. But that’s only half a truth. More specifically, it comes down to what was left and what I can make of it. This chowder, for one, started with a recipe for quinoa croquettes. With the croquettes done and quinoa to spare, I started looking for more ways to use it and came across this recipe in Jose Garces’ Latin Road Home. I was most drawn to the ingredient list featuring staples I always have but never seem to use completely – heavy cream, parsley, the odd potato. This also meant picking up a few extras quarts of vegetable stock and pulling fresh corn from the dwindling piles at the market. I followed the recipe as closely as possible the first time around including the fried potatoes, and crumbled bacon. When it was finished, I realized I had a almost enough left to make a second batch. I was going into a busy week and knew I’d be rewarming it over a few nights, so I made a vegetarian version. Also, I was out of bacon. Instead of using the achiote paste that’s been living in my refrigerator for years with no expiration in site, I used the last of my achiote seeds to make the oil. The chives became scallions, and I added the cream at the end to finish off the pint. The one thing I didn’t get to was the fresh ají costeño pepper sauce Garces suggests, but that will have to wait for the next round.
Crema de Quinoa/Quinoa Chowder
Adapted from Jose Garces’ Latin Road Home: Savoring the Foods of Ecuador, Spain, Cuba, Mexico, and Peru (Lake Isle Press, 2012)
¼ cup achiote oil
½ large Spanish onion, diced
4 to 6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon freshly ground cumin
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1½ cups quinoa (red or white), well-rinsed
Kernels cut from 2 ears fresh white sweet corn or 1 cup thawed, drained frozen
6 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
2 tablespoons fresh scallions, cut into long strips
½ cup heavy cream or crème fraîche
Sliced avocado, optional
For the potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ pound russet, red, or purple potatoes, diced
Heat the achiote oil in a 6-quart heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sautée until the onion is soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in the salt, oregano, cumin, and freshly ground pepper and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the quinoa and corn and stir until well coated, about 5 additional minutes. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Immediately lower the heat to medium-low and continue to cook until the quinoa is tender, 30 to 45 minutes.
In the meantime, fry the potatoes. Heat the oil in a skillet until hot but not smoking. Add the potatoes in a single layer and sprinkle with salt. Sautée until the potatoes are tender and lightly browned.
Add the parsley, scallions, and fried potatoes to the quinoa. Pour into individual bowls and drizzle with a spoonful of cream to taste. Top with avocado slices if using.