Rustic Tomato & Quinoa Soup – A Peruvian Memory
It’s quite the winter wonderland outside our tiny kitchen in the Big Apple with snow still heavily drifting from the sky as I write this entry. It’s another perfect day to cozy up with a bowl of steaming goodness and perhaps reminisce about the warmer days of yore.
My opinion still stands – I love the snow. I’m actually much happier now that the gloomy, wet weather finally morphed into fluffy snowflakes and has magically transformed the monochromatic gray city into a real life snow globe.
I always find great pleasure strolling down the white blanketed sidewalks of Manhattan as I listen to the snow plows sprinkling beads of salt on the streets. If you were to look outside the window of your skyscraper and see a floating lime green umbrella donned in black and pink rain boots amidst the white flurry, that’s me. Naive little California girl madly in love with the novelty.
For the meantime, I’m tucked inside our cozy apartment pondering over my culinary musings and I can’t help but recall our last memory of quinoa soup…
At the beginning of summer last year, we embarked on a great big adventure to Peru. We began with a 5-day trek to Machu Picchu by way of the Salkantay trail which climaxes at an elevation of 4600 meters (16,000 feet) in the glacial mountains. With our 25-lb. backpacks and hiking in high altitudes for 12 hours a day, we were completely exhausted by day’s end.
Our first night was particularly brutal as we had decided to set up camp at 3900 meters with temperatures dropping down to 27 degrees fahrenheit. We shivered in our tents for 8 hours without a wink of sleep despite our extreme exhaustion. We were annoyed that all the other trekkers seemed to be peaceful inside their own tents and enjoying a good night’s rest. The following morning, we discovered everyone’s insomnia woes as we commiserated over our 5am breakfast. Yes, misery does love company.
At the conclusion of each day it was such a soothing treat to have a warm bowl of quinoa soup to silence our grumbling belly. As quinoa is the grain of the Incas, this Peruvian staple was prevalent in all of our meals. And I mean, ALL of our meals. For 17 days. During the Salkantay trek, we welcomed it into our diets with open arms. Quinoa, broth, and potatoes. For lunch. For dinner. And sometimes, even for breakfast. Of course we also enjoyed servings of chicken, which our comedic guides jokingly called “condor legs”. And sometimes we had lomo saltado or “puma legs”. But each meal ALWAYS included quinoa soup with potatoes. After the fifth day, we were up to our ears in quinoa and potatoes.
Immediately after the Salkantay trek, we split from the group and proceeded to our next adventure in Lake Titicaca (*insert my immature giggles here*). A local Amantani family was gracious enough to open their humble home to us for two days.
Despite their modest incomes, they kindly shared with us their daily meals and gave us an opportunity to observe the beauty and simplicity of life on Amantani island. Our interactions were restricted to a series of smiles and nods as we had a rainbow of language barriers to overcome – English, French and Quechua. We were able to communicate slightly as our Amantani “mother” could speak a wee bit of Spanish but her husband was strictly Quechuan.
They showed us family photos over steaming cups of tea steeped with a little branch she snagged from a bush as we followed her through the village. We received such warmth and generosity from our Amantani family and we will never forget such an amazing experience. And yes, we ate quinoa soup and potatoes.
The last leg of our adventure was a descend into the bottom of Colca Canyon. It was such a relief to be hiking DOWN for once and the weather was warm enough to enjoy a dip in a refreshing pool they referred to as “The Oasis”. We ventured through tiny villages with populations rising up to 35 inhabitants and had the luxury of staying in a room they referred to as the “Matrimonial Suite”. Lavish, isn’t it?
Naively, we failed to realize what comes up, must come down. Or rather, what comes down, must come UP. We endured a 3-hour near vertical hike out of the canyon beginning at 2:30am just in time to catch the last bus that took us to the most popular viewing platform for condors. When we reached the top of the canyon at 5am we were rewarded with a warm bowl of, you guessed it, quinoa soup.
Perhaps now you come to finally understand, why it has taken us this long to enjoy another serving of this wholesome grain.
|2||plum tomatoes, seeded and diced in large pieces|
|1||qt. chicken broth|
|2||cups cherry tomatoes sliced in halves (I used the rainbow ones for aesthetic purposes)|
|1||medium yellow onion, julienned|
|4||cloves garlic, minced|
|1||tsp curry powder|
|2||Tbsp minced fresh tarragon|
|1/2||tsp red chili pepper flakes|
|salt & pepper|
|homemade croutons (optional)|
- In a medium stock pot, saute garlic in olive oil over low heat for 5 minutes. Add the onions and saute just until they begin to wilt. Add diced plum tomatoes and red chili pepper flakes. Saute for 2 minutes the add quinoa. Saute for another 5 minutes and add the chicken broth. Stir in the curry powder and bring the soup to a boil for five minutes. Lower heat to a simmer and add tarragon and cherry tomatoes. Simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve immediately with a few pieces of homemade croutons. Makes two servings. TIP: To make croutons, slice baguette and drizzle with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.