While teaching one of my classes last month at Valparaiso University, one of the professors in the College of Arts and Sciences brought in a large pot of homemade soup to share with colleagues.
I was especially intrigued by his traditional Spanish soup recipe, primarily, because of the tiny floating circles I noticed dancing on the broth base.
This was an ingredient I had never encountered before, but the soup's flavor and consistency were fantastic. After some investigation, I discovered this mystery ingredient was a type of natural pasta substitute called Quinoa, which is pronounced in Spanish as "Quin-wah."
As it turns out, this centuries old harvested favorite, which is primarily grown in the Andean region of Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, has been successfully domesticated for the past 4,000 years for human consumption. And previous to this, archeological evidence shows a non-domesticated association with pastoral herding dating some 5,200 to 7,000 years ago.
Valparaiso University Theology Professor David Weber, the man behind this shared soup recipe and my introduction to this new ingredient, quickly corrected me when I referred to Quinoa as a grain.
"It's much more closely related to the spinach family or wild rice," he explained.
As it turns out, Quinoa is part of the grass family and closely tied with tumbleweeds.
Suddenly, in recent years, it has burst with popularity with many people still believing it is part of the cereal or grain family. There's even been controversy about whether or not it can be classified as "kosher" since it is now prized as a substitute for the leavened grains that are forbidden during the Jewish Passover holiday. Several of the kosher certification organizations refuse to certify quinoa as being kosher for passover citing reasons including "its resemblance to prohibited grains, or fear of cross-contamination of the product from nearby fields of the prohibited grain."
Quinoa has been tagged as "a superfood" and is extremely high in protein, even outranking brown rice. However, I'm told the large demand worldwide has driven up prices. So now, the poor villages in these growing regions that once depended on it as a food staple now can no longer even afford what was once plentiful.
I'm including Professor Weber's soup recipe featured today, served with his recipe for a great parmesan cheese flat bread.
And on the subject of soup, since we've found fall weather, a reminder that I'll also be a celebrity judge on Sunday afternoon at Lansing's Autumn Fest in Lansing, Ill. for the 2nd Annual Lansing Autumn Fest Chili Cook-Off. The first place winner receives $100 in cash, a trophy and free entry for the ICS Chilly Willy Chili Challenge in Orland Hills, Ill. Second Place receives $50 and third place nets $25. Check-in registration and set-up starts at 1 p.m. with judging at 2 p.m. The Festival site is at a spot called Fox Pointe in Lansing at Lake and Henry streets just at the lighted intersection at Ridge Road. Entry to the contest is $20 and more details are found at the festival web site at lansingautumnfest.org. Our judging criteria will be based on texture, flavor, consistency, spice, color and aroma. Advance registration should be dropped off to the Village of Lansing, 3141 Ridge Road or contact contest coordinator Vivian Payne at (708) 207-0067. Good Luck!
Spanish Soup with Sausage and Quinoa
5 or 6 pounds of pork ribs
6 cups chicken broth
3 large onions
2 tablespoons butter
Fresh garlic to taste
1 large bell pepper, diced
4 carrots, diced
1 cup of corn kernels (fresh, frozen or canned)
1 heaping handful of string beans, snapped into pieces
4 fresh tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 bunch fresh basil
1 cup fresh mushrooms
2 tablespoons coconut oil
Sriracha sauce or hot sauce, to taste
6 large Italian sausages, grilled and sliced into pieces
1 cup Quinoa
Gorgonzola cheese, shredded for garnish
DIRECTIONS: Sear ribs on hot grill 15 minutes per side and then wrapped in foil and left to remain on grill over a low heat for 2 hours. Remove from grill and place ribs in a large pot (or slow cooker) covered with broth and simmer for 8 hours. Remove ribs and enjoy or store in fridge since they are not used in soup recipe. Skim away any fat from the stock. Saute onions in butter until caramelized and add to stock, along with garlic, bell pepper, carrots, corn, string beans, basil and tomatoes. Saute mushrooms in coconut oil and add to soup. Salt and pepper to taste and add desired amount of hot sauce for flavor. After soup has cooked for an hour over a low heat, add sausage and Quinoa and cook for another 20 minutes. Serve soup garnished with cheese and with Parmesan flat bread (recipe follows). Makes 16 servings.
Easy Parmesan Flat Bread
3 tablespoons of yeast from jar
Salt to taste
White pepper to taste
1 cup of yogurt, heated to 100 degrees
Agave or molasses or honey, to taste
1 cup oatmeal, not instant
3 cups white flour
Cornmeal as needed
Brushing of olive oil or melted butter
Parmesan cheese, grated as needed.
DIRECTIONS: Combine the yeast, salt and white pepper with the heated yogurt to proof yeast. Once yeast activates, add eggs and enough agave, molasses or honey to taste and texture, adding 1 cup oatmeal and 3 cups of white flour to make a sticky dough. Allow dough sit for at least 24 hours to begin souring. Roll dough out with large amounts of corn meal on a high temp pizza stone or baking sheet. Cut into strips before baking. Brush with oil or melted butter and sprinkle with Parmesan and bake at 500 degrees 3 minutes on one side and 2 minutes on the other. Makes 10 servings.