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February 8th, 2010:

Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone: An Unusual Savory Stew

quinoa chowder with spinach, feta and scallions

ChowderBowlWithEggI had a big master plan for the year, and when I fell behind in the first six months I made a second master plan to get caught up. But in the past few weeks, for a variety of reasons I’d rather not get into right now, I got off schedule again. Over the weekend I found myself looking for a recipe I could make based on ingredients I had on hand. I poked through the pantry shelves CookedQuinoaand found the better part of a bag of quinoa, left over from the Three Bowl Cookbook, and thought that looked like a great possibility. Since quinoa is popular with vegetarians, I checked the indexes of the vegetarian cookbooks I haven’t used yet, and in Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone I found a few offerings that were ReadyIngredientsnot basically just cucumber and tomato salads.

The chowder takes a little bit of prep time, but is fairly simple to actually cook. I started with my vegetable prep: slicing fresh spinach, dicing a clove of garlic and a jalapeno pepper, peeling and dicing a couple of red potatoes, slicing a bunch of scallions, and chopping some GarlicChilePotatoescilantro. I also prepared a hard-boiled egg, following instructions elsewhere in the book, and peeled and chopped it.

Then it was time to start the actual cooking. I rinsed some quinoa and brought it to a boil with two quarts of water, then covered it and let it simmer for 10 minutes, while I diced some feta. I then drained the quinoa but AddedWaterScallionssaved six cups of the cooking liquid (which was pretty much all the liquid that had not been absorbed into the grain).

In a large pot, I heated some olive oil and sauteed the garlic and jalapeno pepper, then added some salt and cumin and the potatoes and let that cook for a few minutes. Then I added the reserved quinoa water and half AddedQuinoaSpinach2the scallions, brought it back up to a boil and let it simmer until the potatoes were tender. The recipe said this should take about 15 minutes, but I checked the potatoes at that point and let them cook a few minutes longer. Then I added the spinach, the rest of the scallions, and the cooked quinoa, and let that cook together for about three minutes. I removed the pot from the heat FinishedChowder2and stirred in the feta and cilantro, then ladled up a bowlful and garnished my serving with some of the chopped egg.

The stew had a complex flavor, with the different elements — spinach, egg, quinoa, chile, feta — playing off one another. Each bite had a bit of fire, a rich undertone, a bitter edge, and a nutty substance. I’d never have put these ingredients together on my own, but the result was truly delicious.

Verdict: Success. This is a terrific winter dish. I think I may go for seconds.