I was a little wary of this recipe at first glance. Quinoa and chowder just didn’t seem like good bedfellows. I was mistaken. My friend Linda served it at a dinner party, and I gobbled it up. I loved the salty feta swimming with the hearty potatoes and elegant quinoa orbs. I, then, turned around and served it to my dinner guests. It is now part of my regular rotation. The recipe is straight out of Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone tome. Other than mixing sweet potatoes with russets, I did not tweak the recipe.
This chowder will help break up your squash parade this fall, if you have one. It’s not too heavy a meal, so it fits if your weather is ping-ponging from summer-hot to winter-is-around-the-corner with some punctuations of rain here and there– like it is here in Maine.
Annabella and I had the great good fortune to travel to Acadia National Park during one of the fall’s most glorious weather weekends. Clear blue skies and 80 degree days framed our visit to Mount Desert Island. Most of the island is dedicated national park land. This trip was not a foodie’s dream. Our best meal was off the island at Valentinas Coastal Kitchen in the seaside town of Camden on the drive home.
However, this was a nature lover’s feast, so indulge me and take a look at the photos. We visited this particular weekend for the Night Sky Festival. Acadia is celebrated by astronomers for having the darkest night sky on the Eastern half of the United States. Therefore, it’s the best place to view the stars. Much of our country, however, is awash with light. Too much light. Light that spills from houses, headlights, streetlights, smartphones (?), bustling metropolises and small villages near our national parks and reserves. There is a burgeoning movement to cut light pollution by placing cone-like covers on street lights, which helps direct the needed light down instead of allowing it to shoot up and out thus competing with the brilliance of the stars. Bar Harbor, Acadia’s largest town and tourist mecca for Acadians, has taken the light pollution issue to heart and is capping its streetlights in order to keep Acadia in the dark, so to speak.
So, with the dark island as our backdrop, we spent one evening peering through telescopes at distant galaxies. We also saw the Milky Way and craned our necks to see constellations I hadn’t peered at in many years. Every night the stars sparkle for us, waiting for our applause that too rarely comes. I am glad we got to see the show.
* Last year I was cooking: Stuffed Pumpkin
Quinoa-Feta Chowder with Spinach, Feta and Scallions
3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed in a fine sieve
2 T olive oil
1 garlic clove, chopped fine
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely choppped
1 tsp ground cumin
Salt and pepper
1/2 pound boiling potatoes and/or sweet potatoes
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
3 cups spinach, cut into ribbons
1/4 pound feta cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1. Put the rinsed quinoa and 2 quarts water in a pot, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain quinoa and save liquid for chowder. Add enough water to simmering liquid to make 6 cups.
2. Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and jalapeno. Cook for about 30 seconds and give it a stir. Add cumin, 1 tsp salt, and potatoes and cook for a few minutes. Stir frequently. Don’t let garlic brown. Add the quinoa simmering water and half the scallions and simmer until the potatoes are tender – about 15 minutes.
3. Add the quinoa, spinach, remaining scallions and simmer a few minutes more. Turn off the heat and add feta and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper.
- Mix and match boiling potatoes with sweet potatoes.
- The more feta, the merrier.