Decolonizing my diet: Combinao de quinua
I sit around thinking about Peruvian food a lot. I also try to imagine what some of my go-to dishes would be like if we only used ingredients that were, and are, indigenous to South America and other parts of the Americas. One of my favorite desserts is arroz con leche (rice pudding) combined with mazamorra morada (purple corn pudding). When these two things are served together in one plate, it is referred to as "combinado" or "combinao," meaning combined. I began to re-imagine what a "combinao" would look like without rice, without milk, without sugarcane, without colonial ingredients that were brought by the conquistadores.
Mazamorra morada is a pudding that has its flavor built on truly South American ingredients, as both this particular purple corn and pineapple are indigenous to that very part of the continent. It is also thickened by sweet potato powder, another ingredient that is indigenous to the region. It has a similar flavor profile to chicha morada (purple corn drink), and begins with those very same ingredients (except the sweet potato). It also uses fruits and dried fruits like quince, raisins, prunes and cherries that all would have come with the Spanish. While the recipe uses some native Peruvian ingredients, historically it was a dessert created to demonstrate a combining of both indigenous and colonial ingredients. It is a colonial dish then with Indigenous roots. Arroz con leche is not at all. It is a dish that was brought by the Spanish to all of Latin America, but its roots go back to when the Moors ruled over that peninsula. Since neither of these dishes existed before the conquest I decided to utilize an ingredient I see as quintessentially South American to create a combinao in a very different way. I decided to make the same ingredient in two different ways and combine them. I, of course, chose quinoa as she was, and may forever be, my muse. I call this dessert: Combinao de quinua.
To make the purple part of this dish, I decided to flavor and color one batch of quinoa in place of making the traditional pudding with sweet potato starch. To make the white part of the dessert, I simply sweetened the other. When I started this recipe development, I wasn't sure if this would work. After my first go, I knew I had found the winning combination. I absolutely loved the outcome so much I wanted to share it with you!
What I created is a dish that is made with white quinoa cooked 2 ways: The first batch was cooked with vanilla and lightly sweetened with local honey. The second batch was flavored and sweetened by the chicha morada syrup I made.
When creating a new dish, the sky can be the limit. Yet if you go overboard the flavors of the star ingredient can be lost. You want to enhance it! I topped the dessert with a compote made of blueberries, cranberries from Cape Cod, dandelions (to bring out a honey flavor), and sweetened with a touch of Pequot maple syrup. It has a very deep and dark flavor.
I also prepared a few garnishes that I thought might enhance the dessert both visually and add texture. I made purple potato crisps by frying them in avocado oil. I pan-roasted piñon (pine) nuts to bring out the nuttiness and color. Last, I picked a few dandelions and thyme leaved speedwell from my yard to brighten the finished product as well as give added nutrients. Dandelions were also used in the fruit compote. Dandelions are medicine! Also those little "weeds" I picked from my yard, the thyme leaved speedwell, are packed with Vitamin C! It's amazing what we can find around us.
So, amig@s, I present Combinao de quinua! Buen provecho!
Combinao de quinua - Serves 6-8
4 cups white quinoa, cooked
1-2 cups water
1 1/2 cups chicha morada (to make syrup), reduced to 1/3 cup
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1 1/2 cups cranberries
1/2 cup dandelion flowers, whole and washed (plus more for decoration, if wanted)
1/4 cup real maple syrup
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup piñon nuts, pan-roasted (optional, or use a nut of your choice)
4 baby purple potatoes, sliced thinly
1/2 cup avocado oil
CHICHA MORADA SYRUP: Place chicha morada on medium high heat until reduced by more than half. It should be thick and almost appear black but be careful not to burn.
BERRY DANDELION COMPOTE:
Place all ingredients, except syrup, in a medium sized pot and bring to a boil.
Lower heat to a simmer. Allow to cook for about 7 minutes, periodically mashing the berries a bit, leaving some more whole.
Add syrup and allow to cook for another 5-7 minutes.
Allow to cool and remove dandelion flowers.
QUINOA: Take two cups of white quinoa and wash by submerging in water, rubbing the quinoa in the water with your hands and then drain the water. The water will become milky. You are washing the bitter saponins off of the seeds. Repeat this at least 2 more times. Place in a pot of boiling water (3 cups). Cook for about 5 minutes. Strain the quinoa and discard water. Add 4 more cups of water to the pot and bring to a boil again and add the partially cooked quinoa, allowing to cook for about 15 more minutes, or until done. Let cool.
PINON NUTS: In a dry, hot pan, toss the nuts until fragrant and starting to brown. Remove from heat quickly so not t burn.
PURPLE POTATO CRISPS: Using a vegetable peeler or mandolin, thinly slice potatoes. In a small pan, heat avocado oil to medium high and fry sliced potato, taking care to not over crowd the pan. Place fried crisps on paper towel to allow for excess oil to drain off.
Preparation of dessert
Divide cooked quinoa into two batches of about 2 cups each.
Place each in a pot and add in each pot about a cup of additional water. Bring to a boil.
Bring each pot down to a simmer, consistently stirring each pot so that the quinoa does not stick and burn. Add more water until you reach a desired porridge-like consistency.
Add a pinch of salt to each pot.
In one pot, add the a couple tablespoons of chicha morada syrup at a time. Stir well to incorporate. Add more to taste, if needed.
In the other pot, add vanilla and honey. Stir well to incorporate.
Allow each to simmer for an additional 5 minutes to blend flavors.
Let cool to room temperature or refrigerate, to your preference.
To plate, use a small bowl. Begin by scooping the white quinoa first, then layer the purple on top. Spoon the compote over top, place a few potato crisps for height, and sprinkle the pinon nuts to complete.
Edible flowers are optional.
Other toppings could include shredded coconut, compotes made with other fruits like mango, or other types of nuts or seeds like puffed amaranth.
(PS: if someone else sees this, Kahlo says hi!)