The South American secret to a super soup
Food for thought

The South American secret to a super soup

A look at amaranth, the grain that ups the ante on any winter broth

Phyllis Glazer is an American-born food journalist based in Tel Aviv, Israel. She is the author of several cookbooks that have been published in Hebrew, German, and Italian, and appears frequently on television and radio in Israel.

Corn, quinoa and amaranth in a hot bowl (photo credit: Anatoly Michaelo)
Corn, quinoa and amaranth in a hot bowl (photo credit: Anatoly Michaelo)
Phyllis Glazer extols the healthy riches of quinoa and amaranth (photo credit: Anatoly Michaelo)
Phyllis Glazer extols the healthy riches of quinoa and amaranth (photo credit: Anatoly Michaelo)

It’s clearly the season for soup. Even though the sun is shining at this particular moment, and the windows in my study are open, the weather in this country can change from minute to minute, and it will surely get colder as night falls. And when it’s cold, or when you’re feeling under the weather, there’s nothing as comforting as soup.

Sadly, my mother is no longer with me to make her fabulous, crystal-clear chicken soup that was our family panacea (while I’m not vegetarian, I still find cooking chicken a little off-putting, and I’ll never have as much patience as she did to skim the soup). So my favorite soups tend to revolve around a mixed vegetable minestrone, orange or green lentils, or mushroom and barley, the latter particularly soothing if you’re suffering from any tummy trouble.

But recently my friend Aviva called to tell me that another friend of hers had tried a soup from one of my cookbooks, and that she and her husband thought that it was the best soup they had ever eaten. I told her there are many soups that I love, and I can’t imagine which one they liked the best.

“It’s a super soup,” she told me, “one that has something inside that I had never heard of, called amaranth. You’ve got to find it. You’ve just got to give me the recipe.”

Aha. That soup. It’s pretty well known that quinoa is rich in protein with an impressive amount of vitamins and minerals, but not that many people have heard of its distant cousin — amaranth. Both are South American, and both have such concentrated nutrient contents that they are considered “super-foods.” Amaranth has double the amount of calcium than in milk, four times the amount of iron found in brown rice, and three times more fiber than whole wheat. You can find amaranth in health food stores — it will be more expensive than other grains — but a little goes a long way.

And as for the soup — hope you like it as much as they did!

Corn Soup with Quinoa and Amaranth (6 servings)

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1½ cups leeks, sliced thin
  • ½ cup finely chopped red pepper
  • Salt and white pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup amaranth
  • 4 cups water
  • ½ cup red or white quinoa, rinsed
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen corn
  • 1 cup milk (or ½ cup milk and ½ cup cream) or almond or soy milk
  • To garnish: parsley, thyme, or fresh tarragon
  1. Melt two tablespoons of butter in a heavy pot, set on medium heat. Add the leeks, celery, red pepper and salt. Cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the amaranth and three cups of the water, bring to a boil over medium heat, add the quinoa and bring to a boil again. Lower heat, partially cover, and cook five minutes.
  3. Grind three cups of the corn in a blender with the remaining cup of water, and add to the pot with the rest of the corn. Season with salt and pepper, stir and cook over low heat for 5-8 minutes.
  4. Add the rest of the butter and stir until melted. Garnish the soup with the desired herb and serve hot.

Adapted from “Bishul Bari B’kalei Kalut” by Phyllis Glazer (Korim Publishers)

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