As promised, here are a few of my favorite recipes and tips to help you add more greens to your diet, to take advantage of their wonderful nutritional properties. This hearty potato soup, full of lightly cooked greens and garnished with fresh goodies makes a full meal. A very basic recipe, it can become more Andean when you add edible lupine beans (“chochos” in Ecuador; “tarwi” in other countries of South America). Whatever green or combination of greens you have available works perfectly, too. Remember, heat partially destroys certain vitamins so try to cook the greens only slightly by adding them at the end. Ones with thicker leaves, such as cabbage or kale, require a few minutes more of simmering than thin ones, such as watercress or arugula, that really require no cooking at all - they wilt merely in the heat of the soup.
What I love about this recipe, beyond its mere deliciousness, is its wholesome completeness. It has all the necessary macro and micronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fiber). To see a full description of the nutritional value of greens, please see the previous post. Use freshly harvested greens because they lose part of their nutritional value when stored. Each green that I suggest will produce a somewhat different locro, so have fun varying the flavor and texture of this wholesome soup, in relation to the freshest green you have available.
No matter where you live, you can prepare this soup with locally available ingredients. Make sure you choose a mature, mealy potato that will break down as it cooks.
“Traditional “locros” are now tourist fare in Ecuador, heavy and full of cream. This version is more typical in homes, and yet it has a trick that I learned from the first traditional restaurant in Quito. You sauté the potatoes with the onions and a small amount of fat -- this imparts a unique flavor to the soup. Contrary to European potato soups, no broth (“caldo”/”fondo”) is required to give a rounded, full flavor, nor is cream necessary.
Locro de papas con verduras de hojas verdes (Classic Ecuadorean Potato Soup with Greens)
Vegetable sauté (“refrito”/”sofrito”):
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or substitute 1 T. butter and 1 T. oil)
1 teaspoon annatto paste (to add color – optional or substitute paprika)
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4-6 scallions, minced with the green tops
2 lbs. mature potatoes (unpeeled if they have thin skins)
1½ cups milk
7 cups water
3 cilantro sprigs
4 cups green leaves (Swiss chard; turnip/beet/radish/mustard greens; collards; green cabbage; spinach; watercress; arugula; tender young “yuca” leaves; sorrel)
1½ cups (6 ounces) fresh white cheese, crumbled or grated
1 avocado, sliced
1 tomato, sliced
In a soup pot, heat the oil with annatto paste or paprika , if using. Add the garlic and scallions and lightly sauté until soft but not browned. Add the potatoes, part in thin slices and part in large, irregular pieces. Gently sauté them over medium-high heat for 5 to 10 minutes or until they brown and become transparent on the outside and begin to stick to the pot.
Add the milk and scrape the stuck potato portion from the pot. (This stuck part gives the wonderful flavor.) Add the water and cilantro. Simmer uncovered, mixing from time to time until the large pieces of potato are cooked and the small ones begin to disintegrate and thicken the soup.
Add the green leaves and simmer the shortest amount of time possible, from 1 to 5 minutes
Add the cheese and merely heat.
Serve with the colorful garnishes that also provide interesting contrasts of textures.
To make an even healthier, more Andean variation use edible lupine (“chochos”/”tarwi”) and omit the cheese. Use two cups of edible lupine (“chochos”). Blend half the chochos with the same amount of liquid from the soup to produce a smooth cream and return to the soup pot. Add the other half, whole to the soup pot, to provide a nice crunch.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.