Sweet, Tangy Sauce

Besides the usual (and some unusual) cookbooks, I keep my favorite recipes in a big, black binder that has started to fall apart. I figured it was time to sort them out – toss those I really don’t use and move those we truly do like onto index cards.

I decided to start with my favorite quinoa recipes. And although I admit spending time in the kitchen is not my favorite pastime, just looking at some of these recipes made me feel like cooking some. I was about to toss one out, realizing I have never made it before. Yet it sounded good. On closer inspection,  I decided the reason why I have never made this recipe is because it calls for ingredients not available to us. Or so I thought. Because as I read the description (… this very unusual and delicious salsa comes from Ecuador and combines the taste and texture of grain, fruit and legume unique to Ecuador…) I wondered how that could be!

Thank goodness for Wikipedia! It turns out I had all the ingredients sitting in my refrigerator. My mistake: we call them by different names than what the recipe indicates. Of course. So naturally I had to try it (I’ve only had this recipe for about 20 years!) and am sure glad I did so.

The recipe calls for tamarillos. Had never heard that name before. We know them as tree tomatoes. And I use them often either in juice or for a special hot sauce we all like. Actually one of my favorite tangy fruits. This is what they look like. Sorry, forgot to take a “before” picture. Here I have blanched them to the point where the skin has popped and they are ready to blend.

The recipe also calls for my favorite grain – quinoa. Unlike most Ecuadorians, I am not crazy about rice. People here eat rice every day, and often twice a day. I probably eat rice once a week, if even that much. But quinoa, on the other hand… I like the flavor more and the fact that it is more versatile. Add to that the high protein content (it’s practically a meal in itself!) and I figure I just can’t go wrong. I just pop the rinsed quinoa in the steamer, add some water and let it go. The cooked quinoa can then be used as the base for many different recipes.

Close-up of the dry grain:

Close-up of the cooked grain:

The other ingredient in the recipe that I didn’t recognize were Lupini beans. We know them as “chochos”. And they do look a little different than their Mediterranean counterparts (I think ours are smaller and whiter). People here eat them plain, or in hot sauce (ají), or as part of a mixture of grains known as “cosas finas” (with hominy, garbanzos, cilantro, carrots). I always have a container in the refrigerator and toss a handful in salads or just eat them plain, as a snack. As with quinoa, the protein content of these little beans is also very high.

Other ingredients in the recipe include my favorite red onion…

…and fresh cilantro picked straight out of the garden. It seems to me that cilantro is the herb most used in Ecuadorian cooking.

Interested in the recipe? Well, ok… here it goes!

Tamarillo, Lupini Bean and Quinoa Salsa (Makes 2 cups)

2 tamarillos, firm
1 cup water
½ cup cooked quinoa
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp sugar
½ cup fresh Lupini beans, peeled and chopped
½ cup finely chopped red onion
1-2 tbsp finely chopped fresh Cilantro
freshly grated black pepper

Cooking directions:

Blanch the tamarillos in boiling water until the skin splits. Rinse in cold water and peel. Split in half crosswise, remove seeds with a teaspoon.

Puree in blender with the cooked quinoa until smooth.

As an aside, the recipe indicates chopping the lupini beans and cilantro – I put both in a little food processor and got both things chopped at the same time.

Transfer the quinoa/tamarillo puree to a non-reactive bowl; mix with oil, lemon juice, salt, sugar, lupini beans, onion and cilantro. Season with black pepper to taste and chill until needed. If salsa is too thick, thin it with a little water.

Serve with corn or potato chips. This salsa would also be great on grilled fish or chicken.

And here’s a close-up of the finished sauce. Jono came in just as I finished it, tasted it and approved. We both agree this makes a great party dip!

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One Comment

  1. Posted May 11, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Trying to do it.
    Submitted by ipraragon on Tue, 03/02/2010 – 13:46.

    Dear Angie: I love to try new and exotic recipes, so this one called my attention, but I thougth I couldn’t find the ingredients in my country, Guatemala. But a few days ago, when I was at the market buying vegetables, I looked at something that seemed as a fruit. When I asked what was it, the seller told me: “tomate de árbol” Oh! I said, I can get it!!! But, what about quinoa?? Some days later, looking for cous cous at the imported grains counter in the supermarket, I found: QUINOA! imported from Ecuador! But sorry, it was Q. 64.00 (exactly 8 dollars) the box of 1 pound, so, I think I’ll keep without trying your delicious sauce. Maybe if some day I go to visit Ecuador…