We sat down with New York City chef and Chopped judge Amanda Freitag to see how she ladles up a comforting whole-grain soup chock-full of fresh veggies. The secret? Toasting the quinoa before adding it to the soup adds a warm depth to the flavor with a hint of nuttiness that is hard to come by. This family-friendly dinner dish comes together in less than an hour and clocks in at a shy 144 calories per serving, making it the perfect go-to solution for busy weeknight.
Cooking Light: Toasting the quinoa really makes this soup stand out. What was the inspiration?
Amanda Freitag: I was on my quinoa kick, as was everybody when quinoa first became the "thing." It was more about how else can I make quinoa and how else can it make me feel good. It was one of those things that was like, "OK, I love this product. How many different ways can I make it?" Making a soup out of it was one of those healing things. It felt so good. And I think toasting quinoa is a great method for any other way you would make quinoa. It deepens the flavor.
CL: It's a simple soup. Why does it taste so complex?
AF: A lot of my recipes are like that. The whole feel of my cookbook [The Chef Next Door, William Morrow Cookbooks, from which Freitag adapted this recipe] is teaching people to build flavors out of simple things. To me, that's the best way to cook. You don't have to have all these fancy ingredients; you can take what you have—basic, beautiful ingredients—apply some techniques to them, and be shocked with what you can get.
CL: Any soup don'ts?
AF: Sometimes I think people throw too many things into one pot. The biggest thing to keep in mind when making soups is to think about that one flavor.
CL: If this soup were a dish on Chopped, how do you think it would be different?
AF: It would probably have a 100- year-old fermented egg and some gummy bears in it.
CL: Give us two words that sum up this soup.
AF: "The cure." It's satisfying, comforting, and surprising.