Soups, of new varieties this foodie doctor has never heard of, are a stable in Ecuador and served with most meals as the first of several courses. I have always been a soup lover and learned how to make soup from almost anything being raised by a South American paternal grandmother. Therefore, my new test kitchen has been very busy adapting recipes to healthier nightshade- free versions of local delicacies for my international readers and patients.
In Ecuador, they make this soup from potatoes. Since my passion and goal is education against foods that "ignite" inflammation, I had to not only adapt the recipe but also work with local farmers to begin raising what American's know as white sweet potatoes—Ecuadorians call them camoté blanco salado. Fortunately, the soil and climate is perfect for any genre of potatoes so it wasn't a challenge, it just took education. The rate of inflammatory diseases is very high in most South American countries; as it is in America, so my task is to help them, and you, find healthy tasty alternatives…stay tuned for my monthly recipe article.
Ecuadorian Locro de Camoté Salado
(white sweet potato soup) with Cheese
- 10 medium-sized white sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into small pieces
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil (you can use another healthy oil of choice but the flavor is best with coconut oil)
- 1 white onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp achiote powder (also known as Annatto powder and often available in ethnic Latin or Asian markets)
- 7 cups of water or organic chicken broth
- 1 cup milk (or milk alternative such as coconut), or more to taste
- 1 cup grated or crumbled cheese (quesillo, queso fresco, mozzarella or Monterey jack—make sure the cheese is one that easily melts)
- 1 bunch cilantro, leaves only, minced
- Salt/Pepper to taste
- 1 cup of queso fresco, feta cheese, or grated mozzarella
- Finely chopped cilantro and green onions
- Avocados, sliced or diced
- Prepare a refrito (sauté), base for the soup, by heating the oil over medium heat in a large soup pot; add the diced onions, minced garlic cloves, cumin, and achiote powder. Cook, stirring frequently until the onions are tender, about 5 minutes.
- Add the white sweet potatoes to the pot and mix until they are coated. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes.
- Add the water and/or broth and bring to boil, cook until the white sweet potatoes are very tender. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes in the pot, don't mash all of them; the consistency of the soup should be creamy with small tender chunks of potatoes.
- Turn the heat down to low, stir in the milk and let cook for about 5 more minutes. You can add more milk if the soup is too thick. NOTE: A delicious non-dairy alternative is to use almond or coconut milk (rice milk is too high in carbs but can be used).
- Add salt to taste
- Add the grated cheese and cilantro, mix well, and remove from the heat.
- Serve warm with the avocados, scallions, queso or feta cheese.
Achiote Powder: Used as both a spice and food colorant, it is a bright hued ingredient that brings a mild sweet and earthy aroma to a variety of Latin American and Southeast Asian recipes and is also called the Cuban Turmeric. It is made from annatto seeds and its taste is commonly described as a subtle flavor of nuts, a peppery aroma, sweet, and earthy. In natural food products, it is used to color foods like butter, cheddar, and a variety of other cheeses.
The high level of fiber found in annatto seeds, as well as the edible leaves of the achiote plant, means that it can be very good for human digestion by promoting the smooth passage of food through the bowels and the efficient uptake of nutrients.
This is the brand we find here in Ecuador but most Latin and Asian markets have it readily available.
More History: Rainforest tribes have used annatto seeds and leaves for a variety of medicinal purposes for centuries.
As reported by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC in her book Prescription for Nutritional Healing, annatto contains amino acids, calcium, iron and phosphorus, as well as vitamins B-2 and B-3. Annatto also contains beta-carotene and vitamin C, both potent antioxidants that help to prevent free-radical induced damage to your cells and DNA. In addition, annatto contains the phytochemicals cyanidin, ellagic acid, salicylic acid, saponins and tannins. Phytochemicals are compounds found naturally in plants that help to prevent and treat disease in humans.
Annatto seeds and leaves have diuretic, antibacterial and astringent properties. In addition, Balch states that annatto seeds and leaves help to protect and strengthen the kidneys. Annatto is also said to promote digestive system health and is used to relieve constipation, indigestion, heartburn and stomach distress caused by the consumption of spicy foods. Annatto has been traditionally used as an aphrodisiac and to promote weight loss, as well as to treat fevers, hepatitis, malaria, dysentery and venomous snakebites. These uses are based on anecdotal and not scientific evidence, however.
Cumin Powder: The health benefits of cumin include its ability to aid digestion, improve immunity and treat hemorrhoids, insomnia, respiratory disorders, asthma, bronchitis, common cold, lactation, anemia, skin disorders, boils and cancer.
White Sweet Potatoes: Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene). They are also a very good source of vitamin C, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid and vitamin B6. Additionally, they are a good source of potassium, dietary fiber, niacin, vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and phosphorus.
Coconut Oil: The health benefits of this amazing oil are too extensive to list, the following is a small sampling. It's important to note that medical science is now confirming how coconut products are health-enhancing for many disorders and diseases. Published studies in medical journals show that coconut, in one form or another, provides a wide-range of health benefits as listed below, but not limited to:
- Kills viruses that cause influenza, herpes, measles, hepatitis C, SARS, AIDS, and other illnesses.
- Kills bacteria that cause ulcers, throat infections, urinary tract infections, gum disease and cavities, pneumonia, and gonorrhea, and other diseases.
- Kills fungi and yeasts that cause candidiasis, ringworm, athlete's foot, thrush, diaper rash, and other infections.
- Expels or kills tapeworms, lice, giardia, and other parasites.
- Improves digestion and absorption of other nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
- Improves insulin secretion and utilization of blood glucose.
- Relieves stress on pancreas and enzyme systems of the body.
- Reduces symptoms associated with pancreatitis.
- Helps relieve symptoms and reduce health risks associated with diabetes.
- Improves calcium and magnesium absorption and supports the development of strong bones and teeth.
- Helps protect against osteoporosis.
- Helps relieve symptoms associated with gallbladder disease.
- Relieves symptoms associated with Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and stomach ulcers.
- Improves digestion and bowel function.
- Reduces inflammation.
- Supports tissue healing and repair.
- Supports and aids immune system function.
- Is heart healthy; improves cholesterol ratio reducing risk of heart disease.
- Helps protect against kidney disease and bladder infections.
- Supports thyroid function.
- Promotes loss of excess weight by increasing metabolic rate.
- Does not form harmful by-products when heated to normal cooking temperature like other vegetable oils do.
- Has no harmful or discomforting side effects.
- Is completely non-toxic to humans.
Cilantro: This herb is not just a side dish for Mexican food, in fact, far from it. This nutritious herb looks very much like parsley, that is, until you taste it.
Cilantro is widely known for its ability to detoxify the body. According to Dr. Edward Group, CEO of the Global Healing Center—“Cilantro is most often cited as being effective for toxic metal cleansing and rightfully so, this herb is a powerful, natural cleansing agent. The chemical compounds in cilantro bind to toxic metals and loosen them from the tissue.” That said, a word of caution, always work with a trusted wholistic healthcare provider—when it comes to detoxification issues—because once these toxins are ‘mobilized,' one must be sure to quickly eliminate these poisons from the body to avoid physical harm and a healing crisis.
Cilantro is a very good source of vitamins A, C, K and traces of the B vitamins. In the minerals department, it provides high amount of calcium and potassium. In addition, cilantro is rich in iron, manganese and sodium. Remember, especially these days, how important it is to keep the body rich in minerals.
Garlic and Onion (Allium genre): Contains potent medicinal properties from its main component called allicin—a plant in the allium (onion) family closely related to onions, shallots and leeks. Allicin enters the body from the digestive tract and then travels throughout the body where it exerts its potent biological health properties. Garlic is known to boost your immune defenses. One large study found that a daily garlic supplement reduced number of colds by 63 percent. High doses of garlic appear in studies to improve blood pressure (hypertension) as well as help reduce total cholesterol. The heavy dose of antioxidants in garlic protect against cell damage and aging, and researchers now believe it can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and dementia.
Locro de papa is more common in the Andes highlands (where my health sciences division is located), specifically in the high Andes region of Ecuador. Quito (the capital of Ecuador) probably has the biggest claim on this soup, it is even known as locro quiteño by some. Like many Ecuadorian dishes, the ingredients and preparation will vary from one city to another. Some variations of the locro de papa add fresh corn to the soup, others add chopped cabbage or leafy greens. There's even a variation with blood sausage called yaguarlocro. Recently, one of my friends made my recipe for Locro de Camoté Salado without cheese because she is dairy-intolerant and used fresh finely ground peanuts instead; the soup was good but I missed the cheese. In Quito and the northern part of Ecuador they usually serve this potato soup with maiz tostado or Andean corn nuts—which, for me, brings back memories of hiding them as a child in my school bag to munch on during class. It can be served as a first course, but is satisfying and filling enough to make a complete meal.
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