Food for Bel Canto

I’m reading Bel Canto for my final Orange July read, and it’s not quite done yet. But it did inspire dinner and a soundtrack. I will admit up front that I have NO idea whether the dinner will be good, since it is a combination of ideas from different sources (my ex-Jesuit, ex-husband’s recipe for Puerto Rican rice and beans, a recipe for Peruvian quinoa stew, what I had grabbed at the store), but it does feel like it fits the region and the scene in the book where some of the characters are improvising in a kitchen and cutting onions.

So here is what I am doing. I can report on the results and you can decide whether you want to play along…


8 cups vegetable broth
2 cups quinoa (I am using a combination of red and white)
2 packets Sazon
4 oz Recaito
1 can gandules verdes (pigeon peas)
2 cloves garlic
2 sweet potatoes
1 yellow onion
4 ears of corn
olive oil

I diced the onions, minced the garlic, and peeled and chopped the sweet potatoes into bite sized pieces. I sauteed the onions until they were soft and added garlic, sweet potato and the recaito. Meanwhile I put sazon in the broth added the quinoa and brought to a boil. I combined the whole mess and am going to simmer until the quinoa is the consistency of risotto. If you want the quinoa more grain-like, do this with half the broth (which is the normal way to cook quinoa, but the Peruvian stew recipe did it this way and looked good).

Late breaking news. My daughter wanted corn for dinner, so I cooked a few ears, gave her hers on the cob and stripped ours and added the corn at the very end to the stew. It was a perfect little texture contrast between the nice smooth quinoa mixture and the crunchy, juicy, little corn kernels. We only used 2 ears, cause it was what I had, but doing it again I’d add more.

I’ll let you known how this all works and tastes….

The soundtrack is that of the movie Diva, which has parts of the opera La Wally, and which I have been thinking of all through reading the book. I decided I really needed to play it while reading.


Yummmmmm. We decided this would be particularly yummy for a fall dish. Nice and warm and sticking to the ribs. But it works in summer in Philly with A/C, too. It wasn’t too spicy–just right. And for those on Weight Watchers, assuming the recipe above has 4 ears of corn and the recipe makes 8 servings (it is plenty filling), a serving is 8 points in the current points plus system.


About Beth Parks Aronson

I am Associate Professor of Psychology at Lamar University. Previously, I was a psychologist in private practice in Jenkintown, PA where I specialized in anxiety disorders and working with people living with chronic and life-threatening illnesses. I am a little addicted to good literature. Ok, a lot addicted.
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3 Responses to Food for Bel Canto

  1. vanbraman says:

    You have made me hungry and dinner is still a few hours away. I finished ‘All Roads Lead to Austen’ today. Would that qualify for multiple Latin American countries if I was participating in a country challenge?

    • Many of these challenges let you make your own rules, but I’d probably make you assign it to one. I’m frustrated because Bel Canto is in an unnamed S. American country. With the ethnically Japanese president, one could infer Peru, but I just read a Peru book, so I am not counting it for any specific country. Sorry to make you hungry. I’m now insanely full–this stuff really does stick to the ribs.

  2. vanbraman says:

    I haven’t read the book, but it we are just looking at Japanese influence it could also be Brazil. They have the largest Japanese population outside of Japan. About 1.5 million if I remember correctly. Several of our Brazilian service engineers have Japanese names.

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