spicy artichoke quinoa pilaf

spicy artichoke and tri colored quinoa pilaf

We finally made it to California after a very, very long drive but the drive was definitely worth it! The week long road trip across the country was so much fun and at some point I will share those photographs with you in a separate post. Between unpacking and getting the place set up, I've realized I've missed having a kitchen and the ability to cook.  Eating out is fun but not everyday for a few weeks and on the road your options are really limited! By the way, when our stuff finally arrived to our new home, I was in shock, when did I collect so much stuff!!!

tricolored quinoa

I've started to take advantage of the numerous farmer's markets and stalls that are all over this gorgeous state and what better way to kick it off my first post from the new place, than with some fresh baby artichokes, that we picked up on one of our trips to the beach last Memorial day weekend and bundle that up with a giveaway from the wonderful folks at Bob's Red Mill.

Pilaf/Pulavs are Indian rice dishes flavored with spices and loaded with vegetables, meat or both and remain one of my favorite and easy ways to cook a single tasty meal at home. Pilafs are versatile, simple and yet bold with complex flavors that make them stand out. My mother made and still makes delicious pilafs on weekends and we would eat them with a side of plain yogurt or a salad. It's also my little way of "cheating" to save time and impress people when they come over.


I've replaced the rice in this pilaf with Bob's Red Mill's tricolored quinoa (which by the way is simply gorgeous with different little colored pearls) which is an excellent rice substitute. I've thrown in a generous handful of fresh, little baby artichokes and seasoned the pilaf with black cardamom, ginger, garlic and a bunch of other aromatics.  

Bob's Red Mill is giving away a bag of their delicious tricolored quinoa and a $20 gift card to their store. To enter the giveaway, all you need to do is follow the instructions in the widget and enter. This giveaway is open only to legal residents of the United States. This contest will run from May 30th through May 6th, 2014. Good luck, share the post and have fun!

Disclaimer: I did not receive any financial compensation from Bob's Red Mill for this post and all opinions here are solely mine, unless stated otherwise.

spicy artichoke and quinoa pilaf

spicy artichoke quinoa pilaf

yields: 2-4 servings


1 cup (6 1/4 ounces) tricolored quinoa (Bob's Red Mill)
6 1/2 cups water 
1 teaspoon kosher sea salt
32 ounces baby artichokes
1 tablespoon vinegar/lemon juice
1 cup diced red/white onion
10 black peppercorns, whole
4 cloves
4 thai chili peppers, stalks removed
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 large garlic cloves, peeled 
1 inch piece ginger root, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 black cardamom pods, crushed
2 bay leaves
1 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1 large lemon
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

1. Place the quinoa in sieve and wash thoroughly under running cold tap water for about 2 minutes. I like to massage the quinoa with my fingers to remove any bitter saponins that might be present. Leave the quinoa in the sieve to drain and then transfer to a medium sized saucepan. Add 2 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the saucepan, bring the contents to a boil on a medium-high flame and then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook until the water is completely evaporated for about 12-15 minutes and the quinoa is completely cooked. (The colorless quinoa should be completely translucent without any white uncooked spots).  Cover with a lid and keep aside until ready to use.
2. Clean the artichokes by peeling of the harder outer green leaves until you reach the inner soft and tender yellow parts. Trim the bottom and the tops of each artichoke and place the artichoke in a bowl containing 4 cups of water and the vinegar to prevent them from browning. Discard the trimmed bottoms and tops.
3. Add the diced onion, peppercorns, cloves, chili, turmeric, garlic, and ginger in a blender/immersion blender or food processor with the remaining 1/2 cup of water. Pulse until the ingredients are completely ground to a smooth pulp. 
4. Heat the olive oil in a large wok or saucepan with a lid on medium-high flame. When the oil is hot, add the cardamom and bay leaves. Stir the spices for about 15 seconds and then add the thinly sliced red onions to the pan. Sauté the onions until they begin to get golden brown for about 4-5 minutes. Add the ground spice mixture and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the wok and cook for 1 minute. Drain the artichokes and add them to the wok. Fold gently and cover the wok with its lid and cook until the artichokes are completely tender, this will take approximately 15-20 minutes. Once the artichokes are cooked, fold in the quinoa and slice the lemon and squeeze the lemon juice over the pilaf. Stir the contents and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the wok from the stove and garnish with the fresh cilantro leaves before serving. Serve hot with plain yogurt.
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beef pilaf

I am setting myself up for more and more projects this month. Last week you heard me mention about the bedroom project. The bedroom renovation process appears to be progressing at a respectable pace for now. The furniture is ordered and all I have to do now is paint the walls, sell the old furniture and deal with the contractor. I am still awaiting that possible snag that might just suddenly pop up. I will deal with that when the time comes and for now I will gladly indulge and enjoy this unusually smooth ride. 

So many exciting things happen in March or rather I begin to look forward to, for one I am happy with all this sunny weather, D.C. is currently sporting. The increasing sun time and the late 60s to mid 70s temperatures is perfect for my daily runs or just sitting outside on the terrace. However, all this sun is making me wish I had more windows in my life. I need more windows at home and at work. Let me explain, my office has no windows so that is a bit of a bother in good weather but kind of nice in winter when the days get shorter. At home, we live in a basement unit, so additional windows would always be welcome but that also means the row houses attached next to us would have to vanish into thin air but that won't happen in this lifetime, so I guess I just need to be outdoors a lot more this year.

This rice and beef pilaf adapted from The Wonderful World of Indian Cookery by Rohini Singh is armed with a cornucopia of aromatic ingredients. Honestly, the beef in my opinion does contribute to texture (lamb might be an equally good substitute) but the spice are surely the stars of this pilaf. It is all about the cardamom and cloves! When you grind the green cardamom and cloves you will smell some wonderful strong oils in the air that are refreshing yet spicy. Last but not least, black cardamom have a similar but stronger scent than their green counterparts but produce an almost peppermint peppery aroma in the rice.

Pilafs are easy, simple and wholesome. Though the original recipe for this pilaf was slightly rich, I cut back on the fat wherever possible. Extra virgin olive oil and plain non-fat yogurt work great and do not compromise on taste in this pilaf while reducing the fat. This pilaf is an excellent addition to a daily meal or a special occasion. You can serve it with a side of plain non-fat yogurt or chilled tomato slices.

beef pilaf

yields: 4-6 servings 


6 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seed
4 large red onions, sliced
1lb lean beef cubed (lamb can also be used)
1/2 cup plain non-fat yogurt
5 cups water  
1 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, ground
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 bay leaves
whole red chilies or chopped green chilies
1 1/2 teaspoon salt 
8 green cardamom pods, ground
4-5 cloves
2 pieces of cinnamon
2 black cardamom, ground
1 1/2 " piece of ginger root, cut in fine strips
2 cups long grain basmati rice, cleaned, washed and drained

1. Heat 3 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large saucepan on a medium flame. Drop in the cumin. After a few seconds add the half of the sliced onions and fry till light brown. Add the meat and cook it till the juices dry up. 
2. Beat the yogurt lightly and to it add the next six ingredients. Mix well and add it to the meat along with 1 cup of water. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for about 45 minutes or till the meat is tender. 
3. In a separate saucepan, heat the rest of the oil and add the spices from the black peppercorns to the black cardamom.  Fry for 5 seconds and add the ginger and fry for another minute. 
4. Add the rice into the pan and fry for a few more minutes till the grain get coated with the oil and spices. Pour the 4 cups of water and  add the salt. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the flame to a gentle simmer. Cook the rice with a covered lid till par boiled. 
5. In a large stockpot layer half of the rice at the bottom of the pan. Add the meat with its liquid over the rice in a layer. Layer the remaining rice on top of the meat. Cover the pot with a tight lid and put it back on a low flame and cook for about 30 minutes or till all the liquid is evaporated and the rice is completely cooked. Before serving, stir the rice and meat gently. Serve garnished with chopped cilantro or lightly fried blanched almonds.