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.

artichokes

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

ingredients

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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quinoa kheer

Quinoa Kheer

Here's a different take on something traditional. I love kheer, when I think of desserts that are homely and comforting, kheer is somewhere up in my top five.  To me it evokes, simplicity and flavors that are characteristic of Indian cooking but that make. The best way to describe kheer, would be a sweetened porridge of milk and basmati rice with dried fruits and nuts served chilled. As much as I love it as a dessert, I have also been known to eat it at breakfast. Some people describe it as a pudding but I personally find it closer in texture to a porridge than a pudding. The rice is cooked till it is so soft that it breaks and almost falls apart to give that delicious soothing texture when you savor a bite. That is exactly what I've tried to do here with quinoa and the results are equally delicious.

Cooking quinoa Spanish Saffron

Cooked quinoa has such a delicate soft texture and works wonderfully well in this recipe. Just make sure you wash the quinoa thoroughly to get rid of the bitter saponin coating on the seeds (I can't stress this point enough). Believe me you don't need or want that nasty bitter taste in your dessert!

Medjool Dates

You could use whole milk here but I prefer skim milk. While the quinoa and milk simmer with the fruit and nuts, the bright and vibrant orange saffron strands will infuse their color into the white milk. There is something simply wonderful about cooking with saffron, a little goes a long way. magically. Try to avoid buying ground saffron or saffron powder, it is normally tainted with turmeric and there are some good quality varieties of saffron strands that are easily available today.

Quinoa Kheer and Persian Saffron Sugar Sticks

quinoa kheer

yields: 6 servings

ingredients

1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1 teaspoon ghee or butter
4 dried dates, pits removed and chopped
4 teaspoons golden raisins
1 teaspoon pistachios, unshelled and chopped (I used unsalted raw pistachios)
1 teaspoon slivered almonds
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds
3 cups skim milk
a pinch of saffron (I used Spanish saffron)
3 tablespoons sugar (add more sugar if you prefer it sweeter)
2 teaspoons rose water
a little extra toasted and chopped pistachios for garnishing

1. Rinse the quinoa thoroughly under running cold water until the water turns clear. (I prefer to massage the seeds with my hands while rinsing to make sure that I get rid of the bitter saponin completely). Bring the quinoa and water to a boil on a medium flame, cook until the seeds become translucent. Drain and discard the liquid from the cooked quinoa and keep aside. 
2. In a thick-bottomed stock pot, melt the ghee or butter on a medium high flame. Add the dates, raisins, pistachios, almonds, and cardamom to the melted ghee and sauté them for a minute. 
3. Add the cooked quinoa to the nut and fruit mixture in the pot. Fold in the milk, saffron, and sugar. Bring the entire contents of the pot to a boil on a medium flame, then reduce to a simmer and cook till the liquid volume reduces by one-third. Stir frequently to make sure the milk does not burn. 
4. Cool the kheer to room temperature. Then fold in the rose water and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve chilled and garnish with the extra pistachios.

jamaican curried quinoa and lima bean salad


It's been raining hard here in D.C. and it does not appear that the rain has any plans of slowing down at any time soon. I feel bad for tourists that plan to come down to visit the monuments but more so for the kids that have to walk around in the rain when they don't want to. However, at my end this calls for a lazy day with a hot cup of pomegranate tea, a pillow, a blanket, a couch/bed and the television. I watch too much WETA P.B.S as some have said but I love the channel so much. I am so happy that almost all television shows are available in H.D. I have begun to notice that I fall asleep or lose interest during shows that are not shown in HDTV, I think the grains on regular television screens are soporific in their own right. 


While lazing around, I finally completed an assignment on the applications of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) at the F.C.C., this sounds terribly fancy but simply put it's all about using maps to regulate the media market for one too many reasons that I could think of. It's done and that's all that matters! This was also the perfect opportunity for me to finally open up and try a bottle of this Jamaican curry powder that I stumbled across at my grocery store. It did appear to be similar to the other commercial curry powders that you commonly see in stores like the Madras, Indian and other Asian curry powders. The thing that is definitely common to all of them is the yellow powder of the turmeric root though in India you will never find a "curry" powder in the store or in anyone's house. The notion of a single curry powder that encompasses any and every Indian dish with a sauce or gravy is myth, at least in my experience. Every so called "curry" or gravy or sauce is so different in color, texture, flavor and even vary from household to household. 


Technically, this salad could be made with any commercial curry powder available at your local store, I happened to have the Jamaican version on hand and went with that. The quinoa seeds in this salad gives a nice wholesome grainy texture and at the same time boosts the fiber and protein levels, making this a highly flavorful salad that is great for any meal at any time of the day. This salad can be served directly or even chilled and stays fresh for up to three days in the refrigerator.


jamaican curried quinoa and lima bean salad

yield: 6 servings

ingredients

1 cup quinoa washed
2 cups water
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup frozen Lima beans
1 cup fresh green beans
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 chopped green bell pepper
1 teaspoon Jamaican curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon honey
juice of one fresh lemon
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley

1. Rinse the quinoa carefully in running cold water, preferably in a colander to remove the bitter saponin coat on top of the seeds. At the same time in  a saucepan bring the water to boil and then add the quinoa. Let it cook till the quinoa turns translucent and is soft. Remove and drain any excess water from the seeds. 
2. In skillet, add 1 teaspoon of olive oil and saute the Lima beans, green beans, and bell peppers till they are seared and keep aside. 
3.To make the dressing for the salad, add the remainder of the olive oil, the curry powder, lemon juice, salt and pepper and honey to a bowl and whisk till it is mixed completely. 
4. In a large bowl, add the quinoa, Lima beans, green bell peppers, red onion, parsley and the green beans. Add the salad dressing and toss the salad ingredients together. Taste to make sure you have enough salt and pepper in the salad.