This was the first recipe I tried from Maria Speck’s wonderful new cookbook, Ancient Grains for Modern Meals last summer (congrats to Maria on all the wonderful press her book has gotten of late – it’s richly deserved!). We brought a small tub of this brilliantly colored quinoa to a barbecue and it was such a hit with everyone that I’ve made it several times since then.
In addition to the gorgeous, ruby-like color, I was drawn by the idea of infusing the quinoa with cumin‘s exotic flavor and tempering it with the beets‘ intense sweetness. And I decided to take things one step further and use the beet greens in some quick curried chickpeas to add a little extra protein. Top the whole thing with some yogurt or raita and you’re in business!
After conquering my unfounded initial dislike of it, quinoa has become one of my favorite grains. It’s got a unique flavor – pleasantly nutty yet mild enough for versatility, and it cooks quickly. It’s also one of those “super foods” that people love to blather on about (I won’t bore you by talking about its superior nutritional qualities but, rest assured, it has them!)
Cumin is one of the backbones of Indian and Mexican food and I use it often – I love its pungent, slightly earthy flavor. This recipe calls for simmering the quinoa with whole cumin seeds to impart some of that nice flavor to the grain. Check the bulk section of your healthfood or grocery store to find it whole. It should be cheap.
Here’s the quinoa, flecked with cumin seeds. You can tell that it’s finished cooking by the little curly “tails” that become visible in each “grain” (did you know quinoa that is not actually a grain? but let’s just pretend it is…)
Beets are another food that I had to conquer my distaste for but am now 100 percent sold on. I think that in this case, it was a matter of my taste buds finally maturing or something – how else can I account for my vehement dislike of their earthy flavor for nearly 30 years? But now I think beets are the bomb! Rich, beautiful and incredibly sweet. Plus, they’re also amazingly good for you – packed with nutrients and antioxidants…
I’m always amazed by the brilliance of their color… I’ve come to love them raw – they’re great in green salads, too. Crunchy and sweet!
Mix them with the quinoa and you get a simply breathtaking dish – remarkably pretty in pink and very appropriate for any upcoming Valentine’s Day parties you might be going to.
As for the chickpeas, these are quick and easy and mighty tasty. I washed the beet greens (no need to throw them away – they’re also yummy and good for you.) Then removed the ribs and chopped them up so they could cook a bit longer since they’re tougher than the greens, and cut the leaves into ribbons.
Then I chopped up an onion and a bunch of garlic and sauteed them in some olive oil along with a pinch of red pepper flakes. Once the onion was translucent, I added the beet stems followed a few minutes later by the greens. Tossed in some spices, a couple cans of Eden organic (and BPA-free) chickpeas and let it all meld together, seasoning with salt and pepper, and voila — a savory, curried mess of garbanzos and greens.
The curried chickpeas go very nicely with the nutty, beet-sweetened quinoa. Top with a spoonful of yogurt or raita (if you eat dairy, that is) and you’ll be glad if you’ve made enough to have leftovers – this dish only improves with a day or two’s time to let the flavors deepen.
Just a quick note that Maria’s recipe calls for sumac which I did not have – you can substitute some lemon juice as I’ve done if you can’t find this ingredient.
Next: The recipe
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