Sunday, April 18, 2010

Quinoa Pilaf with Cranberries and Almonds

Have you tried Quinoa ? I am sure many of you have heard of this grain and all its "super" powers. It is the preferred grain of the Inca Gods and a staple of south american cuisine specifically , in Peru, Chile and Argentina . At the risk of repeating myself it is also my absolute favourite whole grain of all time .

I thought cous cous was an easy fix and a great foundation for many a side dish .To the uninititated quinoa is a whole grain , a complete protein containing all the amino acids our body requires - therefore a perfect "protein" for vegetarians. It looks like a plump sesame seed and comes in white, red and a rare hard to find black colour, it has a bitter outer coating ( nothing life threatening) just an odd taste if it is not rinsed properly - note to all : make sure you rinse your quinoa well before you start cooking with it .

I personally can eat quinoa 24/7  ........ 365 days a year and I am not exaggerating. If you suffer from gluten intolerance - the perfect solution for your wholegrain needs. I swear I eat so much of it and I have never felt bloated or stuffed , maybe this is the secret Inca Gods did not want us to know .

I featured a quinoa dish back in November 2009 - this dish was a super hit with all my clients and a beautiful and colourful dish . This time I used quinoa in pilaf style , ie you start with a saute of onions and carrots and peppers then add the quinoa and cook all together , once it finishes cooking you add some other aromatics and nuts . I usually add the dried cranberries in the last few minutes of cooking - the steam will help reconstitute them a little and then add the chives and almonds at the very end .

So if you are trying to tweak your diet, trying to introduce a whole grain that is a little more fun than brown rice , I urge you try Quinoa - and I will be posting more wonderful dishes in the coming months .

Have I told you I even eat this pilaf for breakfast !!!! mmmmmmmmmm

Quinoa Pilaf with Cranberries and Almonds
a GG original recipe

2 cups Quinoa
4 cups water
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium size spanish onion (approx. 1.5 cups)
1 medium size carrot (approx 1.5 cups)
1 medium red pepper (approx 1.5 cups)
salt and pepper to taste
good handful if dried cranberries
good handful of whole unroasted almonds
small bunch of fresh chives
feta cheese (optional)
kalamata olives - pitted (optional)

Measure out the quinoa , place in a fine mesh sieve and rinse under running cool water for several minutes . Allow to drain while you start the base of the pilaf .

Preheat a heavy based dutch oven add the olive oil , then chop the onions , carrots and red pepper to a medium dice. Add these to the olive oil and stir until the onion becomes translucent and the carrots and pepper have softened . Season liberally with salt and pepper - remember you are also seasoning the quinoa .

Add the quinoa and toss for a few minutes then add the water and cook according to packet instructions. About 5 mintes before the pilaf cooking time is finishes add the dried cranberries on top of the pilaf- do not mix through . When the pilaf finishes cooking fluff with a fork and allow to sit for about 20 minutes. Can be served warm or at room temperature .

You can add some crumbled feta and chopped pitted kalamata olives if desired .

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