I am slightly remiss to admit this … but I don’t like brown rice.
I’ll eat it.
I know it’s better for me.
But I really don’t like it and not sure I can t really pinpoint the why.
Maybe it’s the texture.
Maybe it’s the smell (does brown rice smell different? I’m not sure).
Anyway … if I find a recipe that I’m curious about that includes brown rice, I will often replace it with quinoa.
We’ve probably talked about this before … but it’s worth repeating: Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a vegetarian superfood. It’s an ancient grain. It’s nutrient dense, contains complete amino acids, is a great source of usable and digestible protein, a source of iron, contains a large dose of fiber and is packed with antioxidants.
And on top of it all, quinoa is versatile enough that it’s great for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
And as I’ve been working my way through Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions, I have come upon more than a few brown rice recipes that are intriguing. But here’s my dilemma … I often like the sound of her recipes, but find that I have to make adjustments to them to make them tasty for the folks in our house. So I often take her recipes and make major adjustments (for taste and for ease-of-process).
That’s what happened with this dish … in her book, she offers up a recipe for Algerian Wedding Rice. It has cardamom. And I love cardamom. I love the aromatic middle-eastern scent that transports me to a peaceful place. That, and in Ayurvedic tradition cardamom is known to promote good digestion, detoxification and is jam-packed with antioxidants and has been used to treat asthma and other bronchial irritations. It’s pretty awesome. But in the original version the cardamom is lost under the flavor of the olive oil and the pine nuts and apricots.
So I made some changes and this is what I brought to a potluck last night …
(I brought this dish to a potluck last night, fully intent on getting a photo before we started eating … then I got distracted. So by the time I got to take a picture, this is what was left. Seems to me that people enjoyed it …)
- 1 cup dry quinoa (soaked overnight, and rinsed thoroughly)
- 1 tablespoon pasture butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon whole cardamom seeds (which is about 10 pods, cracked and separated)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup dried apricots and figs (chopped, and soaked for 30 minutes to an hour in filtered water to rehydrate)
- 1/3 cup slivered almonds (soaked, dried, toasted)
- 1/3 cup pine nuts (toasted)
- 1/4 cup chives (finely chopped)
- 2 tablespoons pasture butter
To cook the quinoa, melt tablespoon of butter in an oven-safe saucepan or covered casserole dish. Add the olive oil (adding the butter to the olive oil raises the spoke point of the oil, making it safer to use in cooking). Add the cardamom seeds and let sauté for a minute or two to permeate the butter with the aromatic scent of the cardamom. Then add the quinoa and stir to combine. Add the water and salt, bring to a rolling boil, then cover, reduce the heat and let simmer for 20 minutes (or until liquid has evaporated … it’s just like cooking rice). (NOTE: you could use bone broth instead of water for an even more nutrient-dense dish, but I was cooking for vegetarians and paleos for this meal so I opted for water.)
While the quinoa simmers, preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Chop the rehydrated apricots and figs (you could also use currants or raisins or sour cherries, but I like the mellow-sweetness of the apricots and figs with the cardamom). Toast the almonds and pine nuts (put the nuts in a dry sauté pan on high heat and watch them carefully … it only takes a minute or two to toast the nuts). Combine the apricots, figs, almonds, pine nuts and butter in a small bowl.
When the quinoa is done, add the contents of the small bowl, the chives and a dash of salt into the casserole with the quinoa and put in the oven for about 20 minutes to let all the flavors develop.
Makes a great side dish for lamb or steak. Or, for the veggies in your life, it makes a nourishing and satisfying main dish along with a simple salad.
Serves 4-6 as a main, 6-8 as a side.
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