I am second-generation north indian, so it's no wonder I have come to the realization that one can substitute quinoa for basmati rice. My favorite way of adding spice to a quinoa side dish is to add cumin seeds. Fragrant, smokey, nutritious. Experts say cumin helps with digestion, iron deficiency and cancer prevention. I just think it tastes good. Come on, I grew up on this stuff!
Jeera Quinoa (*note: jeera means cumin in hindi)
2 cups of cooked Toasted Quinoa
1 tbspn of whole cumin seeds
1 tbspn kosher salt
1 tbspn olive oil
1/2 finely chopped onion
The recipe is easy. The first step is to put oil in a pan and add cumin seeds. Using olive oil is a little uncouth for indian food but I think it makes the texture lighter. Substitute with canola or vegetable oil if you like. Heat until cumin seeds start to jump and become fragrant. Add onions and cook until slightly crispy (important!). Transfer onion and cumin mixture to cooked quinoa, add kosher salt and mix evenly. The nutty flavor of the cumin works really well with cooked quinoa. You'll never miss rice!
Advanced round: this is by no means a lesson in indian cooking, but if you want a glimpse into my life, I can share with you my super basic dal (spiced lentils) recipe. Red lentils are available at many stores (including whole foods), and they are easy to cook. Dal is the logical side dish to indian spiced quinoa pilaf. Even this American born confused desi ("Abcd") can make it. Eat your heart out Indian aunties!
basic indian dal (spiced lentils)
1 cup of masoor dal (red lentils)
2 cups water
1/2 onion, diced finely
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 (1/2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 tspn of tomato paste
1 serrano chile, finely chopped
1/2 tspn cumin seeds
1/2 tspn ground cumin
1/2 tspn ground coriander
1/2 tspn black mustard seeds
1/2 tspn turmeric powder
1/2 tspn paprika
1 tbspn olive oil
handful chopped fresh cilantro leaves
salt to taste
Add red lentils to water and boil on medium for 20 minutes. Stir only at the end. You're 80% there. If 1.2 billion indians can do this, so can you!
In a separate frying pan, combine oil and spices. Toast on medium heat until fragrant, stirring occasionly. Add onions, garlic, ginger and chiles and cook until onions are translucent. Add tomato paste and cook for 1 more minute. Transfer spice mixture into pot of boiled lentils. Stir and add salt to taste. Serve with some fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime. The ultimate side dish to jeera quinoa.