Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Spice Is (Almost) Right: Quinoa Pilaf with Cardamom and Sage

Danielle of Habeas Brulee is this month's host of The Spice is Right. The theme for this event is using a spice (or blend of spices) in a way that is atypical or unusual. I chose powdered cardamom, as I had quite a bit of it in my cabinet. Cardamom is the seed of a ginger-like plant. One site describes it as "pungent, warm and aromatic... Warm and eucalyptine with camphorous and lemony undertones." Eucalyptine might just be my new favorite word. Honestly, I had little idea of what cardamom tasted like. I had only used it in curries and baked goods - Dishes that have so many other strong flavors that I could not clearly distinguish cardamom from the others. I had bitten down on a cardamom pod now and then in basmati rice at an Indian restaurant, but it had overall been a neglected spice in my cooking (and eating) repertoire.

Sage, on the other hand, is a familiar and common ingredient in my cooking. I usually cook with fresh sage from my garden, but I chose powdered sage this time since my sage plant is getting sparse now that I cut its leaves off several times a week for use in the kitchen! I had an instinct that sage would be an unusual but subtly appropriate compliment to cardamom in a lightly-spiced grain dish inspired by the Indian biryanis I enjoy so much. I chose quinoa, which is a versatile, high-protein gluten-free grain with a very mild flavor.

The result was an enjoyable, aromatic quinoa pilaf with a wonderful texture. The problem is, it was missing some... oomph. I can't for the life of me tell you what the missing ingredient is that would propel this from "enjoyable" to "delicious." My friend and I discussed adding more salt, some cayenne pepper, or garlic powder. Ultimately, I decided to leave it alone to be exactly what it is: A satisfying, filling side dish that would be best accompanied with meat or vegetables in a more emphatically spiced sauce. If you try this recipe out, let me know if you find its missing oomph!


1 cup quinoa
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 carrot, chopped finely
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1/4 cup lightly toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup raisins

Heat olive oil in 1-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions, and sautee until they begin to brown. Lower heat to medium and add garlic and carrots. Sautee for 1-2 minutes, then add quinoa, pepper, cardamom and sage. Stir constantly for 2-3 minutes.

Add chicken stock and salt, and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender. Gently stir in raisins, cover and allow to sit for 2-3 minutes. Add lightly toasted pine nuts, fluff with a fork, and serve.


Danielle said...

I'm sorry to hear about your missing oomph! I think the idea of using cardamom in quinoa pilaf has promise, though.h

Dianne said...

I love the idea of using sage. I have loads of it in my garden, but very rarely use it! I'm glad you posted this, because I've been wondering what to do with quinoa


kathryn said...

Thanks for this, I'm always looking for interesting things to do with quinoa. It's such a densely nutritious grain: good protein, calcium, magnesium, fibre and lots of other goodies. I'm still a novice with this grain, so it's great to get new ideas.

Mike Eberhart said...

Sounds rather good. I have a predisposition to Quinoa myself. Love the stuff! Just did my own posting of a Quinoa recipe too. I guess great minds thing alike :)

beenzzz said...

I love both quinoa and cardamom! I bet this dish is wonderful!