Monday, May 12, 2014

Quinoa Pilaf or Cracked Wheat Pilaf - My Weeknight Staple


Cracked Wheat Pilaf


This post was long over due. I have noticed that things I cook most frequently are the one most neglected. This Pilaf that I cook either with Cracked Wheat or Quinoa is on our dinner menu for at least two days in a week. And the leftover are delicious for lunch the next day.





Quinoa Pilaf


I am trying to explore other carbohydrate option other than the usual rice and wheat. After trying a variety of grains like barley, millet, couscous and bulgur, Cracked Wheat and Quinoa have emerged as the family favorite.

Raw and Cooked Cracked Wheat

Raw and Cooked Quinoa

The most common method of cooking Cracked Wheat or Quinoa is sauteing the raw grain with veggies and seasoning and then adding measured liquid and letting the grains absorb the liquid, low and slow. The grains to liquid ration is usually 1:2.

But this cooking technique is something I need to master. No matter how hard I try, my pilaf always turns up mushy and clumpy. Exactly opposite of how I want my pilaf to be. 


Then I started cooking my grains the way I cook my Pasta. I bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Then I add the Cracked Wheat or the Quinoa. Once its tender (in about 5-7 mins), I drain it over a mesh strainer. After that I saute the cooked grains with the veggies and seasoning of my choice.

Perfect fluffy pilaf every time.



Cracked Wheat Pilaf

Quinoa Pilaf


This Pilaf goes very well with any kind on Vegetarian or Non vegetarian Indian curries. Will also go well with Moroccan Tagine too.  Grilled fish or chicken are also good accompaniment to this Pilaf. It can turn into a complete meal by adding some cooked chicken, shrimp or tofu. 


Quinoa Pilaf
Recipe Snapshot: Quinoa Pilaf or Cracked Wheat Pilaf
Serves: 6 serving
(1 serving = 3/4 cup)

What I used:
Cracked Wheat (Uncooked) - 2 cups
               OR
Quinoa (Uncooked) - 2 cups

Onion - 1 large or 2 medium sized, finely sliced

Garlic - 3-4 fat cloves, thinly sliced or minced

Ginger - a small piece around 1", very finely minced or grated

Assorted fresh or frozen  - 2 cups (approx), chopped or diced
(Assorted Bell Peppers, Carrots, Green Beans, Mushrooms, Corn, Peas, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Zucchini, Summer Squash, Snow Peas, Snap Peas etc.)

Canola or Olive oil - 3 tbsp

Cracked Wheat Pilaf
Sugar - a pinch to caramelize the onions
Salt
Dried Cranberries/ Raisins - 1/4 cup (optional)
Toasted Nuts (Cashew/Walnuts/Pecans/Almonds) - 1/4 cup (optional)
Garam Masala - 1 tsp (optional)
Ghee (Clarified Butter) - 1 tsp (optional)











What I did:
Quinoa Pilaf in the making


1. I cook the Cracked Wheat and Quinoa just like I would cook pasta. I bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Then add the Cracked Wheat or the Quinoa. Once its tender (in about 5-7 mins), I drain it the water over mesh strainer. 2 cups of uncooked Cracked Wheat or Quinoa would yield around 4 to 4.5 cups of cooked grains.

2. In a wide pan, kadai or wok, heat up the
Cracked Wheat Pilaf in the making
oil. Once hot and shimmering, add the garlic and the ginger and fry till they are slightly golden and very very aromatic.


3. Now add the sliced onions. Add a pinch of sugar to help caramelize the onions.

4. Once the onions are golden born, add the veggies of choice. You can add any vegetable that are available in your fridge. Bell Peppers in every possible color, Carrots, Green Beans, Mushrooms, Corn, Peas, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Zucchini, Summer Squash, Snow Peas, Snap Peas etc. are very good choices.

5. For frozen veggies, cook for 4-5 minutes till heated through. For fresh veggies, cook it for 8-10 mins. If you want well cooked veggies, you might want to cover and cook. If using a combination of fresh and frozen veggies, add the fresh veggies first. Once they are about 50% done, add the frozen vegetables. 

6. Add the seasoning. I usually add only salt. Most of the days my pilafs are paired with food with more dominating flavors. So I like to keep the pilaf simple and with minimal spice. I you wish you can add a teaspoon of garam masala or coriander-cumin powder or even little Biryani Masala. The flavors you pick is completely up to you.

7. Once the veggies are seasoned, add the drained grains, Cracked Wheat or Quinoa. Toss it with the veggies to mix completely. Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes on low heat. This will let the grains absorb the flavors of the veggies.

8. Uncover and give a final toss. Add of dab of Ghee (clarified butter) for a rich flavor and aroma. Add a handful of dried Cranberries or Raisins and some toasted nuts for some added sweetness and crunch. This is an optional step though.

9. Server hot with a side dish of choice. 


Notes/Tip: 
1. This Pilaf can be served with any kind of vegetarian or non vegetarian curry. It can also be paired with grilled fish/chicken/tofu and a side of steamed or grilled veggies.
2. The leftovers are delicious. I generally cook enough to have a lot of leftovers. I toss it with cooked chicken or shrimp and it becomes an excellent lunch option for the family the next day.

Diabetic Platter:
Here are seven health benefits of Quinoa:

1. Quinoa is one of the most protein-rich foods we can eat. It is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids.
2. Quinoa contains almost twice as much fiber as most other grains. 
3. Quinoa contains Iron. Iron helps keep our red blood cells healthy and is the basis of hemoglobin formation. 
4. Quinoa contains lysine. Lysine is mainly essential for tissue growth and repair.
5. Quinoa is rich in magnesium. Magnesium helps to relax blood vessels and thereby to alleviate migraines. Magnesium also may reduce Type 2 diabetes by promoting healthy blood sugar control. 
6. Quinoa is high in Riboflavin (B2). B2 improves energy metabolism within brain and muscle cells and is known to help create proper energy production in cells.
7. Quinoa has a high content of manganese. Manganese is an antioxidant, which helps to prevent damage of mitochondria during energy production as well as to protect red blood cells and other cells from injury by free radicals.

Read more about this article here.


Cracked Wheat is just what it sounds like: the cracked berries of whole wheat. The distinctively nutty food is versatile, low in calories and loaded with nutrients. Cracked wheat and other whole grains are good sources of magnesium. This mineral is essential to more than 300 enzymes, especially those that contribute to insulin secretion and the release of glucose into the bloodstream. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes can be up to 30 percent lower in people who consume cracked wheat and other whole grains regularly.

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