Recipe: Quinoa with French Lentils, Wild Rice and Golden Raisins
Twice a month, Berkshire County native Alana Chernila, mother of two, and author of the cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), contributes a thoughtful and heartfelt essay/recipe created exclusively for Rural Intelligence readers. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has a new one in the works, titled “The Homemade Kitchen,” due out this year.
It happens just about this time every year: I start to crave flowers.
Of course, the craving probably begins in my eyes. As the glaciers of dirty crusted snow recede and the mud takes over, the world becomes a living “Where’s Waldo,” but instead of Waldo I’m looking for shoots that reliably, though always miraculously, pop out of the frozen ground. And there they are—the pale green of daffodils, the more vibrant shell of hibiscus, the deep shade signaling a tulip—each hopeful blade melting my cold winter heart that every March believes the season won’t end this time.
But the flower craving goes further. At this point, there’s not much to work with. I may swipe a pansy here and there for a birthday cake, and later in the season my yard will become a field of those tiny cousins-of-violets that go so well in salads, but in the mean time I want my food to smell and taste like flowers. I want roses and lavender and saffron. And that’s when I open my Persian cookbooks.
There’s a beautiful book that came out a few years ago that I turn to over and over. Louisa Shafia’s The New Persian Kitchen is an education in practical Persian food adapted for the tastes and availability of ingredients is the U.S. I have more elaborate books on Persian cooking that I love to dream over, but this is the one I pull off the shelf when it’s an ordinary day and I want to make something both extraordinary and possible.
I’ve cooked through most of the book, and every dish has been good. But this simple dish of quinoa, wild rice and lentils is one of my favorites. It’s great as a side dish (especially with Louisa’s Turmeric Chicken) but also good on its own, and the golden raisins and saffron infuse the whole bowl with a sweet fragrance that satisfies my flower craving.
Quinoa with French Lentils, Wild Rice and Golden Raisins
Adapted from Louisa Shafia’s The New Persian Kitchen
½ cup wild rice, rinsed
¼ cup French lentils, picked over and rinsed
2 cups stock
1 cup quinoa, rinsed (I like to use red quinoa here)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 tablespoons ghee or grapeseed oil
2 cups golden raisins
2 tablespoons butter, room-temperature
½ teaspoon saffron, ground and steeped in 1 tablespoon hot water
Freshly ground pepper
1. Fill a medium saucepan with at least 5 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the wild rice, lentils and a ½ teaspoon salt. Bring back to a boil, then lower the heat and cover. Cook until the rice is tender, 45 to 50 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, bring the stock to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the quinoa and 1 teaspoon salt and bring the mixture back to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer until the quinoa is tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Let it rest covered for 10 minutes off the heat, then fluff with a fork.
3. While the grains cook, heat the ghee in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Add the raisins and cook for another 5 minutes.
4. Combine the rice, lentils, quinoa and onion mixture in a large bowl. Add the butter and saffron and toss gently to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.