When I first got into cooking I stayed within my herbal comfort zone; that is to say: Italian seasoning. Seafood? Italian seasoning + EVOO + lemon. Salad? Italian seasoning + EVOO + lemon. Pasta? Italian seasoning + tomatoes + garlic. You get the picture. Add my spice rut to my grandpa-ish passion for oatmeal and this would be the most boring blog to read ever.
I started experimenting with spices when I went to London on exchange. While I was over there, I spent a lot of time with my English relatives, especially my aunt. We cooked together all the time, and despite her love for all things Italian, the majority of what we made was from Ottolenghi’s gorgeouscookbooks . She introduced me to a myriad of new spices and ways to use them. Coriander, for example, was one of the jars that came in my spice rack that I had always found kind of .. meh. Her coriander, though, toasted and freshly ground, was a beautiful thing.
➳ If you don’t have a small cast iron pan for toasting spices, buy one!! You can get one for under $10 and it makes such a difference. Plus, the nutrition student in me has to point out: when you use iron cookware, some of the iron is absorbed into the food! Bonus.
Today, I rarely resort my old standby, and our weekly meals come from all over the world. This recipe features za’atar, an arabic herb that includes all kinds of spices, sea salt and sesame seeds. I’ve also used quinoa instead of semolina because it’s a nutritional rockstar — hello, amino acids! This would be over-the-top-good with fresh feta and a scattering of pomegranate seeds, but it’s delicious as is.
Quinoa CousCous with Za’atar
I ditched couscous for supergrain quinoa in this Middle-Eastern flavoured pilaf. I found my Za’atar at a Persian grocery store, but you can also find it online.
For the dressing:
For the Salad
Cook quinoa according to package directions
Meanwhile, prepare dressing by combining all ingredients.
Chop parsley and cilantro until fine.
Chop up cucumber and tomatoes.
Combine quinoa, herbs and vegetables.
Pour dressing over pilaf and tossed until mixed through.
Sprinkle chopped nuts, if desired, and serve with S&P and a squeeze of lemon