As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am a huge fan of Indian food. Biriyani is no exception. In an effort to make one of my favorite grain dishes healthier, I decided to experiment with replacing the white rice with quinoa. This is a great dish that can be eaten as a complete meal, or served as a side. The date sauce is a great addition to the dish because it adds a sweet, but not overpowering flavor with a touch of mint. If you don’t like mint, you can simply leave it out.
Quinoa is often served warm, but I prefer it cold or room temp. This is a great dish to bring to a pot-luck dinner and tastes just as good the next day.
If you aren’t very familiar with quinoa, it is a grain-like seed that has a slightly nutty flavor and is a great alternative to white rice or couscous. It’s a complete protein and is high in magnesium and iron as well as being a good source of fiber. In addition, quinoa is a gluten-free food, making it a great option for people with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
Tip: Quinoa can sometimes taste bitter when cooked. Soak the seeds in cold water for 15 minutes before cooking and you can help minimize the bitterness.
Quinoa Biriyani with a Date Yogurt Sauce
Serves 4 as a main dish and 6 as a side dish
3/4 C Quinoa, (see tip above)
1/2 C Vegetable Broth
1/2 C Water
1/2 C Carrots, shredded
1/3 C Raisins
2 tsp Curry paste mixed with 1 tsp water
1/4 C Unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 Peas (cooked and cooled)
1/3 C Cashews (I like to toast mine for a few minutes in a dry pan)
2 TBS Cilantro, chopped
2 T scallions, sliced into 1/8″ rings (green part only)
2 Pitted dates
1/4 C Plain lowfat Greek yogurt (Fage is my favorite)
1 tsp lemon
4 mint leaves, finely chopped
Add Quinoa, vegetable stock and water to a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the quinoa boils, turn the stove down and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until cooked ( you can tell that quinoa is done when you see a small white “ring” around the outside the seeds). While the quinoa is cooking, add the carrots through the scallions into a large bowl and stir to combine.
Next, prepare the sauce by adding the dates, yogurt, lemon and mint leaves into a food processor or blender until thoroughly combined. It won’t be completely smooth, but shouldn’t have large chunks of dates.
When the quinoa is done cooking, add it to another bowl and allow to cool completely before adding to the carrot, raisin, pea mixture.
To serve, add roughly a TBS of the sauce on top of the biriyani.
Eating healthy doesn’t mean that you have to eat bland, uninspired food. This recipe was something I came up with as a mid-morning snack. These Apple Date Bites have a natural sweetness from the dates and apples and it’s almost like having a “treat” (as my daughter would say). I buy all my dried nuts and fruits in bulk from www.nuts.com. They have a great selection and super fast shipping. Most importantly, I love that I can get dried fruits that aren’t full of added sugars and oils (unlike the selection at most grocery stores). This recipe is very easy to play with and you can easily substitute other fruits for the apple like dried cherries or apricots. Have fun and experiment!
Makes approximately 14 balls / seven servings
1 C pitted dates
1 C apple rings, unsweetened
1/2 C roasted unsalted cashews
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch cardamon (optional)
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste (you can sub a good quality pure vanilla extract)
1/4 C shredded coconut, unsweetened
Combine everything but the coconut in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture comes together. You don’t want a smooth paste but rather a chunky consistency. Roll into 14 individual 1″ balls and then roll in coconut. Store in freezer for up to 2 weeks.