Ancient Grain Pilaf

August 19, 2014 at 9:04 pm | Posted in crafts | 1 Comment

Ancient Grain Pilaf | Random Creativity


I love to try new things, which sometimes leads to random ingredient purchases that I am not quite sure what to do with.  Last year I bought 1/2 cup of amaranth from the bulk bins at the grocery store, and I loved it.  So I ordered the five pound bag online, and now find myself with a surplus of amaranth sitting in the pantry.

Amaranth is considered an “ancient grain” from Central America, and is high in protein and lysine.  I haven’t tried growing it myself (yet,) but the leaves are supposed to make a great salad, the flowers are very ornamental, and the plants yield massive amounts of seeds.

Quinoa is very similar to amaranth in origin, nutritional value, and cooking time.   It has a distinctly different flavor, as well as a bitter protective coating that should be washed off before cooking.

Chia seeds are another so called “ancient grain” from Central America.  They contain lots of nutrients, and are edible raw.  They can absorb twelve times their weight in water, and form a gooey gel around the seeds (which is a little disconcerting if you ever try to eat them plain.)  I haven’t found many recipes to use chia seeds, so I have been trying to incorporate them into recipes to use them up.

ancient grains | Random Creativity


Since amaranth and quinoa both cook in the same amount of time you can play around with the ratios in this recipe – I made 1/2 amaranth and 1/2 quinoa, but as long as you have 1 cup combined you can vary the amount of either ingredient.  Red quinoa is quite a bit more expensive than the plain quinoa, but I really like having the contrasting colors so I will sometimes buy a small amount of red quinoa from the bulk bin and stir it into the plain quinoa to add little specks of color.

Ancient Grain Pilaf | Random Creativity


To make a pilaf, sauté half of an onion with 1 tbsp garlic and 1 tbsp grated ginger in a 4 quart pot.  I used a red onion to add a little bit of color, although most of it fades by the time everything is done cooking.

Spices | Random Creativity

Once the onion is tender stir in 1 tbsp whole mustard seeds, and a tablespoon or two of additional oil.  Let the mustard seeds cook for a minute or two (they may pop) and then stir in 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, and 1/2 – 1 tsp turmeric.  Stir to thoroughly coat the onions in the spice mixture.

Smoked paprika is such a lovely ingredient – it is NOTHING like the bland old paprika I had only previously tasted on deviled eggs.  You really can’t use regular paprika and smoked paprika interchangeably – they have very different flavor profiles.  If you don’t have smoked paprika you can use other spices for a different flavor.

As a side note, I used to buy my spices in the grocery store, but they don’t rotate their stock regularly so the spices aren’t necessarily fresh.  Now I order my spices from The Spice House or Red Stick Spice Co.  Fresh spices make such a difference, and they are normally the same cost as they are at the grocery store, if not cheaper.

Ancient Grain Pilaf | Random Creativity

You will want to stir the 1 cup combined amaranth and quinoa, and 1 tbsp chia seeds into the spiced onion mixture and let it toast for a minute or two dry, so that all the tiny little seeds get coated.   Add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer covered for 15-20 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and the seeds are tender, stirring occasionally.

Ancient Grain Pilaf | Random Creativity

Garnish with green onions and serve. You can really garnish with any fresh herbs, I just have access to a lot of green onions.

Ancient Grain Pilaf

  • Servings: 6
  • Print

This is my version of an “Ancient Grain” Pilaf.

  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 3 tbsp oil, divided
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp turmeric, to taste
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup amaranth
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 cups water
  • 1-2 green onions, sliced thinly, for garnish
  1. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a 4 quart pot, and sauté onion with garlic and ginger until tender.
  2. Add the mustard seeds, along with the remaining oil.  Sauté for a minute or two to toast the seeds.
  3. Add the turmeric, smoked paprika, salt and pepper and stir to thoroughly coat the onions.  Stir in the amaranth, quinoa, and chia seeds.  Toast in the spices for 1-2 minutes, until all the seeds are thoroughly coated in oil and spices.
  4. Add water and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 15-20 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and the seeds are tender, stirring occasionally.
  6. Garnish with green onions and serve.

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1 Comment »

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  1. I made this for dinner tonight and it is terrific! The blend of spices complement each other perfectly. Very nice!

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