Thursday, 14 April 2016

Za'atar Spiced Quinoa with Sauteed Carrots and Pine Nuts

The range of ingredients available to home cooks has expanded dramatically. People are incorporating herbs and spices like lemon grass, smoked Mexican chile, sumac, and za'atar mix.
Yotam Ottolenghi

For a long time, I was not that terribly excited about Quinoa. Having a seed for a meal (and a tail sprouting one at that) didn't sound much appealing. I was sure I would hate it and held on to my unreasonable prejudice with a bull like perseverance for years. Though I was stirred enough by the half price sale tag on the store shelf to buy a box some time ago (after all, it is expensive and one shouldn't let a deal like that pass by!), that impulsive spark of interest died a quick death, almost as soon as I lugged it home. The box with the impersonal seeds was pushed to a far unseen corner of a top shelf and conveniently forgotten.

A few months later, mostly prompted by the silent judgemental stare of the still sealed pack and the fast approaching 'use by' date, I prepared it and found that I liked the weird seeds after all. Now, I almost always have a small stash of Quinoa in the pantry. 


My pantry is always changing, gradually, along with my taste, from season to season and from year to year: This evolution is what makes it distinctively mine.

Za'atar Spiced Quinoa with Sauteed Carrots and Pine Nuts

This is a recipe from the drafts and has been residing there for some time. It is simple and can be put together in a short time. I find the sourness of Sumac in Za'atar enough to balance the dish – you can however, add a touch of lime or lemon juice if needed at the end.

I'm sure most of you know that Za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend which is basically a blend of Dried Thyme, Sesame Seed, Sumac and Salt. The ingredients can vary a bit - My store bought version has Sumac, Sesame Seeds, Oregano, Marjoram, Thyme and Sea Salt. (You can easily make the mix on your own.)
Serves 3 to 4


For the Quinoa:

  1. Quinoa - 1 cup
  2. Vegetable Stock/Water - 2 cups (See Notes.)
  3. Za'atar (Blend) - 1 and a 1/2 to 2 tbsp or to taste.
  4. Garlic, finely chopped - A scant tbsp. (Optional.)
  5. Olive Oil
  6. Salt - Only if needed.
For the Carrots:
  1. Carrots, thinly sliced - 2 cups
  2. Salt - A Pinch
  3. Olive Oil
To Finish:
  1. Pine Nuts - 5 to 6 tbsp.
  2. Parsley, chopped - 3 tbsp. or to taste.

For the Quinoa:

First, you need to wash the quinoa very well. I put them in a fine meshed strainer (so the seeds won't escape), place the strainer on top of a bowl (just in case) and wash them in running water. While the water is running, I also rub the seeds with my fingers. It is important that you wash the seeds well or else they will taste bitter.

Once washed, allow them to drain well.

Heat up a pan and add some olive oil. Add the garlic (if using) and saute till it smells good. Now add the drained quinoa and toast it for a few minutes. Now add the vegetable broth or water and bring to a boil. Add a bit of salt as well if you are using water. But keep in mind that the Za'atar mix will have some salt. Cover with a tight fitting, heavy lid and cook till done - about 15 to 20 minutes.

Once the quinoa is cooked to your liking, check if there is any leftover cooking liquid. (I rarely have it.) If so, drain it and then add the za'atar. Fluff everything with a fork. Keep covered and let stand for about 15 to 30 minutes.

For the Carrots:

Meanwhile, add heat up a pan to saute the carrots. Add some oil and the sliced carrots along with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring once in a while till the carrots are done to your liking.

You can alternatively roast the carrots in an oven. But keep an eye on them so that they won't burn, especially if you have sliced them fine.

To Finish:

If the pine nuts are not already toasted, toast them first. Heat up a pan and add the pine nuts. Toast them till they turn golden, stirring frequently.

Mix the quinoa, carrots, pine nuts and and chopped parsley together. Check for seasoning. Add more za'atar if needed.
Serve with Grilled Meats/Meatballs and (optionally) Pickled Onions. 

  1. My instructions on my box of Quinoa tells to add about 1 and 3/4 cup of liquid for every cup of Quinoa to cook it. I personally find that this leaves the seeds a but too undone for my taste. I like mine well cooked. So feel free to experiment, especially if you have never cooked the seeds before.
  2. It is important that you leave the cooked Quinoa to rest for a while before serving.


  1. I did reach out for a box of Quinoa but they were mighty expensive that I kept it back, for the next time... :( Your quinoa dishes sound really interesting, including this one that I must try making them and including them into my diet soon...

    1. So very expensive, right? I was lucky to catch it on a sale. But now the prices have gone up :( And Thanks, Rafee.


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