Monday, September 30, 2013

Red Quinoa & Forbidden Rice

Red Quinoa & Forbidden Rice
Serves 6 – 8

Red Quinoa & Forbidden Rice
Who wouldn’t want forbidden rice? According to ancient Chinese legend, black rice was so rare, tasty, and nutritious that only the emperors were allowed to eat it. It was fabled to enrich health and ensure longevity. The black color of the uncooked forbidden rice is due to its outer coating of black bran. It is also prized for its fragrant aroma, nutty taste and nutritional value. Times have changed. Although black rice is still relatively rare, researchers are trying to bring its distinctive flavor and mix of antioxidants to the masses -- or at least to a grocery store near you. Like brown rice, black rice is full of antioxidant-rich bran, which is found in the outer layer that gets removed during the milling process to make white rice. But only black-rice bran contains the antioxidants known as anthocyanins, purple and reddish pigments -- also found in blueberries, grapes, and acai -- that have been linked to a decreased risk of heart disease and cancer, improvements in memory, and other health benefits.

Forbidden Rice

I must admit I had not jumped on the “quinoa-everyday” bandwagon. It certainly has surged in popularity. Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), whose edible seeds are white, red or black, is packed with protein, minerals and vitamins. It is also gluten-free, if that is a major concern. You can have it for breakfast (as a cereal), lunch (as a salad) and dinner (as a pattie or a side dish). I would eat this particular recipe at any meal. Grown in the Andes for thousands of years, the “mother grain of the Incas” was an obscurity in the U.S. until foodies who feted it as a superior alternative to bulgur wheat, couscous and rice discovered it. So, now there are even “quinoa only” cookbooks available. Though it often occupies a similar role to these grains, quinoa is actually a chenopod, in the same family as beets and chard. Who knew!

Red Quinoa

I loved this recipe so much that I made it twice in a few days. At first, simply added cremini mushrooms to base recipe and served with slice of fresh avocado. The second day I added sun-dried tomatoes, cremini mushrooms and diced red pepper finished with a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts.  If you wanted an additional protein burst, add some black beans or toasted almonds.  It is a completely flexible dish – just dig through your pantry and refrigerator liberating those additional goodies.
  • ½ C short-grain black rice
  • 1 C red quinoa, rinsed well
  • Water, vege stock or chicken stock as below
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp kosher salt divided
  • 4 Tb olive oil, divided
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 5 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tsp cumin seeds
  • ¼ C chopped sun-dried tomatoes, optional
  • 10-12 quartered cremini mushrooms, optional
  • 1 red pepper, optional
  • 3-4 Tb fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ - ½ C chopped fresh cilantro
  • ¼ C chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 Tb 1” pieces chives
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 avocado, peeled and pitted, optional
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • Garnish: toasted pine nuts, or toasted almonds, drizzle of finishing olive oil; serve with hot sauce if desired.

Rinse the black rice thoroughly. Bring rice, ¼ tsp salt and 1 C water (or vegetable or chicken stock) to a boil in a small saucepan. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until water is absorbed and the rice is tender, 25-30 minutes. If using a rice cooker, follow instructions for brown rice.

Cooking the forbidden rice

Meanwhile, combine quinoa, bay leaf, ¼ tsp salt, and 2 C water (or vegetable or chicken stock), in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Drain; return quinoa to hot saucepan. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf, fluff quinoa with a fork, and transfer to a large bowl.

Heat 2 Tb olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cumin seed and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add to quinoa. Repeat with olive oil and sautéing other optional ingredients such as cremini mushrooms and red pepper. Add chopped sun-dried tomatoes and mix all with quinoa. Add cooked black rice; mix well. Stir in 2 Tb olive oil, fresh lemon juice, cilantro, parsley and chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Mixing the ingredients after cooking
Another presentation, this time with avocado

Serve warm or at room temperature with a slice of avocado, fresh lemon slice, and sprinkle of optional toasted pine nuts or almonds. You can substitute any color of rice or quinoa to make this gorgeous (and healthful) salad, which works as a vegetarian main course or hearty side dish. Enjoy!



  1. Couldn't find short grain black rice so I substituted wild rice - delicious! Perfect for bento box lunches.

  2. Yup - can substitute any color quinoa or brown or wild rice - great warm or room temp.... so glad you liked it.