I have a bit of a funny relationship with beets. I like them and often am attracted to beet-related salads on restaurant menus. They are not, however, the first thing I grab at the farmers’ market. And if I do, they often sit in my crisper longer than most other items. Luckily beets last a long time in the fridge.
I have my few go-to recipes for them like this one. And today’s recipe was recommended to me by a trusted friend and I had actually mentally made note of it when I saw it on Culinate.com a few months earlier. It is a recipe from Maria Speck’s book Ancient Grains for Modern Meals. I taught it in a recent class (Grains and Beans in Winter Salads) and it was a big hit.
I don’t think I had ever used raw, grated beets before making this dish and they are surprisingly sweet this way. In my experience red beets work much better than the golden beets both in flavor and appearance in this dish. (Maria suggests using golden ones as an alternative. ) The dish is quick to make, the color is unbeatable and the balance of the sweet beets, the nutty quinoa, the whole cumin seeds and plenty of lemon juice (and a bit of cayenne) is really, really lovely. And of course the garlicky Greek yogurt topping is the perfect complement.
It’s best eaten warm or at room temperature not long after it’s made. I just had some for breakfast this morning right out of the fridge and it was not quite as soft and fragrant so be sure to bring leftovers to room temperature before eating.
Quinoa with Beets, Cumin and Garlicky Yogurt
–adapted from Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck
This quick, room temperature dish uses raw, grated beets. The original recipe also calls for sumac, the powder from a red berry found and used all over the Middle East. It has a tart flavor so I substitute a bit of lemon juice (which she also suggests) which works well.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 cup quinoa, well rinsed and drained
1 ½ cups water
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sumac (optional, see note above)
3/4 cup plain whole-milk or Greek yogurt
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp. sumac, for sprinkling, or 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1¼ cups shredded raw beets (about 1 medium-sized beet, rinsed and peeled)
1 to 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 to 2 pinches cayenne pepper
Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the cumin seeds (they will sizzle) and cook, stirring, until the seeds darken and become fragrant, 30 seconds. Stir in the quinoa and cook, stirring frequently, until hot to the touch, about 1 minute. Add the water, salt, and sumac, and bring to a boil. Decrease the temperature to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until the liquid is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile mix the yogurt and the garlic in a small bowl until smooth. Sprinkle with the sumac (if using) and set aside.
To finish, remove the saucepan from the heat. Stir in the shredded beets, cover, and steam for 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and the cayenne. Taste, adjusting for salt and lemon juice, and serve with the yogurt topping.