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Cumin-Scented Quinoa with Red Beets

(recipe, Maria Speck)

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The sweet crunchiness and superb simplicity of raw shredded beets are overlooked and underrated. I think they are a delicacy. To save time on dish duty, I use the large holes of a box grater and my muscles to shred raw beets (beware of splatters!), but feel free to use a food processor fitted with a shredding disk. And no, I never wear gloves. The red beet stains wash off easily, plus they show that I love to cook. Combine this humble root vegetable with ancient quinoa and wait for these two earthy flavors to merge into a divine union. I like to blend red beets into burgundy-colored quinoa for a stunning crimson-colored side. White quinoa and golden beets combine for an equally attractive preparation. On hot days, add a dollop of sumac-spiced yogurt and serve with with chicken, lamb, or pork, or with an oil-rich fish such as pan-fried or grilled bluefish. If you don't have whole cumin seeds at home, in Step 1 add 1 teaspoon ground cumin together with the quinoa to the saucepan and cook, stirring, until the quinoa is hot to the touch, about 1 minute. Then proceed as directed.


    1. 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
    2. 1 tsp. whole cumin seeds
    3. 1 cup red quinoa, well rinsed and drained
    4. 1¾ cups water
    5. ¾ tsp. fine sea salt
    6. ½ tsp. sumac (optional; see Note)
    Sumac-yogurt topping
    1. 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
    2. 1 garlic clove, minced
    3. ½ tsp. sumac, for sprinkling, or 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
    Finishing ingredients
    1. 1¼ cups shredded raw beets (about 1 medium-sized beet, rinsed and peeled)
    2. 1 to 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
    3. 1 to 2 pinch cayenne pepper (optional)


    1. 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 (it may splatter!) 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.
    2. Meanwhile, make the sumac-yogurt topping. Beat the yogurt and the garlic in a small bowl with a fork until smooth. Sprinkle with the sumac and set aside.
    3. 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 a pinch or two of cayenne. Taste, adjusting for salt and lemon juice, and serve with the yogurt topping.


    Sumac is a dark-red powder made from the crushed dried berries of a small Mediterranean tree. Widely used across the Middle East for centuries, it gives a sharp acidic kick to salads and roasted meats or fish. You can sprinkle sumac on top of hummus, or flavor rice with it. Its amazing, complex flavor contributes not only tanginess, but also sweet and bitter notes.