Turkish Quinoa Pilaf With Chickpeas, Kale and Pomegranate

by | Nov 16, 2008

A couple weeks ago the New York Times health section featured several recipes using quinoa (keen-wah), a small, round ancient seed from Peru that can be used much like a cereal grain.

Because I had all the ingredients on hand, I decided to make this recipe for Quinoa Pilaf With Chickpeas, Pomegranate and Spices. I must admit, while it sounded good I did not expect to like it as much as I did.
I did not have an onion, but I had leeks so I used them instead. This made the recipe faster since leeks only require 1-2 minutes of cooking before additional ingredients are added.
Also, I do not have a spice grinder so I added slightly smaller amounts of already ground spices instead of toasting and grinding them myself. I just eye-balled the amounts using a teaspoon measure.
The recipe says that canned chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) are fine, but I prefer to make my own. In my opinion, homemade beans are much better than canned. However, I have the luxury of having a pressure cooker in the house, which reduces cooking time for beans to about 25 minutes (including depressurization). Otherwise beans require at least an hour to cook. They also require several hours of soaking. Since beans are one of my most reliable and affordable protein sources, this process is worth it for me. If you would rather just crack open a can, that is your call.
Finally, I wanted a little more green in my meal so I steamed half a bunch of dinosaur kale. To prepare, I cut it up into bite sized pieces and steamed it for 8-10 minutes. I salted it then added it to the quinoa after I added the chickpeas. I strongly recommend adding kale if you plan to use this recipe as a main course. It was delicious!
Adaptation of New York Times Quinoa with Chickpeas, Pomegranate and Spices (with kale):
  • 1 teaspoon(ish) cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon(ish) coriander
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium leek, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups cooked quinoa, (1 c. dry)
  • 1 cup cooked chick peas (canned are fine), rinsed
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

Rinse and chop kale and place in steam basket over shallow water. Cover and steam 8-10 minutes. This step is particularly important for dinosaur kale, which can be very tough. If you are using traditional kale, reduce cooking time accordingly. Cook until tender then sprinkle with sea salt.

Adjust a frying pan to medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the leek and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and salt, stir together for about half a minute, and stir in the cumin and coriander. Add the remaining olive oil and stir in the quinoa, chick peas, kale and 3 tablespoons of the pomegranate seeds. Stir over medium heat to heat through, several minutes. Taste and adjust salt.
Transfer to a platter or wide bowl and decorate with the remaining pomegranate seeds. You can also mold the pilaf into 1/2-cup ramekins or timbales and unmold onto the plate, then decorate with pomegranate seeds.
Leftover pilaf can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. Picture above was after 3 days, and it was still beautiful. Only the pomegranate seeds started losing color after awhile, but they were still tasty. Reheat 1-2 minutes in the microwave.
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Move It, Don’t Stretch It

by | Nov 3, 2008

A recent New York Times article questions the conventional wisdom of the value of stretching before a workout. Instead, the best way to prepare for physical exertion is a brief, easy cardio workout followed by a series of sport-specific movements designed to loosen joints and increase blood flow to the muscles you will be using.

Multiple research studies over the last several decades have shown that stretching does not help prevent injury during a workout. Even more surprising is that stretching appears to actually weaken the muscle for a period of up to 30 minutes following the stretch, thereby hurting overall performance.

But this does not mean you should skip your workout warm up. Scientists now recommend that you begin your workout with a light, 5-10 minute aerobic exercise, such as a jog. This movement will increase blood flow to your muscles and make them more pliable and ready for additional exertion.

To improve performance in a specific sport, dynamic stretching is recommended. Dyamic stretching is a way to stretch muscles while moving, a practice that actually does appear to increase muscle power, flexibility and range of motion. Data is also emerging that it reduces risk of injury.

The goal of dynamic stretching is to perform “range-of-motion exercises that activate all of the joints and connective tissue that will be needed for the task ahead,” says Team Running USA coach, Terrence Mahon. For example, runners should do movements that activate hip and knee joints (such as squats and lunges), while golfers should perform shoulder and back movements.

That’s right, even golfers can improve performance with dynamic stretching.

A few of the best dynamic stretches are described in the article.

In sum, the new recommendation for beginning a workout is an easy, 5-10 minute aerobic exercise followed by a five minute recovery, and then a series of dynamic stretches appropriate for your sport. It is important that you complete this warm up immediately before you begin your training. Waiting too long (30 minutes) before beginning your workout can be detrimental, increasing muscle stiffness.

Although I read and believe the accuracy of this story, I think it will be hard for me to stop touching my toes and hanging my heels off a stair before going on a run. It is such a regular part of my routine and feels so natural. But according to this article that may actually be hurting my run.

What do you guys think?

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