Red Quinoa and Lentil Pilaf with Cumin and Cauliflower

Spring is here! The ice is off the roads, so the moped returns! Thanks for the new carny crash helmet, Mom. It works. Though maybe this video is reason enough to get KP a matching brain bucket–or a side car. Minnesota T-shirt weather today—read, 40s.


This is a recipe I adapted from the vegan chef who used to cook for Michael Jackson. The original was just too raw and vegetable-y—not enough spice. I spruced up the recipe with the cauliflower addition, and I think it is now just right. Still very healthy, but with a little zing. Like a red flower on a red moped.


Red Quinoa and Lentil Pilaf with Cumin and Cauliflower

Inspired by (but much changed from) Food and Wine March 2012

1 cup French green lentils, rinsed

1 bay leaf

1 thyme sprig

1 garlic clove

1/4 onion

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 shallot, minced

1 celery rib, minced

1 carrot, minced

1/2 cup red quinoa, rinsed

1 cup vegetable stock


Freshly ground pepper

1 pound cauliflower, coarsely grated

½ cup sunflower oil

1 tbsp cumin

2 tsp turmeric

2 tsp crushed red pepper

1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/3 cup coarsely chopped Marcona almonds

Put the lentils in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Add the bay leaf, thyme sprig, garlic and onion and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat until the lentils are tender, about 18 minutes. Drain and discard the bay leaf, thyme, garlic and onion. Wipe out the pot.


Add 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil to the saucepan. Add the shallot, celery and carrot and cook over low heat until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the quinoa and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Add the stock, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat until the grains are tender and plump and the liquid is absorbed, about 18 minutes. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. In a small bowl, combine sunflower oil with cumin, turmeric, and the crushed red pepper. Drizzle over the cauliflower pieces and dump the oil and cauliflower mixture onto the hot skillet. Cook over moderately high heat until lightly browned in spots, about 5 minutes. In a large bowl, toss the lentils with the quinoa, cauliflower, parsley and almonds. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot or at room temperature.


“When health* is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot become manifest, strength cannot be exerted, intelligence cannot be applied, wealth is useless, and reason is powerless.” Herophilus

*Methinks one could substitute “sun” for health and the ancient Greek sentiment would ring just as true.

3 thoughts on “Red Quinoa and Lentil Pilaf with Cumin and Cauliflower

  1. Another recipe for my recipe box, looks delightful! Also, I absolutely love your flower-bedecked moped, and spectacularly patriotic helmet! Transportation stylish enough to be drawn from the streets of Italy, zipping down a quiet Rochester side street – your neighbors must just adore you 🙂

    1. My neighbor Steve came over last week to give me a flame rearview mirror. Installing it today. I think 4th Ave is better than the sidewalks of Rome, except for today its eleven degrees in the sun.

      1. Oh my gosh, your moped just keeps getting better than ever! Yeah, the temperature today is kind of surreally cold for late March, but beyond that I suppose that zooming down the wide tree-lined streets of Rochester, MN is infinitely easier than navigating Rome would be 🙂

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