December 3, 2007
My vegetable market closed for the season at the end of last week. I took advantage of their last day to stock up on different root vegetables and apples that would store for a while. Plus, I picked up the last of some of my favorite vegetables like leeks, celery, carrots and celeriac.
I wanted to use the last of these wonderful vegetables in a dish my family would enjoy. I chose to make a red quinoa pilaf and use a variety of spices to enhance the dish. I used garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper and file powder (also called gumbo file).
File powder is made from ground and dried sassafras leaves. It is similar in aroma to ground sage, although to some it is more like thyme and savory. Our first reference to the use of ground sassafras leaves comes from the Cajun's who arrived in Louisiana from Acadia in the 1600s. They noticed that the Choctaw people used the ground leaves in their cooking. The Cajuns began to use file powder in their cooking and it became a necessary ingredient in making gumbo.
If you'd like to make your own file powder, Nola Cuisine has instructions. Dr. David Reed at Horticultural Department at Texas A&M gives a step by step instructions with pictures on collecting sassafras leaves, drying them and then grinding them for file powder.
1 cup red quinoa
2 cups water
1 chopped leek, white & light green parts
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup chopped celeriac
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp file powder (gumbo file)
1. In a large sauce pan (2 qt), pour in the quinoa, water and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes.
2. Add the vegetables, then cover and cook for about another 10 minutes or until the liquid is gone.
3. Dump in the spices and stir together. Serve warm.
What did my family think of my red quinoa pilaf? My husband and I loved it, but the kids weren't so sure about the flavor. Overall they thought it was okay, but this is the first time they had tried file powder. They agreed that they might like it more the next time they tried it.