ras el hanout quinoa pilaf

I have a lot of pet peeves. I will spare you a list, but one of the ones that surprises people the most, considering that I have a food blog: I hate food trends.

It's not the food that bothers me. I know that disliking trendy foods is like shooting the messenger. What really bothers me is the fuss foodies and food reviewers make about new foods, and how quickly those foods spread around stores/blogs/cookbooks as "the next big thing."

What bothers me is that food trends exoticize food and cooking, make it sound like you don't know about food or cooking if you haven't used Himalayan salt, tasted macarons, or shaped cake pops. They make cooking at home sound difficult, expensive, snobby. Cooking can be (is) simple, quick, cheap, and will still be delicious. I am a food troglodyte; I don't want trends for my food the way there are trends for fashion. My forebears did without food trends; so can I!

But like I said, it's not the food that bothers me. Fancy cupcakes, for example, were a maaaaajor food trend for a while, and I stubbornly held back, resenting the trend, until I actually ate a cupcake and was like "oh yeah, I forgot how amazing cupcakes are." Similarly, I resented seeing "fleur de sel" in ingredients lists for a year or so before I broke down and bought some--and it really does add a nice touch to main dishes. I love food, I just mind when there's fuss around it.

The whole point of this story is that a while back I heard of Ras El Hanout seasoning from a bunch of food blogs and got all obstinate and thought "ARRRRGH NOT ANOTHER FOOD TREND." I intentionally did not read many of the reviews, and after a while the trend disappeared.

But then couple months ago, my mother got some for her store, and started singing its praises, too. My own mother! But she's not an obnoxious foodie, she's my mom! I thought. Maybe this stuff is worth a try. So I "let" her give me a bottle (thanks Mom!) of Frontier's Ras El Hanout spice blend.

I'll be honest here and say this is another food I was a jerk for resenting. Ras El Hanout (which means "top of the shelf/shop") is a spice blend native to North Africa that consists of warm spices, most of which start with C: coriander, cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, clove, cubeb/black pepper, nutmeg, sometimes cayenne. Every blend is a litle different, so nightshade-free people should read the labels for cayenne/chilis, but Frontier's is nightshade-free. It is very potent, and it is delicious! If you like North African and/or Middle Eastern food, this is a must-try.

Many recipes involving Ras El Hanout use it as a meat rub. You could definitely do a tofu or seitan rub out of it, but I was making quinoa for dinner a little while ago, and decided it would also be excellent in a quinoa pilaf.
Quinoa, raisins, carrots, some chopped cauliflower, and ras el hanout. And hoooooo boy is it strong! I added a teaspoon or so of it to about 1 1/2 cups of uncooked quinoa and 3 cups water, and it was allllmost too flavorful--I was glad we had a plainer side salad to eat with it. I could have halved the amount of ras el hanout and still gotten the right amount flavor. So err on the side of "subtle" when you're trying out this spice blend for the first time!

Ras el hanout would also be good mixed with other grains, sautéed with chickpeas, roasted with nuts, or used in a sauce. Obviously I didn't make my own at home, but if you're interested in trying out ras el hanout without not being committed to buying a whole jar, the ingredients are pretty common to anyone who does a lot of Indian or Middle Eastern cooking, so it'd be pretty easy to mix at home. Have you ever tried it? What did you do with it?

Are you secretly a curmudgeon about something people think you'll like? How do you feel about food trends? Are there any in particular you love or hate?