Maria Speck’s lemon quinoa with currants, dill and zucchini

Ancient Grains for Modern Meals Maria Speck's lemon quinoa with currants, dill and zucchini recipeIn this season of over-indulgence, it’s sometimes hard to eat right so today I am delighted to draw your attention to Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck.  Selected by The New York Times as “a best summer cookbook” as well as one of “This Year’s Notable Cookbooks”, Ancient Grains for Modern Meals has received rave reviews across the US and is a perfect antidote to all the rich holiday foods we tend to consume in December. It’s also perfect for those New Year’s resolutions in January 😉

Ancient Grains for Modern meals by Maria SpeckSpeck’s first book showcases her passion for using Old World staples such as farro, barley, polenta, and wheat berries everyday dishes.  Beautifully presented, in this inspired and highly personal book, Maria Speck draws on food traditions from across the Mediterranean and northern Europe to reveal how versatile, satisfying, flavorful, and sophisticated whole grains can be.

Gorgeous photography and easy to follow recipes for rustic but elegant dishes like Creamy Farro with Honey-Roasted Grapes, Barley Salad with Figs and Tarragon-Lemon Dressing, Lamb Stew with Wheat Berries in Red Wine Sauce, and Purple Rice Pudding with Rose Water Dates are sure to please discerning palates and become favorites in any whole grain repertoire.

You’ve surely heard a lot about how healthy whole grains are, right?  And wondered how to incorporate more of them into your diet?  Well this book will teach both food lovers and health-conscious home cooks how to integrate whole grains into busy lives, from quick-cooking quinoa and buckwheat to the slower varieties such as spelt and Kamut. Raised by a Greek mum and a “gluttonous food-loving father from Germany” Maria has a distinct philosophy about cooking and whole grains, which sets her apart from others who just eat whole grains because they are healthy.  As she states in the book’s introduction, “I don’t eat whole grains because they are healthy, or wholesome, or to reap their nutritional benefits.  To me, whole grains carry luxurious qualities: lively texture, vivid colours and rich flavours.”  Maria eats them (and encourages other to) because they TASTE GREAT!

Maria’s own passion for good food stems from her upbringing in both Greece and Germany, where whole grains are still part of the culinary fabric to this day. No one ever told her to eat bulgur and wheat berries because they are “oh so good” for you – they were simply part of everyday eating.  I was so happy to receive a copy of this book to check out because I can’t think of a better time of year to incorporate more whole grains into my diet than now.  I had a really hard time choosing which recipe to make but finally settled on a simple, fresh quinoa dish.  I was having friends over for a “blog meal” where they get to try upcoming dishes on my blog (it’s a frequent occurrence!) and the other dishes were a bit on the rich side, so I wanted something lighter. Lemon quinoa with currants, dill and zucchini sounded just the thing.

Yield: 4 to 6

Lemon quinoa with currants, dill and zucchini

Maria Speck's lemon quinoa with currants, dill and zucchini Ancient Grains for Modern Meals recipe

Maria says: "This tangy dish, studded with plump currants, is a mixture of soothing rice pilaf and a refreshing salad."

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes


  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped green onions (about 6)
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup quinoa, well rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup currants
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini (about 2 small)
  • 4 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


  1. To make the quinoa, heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the green onions and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the dark green parts wilt but do not turn brown, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the quinoa and cook, stirring occasionally until the grains start to crackle and turn dry, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the water, the currants and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  5. Bring to a boil then decrease the heat to maintain a simmer, cover and cook until the water is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, finely grate the zest of the lemon until you have 1 teaspoonful then squeeze the lemon until you have 2 tablespoons of juice.
  7. To finish, remove the pan from the heat, stir the zucchini, lemon juice and zest, 2 tablespoons of the sesame seeds, 2 tablespoons of the dill and the pepper into the quinoa. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
  8. Cover and let sit for 3 minutes.
  9. Transfer quinoa to a serving bowl, sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons each of sesame seeds and dill, and serve.

did you make this recipe?

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Maria Speck's lemon quinoa with currants, dill and zucchini Ancient Grains for Modern Meals recipeThis was a delightful dish that I actually served cold as a salad, though it was lovely warm too (since, you know, I tasted it when it was just ready, for quality control, and I had to stop myself from taking a big spoon and eating the lot!). I substituted dried cranberries and golden raisins for the currants since that’s what I had on hand and added some crumbled feta as per Maria’s suggestion – I actually think it looks lovely and festive with those colours, for the holidays!  A definite hit with my guests and one I’ll be adding to my repertoire for both cold and warm weather.

Edited to add: Giveaway now closed

I’m so excited to be able to offer readers from the US or Canada (sorry, international friends…) a chance to win a copy of Ancient Grains for Modern Meals!

To enter: Simply leave me a comment, telling me your favourite way to  incorporate whole grains into your meals.

For a bonus entry, tweet the following message:

I entered to win a copy of @MariaSpeck ‘s Ancient Grains for Modern Meals on @eatlivtravwrite!  Enter here!

then come back and eave a separate comment telling me you did!

Contest closes Saturday, December 17th at 6pm EST and the winner will be announced on Sunday, December 18th.  Good luck!

Disclosure: The giveaway item (one copy of Ancient Grains for Modern Meals) was provided at no cost to me and will be shipped from the publisher.  I received a copy of the book myself for review purposes. I was not otherwise compensated for this post. All opinions expressed are 100% my own. 

Recipe was reprinted with permission from Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

42 thoughts on “Maria Speck’s lemon quinoa with currants, dill and zucchini”

  1. I’m obsessed with the ingredients in this recipe!! Where I might use rice as a side dish or for a stir-fry of chicken and vegetables, I throw in quinoa or bulgur (or a mix) instead! It has more fiber and nutrients and definitely fills you up.

    If I win the book, I’ll offer it to a friend of mine in the States who LOVES to cook!

  2. I bake with whole grain flour regularly.

    May I say that I love the All-Sorts at the top of your blog? They are a favorite of mine and just seeing them there brings a smile to my face. Did you know Trader Joe’s now sells them?

  3. I use sprouted whole spelt flour for anything I bake and barley flour for scones, I make farro risotto and just bought sprouted kamut flour and kamut berries, thinking what to do with them.
    This is a great giveaway, I bet this book will give me more ideas and I would love to get it 🙂

  4. I have to try more whole grains. They scare me as I have IBS and can have trouble with some of them. I do like quinoa though. I use it like a rice dice as a side. Goes really well with fish if you ask me. I think it’s the nutty taste I love. This quinoa with lemon would be incredible. The currants just set it off nicely.

  5. What a fabulous quinoa dish…I’m so glad I was introduced to this lovely grain by Dorie. I love whole grains both in salads like this and soups/

  6. Quinoa is by far my favourite grain. I use it weekly. This recipe is definitely one that I would make. Salmon and Quinoa go together nicely. I’ve used Quinoa flour in banana pancakes for my children. I’ve used Chia Seeds in brownies! There are so many possibilities!

  7. Mmm, currants in this dish sound wonderful! The lemon should be a wonderful subtle flavor in this 🙂
    My easiest way is oatmeal in the mornings, with pumpkin and cinnamon. But I love stuffing squash with bulgur – so delicious!

  8. This looks so delicious! This is an inspiration for a healthy meal this week. My frequent healthy whole grain meal is steel cut oats for breakfast with cinnamon, banana and almond milk. Yum. And I just saw a recipe for eggnog oatmeal that seems like a delicious treat for the season.

  9. Quinoa is my favorite grain…as a vegan, I love it as a protein source and it works well in lots of dishes. My favorite is pretty simple though, just combined with chickpeas, lentils, portobellos, grated ginger and soy sauce, a few spices and there you have it, a yummy casserole. I’m clueless what to do with most other grains though and would like to learn more. This book looks fabulous!

  10. Wow – what a GREAT recipe! The way I’m incorporating grains in my life is I’ve recently discovered the joys of Quinoa! So I’m super excited to see this recipe and thanks for introducing me to this cookbook! Thanks for the giveaway and best of luck to everyone!

  11. I have been attempting to incorporate more grains by using quinoa but my repetoire is pretty slim: quinoa-stuffed peppers and a mixture of quinoa and whatever vegetables are to hand.

  12. I love making quinoa and changing up what I add to it based on the seasons or what I have on hand….I’ve also been experimenting with different flours in my baking like rye and buckwheat, so I would love to win this cookbook!

  13. I’m always looking for new quinoa recipes so thanks for this! I toss ground flax seeds in just about anything, but my new winter fave is warm lentil salad with sauteed radicchio, garlic, herbs, and Champagne vinaigrette. If you buy a sprouted lentil mix it cuts your prep time down to about 6 mins, then drain and toss in the pan with your sauteed goodies.

  14. I use bulgur, quinoa, and/or faro in my pilafs and stuffings. And barley goes into most of my soups. I’ve never used wheat berries and would love some good recipes to experiment with. Thanks for offering the cookbook giveaway!

  15. Quinoa is my favorite grain. I have used it to replace oatmeal for breakfast, rice, and recently I added it to my vegetarian chili.

  16. Thanks for the recipe! I would love to experiment with more *ancient* grains. My favourite way of incorporating whole grains into my diet right now is just baking with whole wheat flour – most people say to only substitute up to 1/2, but I usually just use all whole wheat flour in my baking (with some exceptions) without any trouble!

  17. i love to make our work potluck meals with whole grains. i love quinoa and usually will make a salad or side dish with the grain (with a whole grain homemade bread on the side). most people will skip dessert to go back for seconds of my goodies. i love quinoa and curry the most. both delicious cold or warm. ok, i just got hungry writing this now…

  18. I was first introduced to quinoa during my ayurvedic studies in northern California and I’ve been hooked ever since. The crunchy little power-packed protein is a deceiving side dish… usually outshining the entree! I made it the other evening and added cardamon and cinnamon (for a little added depth) a perfect little resting place for the steamed collard greens and chard (with garlic and olive oil) a side of raw kale tossed with garlic & olive oil completed the meal.

    I’ve been experimenting with barley… giving it a promotion from breakfast to dinner and I’m finding it to be quite a lovely “meaty” texture for any winter-time dish 🙂

  19. i like to put a couple tablespoons of oatmeal in my smoothies…brown rice mixed into my salad…and standard oatmeal for breakfast!

    i would love to give this book to my dad and stepmom who are just beginning their journey to a plant based diet


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