A Grain? Not a Grain!

If your passion for potatoes during Passover has become passé, I have good news for you. Quinoa (Ki-no-ah), the grain that really isn't a grain, has been deemed kosher-for-Passover. This fact was brought to my attention by one of my students during a Passover cooking class that I taught some weeks ago.

Having used quinoa in all sorts of dishes as a delicious alternative to rice or couscous, I really got excited by this revelation. The next morning, I logged on to www.kashrut.com, my reliable source for all "kosher" questions, and indeed, quinoa has been declared kosher since 1996, when Rabbi Aaron Tendler of Yeshiva Ner Israel brought a box of the stuff to a rabbinical judge at the Eidah Hachareidus in Israel.

The result was that quinoa is not related to the proscribed five types of grain, millet or rice. Another source (Grains, Rice and Beans by Kevin Graham) has quinoa related to the spinach and beet family; therefore, it is not considered a grain.

Known as a "super grain" these days and a "mother grain" in Incan society, it boasts other botanical roots. Quinoa is high in protein and iron, and low in carbs. Its slightly sweet, nutty flavor marries well with vegetables, chicken, beef and herbs. (Inhale the intoxicating aroma while it's cooking.) Use it for salad, as a pilaf or stuffing, or in soups for something different at Passover or all year round.

Caution: Unless you rinse quinoa in a strainer under cold running water, it can turn out very bitter.

Basic Quinoa


2 cups water or vegetable stock
pinch salt
1 cup quinoa

Place quinoa in a strainer.

Rinse under cold water for 2 minutes. Bring water and salt to a boil.

Add the quinoa and simmer, covered, about 12 minutes, or until water is absorbed.

Fluff with a fork.

Makes about 3 cups.


Quinoa Pilaf


2 Tbsps. oil
2 celery stalks, minced
8 oz. mushrooms, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup currants or raisins, soaked in hot water for 15 minutes and drained
2 cups leftover cooked chicken, turkey or brisket, diced (optional)
1 recipe basic quinoa

In a large skillet, sauté the onions, celery and mushrooms.

Stir in quinoa and raisins.

Add leftover poultry or beef, if using.

Taste for salt and pepper.

Sprinkle with parsley.

Serves 4 to 6.


Tomatoes Stuffed With Quinoa


8 ripe, but not soft, tomatoes
salt and pepper
2 cups cooked quinoa
2 green onions, chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup pitted black olives, chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 cup crumbled feta or goat cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400°.

Cut a 1/4-inch slice from the blossom end of the tomatoes. With a teaspoon, scoop out seeds and discard.

Sprinkle inside of tomatoes with salt and pepper, and turn upside-down on a sheet of paper towel to drain, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine remaining ingredients, except Parmesan cheese. Fill tomatoes with quinoa mixture. Sprinkle each with Parmesan cheese.

Place on a pregreased baking sheet. Bake about 12 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 8.


Zucchini Basil Soup With Quinoa


2 Tbsps. olive oil
2 leeks, white part only, chopped
4 zucchini, coarsely chopped
4 Tbsps. chopped basil leaves
pinch red pepper
4-5 cups vegetable stock
salt and pepper
2 cups cooked quinoa

In a medium saucepan, heat oil. Stir in the leeks and cook until slightly softened.

Add zucchini, 2 tablespoons of basil, the red-pepper flakes and the stock. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.

Cook, partially covered, for 15 minutes.

Remove about 2 cups of the soup mixture to a food processor or blender, and purée.

Return the mixture back to the original pot.

Taste for salt and pepper.

Stir in the quinoa.

Serve sprinkled with the remaining basil.

Serves 6.

Louise Fiszer is a California cooking teacher and food writer. Among the six books she's co-authored is Jewish Holiday Feasts.



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