Thursday, July 24, 2014 Tammuz 26, 5774

Quinoa’s a Keeper

March 26, 2014 By:
Mollie Katzen, JNS.org
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Green Onion-Quinoa Cakes

Vegetarians, and especially vegans, need some high-protein plant food with a bit of heft to keep them going during Passover, especially if observing the Ashkenazi tradition that forbids eating kitniyot — a category that includes legumes, most grains and some seeds.

Meat-eaters also might want to break the monotony of potatoes, matzah or matzah affiliates (farfel) in their carbohydrate options. 

Enter quinoa — the tiny, ancient, highly nutritious grain originally from Peru — to address the need. In December 2013, the Orthodox Union (OU) announced that quinoa will now be certified as kosher for Passover. Quinoa is delicious, texturally interesting and compatible with enough other ingredients to give it a wonderful range on your Passover seder table.

Here are three savory quinoa dishes that celebrate not only Passover itself, but the spring season in general:

Quinoa Pilaf with Asparagus and Leeks
Enjoy this springy pilaf plain as a side dish, or heap it onto grilled portobello mushrooms for more of an entrée. It’s healthy, easy and delicious. The pilaf keeps well in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to five days and reheats easily in a microwave or on the stovetop, as do the mushrooms. The best way to clean leeks is to cut them first (in this case, in very thin circles) and then submerge them in a bowl of cold water. Swish them around, then lift them out  and into a colander. Change the water and repeat, then spin and/or pat dry.
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 and 1⁄2 cups water
1 Tbsp. olive oil (plus extra to taste)
1 heaping cup very thin leek rings (1 medium leek), cleaned and dried
1 tsp. minced or crushed garlic
1⁄2 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1⁄2 tsp. salt 
black pepper
4 oz. feta cheese, cut into tiny dice
6 4-inch Portobello mushrooms (optional), prepared for stuffing (see below)

Combine the quinoa and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to the slowest possible simmer, cover and cook (with a heat diffuser, if available, inserted underneath) until the grains are tender — 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove from the heat and fluff with a fork to let steam escape. Set aside.

Place a large, deep skillet over medium heat and wait about a minute, then add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Toss in the leek rings and sauté for about 5 minutes.

When the leek is very soft, add the garlic, asparagus and 1⁄4-teaspoon of the salt, stirring often, until the asparagus is just tender — about 5 minutes, depending on its thickness.

Fork in the cooked, fluffed quinoa and stir to combine, add­ing the remaining 1⁄4-teaspoon salt and a generous amount of black pepper as you go. Stir in the feta as well. If the mixture seems dry, you can drizzle in a little extra olive oil. Serve hot or warm, plain or stuffed into mushrooms.

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms: Remove the mushroom stems and wipe the caps clean with a damp paper towel. Place a heavy skillet over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add a little olive oil, wait about 30 seconds, then swirl to coat the pan.

Place the mushrooms cap-side down in the hot oil, and let them cook undisturbed for about 10 minutes. Turn them over and cook on the other side for 10 minutes, then flip them over one more time, to cook for about 5 to 10 more minutes on their cap side once again.

Serves 6.

Green Onion-Quinoa Cakes
These appealing and tasty disks are crisp on the outside and fork-tender throughout. They’re wonderful as a breakfast or brunch entrée, topped with salsa or with strips of roasted red pepper (okay to use some from a jar if it complies with your kashrut). This is also a fun side dish or appetizer. You can make the batter and even form the cakes up to two days ahead of time, and store it  — covered — in the refrigerator. No need to bring it to room temperature before frying.
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 and 1⁄2 cups water 
4 scallions, very finely minced (whites and reasonable greens)
1⁄2 tsp. salt
black pepper 
2 large eggs, beaten
butter for the pan
nonstick spray 

Combine the quinoa and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to the slowest possible simmer, cover and cook (with a heat diffuser, if available, inserted underneath) until the grains are tender — 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove from the heat and fluff with a fork to let steam escape. Add the scallions, salt, pepper and beaten eggs, and stir well to combine. (It’s fine if the quinoa is still hot.) 

Meanwhile, melt some butter in a heavy skillet over medium-low and swirl to coat the pan. Lightly spray a 1⁄4-cup measure (ideally, one with a handle) with nonstick spray, and use it to scoop the batter, evening off the top with a knife, to form neat cakes. Shake the formed batter into the pan and cook on both sides until golden and crisp.

Depending on your pan and your stove, this will take approximately 5 minutes (or perhaps a little longer) per side. Serve hot or warm.

Serves 4 to 5 (about 10 cakes) using 1⁄4-cup measure to scoop the batter.

Speckled Quinoa Salad
Fluffy quinoa combines beautifully with an assortment of colorful vegetables, apples, currants and almonds to make a bright lunch salad laced with olive oil, lemon and honey. The contrasting textures are fun and refreshing — and the palette becomes even more interesting if you use red quinoa. Roasted almond oil can swap in for some or all of the olive oil. You can add more vegetables, if you like.
1 cup quinoa
1⁄2 cup water
1-2 finely minced scallions (whites and reasonable greens)
handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely minced
1⁄2 medium-sized apple, chopped small
1 medium-sized carrot, minced
1⁄2 medium-sized red bell pepper, minced
handful of currants
1⁄2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
3 Tbsps. olive oil 
2 Tbsps. fresh lemon juice
2 tsps. light-colored honey
handful of almonds, chopped and lightly toasted
optional ingredients: sliced or minced radishes, finely minced red onion, finely minced celery and or fennel bulb

Combine the quinoa and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to the slowest possible simmer, cover and cook (with a heat diffuser, if available, inserted underneath) until the grains are tender — 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove from the heat and fluff with a fork to let steam escape, then let it cool to room temperature. Continue to fluff as it cools, to assure the grains stay separate. Transfer the cooled quinoa to a medium-sized bowl. 

Add the vegetables and currants, and stir to combine, sprinkling with the salt as you go. In a separate small bowl combine the olive oil, lemon juice and honey, and whisk to blend. Pour this into the quinoa and vegetables, mixing to thoroughly combine.

Serve at room temperature, or cover, chill, and serve cold. Stir in the almonds shortly before serving.

Serves 5.

Mollie Katzen is listed by the New York Times as one of the best-selling cookbook authors of all time and has been named by Health Magazine as one of The Five Women Who Changed the Way We Eat. Her most recent book is The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation.

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