Quinoas the hot grain that isnt &mdash and its kosher for Pesach, too

If your passion for potatoes during Passover is passé, I have some good news for you. Quinoa — the grain that isn’t a grain — has been deemed kosher l’Pesach. This fact was brought to my attention by one of my students during a Passover cooking class 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 Kashrut.com — my reliable source for all “kosher” questions — and indeed it has been deemed so since 1996. That’s when Rabbi Aaron Tendler of Yeshiva Ner Israel brought a box of quinoa to a rabbinical judge at the Eidah Hachareidus in Israel, who said 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, and therefore not considered a grain.

Although known as a supergrain today and a mothergrain in Incan society, it isn’t botanically a grain. It 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, nutlike aroma while it’s cooking.) Use it as a salad, pilaf or stuffing, or in soups for something different on your Passover or all-year-round menu.

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

Basic Quinoa | Makes about 3 cups

2 cups of water or stock
pinch salt
1 cup quinoa

Place quinoa in a strainer and rinse under cold water for a minute or two.

Bring water and salt to a boil. Add quinoa, simmer covered about 12 minutes or until water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork.

Quinoa Pilaf | Serves 4 to 6

3 Tbs. oil
2 celery stalks, minced
8 oz. mushrooms, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 recipe basic quinoa

1/2 cup currants or raisins, soaked in hot water 15 minutes and drained

2 cups cooked chicken, turkey or brisket, diced (optional)

In a large skillet sauté onions, celery and mushrooms. Stir in quinoa and raisins. Add poultry or beef if using. Taste for salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley.

Tomatoes Stuffed with Quinoa | Serves 8

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
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 cup crumbled feta or goat cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut a 1/4-inch slice from blossom end of 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 greased baking sheet and bake about 12 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Serve warm or room temperature.

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Rebecca Ets-Hokin. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to the Bulletin or to [email protected].