quinoa and a fork
Try quinoa this Purim. (Photo/Wikimedia Commons user Vi..Cult... CC BY-SA 3.0)

Pleasing Esther the queen with quinoa, king of proteins

If only the trade route in Queen Esther’s time had hit Peru before porting near King Ahasuerus’ palace. If it had, Esther might have benefitted from quinoa.

Quinoa is native to Peru; it is a complete protein and the only grain that has all eight amino acids. You can see how delighted Queen Esther would have been with this news as she pursued a vegan diet in a nonkosher dining environment.

The story has it that Esther ate legumes, grains and seeds while living under the king’s roof. She probably had to work pretty hard to identify sources of protein in the meat-heavy feast culture, and as a full-time quinoa appreciator, I can’t help but feel she would have loved it.

These days quinoa is big in our house, where my older daughter, now 8, continues to dig into her identity as a chicken-nugget, hot-dog consuming vegetarian. Quinoa can so easily be passed off as rice or pasta, and it removes the drama from many of our family meals featuring unfavored forms of chicken or beef. So in honor of my children, and Queen Esther, enjoy this simple quinoa recipe, served with the kosher Caramelized Onion Chicken Stew and a side of green beans. Happy Purim!

For Caramelized Onion Chicken Stew

Serves 4

¼ cup olive oil
3 cups yellow onion, sliced
1½ Tbs. garlic, roughly chopped
1½ tsp. garam masala
1½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
¼ cup flour
¾ cup white wine
1 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves
½ tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. lemon juice

Heat olive oil in a French oven or heavy-bottomed stew pot with tight-fitting lid. Add onions and cook over medium-low heat 10-12 minutes until golden and brown at edges. Add garlic and garam masala. Cook 1 minute till fragrant.

Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Toss in flour, shake off excess. Add flour-coated chicken to onions in pan. Add white wine and thyme leaves. Simmer over low heat, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove cover, stir, turn heat to medium and simmer 10-15 more minutes until cooked through. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

Green Beans with Shallots and Garam Masala

Serves 4

2 lbs. green beans, trimmed
¼ cup shallot, minced
¼ cup slivered almonds
2 Tbs. olive oil
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. garam masala
Freshly ground black pepper
½ lemon

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. On a large, rimmed baking sheet, toss together green beans, shallot, almonds, olive oil, salt, garam masala and black pepper. Roast in preheated oven 12 minutes. Squeeze lemon over green beans and serve.

Queen Esther’s Quinoa with Golden Raisins

Serves 4

2 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. shallots, minced
1 tsp. garlic, minced
1½ cups quinoa
2¾ cups chicken stock
2 Tbs. golden raisins
½ tsp. salt
2 Tbs. flat leaf parsley, minced

Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot with tight-fitting lid. Add shallots and garlic and sauté 30 seconds. Add quinoa and sauté 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add chicken stock, raisins and salt. Cover pot with lid and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Remove lid to evaporate last liquid. Stir in parsley and serve.

Josie A.G. Shapiro

Josie A.G. Shapiro won the 2013 Man-O-Manischewitz Cookoff and is the co-author of “The Lazy Gourmet.”