Vegetarians, and especially vegans, need some high-protein 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 (such as farfel) in their carbohydrate options.
Enter quinoa. In December 2013, the Orthodox Union announced that quinoa will now be certified as kosher for Passover (provided it has been processed with specific supervision for the holiday). Quinoa is delicious, texturally interesting and compatible with enough other ingredients to give it a wonderful range on your seder table. Here are a few savory quinoa dishes that celebrate Passover and spring in general.
Quinoa Pilaf with Asparagus and Leeks
Enjoy this pilaf plain as a side dish or heap it into grilled portobello mushrooms to serve as an entrée. 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. Same with the mushrooms. The best way to clean leeks is to cut them first (in this case, 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 1/2 cups water
1 Tbs. 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
4 oz. feta cheese, diced
6 4-inch portobello mushrooms, prepared for stuffing (optional, see below)
Combine quinoa and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower 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 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, 1⁄4 tsp. of the salt, and cook, 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 tsp. salt and a generous amount of 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.
To prepare mushrooms for stuffing, here is a way of cooking portobellos that greatly firms them up and condenses their flavor, getting them ready to stuff — or to enjoy plain. 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 5-10 more minutes on their cap side once again.
Green Onion Quinoa Cakes
Serves 4-5 (about 10 cakes)
These are wonderful as a breakfast or brunch entrée, topped with salsa or with strips of roasted red pepper (you can use some from a jar, for convenience, 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, covered, in the refrigerator. No need to bring it to room temperature before frying.
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2cups water
4 scallions, very finely minced (whites and reasonable greens)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs, beaten
butter for the pan
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 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.
Speckled Quinoa Salad
Serves 5 or more
1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1 to 2 finely minced scallions
1 handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely minced
1/2 medium-size apple, chopped small
1 medium-size carrot, minced
1/2 medium-size red bell pepper, minced
1 handful of currants
1/2 tsp. salt (to taste)
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. light-colored honey
1 handful of almonds, chopped and lightly toasted
sliced or minced radishes (optional)
finely minced red onion (optional)
finely minced celery and/or
fennel bulb (optional)
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 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-size bowl.
Add the vegetables and fruits, 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.