Now, I love overcooked Jewish food as much as any good Jew. I look forward to Passover seders full of Eastern European food that my family has made for generations: brisket, turkey, gefilte fish, kugel, tzimmes. But I have to admit that after a few days of all that heavy stuff, I’m ready for some lighter fare for the rest of Passover, an eight-day holiday.
Quinoa has been a more recent addition to our Passover repertoire. Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is an ancient South American grain that’s high in protein and nutrition. Grown in the Andes mountains in South America, quinoa bears no relation to chametz grains (wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt), making quinoa kosher for Passover and gluten-free.
Ancient Harvest says that its quinoa is grown in the high Andean Altiplano regions of Bolivia at 12,000+ foot elevations where the arid conditions will not support traditional gluten-bearing grain production. So there’s no possibility of cross-contamination in the fields.
The ancient Incas revered quinoa as sacred. It’s not only high in protein, calcium and iron, but it’s a complete protein, since it contains all eight essential amino acids.
I make the following gluten-free Colorful Quinoa Salad during the year, but it can also be a refreshing addition to a Passover table. Chock full of healthy quinoa and antioxidant-rich veggies, fruit and nuts, it’s particularly good to pull out for a brunch buffet, since you can make it in advance and serve it at room temperature. The recipe is adapted from “Let’s Dish,” a cookbook from my kids’ school.
Colorful Quinoa Salad
(gluten-free, pareve, Passover)
- 1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
3/4 cup pecans, chopped
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup cucumber, seeded and diced
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1 stalk green onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon rice-wine vinegar (or balsamic vinegar during Passover)
1 teaspoon sesame oil (omit for Passover)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1. Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh sieve under cold running water to remove the grain’s bitter coating. (You can skip rinsing if the quinoa is prewashed.) Place quinoa and 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until all the water is absorbed (about 15 minutes). Spread out cooked quinoa on a plate to cool.
2. Spread pecans in an ungreased pan and bake in a preheated 250-degree oven for 3 to 5 minutes, or until fragrant. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine cranberries, tomatoes, cucumber, cilantro and green onions. Add pecans and mix. Add cooled quinoa and stir to combine.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, sesame oil (optional), lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pour this dressing over quinoa mixture.
5. Let sit for one hour before serving to allow quinoa to absorb flavors. Serve at room temperature. Can be made one day ahead and kept refrigerated overnight.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings