Craving carbs during Passover? Check out quinoa

n Many kosher chefs
are turning to quinoa
for pilafs, breakfast cereals, salads and desserts.
The Associated Press
NEW YORK – Passover can leave Jews hankering for a carb fix.
That’s because during this eight-day celebration marking the ancient Israelites’ liberation from slavery, many Jews abstain from grains, including most wheat, barley, rye, spelt and oats, as well as rice, most other grains, corn and legumes.
Which is one reason more Jews are embracing a newly popular (yet quite ancient) grain-like product – quinoa, a nutrient- and protein-rich and increasingly popular food first cultivated thousands of years ago by the Incas of South America.
“On Passover the No. 1 thing you’re really missing is grains, and quinoa is such a great substitute,” explains Susie Fishbein, whose “Passover by Design” cookbook includes several quinoa recipes.
While technically a seed, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) takes on a grain-like consistency when cooked, and also can be ground into flour. It’s been a mainstay of the natural foods world for a while, but now is catching on in the mainstream.
“The fact that you almost never hear people calling it ‘kin-owa’ anymore says something” about its emergence onto the American food scene, says Cynthia Harriman, director of Food and Nutrition Strategies for the Whole Grains Council.
According to Harriman, quinoa flour is an increasingly common ingredient in processed foods. And ConAgra Foods recently unveiled a line of quinoa flour. It’s also a popular wheat alternative with those who can’t eat gluten.
Sales of quinoa have grown more than tenfold since 2003 for Bob’s Red Mill, a Milwaukie, Ore.-based grains company.
Lorna Sass, author of the cookbook “Whole Grains for Busy People,” praises quinoa for being both easy (her basic preparation, in which she boils it like pasta in a large pot of water, takes about 15 minutes) and versatile.
“You can use it every which way,” she says. “One day I’ll make it Southwest style. Another day Mediterranean or Middle Eastern.”
Echoing Sass, kosher cookbook author Fishbein calls quinoa a “blank canvas for almost any flavor you want to add.” Many kosher chefs are turning to quinoa for pilafs, breakfast cereals, salads and desserts.
Despite its growing popularity, quinoa is not universally accepted as kosher for Passover in Orthodox Jewish circles.
Star-K, the Chicago Rabbinical Council and several other U.S.-based kosher supervising agencies, have come out with statements in the past decade approving use of quinoa, with the caveat that it be processed on separate equipment from other grains.
However, the Orthodox Union – the largest kosher certifying agency in the world – takes no position on quinoa, posting on its Web site that “there is a difference of opinion among Rabbinic decisors” and that “we suggest asking your local Orthodox rabbi.”
In Israel, most Orthodox Ashkenazi rabbis – including Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliashiv, a widely revered authority among ultra-Orthodox Jews – argue that quinoa falls into the same category as legumes and corn, and should be avoided.
That hasn’t stopped Jeffrey Nathan, executive chef of Abigael’s, a kosher restaurant in New York, from serving quinoa for Passover, his busiest time.
“Any recipe I would use rice in, I put quinoa in,” Nathan says, adding that he finds it works well in risotto, soups and salads like tabbouleh as well.
Every year, new kosher-for-Passover foods that aim to mimic the flavor and mouth feel of wheat pasta and bread appear on the market. Nathan is dismissive of most. But he puts quinoa in a radically different category.
“It’s not faking it,” he explains. “Quinoa I use all year round, so why not take advantage of it for Passover?”
Quinoa Timbales with Grapefruit Vinaigrette
French for “thimble,” a timbale generally is prepared in a small mold, in this case 4-ounce ramekins. While many timbales are quiche-like, heavy on the eggs and cheese, these are light, with the quinoa providing plenty of protein.
This nutritious yet satisfying appetizer for Passover will be particularly welcomed by vegetarians, who face additional culinary hurdles during a holiday in which grains and legumes are not consumed.
n Start to finish: 30 minutes
n Servings: 8
For the timbales:
12-ounce box quinoa, prepared according to package directions
2 tablespoons margarine
1 small zucchini, finely diced
1 small carrot, peeled, finely diced
1 small yellow squash, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 to 4 cucumbers (8 to 10 inches each), peeled
Olive oil
For the vinaigrette:
1 grapefruit, halved
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
While the quinoa cooks, in a large skillet over medium, melt the margarine. Add the zucchini, carrot and squash. Saute until soft, about 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic powder, ginger, salt and pepper.
Once the quinoa has cooked, drain it and add to the vegetables. Toss to mix, then set aside.
Using a mandoline or vegetable peeler, cut the cucumbers lengthwise into 32 thin strips.
Brush eight 4-ounce ramekins with olive oil. Arrange a double layer (about 4 slices) of cucumber slices around the inside of each ramekin. Pack 1/2 cup of the quinoa mixture into the center of each ramekin. Set aside.
To prepare the vinaigrette, squeeze the juice from half of the grapefruit. Cut the other half into segments.
In a small bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons of the juice, the olive oil, salt and pepper.
Place an overturned serving plate on top of each ramekin and invert. Carefully remove the ramekins, then drizzle each timbale with a bit of the vinaigrette. Garnish each with grapefruit segments.
(Recipe adapted from Susie Fishbein’s “Passover By Design,” ArtScroll, 2008)
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 262 calories; 79 calories from fat; 9 g fat (1 g saturated; 1 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 39 g carbohydrate; 8 g protein; 5 g fiber; 190 mg sodium.
Quinoa Banana Pudding with Dried Mango
With flour and most leavening agents taboo at Passover, dessert can be a challenge. This luscious pudding offers a light ending and is a perfect complement to traditional Passover macaroons. Stirring mashed banana in at the end gives it creaminess.
n Start to finish: 30 minutes
n Servings: 6 to 8
11/2 cups uncooked quinoa
21/2 cups water
131/2-ounce can coconut milk
1/4 cup sugar, plus more to taste
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup dried mango slices, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 packed teaspoon grated fresh ginger, plus more to taste
2 large ripe bananas
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
Place the quinoa in a large bowl and cover with cool water. Stir the quinoa with your hand, then drain in a mesh strainer.
In a 3-quart saucepan over medium-high, combine the quinoa and 21/2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to simmer and cook until the water is absorbed, about 12 to 15 minutes.
Uncover the pan and add the coconut milk, sugar and salt. Simmer gently, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
Add the mango and ginger. Continue cooking until the mixture thickens to a pudding consistency and the mango is soft but still chewy, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Slice half a banana into thin rounds and set aside. Mash the remaining 11/2 bananas and stir into the pudding. Add more sugar, if needed, then stir in the walnuts. Serve in individual ramekins. Garnish with the reserved banana slices.
(Recipe from Lorna Sass’ “Whole Grains for Busy People,” Clarkson Potter, 2009)
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 330 calories; 152 calories from fat; 17 g fat (10 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 42 g carbohydrate; 7 g protein; 4 g fiber; 166 mg sodium.

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