Quinoa is known in many Ashkenazic Jewish households for one reason: Pesach. The healthy, sort-of-grain plant is actually a seed, and it is neither chametz (leavened) nor kitniyot (grains and legumes – including rice, peas and beans), meaning they can be used on the food-challenged holiday (according to most rabbis).
But treating quinoa as a Pesach-only food would deprive you of the joys of this nutty, quick-cooking and slightly chewy dish year-round. The not-really grain is a wonderful change to rice, barley and pasta on your dinner plate. Toasting the quinoa grains before cooking them adds extra flavor to your dish, and brings out its nutty, rich taste.
Many commercially packaged brands of quinoa arrive pre-washed: but check the box first – if it hasn’t been rinsed, you need to do it yourself to remove the naturally bitter chemical on the outside. Use a very-fine mesh strainer, or drain them through a coffee filter or paper towel to avoid losing any grains.
Quinoa with Raisins and Toasted Pine Nuts – Serves 4
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 ¾ cups water or broth
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
salt and pepper
Place the quinoa in a saucepan or skillet. Toast over medium high, stirring or tossing every couple minutes, for 8 to 10 minutes, until browned. You may hear the occasional “popping” grain.
Add in the broth or water, and bring to a boil. Simmer the quinoa, covered, for 10 to 12 minutes, until most of the water is absorbed. Remove from the heat and let sit for 2 minutes.
Meanwhile place the raisins in a small bowl, and bring ½ cup of water almost to a boil.
Pour it over the raisins, and let them sit.
Place the pine nuts in a saucepan or skillet and toast them over medium-high heat, tossing and stirring regularly, until they are browned. Remove them from the pan. Add the olive oil, and heat up for a couple minutes. Mince or press the garlic cloves, and add them to the hot oil, cooking for several minutes to infuse the flavor.
Fluff the quinoa with a fork, and transfer to a large bowl. Drain the raisins and add them, plus the pine nuts, olive oil and garlic, and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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