This Monday marks the start of Passover, the Jewish celebration commemorating the freedom of the Jews from slavery in ancient Egypt. There are many symbols of the festival but none is better known than matzo. In their haste to flee Egypt, the Jews could not wait for their bread to rise and thus, unleavened bread was eaten. And to this day, this unleavened bread, matzo is an integral part of Passover.
Matzo varieties used to be limited to plain (refined wheat) and egg matzo. Between the refined grains and low water content, matzo left many with assorted GI complaints including constipation. Nowadays you can find whole wheat varieties with added bran, spelt and even gluten-free options.
For Sephardi Jews, those whose ancestors originated from Spain and fled following the Inquisition, dried peas and beans and other grains such as corn and rice are permitted, making for a much happier tummy.
And then quinoa came along. As it is not one of the five grains not permitted, it was a very welcome addition to the Passover menu. It offers a host of health perks including more than 5 grams of fiber per cooked cup – a solution for those who yearn for some fibre during Passover. It’s also packed with protein, a plus for vegetarians whose options at this time of year are limited.
As quinoa fields may be contaminated with barley, looking for kosher for Passover quinoa is a solution.
Here is one of my favourite quinoa dishes and actually prepared in the way I tasted it the very first time I had it – almost 20 years ago – alongside grilled tuna at a restaurant in South Beach. I had no idea what it was and when I asked and was given an answer, I still had no idea what the chef was talking about. My response: what’s quinoa?
Times have certainly changed! Enjoy the salad – it has become a Passover staple in our house.
Citrus Quinoa Salad
Makes 6-8 servings
1 cup quinoa
2 cups orange juice
1 cup diced cucumber
1 red pepper, diced
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons chopped mint
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon toasted slivered almonds
Using a sieve, rinse quinoa thoroughly with water. Combine quinoa and orange juice in a saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 12 to 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed; let cool.
Combine cooled quinoa with cucumber, red pepper, red onion, celery, carrot, cilantro, mint, and olive oil. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Garnish with slivered almonds.
Per serving nutritional information: Calories: 170; Protein: 4 grams; Fat: 7 grams; Saturated Fat: 1 gram; Carbohydrate: 23 grams; Dietary Fibre: 3 grams; Sodium: 180 mg
Do you have any favourite ways to prepare quinoa? Please share the comment section below.