Recently, at a photoshoot with some leading chefs for the February cover of
Menta magazine, the subject of quinoa came up, and all of them expressed such
contempt for the little grain that I was almost embarrassed for it. Still trendy
in celebrity chefs’ menus in America, quinoa began appearing on Israeli chefs’
menus several years ago as a token tribute to the burgeoning health-food
trend. But now it would seem, they are all quinoa’d out.
told, I was a little quinoa’d out myself lately – something I think had to do
with winter cuisine. In winter, I crave soft, comforting foods and grains, like
soups, stews, rice and barley, rather than the chewiness of the quinoa grain.
But that said, having just made a quinoa tabouli salad that received rave
reviews at a party, and with Passover around the corner, I have decided to give
it another chance.
Quinoa, an ancient food known as “the mother grain of
the Incas,” made aliya over a decade ago after Herzl Bibi, the legendary founder
and proprietor of the Nitzat Haduvdevan health-food chain, encountered quinoa on
vacation in Bolivia, and hearing of its amazing merits, decided to import it to
Little did he know that one day Israelis would consume more
quinoa per year than all of Europe combined.
Richer in protein and the
amino acid lysine than any other grain, quinoa is also very high in iron, and it
is an important source of calcium, zinc, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and
copper. Available in beige, black or reddish brown (the darkest shade is
the richest in minerals), or sometimes a mix, quinoa is not really a grain, but
a seed, recognized by American rabbinic authorities as kosher for Passover since
1999 – suggesting only that those who do not eat legumes (“kitniot”) on Passover
make sure to use previously unopened boxes of quinoa, which have not been
processed on machines that also process corn or rice.
So whether or not
you’ve ever tried quinoa – and even if you’re also quinoa’d out – why not give
this little seedgrain another chance. Quick-cooking quinoa is a superb base for
salads, a binder for vegetable or chicken patties, a filling for stuffed
vegetables, and a bed for savory toppings of all kinds.GEORGIAN-STYLE
STUFFED VEGETABLES AND PEARSMakes 8-12
(make half the recipe if desired)
original recipe calls for a combination of beef and rice. Here’s my vegetarian
take on it using quinoa. Use any leftover filling as a salad or side dish.
✔ 2 medium potatoes
✔ 1 medium eggplant
✔ 2 large tomatoes
✔ 1 large onion
✔ 3 medium bell peppers (use yellow, red, orange)
✔ 2 medium
almost-ripe pears Filling:
✔ 11⁄2 cups quinoa (preferably mixed colors)
✔ 1 cup each: finely chopped packed fresh coriander or basil and
✔ 1 large red onion, finely chopped
✔ 1 tsp. cinnamon
✔ 1 tsp. Baharat
(mixed spice) or allspice
✔ 2⁄3 cup finely chopped figs
✔ 2⁄3 cup finely chopped
✔ 1⁄2 cup currants
✔ 2⁄3 cup cup pan-toasted shelled walnuts or
✔ Salt and pepper to taste Sauce:
✔ 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
✔ 1 bay leaf
✔ 2 large cans whole tomatoes,
✔ 1 Tbsp. honey
✔ 2 cups water
✔ 1⁄2 cup dry red wine
✔ 1 tsp. dried
✔ 1 tsp. dried oregano
✔ 1⁄2 tsp. dried thyme
✔ 1⁄2 Tbsp. paprika
and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To prepare the vegetables for stuffing,
wash the potatoes and use a sharp knife to hollow out a large indentation,
leaving a rim. (Alternatively, potatoes may be halved like boats.) Cut the top
off the eggplant and hollow out the inside (or cut in half). Cut off a thin
slice from the top of the tomatoes and onion and scoop out the flesh (may be
added to the cooking sauce), leaving a firm rim to hold the stuffing. Slice
about a centimeter off the top of the onion, and hollow out a bowl-shaped
Cut a slice off the bottom so the onion will stand
Cut off the top and tail of the zucchini and cut into 3 pieces
each. Hollow out each piece leaving a rim. Sprinkle the zucchini with salt and
turn over on a rack to drain for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse and pat dry. Set all
the vegetables aside, cut side down.
Cut the top off the pears and use an
apple-corer to scoop out the insides, leaving enough at the base so the filling
will not escape (or cut in half, core and hollow-out only the
Pour quinoa into a pot with the water and bring to a
Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes (or follow directions
on package). Remove from heat and let stand, covered, till just barely warm.
Fluff with a fork.
Add the fresh herbs, onion, seasonings, dried fruit
and pistachios to the quinoa and mix well with a fork.
vegetables and pears with the mixture and replace the lids.Sauce
olive oil into a medium pot and sauté the onion 3-5 minutes until golden,
stirring often. Add garlic and sauté a few seconds. Add the rest of the
Bring to a boil and cook over low heat for 20
Remove cover and cook 10-15 minutes till just thickened. Taste
and adjust seasonings.
Pour one-third of the sauce in the bottom of a
large wide oven-proof pan and place the peppers standing up inside snugly (other
vegetables like carrots may be used around the sides of the pot to keep the
vegetables in place). Pour the remaining sauce around, cover and bake in a
pre-heated 180º oven for 45 minutes.
If the sauce is too thick, thin with
a little boiling water.