Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is no longer considered the superfood of the future, it is the superfood of today, especially during Passover! Quinoa, which is grown high in the Andes Mountains in South America, looks and acts just like a grain. However, it is more closely related to beets and spinach, than to wheat, rice or barley. Quinoa was first introduced to the US in the 1980's, but it was only deemed kosher for Passover in 1999, when Rabbi Shmuel Heineman (Star-K) discovered that it is neither chametz nor kitniyot. Star-K tested it to see if it would rise and found that it decayed instead. It also does not grow in the vicinity of chametz and its growth does not resemble kitniyot.
Concerns have been raised about whether quinoa may come into contact with kitniyot or chametz during the packaging process. However, whole grain quinoa sold under the Ancient Harvest and Trader Joe brand names, bearing the Star-K kosher certification, are produced in plants which do not package chametz grains, and are considered suitable for Pesach use (this does not apply to the quinoa flour or flakes). However, please consult your Rabbi before using quinoa on Passover.
Quinoa is extremely nutritious. It is one of the few non-meat foods that is a complete protein, providing your body with all of the essential amino acids – fulfilling an important nutritional need for vegetarians. Quinoa is also low in sugar and high in fiber.
Quinoa can be used in most recipes the very same way as couscous or bulgur. When using quinoa, make sure to rinse it first or it will taste bitter when cooked. It is very versatile and can be used in many ways, from a nourishing hot breakfast cereal, a side dish that is a perfect accompaniment to poultry.
Here are a few recipes to help get you started experimenting with this superfood and please share your favorite quinoa recipes with us!