Don’t Pass Over Quinoa

The beauty (and exquisite torture) of many Jewish holidays like Passover is that they’re not just one-day affairs, but week-long “celebrations.” When those particular events carry dietary restrictions as well, it can add up to an extra load of work simply planning out a standard set of meals, beyond the mandated festive meal with family.

Serving dish provided by Steelite

While this offering of quinoa, a pseudo-grain that just barely escapes the label of kitniyot, may come a bit late for your seder, it will be a delicious respite from dry boards of matzo in the days to come. Gently caramelized and naturally sweet onions carry this dish of hearty cooked quinoa, roasted gold beets, and nutty toasted pistachios. Redolent of cumin and bright, fresh herbs, the flavors could be suitable for either a formal dinner or a spur of the moment picnic, easily enjoyed both hot and cold. Tender beets yield to a satisfying crunch of nuts, creating a textural harmony throughout. I used an attractive blend of white, black, and red quinoa from Trader Joe’s for added eye-appeal, but of course, any one color would taste just as good.

Pistachio-Quinoa Pilaf

2 Medium Gold Beets (About 2 Cups Diced)
1 Cup Uncooked Quinoa
2 Cups Water
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil, Divided
1 Medium Yellow Onion (About 1 1/4 Cups Chopped)
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
1/4 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Pinch Cayenne Pepper
1/4 Cup Packed Fresh Parsley, Chopped
1 Tablespoon Packed Fresh Mint, Finely Minced
1/2 Cup Shelled and Toasted Pistachios

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and wrap your beets in aluminum foil so that they’re completely covered. Place them in the oven, and allow them to bake, much like you would for a baked potato, for 60 – 75 minutes, depending on the size of the beets. When the beets are done, they should yield easily to a knife, if not be quite fork-tender. Let rest until cool enough to handle, and then peel and dice. Measure out 2 cups of diced beets, and set aside.

While the beets are roasting, you can save some time and get started on the quinoa. Bring the water to a boil in a medium sized saucepan, and then add in the dry quinoa. After the water returns to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and let simmer for about 15 minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed. Leave the quinoa covered and let rest for at least 15 additional minutes, so that it can steam a bit and fully hydrate. Transfer the quinoa to a large bowl and toss lightly with the chopped beets.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat, and add in the chopped onion. When it begins to sizzle lively, turn down the heat to medium-low or low, depending on how hot your stove runs. You want to cook the onions very gently so that they don’t brown around the edges and char, but slowly soften and caramelize. This process can take 30 – 40 minutes, so be patient, and continue to stir periodically. Add in the salt after the first 10 minutes, and be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan thoroughly to prevent pieces from sticking and burning. The onions should take on an amber brown color and a become highly aromatic. Incorporate the balsamic vinegar and add the onions into quinoa mixture, along with the remaining tablespoon of oil.

Finally, sprinkle in all of the spices, chopped herbs, and pistachios right before serving. Stir well to distribute evenly. Serve either warm, or refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to 5 days, and serve chilled.

Makes About 3 Main Dish Servings; 6 Side Dish Servings

Printable Recipe


19 thoughts on “Don’t Pass Over Quinoa

  1. Quinoa is on my Seder menu tonight — stuffed into green peppers and baked. It will even have pistachios, though just about everything else is different. If I’d seen your recipe before devising mine, I probably would have used it … though possibly subbing carrots for beets. :)

  2. I am currently studying for my English translation dissertation, and the subject I decided to work on is the translation of puns in two Rushdie’s book – and when I read the title of your article it put a big smile on my face, just reminding me that puns are everywhere ! Nice job on this one.

    I have some Jewish family, and I know that lent and passover are somewhat of a big period, because of the rules one has to follow.
    I am not enough aware of what you can and cannot eat though.

    This recipe looks really yummy and filling too, because as you cannot have some legumes during passover, sometimes it must be hard to feel full enough after a meal. I am literally in love with pistachio. I am not that familiar with quinoa, although it is pretty common, I never really took the time to cook it so as to add to it some nice flavors. This pilaf version is surely a great idea.
    And I discover a new vegetable golden beet !

    1. Oh believe me, I am just full of (usually terrible) puns! I tend to joke that it’s genetic, since it seems to be something that my whole family does. I’m glad you picked up on that one, though- I can see that your class is paying off! ;)

  3. Gorgeous quinoa! Instead of beets I might throw in some roasted butternut squash though :) Have a few left over from winter storage, time to use ’em up! I hope you have a wonderful Passover!

  4. I love quinoa! I am not a huge fan of beets but this could make me like them. I am doing a quinoa & black bean salad for Easter dinner so I will have some thing to eat. But this recipe is now on my to make list!

  5. I just tried making quinoa for the first time last month and was looking for some new recipes and this one sounds lovely with the beets and pistachios. This one is surely not to be passed over. Take care, BAM

  6. It’s definitely funny to look back on the days when eating no meat on Fridays during Lent was hard…when I never eat meat on ANY day now. But I really can’t imagine going more than one day without anything leavened. This quinoa dish would make it infinitely more bearable!

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