I’m not addicted to quinoa because it’s a health fad (though for good reason), but more reasonably, because it’s the fastest grain to cook and melds to whatever flavor one’s heart desires. Quinoa can be prepared in under 15 minutes, and is the perfect palette for creative, kitchen artistry. This pantry mainstay can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. My mouth explodes with delight every time I make my Lemon Coconut Quinoa Breakfast Bowl, my body feels energized with my fresh Strawberry, Mint and Quinoa Salad, my sorrows are comforted with a steaming bowl of Curried Potato and Quinoa Soup, and my sweet tooth is envious until it can sink into a Chocolate, Cardamom and Pistachio Cookie.
Until very recently, I felt that my relationship with quinoa was strong and complete, and that like a loving partner, I had explored and loved its many faces from dawn to dusk. Stubborn like stone if undercooked and messy with its white rings – like carelessly thrown socks – if overcooked. I had even researched The Truth About Quinoa and Shopping for Brands you Trust. But when Bobby came home from a work trip this summer and his biggest reported highlight was the quinoa risotto served from a tented kitchen on a mountaintop, he invited me to go deeper with quinoa. Now, I have really fallen in love.
Quinoa risotto, like most quinoa dishes, takes about a quarter of the time one would use for making a classic risotto (which I would never suggest forgetting from your repertoire). This is your best bet in a pinch and when you’re eager for a rich, impressive and nutritious dinner. You can add any vegetables, toasted nuts or seasoning to the risotto, making it your own to match your pantry and the seasons.
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- 1 delicata squash (sub with any squash or pumpkin)
- 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup onions, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons parsnip, diced (sub with carrot)
- 2 tablespoons celeriac, diced (sub with celery)
- 2 cups quinoa
- 4 cups stock
- 2 big handfuls arugula
- 1 cup Parmesan, grated, plus extra for garnish
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- roasted squash seeds
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Halve the squash and scoop out the seeds (save seeds for making roasted squash seeds).
- Place the squash flat side down on a baking dish. Add water until it reaches halfway up the squash. Bake until the flesh is fork tender, about 40 minutes. Remove the squash to a cutting board and let cool.
- Cut into cubes. (Optional: toss the squash cubes with olive oil, spread evenly on a baking sheet and return to the oven to caramelize for 10 minutes.) Set aside in a bowl.
- If using hard, dehydrated sun-dried tomatoes, add them to the squash water to soak and soften. Let sit for 10 minutes. Drain the tomatoes and chop coarsely. Set aside in a bowl with the squash.
- Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh stainer to remove the "saponin," the soapy, bitter outer coating.
- In a medium pot, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat.
- Add the onions and saute until translucent (covering with a lid for a few minutes will help the onions "sweat" faster).
- Add the garlic, parsnip, and celeriac. Sauté until parsnips begins to brown. Add the quinoa and stir for about 2 minutes, toasting the grains.
- Add the stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a steady, rolling simmer and cover with a lid. Cook for about 12 minutes, or until all the stock has been absorbed.
- Add the squash and sun-dried tomatoes, arugula, parmesan cheese, salt and several turns of freshly ground black pepper to the quinoa. Stir thoroughly.
- Garnish with grated parmesan and roasted squash seeds.