Quinoa Risotto. Seriously.

I’m not a huge quinoa fan. I know, I know – take away my ‘foodie’ card. I hate that word anyway, foodie, but that’s a different story. Point is, every preparation I’ve made – or tasted – has been too grainy, too gritty. Even when we went to Peru, I just wasn’t a fan. I don’t dislike it, but. . .

So when I saw the latest issue of Food & Wine magazine list quinoa as the #3 favorite ingredient of 2013 of it’s readers, I had two thoughts:

  1. the readers are nuts -and-
  2. I have to give quinoa yet another whirl; the umpteenth time.

They did include one recipe with each of the top ten ingredients, and this one happened to catch my eye. Why not, I figured? I sure do love san marzano tomatoes, and any excuse to imbibe is a good one so hopefully their magic would rub off on the quinoa, and with a little help of my good friends creme fraiche & parmesano reggiano, I’d enjoy a good meal.

And enjoy I did. Behold, my favorite quinoa dish – and the gateway to hopefully more quinoa quaziness (jk, but seriously):


note: this is a long recipe but honestly it’s easier than it reads. nothing here is difficult and none of the ingredients are foreign. here’s your list followed by your directions:
  • quinoa. rinse the quinoa before making. they tell you to let it sit for hours in water or run it under water for 10 minutes (literally) which i find wasteful. what i do is get a real tight strainer, dump the quinoa in there and water it until the water runs clear through the strainer.
  • whole peeled tomatoes. san marzano brand is literally the best and most renowned tomatoes in the world. period. cheap too and you can get them at ralphs or whole foods. you’ll only need like four or five so save the rest in a tupperware or honestly eat them whole. they’re THAT good.
  • garlic, four cloves, minced
  • parmesan cheese (real deal, grate it yourself, so worth it)
  • creme fraiche, which is so indulgent. i actually would probably use sour cream if I made this again. CF was too rich.
  • shallot, minced
  • parsley. i was about to omit this but i’m glad i didn’t. it’s necessary at the end.
  • small lemon (which I just realized I omitted in the descriptor).
  • panko (which you should have in your house anyway, it’s literally so versatile and adds crunch to whatever you need)
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1 lemon, peeled with pith removed and cut into sections, then cut further into 1/2 inch cubes <–annoying as heck but kind of fun too. the pith is where all the bitter comes from so use a small, manageable knife to rid yourself of it.
  • salt pepper duh
  • olive oil, and a ton.
  • 1.5 cups chicken broth, low sodium (important)
  • heat oven to 375°.
  • boil quinoa in 2.5 cups water with pinch of salt <–important. i usually boil in a ton of salt w/ pasta or rice but I guess quinoa absorbs the salt more efficiently. mine was a bit too salty so literally use a pinch.
  • once its boiling, cover it – count on 20 minutes, but peek every few minutes or so after 15 – as soon as the water is evaporated, take it off the heat (but leave cover on)
  • while its boiling, slice four or five of the san marzanos in half LENGTHwise
  • let them sit and drain (cutting board is fine, paper towel on cutting board is better) and make the ‘topping’ for them – mix panko (1/2 cup) with EVOO (2 tbsp), salt, pepper and two cloves minced garlic
  • throw them in the oven for 25 minutes or eyeball them until the topping browns and crisps. honestly makes me hungry just reliving this part in my mind man that was good. sidenote: you can serve those as an hors d oeuvre and you’d be lauded amongst your friends. i hope i remember this, it’s a knockout. anyway, that’s neither here nor there so back to the recipe
  • the tomatoes should be coming out of the oven around the same time your quinoa has been on the stove ‘resting’ post-removal from heat. put them aside. and maybe eat one just to be in tomato heaven.
  • heat medium sauce pan with 4 tbsp (a ton, i know, but trust me) EVOO medium hot. add minced shallots (1/2 shallot) and 2 more minced garlic cloves and sautée for four minutes or until they’re just starting to crisp – add the rosemary to the pan and stir stir stir so you don’t burn the shallot/garlic.
  • THIS IS THE ONLY TRICKY MOVE: get the quinoa into that same sauce pan. it’s going to fry quick, so add the  broth as fast as you can and slam the heat down to low. you want to get a calm simmer going, which you’ll maintain until the ‘loose’ liquid has evaporated. for me it took about 10 minutes
  • once the quinoa resembles a ‘thick sauce’ in consistency, add 1/4 cup creme fraiche, 1/3 cup grated parmesan and lemon segments (!!!), remove from heat and stir
  • Spoon the risotto into bowls, top with the tomatoes and garnish with crème fraîche, grated cheese and chopped parsley; serve.



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