Did you know that 2013 was declared “The International Year of Quinoa” by The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations? Did you also know that quinoa was a mainstay of the Inca’s diet dating as far back as 1200 AD? Me neither, but I’m not surprised! I’ve got a thing for quinoa. I mean….I really love it….a lot, and apparently so does everyone else! But please tell me I’m not the only one who, when trying to spell it, pronounces it in my head as kwin-o-a ! 😉 Of course it’s actually pronounced keen-wah, but speaking it and spelling it are two different things!
One of the best things about quinoa is that it’s so versatile. It can easily switch gears from a savory meal accompaniment or salad, to a sweet dessert or breakfast porridge. But aside from the joys of cooking, and obviously eating quinoa, the health benefits are significant! Quinoa is a nutrient rich food which adds many minerals, fiber, protein, and ‘good’ fats to our diet. There is also some evidence that quinoa can act as an anti-inflammatory agent. Quinoa is also gluten free and therefore an excellent substitute for those with gluten-free dietary restrictions.
Since quinoa is one of my favorite foods I’m always trying to find new ways to use it by developing new recipes with it as the main ingredient. Today I’m sharing a recipe for Quinoa Risotto with Mushrooms & Asparagus. It’s a rich side dish that goes great with grilled chicken or fish, or by itself as a light lunch selection. Typically risotto is made with Arborio rice because it’s high starch content is what helps lend to the creaminess ( the butter in the traditional recipe doesn’t hurt any either) of the dish. But I wanted to try a version that has all the same rich flavors and creamy texture of traditional risotto, but with the health benefits of quinoa. Happily, the end result surpassed my expectations! My Quinoa Risotto is still creamy, it’s richness comes from the addition of white wine (a risotto must), good chicken stock, and refined coconut oil instead of butter. Add in two of my favorite vegetables, mushrooms & asparagus, some fresh thyme, a healthy dose of patience, and….voila…..Quinoa Risotto! The ingredients are simple, the flavors, however are not! The end result is a dish classy enough to serve guests, but homey enough for a cozy mid-week family dinner!
Tip: There is a slightly bitter natural coating on quinoa called saponin, and most cooking instructions will tell you to rinse it before cooking. But I have to be 100% honest and say I rinsed my quinoa exactly one time – the first time I ever cooked it! Frankly it’s kind of a pain. And truthfully, I can’t tell a difference in the taste, so why make more work for yourself?!?
- 1 cup quinoa
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp refined coconut oil
- 2 tbsp fresh thyme
- 1 tsp salt to taste
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 cloves, or 2 tsp chopped garlic
- 2 shallots, finely diced
- 1 pound asparagus, thinly sliced diagonally
- 1/2 pound baby bella mushrooms, thinly sliced
- Begin by pouring the 4 cups chicken stock into a medium saucepan. Bring to simmer and keep warm over low heat.
- Drizzle EVOO in large skillet, toss in diced shallots and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until shallots are soft and somewhat translucent.
- Add garlic, S & P, and coconut oil, stirring until oil is melted.
- Pour in the 1 cup quinoa, stirring to coat completely, and toast until very lightly browned, or about 5 minutes.
- Pour in the 1/2 cup white wine, stirring until most the liquid is absorbed.
- Begin adding the warm chicken stock, 1 ladle at a time, stirring very often, until liquid is mostly absorbed. Continue in this manner until all 4 cups of chicken stock have been added to the quinoa.
- After the first 15 minutes, add the mushrooms and continue cooking as above.
- After the next 15 minutes, add the asparagus and thyme, and continue cooking as above.
- Expect total cooking time needed to incorporate 4 cups of chicken stock to be approximately 45 minutes.
- After most all the liquid is absorbed taste for seasoning, adjusting as necessary.
- Remove from heat and serve immediately.
- If the risotto begins to dry out, add a small amount of stock to loosen it up again.
- By replacing butter with coconut oil, this becomes a dairy-free dish.
- It can also easily be made vegan by switching chicken stock to vegetable stock.