Quinoa has been called the soul food of the Andes. It is pronounced “keen-wah” and comes from Peru and Bolivia. To the altiplano Indians who live in this region it is a nutritional super food and more valuable than gold.
So let’s start the New Year with something lite and different. Instead of making risotto with the traditional Arborio rice let’s use quinoa, add lemon zest and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Top this with broiled Italian tomatoes, panko breadcrumbs, and crème fraîche.
I doubt you’ll find anything more different (or more nutritious) than this quinoa-based risotto adapted from Food and Wine Magazine. Give it a try. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
1½ cups quinoa
2½ cups water
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
1½ teaspoons fresh rosemary (minced)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
4 whole canned Italian tomatoes (drained and halved lengthwise)
1 large shallot (chopped fine)
2 cups vegetable broth
¼ cup crème fraîche, plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon lemon zest (chopped)
1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (grated)
Salt and pepper to taste
Italian parsley for garnish (chopped)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a saucepan, bring the quinoa, water and a large pinch of salt to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender – about 20 minutes. Let stand covered for 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix the panko with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of the rosemary, half of the garlic and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Arrange the tomatoes cut side up on a rimmed baking sheet and top with the breadcrumbs. Bake for 25 minutes, until the crumbs are lightly browned and the tomatoes are softened. Remove from oven and cover with kitchen towel to keep warm. Set aside.
Peel the lemon with a sharp knife, being sure to remove all of the bitter white pith. Working over a bowl, cut in between the membranes to release the sections. Cut the lemon sections into 1/4-inch pieces. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, heat the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil. Add the shallot, the other half of garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened – about 4 minutes. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon rosemary and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the quinoa and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and stir until the quinoa is suspended in a thickened sauce, about 5 minutes. Stir in ¼ cup of crème fraîche, lemon zest, lemon sections and the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Spoon the risotto into bowls, top with the tomatoes and garnish with crème fraîche, grated cheese and chopped parsley. I like to serve this with a Bonterra Organic Vineyards Chardonnay. It has an aroma of honey which is followed by a citrus aftertaste. It’s perfect with the lemony risotto above.