BYÂ EMMA HABERMAN
Risotto falls into my favorite category of cooking: dishes that seem impressive but are actually easy to make. Risotto’s rich, creamy texture makes it seem difficult to cook, but don’t be fooled – the only real secret to making good risotto is time, patience and a strong stirring arm. Traditionally made from rice cooked in broth or cream and cheese, risotto usually incorporates vegetables, meat, or seafood. Quinoa is a grain that behaves similarly to rice, but is packed full of nutrients. Known as the miracle grain, quinoa is high in protein, dietary fiber and magnesium and iron, and is gluten-free. It has a nuttier, earthier flavor than rice, and is naturally creamy so adding dairy is optional in this recipe.
I am the first to admit that bacon is not always a necessary ingredient (though it’s always a welcome one in my kitchen). Not the case here. Adding roughly chopped bacon and cooking the quinoa and vegetables in the rendered bacon fat gives the dish a smoky, savory flavor that balances out the sweetness of the butternut squash. This can be a delicious vegetarian dish as well, but consider adding bacon for depth and variety.
1 cup of pearl quinoa
2 cups of butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
11/2 shallots, chopped
5 strips of bacon
3 cups of chicken broth
1 cup of dry white wine
1 sprig of rosemary
4 tablespoons of grated parmesan
2 tablespoons of fresh goat cheese
- Â Place the strips of bacon in a large skillet and cook until crispy. Chop or crumble into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
- Leave the rendered fat from the bacon in the skillet and add the shallots, cooking until they become transparent.
- Add the squash and cook for 3-4 minutes until it begins to soften.
- Add the quinoa and saute for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly until the grains are toasted.
- Add the rosemary, sir and then slowly add the white wine. Bring to a boil until the quinoa absorbs most of the liquid. Reduce heat to a simmer, then slowly add warm chicken broth ladle by ladle. Stir continuously and continue adding liquid until the broth is absorbed and the quinoa reaches a tender and creamy texture, about 25-30 minutes.
- Stir in the chopped bacon. Add grated parmesan, salt and pepper to taste.
- Remove the rosemary before eating and garnish with parmesan and fresh goat cheese, if desired. Serves 4.
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Photos: Emma Haberman
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