Spring Green Quinoa Risotto

It may not technically be spring in Ohio yet, but the clocks have sprung forward and the sun is shining. Daffodils and tulips are starting to break through the earth, tons of birds have been visiting our bird feeder, and asparagus is starting to get positively scrumptious.

I first made Ina Garten’s Spring Green risotto last April and I was in love. With asparagus, leeks, and lemon, this dish has a wonderful freshness. Typically risotto is made with arborio rice, but I didn’t have it on hand this time around so I decided to substitute quinoa. Quinoa is a protein-packed grain and I happy to find that the result was surprisingly delicious.

Risotto takes a little bit of attention and time, as you have to gradually add in a little chicken broth at a time until it is all absorbed, but the end result is worth it. Plus, I always love the satisfaction of the care and love that goes into this type of dish.

Welcome back, spring! I’m glad to see your shining face again. It will probably be snowing tomorrow…

Spring Green Quinoa Risotto

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 cups chopped and rinsed leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine (I used Chardonnay)
  • 4 to 5 cups simmering chicken (or vegetable) broth
  • 1 pound thin asparagus
  • 10 ounces frozen peas, defrosted, or 1 1/2 cups shelled fresh peas
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, preferably Italian
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh chives, plus extra for serving

Directions

1. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the leeks and and cook  until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add the quinoa and stir for a minute to coat with the vegetables, oil, and butter. Pour in the the white wine and simmer over low heat,  whisking until most of the wine has been absorbed. Add the chicken broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently and waiting for the broth to be absorbed before adding more. This will take about 30 minutes.

2. While that is cooking, cut the asparagus in 1 1/2-inch lengths and throw away the tough ends. Place in boiling salted water for 4 to 5 minutes, until barely tender. Drain and submerge in ice water to stop the cooking process.

3. When the risotto has been cooking for about 15 minutes, drain the asparagus and add it to the risotto with the peas, lemon zest, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Keep cooking and adding the broth, stirring frequently, until the quinoa is cooked.

4. In a small bowl, mix together the lemon juice and mascarpone together. When the risotto is done, turn off the heat and stir in the lemon mascarpone mixture and Parmesan cheese and chives. Set aside, off the heat, for a few minutes,  and garnish with chives and additional Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Source: Ina Garten