An easy and healthy recipe made in less than 30 minutes! This gluten free quinoa risotto is a low-fat dish perfect as a summer dinner!
Quinoa is not a Mediterranean ingredient. In fact, my grandma doesn’t even know what quinoa is! Which now that I think of it, this would be a great method of defining what Mediterranean food is (or maybe more correctly, Mediterranean/Cretan food). All we have to do is show something to my grandma and if she knows how to cook it, then it will be qualified as Mediterranean, ha ha!
Nevertheless, quinoa pairs beautifully with many classic Mediterranean vegetables and can be used instead of orzo, pasta or rice with no problem. It’s also really healthy, gluten-free, and perfect for a hearty, filling and tasty plant-based meal!
One memory I have from my village is that during winter people used to cook wild greens, potatoes, pasta (like mom’s spaghetti with Bolognese sauce), legumes, stews (must check this Greek drunken pork stew), and soups, while during summer they preferred lighter dishes full of vegetables and fruits (watermelon and feta salad anyone?). And it seemed to me that they were anxiously waiting for the winter to end so that everyone could start using in their cooking all the delicious summer vegetables that grow on Cretan soil.
And the thing I’m most fond of about Crete is that when summer finally arrives, every day you can see neighbors exchanging baskets and bags full of vibrant and colorful zucchinis, eggplants, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, peppers and lots more! But this kind of exchange doesn’t obey the laws of commerce. It’s more of a kind gesture from one friend to another!
Just think of this: almost every time one of my fathers’ friends goes to his small farm to pick the fruits and vegetables ready to be picked, he will leave a bag full of produce by our doorstep. And he will do this silently, without ringing the bell or any other notice. Sometime during the day, my mother will stumble upon it while exiting the door. And because we have many family friends, this means that we often and randomly find lots of bags filled with fruit and vegetables waiting outside our house. And this happens with all the other villagers too, because more or less, everyone is friends with everyone. Most of the times, as you can imagine, you have to guess which one of your friends brought you all the goods just to return the favor!
Consequently, there are a lot of times when people have a delicious ratatouille or green bean stew with potatoes for dinner without having paid for a thing 🙂
How I prepare quinoa for no bitter taste. I put it in the middle of a large piece of cheesecloth, wrap it well, and secure the cloth with a rubber band. Then I rinse it well with tap water for a good 2-3 minutes, massaging and rubbing the cloth with my hands just to get rid of all the saponins (bitter substances coating quinoa). I then let it drain with the cloth on a kitchen towel and use it as I please.
Quinoa is a very small grain. That’s why the rest of the ingredients should be cut into very small cubes. It’s more pleasing to the eye and the tooth!
This dish has a bit more texture than a classic risotto because, obviously, quinoa cannot create the creamy texture you get with rice. Yogurt and grated parmesan, however, give it a nice creaminess.
- 1 cup quinoa
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (virgin or extra virgin)
- ½ onion, finely chopped
- 1-2 garlic cloves
- ½ carrot, finely chopped
- ½ red pepper, finely chopped
- 1 medium zucchini, finely chopped
- ½ eggplant, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon thyme
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 2 - 2½ cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock, or water)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ cup greek yogurt
- ⅓ cup grated parmesan
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped green onion or chives
- Rinse quinoa well under cold water (use a fine sieve or cheesecloth) for 2-3 minutes and let it drain.
- Heat olive oil in a large pan, add the carrot and cook on medium/high heat for 2 minutes until somewhat soft.
- Add onion, garlic, zucchini, eggplant, pepper, parsley, green onion, and thyme and cook until all the vegetables are soft and starting to brown, about 5 minutes.
- Add the quinoa and stir for 1 minute.
- Add the wine and stir until all the alcohol is evaporated.
- Start adding the stock, half a cup at a time and reduce heat to a low simmer. Stir from time to time.
- Start tasting to see if quinoa is ready when you have used 2 cups of stock. Add salt and pepper.
- When quinoa is cooked, turn off the heat and add the yogurt and parmesan.
- Stir to combine and serve.
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