Quinoa Risotto with Asparagus, Turkey Bacon + Parmesan

It took me a while to jump on the quinoa bandwagon.  I have to admit, I judged this book solely on its cover.  Quinoa is not a pretty grain.  It’s small, round orbs remind me too much of some truly unfortunate Israeli Couscous served in my college dining hall.  It’s part-translucent, part-opaqueness really turned me off.  I had to question whether or not anything that delicate could really hold any flavor.  And besides, how do you even cook it?!

Quinoa, it turns out, is quite the super-grain.  It’s one of the few vegetarian foods that is a complete protein all by it’s self.  It’s not like its inferior cousins: beans and rice.  They have to be consumed in unison with another vegetable to acquire completeness.  Any beans with seeds, beans and nuts, and beans and grains form complete proteins.  They’re stuck with each other.  But not quinoa.  Quinoa’s good on it’s own.

That’s not to say you’re going to want to eat it all on its own.  Quinoa, by itself, doesn’t really offer up much in the taste department.  But combined with white wine, chicken stock, asparagus, turkey bacon, and Parmesan cheese?  Risotto-style?  Oh. My.

Quinoa Risotto with Asparagus, Turkey Bacon and Parmesan
Makes 4-6 servings

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons minced onion
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup uncooked quinoa
3/4 cup white wine (something good that you’d drink)
1 cup chicken stock
3 cups water
5 stalks asparagus, woody ends discarded and chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
4 pieces turkey bacon, chopped and cooked until crispy
salt and pepper to taste
thinly sliced fresh asparagus, to garnish (optional)

Begin by melting the butter in a large pan.  Add the onions and cook until translucent.  Add the garlic and the quinoa.  Cook for 2 minutes or so.  You’re trying to lightly toast the quinoa during this step, not burn it, so keep a close eye on it!

Meanwhile, combine the chicken stock and water in a pan and heat until hot.  Keep on a low burner so the liquid remains hot.

Add the wine to the lightly toasted quinoa and stir until the wine is absorbed.  Add a ladle of stock (approximately 1/3 cup) and stir continuously until it is also absorbed.  Add the asparagus and continue stirring, adding another ladlefull of stock.  When that is absorbed add more, stirring constantly, until the quinoa is tender. If you run out of the stock/water mix, just continue adding plain water as needed.  This is the basic risotto method and can be used to make traditional risotto with arborio rice.

Mix in the parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

Top with the bacon and thinly sliced fresh asparagus, if desired.

Serve immediately!

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