Quinoa and Butternut Squash Risotto

January 20, 2007 at 9:58 pm (A (4 stars, love), B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Grains, Peter Berley, Starches)

I normally get nervous when I see risottos which call for grains other than rice.  I avoid barley risotto like the plague. But this recipe in The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen by Peter Berley has quinoa and arborio rice, so I figured it was safe to risk it.

  • 4 cups water or broth made from squash and leek trimmings
  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped leek (white part only) (I used the light green part as well, from 1 leek)
  • 2 cups peeled, cubed pumpkin or butternut squash (1/2 inch pieces) (from a 3/4 – 1 pound squash?)
  • 1/2 cup arborio rice
  • 1/3 cup quinoa
  • 2 Tbs. mirin  (maybe more?  or white wine?)
  • 4 sage leaves, finely chopped
  • coarse sea salt
  • freshly milled black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh parsley for garnish
  • toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish
  1. In a 2-quart saucepan over high heat, bring the water to a boil.  Reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer.
  2. In a heavy 3-quart pan over medium heat, warm 1 Tbs. oil, add the leek, and saute for 2 minutes.  Add the pumpkin and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes.  Add the rice and quinoa and saute, stirring, for 2 minutes, or until the grains are fragrant.
  3. Add the mirin and sage and cook until dry.  Ladle in the water, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until the liquid has been absorbed before adding each subsequent 1/2 cup of water.  Continue stirring until the grains are tender and creamy, 20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Stir in the remaining 1 Tbs. oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve garnished with parsley and the pumpkin seeds.

Yields 2 main-course servings or 4 appetizer servings.

My Notes:

I’ve made this recipe twice now and I really liked it both times.  It’s almost perfect, except it needs way more sage.  I added more sage with the mirin (about a Tbs.?), and then add the end rather than garnishing with parsley I sprinkled on lots more chopped fresh sage (maybe about 3 Tbs?).  This dish doesn’t quite taste like a traditional risotto.  The quinoa adds a slightly herbaceous note, which melds well with the other flavors.  Plus it’s vegan, and healthier than traditional risotto.  I think it makes more than 2 main-dish servings. Rating: B+

Note October 2008: Last night I tried the butternut squash and sage risotto recipe in Jack Bishop’s cookbook.  It was tasty but neither the squash nor the sage flavors were very strong, even after I added substantially more sage.  I actually prefer the version above with quinoa and leek.  They create a deeper flavor profile that I prefer to the standard risotto recipe.  Bishop suggests garnishing the risotto with fried sage leaves.  I tried to fry some up, but again they didn’t come out right.  They were crispy but lost almost all the sage flavor.  What am I doing wrong?

Note October 12, 2009:  Last night Derek made a combination of this recipe and the butternut squash risotto recipe from the Complete Italian Vegetarian cookbook.  He started with 1 Tbs. olive oil and 2 Tbs. butter, then added ~4 cups  1/2-inch diced squash (about 1 pound 6 ounces I think) and let it cook for about 7 minutes over medium heat, until it looked like it was starting to soften.  Then he added about 3/4 cup each of arborio rice and quinoa.  When fragrant he added a 1/3-1/2 cup of white wine and ~2 Tbs. chopped fresh sage leaves.  He added about 6 cups of salted vegetable stock slowly, stirring frequently.  At the end he beat in 1 Tbs. of butter, about 2 ounces of parmigiano-reggiano, and another 1-2 Tbs. of fresh, chopped sage leaves, and seasoned to taste.  It was delicious.  I think I liked it with the extra quinoa, and without the leeks, even more than the original version.   Certainly all the animal fat made it taste very good.  I think the absence of leeks gave it a purer squash flavor.  Rating: A-.  Derek rating: A-/B+.  He says it’s very tasty but not quite interesting enough to be A-.  I think the the quinoa flavor makes it interesting enough to make it an A-.

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