Quinoa Risotto Primavera from the American Institute for Cancer Research

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In their ongoing effort to promote cancer-preventive lifestyle choices, the American Institute for Cancer Research and author Dana Jacobi create delicious and nutricious dishes and publish them for us all to enjoy, and this includes today's entry, an ode to springtime called quinoa risotto primavera.

Says Jacobi:

Making risotto requires constant attention for the better part of an hour to get the rice to the right, creamy texture. But recently, looking through a stack of recipes, I noticed one for a quinoa risotto that cooked in 20 minutes and required minimal stirring. Another recipe in my pile combined finely chopped cauliflower florets with bulgur. “What about mixing finely chopped cauliflower with the risotto-style quinoa,” I thought. Cauliflower could give the quinoa some of the creaminess that makes risotto appealing. So on a day when spring was in the air, I combined elements of these two dishes and Quinoa Primavera blossomed.

Perhaps not surprisingly considering the origin of many Italian dishes, pasta primavera isn't Italian at all but was in fact invented in the 1970s at a New York City Restaurant called Le Cirque.

Adds Jacobi:

Using chicken broth gives Quinoa Risotto Primavera a rich flavor and a golden color. I wish I could say “or use vegetable broth,” but in most commercially made vegetable broths carrots dominate. The result turns this dish a muddy, unlovely color while its flavor overwhelms the sweetness of the vegetables. Using warm water for the liquid if you are vegetarian and adding extra cheese at the end give a better result.

A reminder: Each and every recipe offered by the AICR has been vetted and approved by a registered dietitian (RD).

Quinoa Risotto Primavera

  • 2½ cups cauliflower florets, cut in 1-inch pieces, stems well-trimmed
  • 1½ Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped shallot
  • 2/3 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 3½ cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced baby carrots
  • ½ cup frozen baby green peas
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

Instructions

Place cauliflower in food processor. Pulse until cauliflower resembles crumbled feta, about 15-20 pulses; there should be 2 cups chopped cauliflower to set aside. Use leftover to add to soup or salad.

In heavy, wide, large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Add shallots and cook until golden, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add quinoa and cook, stirring constantly, until grain makes constant crackling, popping sound, about 5 minutes. Carefully add 2 cups broth, standing back as it will spatter. Cover, reduce heat and simmer quinoa for 10 minutes.

Add cauliflower, carrots and ½ cup hot broth and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add peas and enough broth to keep risotto soupy, about ¼ cup. Cook 8-10 minutes, or until quinoa is al dente or to your taste and vegetables are tender-crisp, adding broth ¼ cup at a time, as needed. Risotto is done when liquid is mostly absorbed and mixture is slightly wet, but not soupy. Off heat, stir in cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley and serve. Leftover risotto keeps for 3 days, covered in refrigerator, and can be served at room temperature as a whole-grain salad.

Makes 8 servings.

Per serving: 120 calories, 4.5 g total fat (1 g saturated fat), 14 g carbohydrate, 5 g protein, 3 g dietary fiber, 280 mg sodium.

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