Like most of us I have my fair share of fears, some logical, some totally ridiculous. Up until recently, one of my truly ridiculous fears has been that of risotto. Not eating it, of course, but making it. For some reason the whole process of adding little bits of this and waiting for that seemed like it could be something I might mess up, so I just avoided the whole thing entirely. But I’m also the type who likes to face some fears head on, so I made up my mind to just suck it up and cook.
As most of you who have been making risotto for years with no problems know, there was really nothing to be afraid of. About the only tricky part to making this creamy dish is exercising a bit of patience to allow everything to simmer and absorb properly. Other than that this is a piece of cake to make, and once I got over this irrational kitchen fear, I set about making risotto out of everything, not just rice. My current favorite is quinoa risotto, probably due to the distinctly different texture of the quinoa, as opposed to rice or farro. Though using farro also results in a lovely risotto, I really like the combination of flavors and textures that are in this particular dish. The tender asparagus go beautifully with the sweetness of the shrimp and the light sprinkling of parmesan, and the creamy quinoa brings it all together. I used olive oil as opposed to butter to cut back on the bad fat for this dish, though I’m sure it will be delicious if butter is used. This is a wonderful entrée or a hearty side and can definitely be served year round.
A few notes for you: If you don’t have wine around the house, simply substitute an extra 1/2 cup of broth. Speaking of broth, this is even more flavorful if you use fresh shrimp, as you can boil them in the broth before making the risotto. However, if all you have at home are the frozen cooked shrimp do not go out and buy extra! Save your money! This is just as flavorful without using shrimp broth. If you buy your quinoa in bulk the price of this dish goes way down, and if you can’t find any fresh asparagus that are affordable enough, by all means use frozen ones. And now for the recipe.
Creamy Shrimp & Asparagus Quinoa Risotto (serves 6; total cost per serving: $1.35)
5 c chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 c white wine
2 ½ T olive oil (or butter, if you prefer)
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
30-35 large frozen cooked shrimp, thawed
6 medium asparagus, cut into 3/4” long pieces
1/4 c shredded parmesan cheese
1/4 t dried tarragon
1/4 t dried thyme
Salt & pepper to taste
Carefully rinse the quinoa about 3 times to ensure that it is completely clean and drain well. In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook slowly until the onion begins to soften.
Increase the heat to about medium high and add the rinsed quinoa. Cook for about 3 minutes then add the wine and simmer until the quinoa absorbs the wine. Slowly pour about 1/2 cup of chicken broth into the quinoa and allow to simmer until it is completely absorbed by the quinoa, stirring frequently. Continue this process, pouring in the broth only 1/2 cup at a time, until the quinoa is creamy and the quinoa germs have burst (you may have extra broth left over; if so, set aside for a different meal), about 20 minutes.
While the last bit of broth is being simmered and absorbed, add the ¼ c of parmesan cheese and continue to stir well. Add the shrimp and asparagus and mix in gently, cooking for another 3-4 minutes. Season with tarragon, thyme, and a couple dashes of salt & pepper. Serve with extra parmesan sprinkle on top of you like, and enjoy!