A very unusual risotto – Quinoa

I learned this one in California, and unlike most risottos, it’s light, healthy, and packed full of natural flavors.  I wasn’t a believer until I actually tried it, and since then, I am completely into it.

Risotto is, of course, a technique for cooking grains and starches.  The technique itself involves toasting the grain, and cooking slowly, adding liquid in small increments while continually stirring.  This develops the starches more completely, forces more flavor into the grain and creates a ‘creamy’ texture.    

Arborio rice is what we typically make into risotto, but it can be made with so many other things.  I love making risotto with grains like barley, farro and Israeli cous cous.

Quinoa is one of those high protein, high fiber, full of minerals ‘perfect’ foods.  If you’re on a diet but cannot live without some kind of carbs (or are into distance running) quinoa may be the ideal food.  Quinoa has a wonderful nutty flavor that compliments other great foods, like nuts, berries, wild flower honey, bitter greens (like chard or kale) and lean proteins, like white flesh fish.

I have stayed relatively true to the original recipe, with a couple of my own modifications.

Seared black cod with quinoa risotto, pickled hearts of palm, swiss chard, tomatoes
Prep time: 30 min
cook time: 40 min
Makes 4


4 7oz skin on filet of black cod (or sable fish) trimmed of any fat
2 cups raw red aztec quinoa
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 each fresh heart of palm
2 cup washed swiss chard, julienne
1 cup assorted color grape tomatoes, sliced in half
prepared chicken stock
toasted slivered almonds
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
kosher salt
black pepper
vegetable oil
micro cilantro (or any petit or micro greens)


Pickle the hearts of palm:   cut them very thin on a bias, and mix them with the vinegar, salt, sugar and a little pepper.

Cook the quinoa like you would rice, except use the ratio: 2 cups quinoa to 3 1/2 cups water.  You want the quinoa to be al dente.

Heat an oven to 400 degrees.  Heat a heavy bottom sauce pan to high heat.  Season the fish both sides with salt and pepper.  Add a little oil to the pan, slide the fish in skin side down and immediately transfer the pan to the oven.  Cook until the skin is crisp and the meat is just cooked (not quite flakey).

Meanwhile, in a sauce pot, begin sweating the shallots and garlic in vegetable oil.  When fragrant, add the swiss chard and 1 ladle chicken stock.  Wilt the chard and reduce the stock.  Add the quinoa and add more stock.  Begin stirring, adding more stock if and when necessary.  When the quinoa is cooked, add the tomatoes, almonds and heart of palm (drained).  Season with salt and pepper.   The quinoa should have a slightly creamy consistency.

Heap a small amount of the quinoa in the center of an entree bowl.  Place the fish, skin side up, on top of the quinoa.  Garnish with micro cilantro.


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