A Healthier Risotto: Quinoa Faux-otto

Let’s face it. No matter how much I love to cook, some nights I’m just not feeling it. I’m tired, it’s getting late, I spent too much time watching reruns of Friends after work (whatever, not ashamed), I don’t want to go all the way to the grocery store in the dark, etc. You know the drill. On one such night, I was determined to make a delicious, inventive, and at least somewhat healthy dinner exclusively with things I already had in my fridge and pantry. Thus my quinoa faux-otto (faux risotto) was born.

This stuff is awesome because it’s rich, cheesy, and savory, just like regular risotto, but crammed with way more nutritional benefits than the traditional stuff. (Thanks, quinoa, I love you!) It also takes about half the time; no stirring required. Not that stirring is some great physical struggle—people complaining about stirring risotto is actually one of my culinary pet peeves—but this is great when you’re in a hurry or just feeling supremely lazy. My recipe reflects the produce and cheese I had on hand, but don’t be afraid to experiment with your leftovers. For example, I bet this would be delicious with some swiss, butternut squash, and bacon. Hmmm…

Quinoa Faux-otto with Brussels Sprouts, Spinach, & Parmesan

3 cups cooked quinoa
3/4 cup milk
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bag fresh spinach and/or kale
1 pound brussels sprouts, quartered
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 lemon
salt & pepper to taste
red chili flakes to taste (optional)

Alright! All aboard the train to Easytown! Grab a large sauté pan, crank the stove to medium, and drizzle some olive oil in the bottom. Once that’s warmed up, dump in your quinoa, stir in the garlic and brussels sprouts, and unload the bag of spinach. I know this seems like a lot, but trust me, greens cook down. A lot.

In about 3-5 minutes, once the spinach starts to wilt and cook down (see, told ya), stir it into the quinoa along with the milk. Stir in the parm until it’s all incorporated and the quinoa is starting to look nice and creamy. Feel free to add more milk/and or cheese to get everything to the right, risotto-y consistency. Add the thyme (you can toss the sprigs in whole or pull off the leaves, it’s up to you) and spices. Once it’s seasoned to your liking, spritz the juice from the lemon on top to brighten everything up.

Top with the extra parmesan and scoop into bowls. Eat in front of the TV while watching yet more dumb sitcom reruns because hey, you’re being lazy tonight, remember?

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  • Chris November 14, 2012  

    Question about adding the quinoa. It seems to be added to the dish twice in the recipe. Does it get added with brussels sprouts and spinach at the beginning or after the spinach wilts down? The later would seem to be more correct.

    Thanks, been looking for new healthy recipes since my fiance challenged me to help in her weight loss program!


  • Emily November 14, 2012  

    Chris – I added the quinoa to the pan in the very beginning, then stirred in the sprouts and garlic, then dumped the bag of spinach on top of the rest of the ingredients to let it steam and wilt for a few minutes… then stirred to incorporate it into the rest of the ingredients (including quinoa) already in the pan beneath it. Does that make more sense?

    (Although… if you wanted to sauté all the veggies first and then add the quinoa after, I don’t think it would make much of a difference, so feel free to improvise.)

    Hope you and your fiance find a chance to make this soon – it’s both healthy AND super-filling, so it would be a good dish for her program! Enjoy 🙂

  • Danielle Gembala November 20, 2012  

    My husband is a quinoa skeptic, but both my toddler and I love it. So I made this the other night and it was a big hit! The toddler even ate the brussels sprouts. Thanks for this fabulous recipe.

  • Emily November 20, 2012  

    Danielle – Thank you for the wonderful feedback! I am of the belief that you can make anyone like quinoa. 🙂 I’m glad the whole fam enjoyed it.

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