To make the avocado herb cream:
In a food processor, pulse together the avocado, lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic, mint, basil, parsley, olive oil, and chili flakes until roughly chopped. Slowly add the water, a tablespoon at a time, until the cream comes together and the mixture is fairly smooth. Important to taste for salt, pepper, lemon juice, etc. Adjust to your liking. You can store in a container in the fridge, but if it’s for over an hour make sure to squeeze a little lemon juice on top and place plastic wrap on top, pressing down so it touches the top of the mixture, this will help slow the oxidation process.
Heat the vegetable stock in a sauce pot over low heat. When making risotto, it’s important to keep the liquid warm, so that when you introduce it to the grain it doesn’t seize. In another bottom-heavy sauce pot, over medium heat, add the olive oil, garlic, salt, and leeks and sauté until translucent and soft, about 3 minutes. Add the quinoa to the mixture and stir to toast, about 1-2 minutes. Reduce to low and add 1 cup of the warm vegetable stock. Stir frequently until all the liquid is absorbed. Continue in 1/2 cup increments, stirring frequently until the vegetable stock gets absorbed. This process takes about 15 minutes. How much liquid you’ll need will depend and vary each time, but the recipe calls for 5 cups, that way you always have extra liquid, because the last thing you want is to run out while you’re cooking the risotto. Generally, I use about 3 cups or so per 1 cup dry quinoa. When the quinoa is cooked - should be cooked through but still retain a bite - and the last remaining liquidis absorbing, add the fresh peas and fava beans and stir in. Taste for seasoning, add salt or pepper if you think it needs more, but note you are adding the avocado cream to this which has salt. Stir in the avocado cream into the risotto when it’s still warm, or dollop on top. You can add as much or as little as you’d like. Serve warm and enjoy!
makes: 2 servings of quinoa risotto
total time: about 20-30 minutes
1 ripe avocado
1/2 lemon juiced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup fresh mint
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of chili flakes *optional
1-3 tablespoons water
5 cups vegetable stock*
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoon salt + more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper + more to taste
1 leek, sliced
1 garlic, diced
1/2-3/4 cup fresh sweet peas
1/2 cup fava beans
* (when I use homemade stock I use 100% stock, when I buy store-bought, I use 50% stock to 50% water, so in this case 2 1/2 cups water to 2 1/2 cups stock, otherwise I find the flavor too intense)
It was a matter of weeks ago, I was in Peru, exploring the Andean landscape and discovering new foods like choclo and kiwicha. In the Sacred Valley, there are many crops, like quinoa, fava beans, corn, and many kinds of potatoes. I found a new appreciation for quinoa, as I tasted my way through many dishes using the grain in interesting ways. On the last day, at lunch, I ordered a quinoa risotto with local vegetables and pesto. It was so creamy and rich but also nourishing and bright and full of flavor, I knew I had to recreate it at home (but under the assumption it would not be as good :/ ) This is a variation on that meal.
Inspired by early spring vegetables, I decided to make this quinoa risotto with all the greens I could find and to celebrate the season’s newly sprouted delights.
This recipe has..
quinoa (of course) ~ high in protein, fiber and iron
fava beans ~ full of fiber and iron
sweet peas ~ high in fiber, protein, and helps regulate blood sugar levels
leeks ~ full of antioxidants, Vitamin A + K
garlic ~ naturally detoxifies the body (actually supposed to “kill bad breath…” ha!)
avocado ~ full of healthy fats, good for you cholesterol and brain
basil / mint / parsley ~ high in iron, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties
The process of making quinoa risotto is made similar to that of traditional risotto, in that the liquid is slowly added to the grain, a cup at a time. The grain slowly absorbs the liquid and gets creamy, naturally through the process. It’s a slow process but it yields a plump and al-dente grain, different than if you were to boil it.
Fava beans, leeks, garlic, and fresh sweet peas are all on the menu. Fava beans and sweet peas add a rich, fibrous and hearty texture. They are bright and earthy, but dense and filling. When in season they are sweet and flavorful. Leeks too add flavor, only more delicate and refreshing than regular onions. A spoonful of avocado pesto cream on top or throughly mixed in when warm will create the creamiest and most flavorful of this spring dish.
When I tell you the avocado cream is crucial, it really is! It has fresh herbs, citrus, and garlic, and when combined with the risotto, it almost melts into the mixture, as if it were meant to be from the start and adds a bright, garlicky, creamy flavor. The recipe calls for basil, parsley, and mint, but use any fresh herbs you have on hand! This is my take on the pesto in the original risotto, but as pesto can be loose and oily, I decided avocado and its natural oils would hold together the mixture and thicken in.
A couple of notes about the recipe, risotto gets a bad rap for being time-consuming and difficult, but this is by no means a traditional recipe, so there is some flexibility. The traditional way of cooking risotto requires attention, patience, and presence. It’s a very grounding and slow process that makes you appreciate each moment. There are two pots going when you are cooking risotto, one for stock and one for the rice. The stock is kept warm so that when you introduce it to the grain, it doesn’t seize, but rather absorb easily into the mixture. You slowly add the liquid to the rice, one cup at a time, stirring frequently until the rice absorbs the liquid; once it does, you add another cup and so forth until the rice is cooked. This usually takes about 15-20 minutes and requires you to be stirring most of the time, slowly but steadily. The recipe calls for about 5 cups of liquid, but most likely it takes around 3 cups or so. I like to have extra just in case. Just be patient and don’t fret, it will come together!
I love a good risotto, and this is a healthy and spring-inspired variation. While we are in the season of early spring greens, go grab your local beans, peas, and herbs and whip up this delicious dish! It makes a great dinner and also leftover lunch. The avocado pesto cream is a staple, and trust me when I tell you, make extra. I hope you enjoy this recipe, if you make it, send me your pictures or comment below! Happy spring and happy eating!