I was in an experimenting mood tonight, and I have so.much.zucchini from my veggie garden that I'm trying to come up with interesting ways to eat it. I have both tiny little baby zucchini, and bigger ones. As I am learning in my foray into vegetable gardening, the best zucchini shouldn't get too big or they get dry and seedy. So I'm happy to have some of these little tender ones, because they are so delicious!
A long while back, I made an almond-fig brown rice risotto which was very delicious, and I thought I'd try something in that vein but with quinoa instead, and feature the zucchini, along with some left-over bacon, and my go-to chicken tenders.
1 cup quinoa
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 to 3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup loosely shredded sharp cheese (I used Manchego, but Peccorino Romano, or Parmesan would also work)
1 lb of zucchini, julienned
1 tbsp butter
5-6 chicken tenders
6-8 strips of fried bacon, crumbled
1/4 cup chopped green onions or chives
Julienne the zucchini. Preheat a skillet to medium temperature for a few minutes with a tablespoon of butter until it sizzles and is browned. Add the zucchini into the skillet, and leave it undisturbed for a few minutes on one side. Flip as best as you can with a spatula to the other side to get a nice golden caramelized color on each side.
Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a fairly large pot, until it's at a medium temperature also, and add in the dry quinoa. Stir it frequently as it starts to brown and toast in the butter. Be careful not to burn it. As soon as it's a bit browned, add in a 1/4 cup of water at a time and put a tight lid on to absorb the liquid.
Here you can see some of the zucchini taking on a little color.
Set aside the zucchini in a bowl, and use the same hot skillet to cook your frozen (or thawed) chicken tenders. Maintain a medium heat setting to not scorch the outside of the chicken as it cooks through. The frozen tenders take a few minutes extra.
Simultaneously, keep adding a 1/4 cup of water at a time to the pot of quinoa until absorbed, and then add the cream. Let it keep simmering a bit with the lid on, and then finish it with the lid off until you get a nice creamy, risotto texture to it all. Stir in grated cheese at this point.
Chop up the chicken right in the skillet, throw in crumbled bacon, add the zucchini back in and scoop out the risotto from the pot all into the skillet. Top with chopped green onions or chives. It's a sloppy mess, and not the prettiest presentation, but it was quite a good comfort meal.