Sip Northwest welcomes Lauren Chambers, owner of the (mostly) plant-based recipe blog sofreshNsogreen.com, to Culinary Chemistry. Chambers’ high-traffic website is dedicated to empowering home cooks with recipes that not only taste good but help readers feel good too. This week, she has offered up a flavorsome and indulgent seared scallop risotto, with a health-minded twist.

“This decadent, comforting and relatively easy quinoa risotto with pesto and seared scallops is the ultimate-crowd pleaser,” Chambers says. “I whip it up whenever I’m cooking to impress. It’s also dairy-free and gluten-free, but the coconut milk and ghee give it tons of creamy texture and flavor so nobody will even notice.”

In addition to its lack of additives, Chambers says the quinoa also adds a hearty boost of fiber and protein. Her recipes calls for some of our favorites: Yamhill Valley Vineyard’s bright and dry 2014 Pinot Blanc, her “Life-Changing” pesto and seared diver scallops. The McMinnville, Oregon, winery’s understated white makes a subtle statement in the quinoa risotto, bringing lush melon aromas and minerality to the dish.

If you have the time, prepare the pesto up to days prior and store in the fridge. Otherwise, Chambers suggests starting the risotto first as it will take time to cook (at least one hour) and make pesto while risotto is cooking. Sear your scallops last, right before you’re ready to eat.

Quinoa Risotto with Seared Scallops and Pesto
By Lauren Chambers of sofreshNsogreen.com

Serves 4
Active Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1-1 ½ hours

Ingredients for Risotto:
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon ghee
1 onion, peeled and chopped
5-7 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups sprouted quinoa
½ cup Yamhill Valley Vineyards 2014 Pinot Blanc, or other dry white wine
1 can organic unsweetened coconut milk

Ingredients for Life-Changing Pesto 
4 cups basil, chopped and stems discarded
6 tablespoons sage, chopped and stems discarded
4 tablespoons leeks, chopped
1 cup pine nuts
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup olive oil

Ingredients for Scallops:
16-20 large diver scallops (if frozen, allow to completely thaw)
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons ghee

Directions for Risotto:
In a large stockpot, heat coconut oil and ghee over medium heat until melted. Add in chopped onion and cook down until soft, about 10 minutes or so. In a second medium-sized stockpot, add in vegetable broth and turn on low heat.

Once the onion is cooked, add in sea salt, pepper, minced garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add in quinoa and mix well with onion, then add in wine and stir vigorously until absorbed.

One cup at a time, add the hot vegetable broth and stir in well. Stir periodically in between adding cups of vegetable broth. Continue adding in until the quinoa is fully cooked and texture is a little on the soupy side (it will continue to absorb after cooking). Add in coconut milk and stir a few more minutes, then remove from heat and let it sit covered for at least 15 additional minutes.

Directions for Life-Changing Pesto:
Add all pesto ingredients except olive oil into a food processor and pulse until finely minced. Add the oil slowly until mixed in well.

Directions for Scallops:
Rinse and pat both sides of scallops dry with paper towel, making sure any water is absorbed. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over very high heat — this is important as you want the scallops to crisp and sear on both sides, becoming golden brown.

Add in ghee and melt to coat the pan. Carefully place scallops on the pan, cooking for roughly 2 minutes (or until edges are golden brown) per side. Remove from heat and serve over risotto immediately.