Mexican Quinoa Salad & Grilled ShrimpTuesday, January 15, 2013
I think most of us are feeling a little post-holiday guilt this time of year so let's get back to some guilt-free dishes! This post was inspired by the #SexyShred trend that is spreading on Twitter courtesy of blogger @FeministaJones, who is motivating others to live a healthier lifestyle by way of exercise and clean eating. Those who joined #SexyShred received a few exclusive recipes of mine that I was happy to share in support of such a positive movement. For my Kitchenista Diaries readers, I wanted to share another healthy dish that won't leave you feeling heavy or stuffed, but will fill you up. One of my friends emailed me a few recipes for quinoa awhile back so I've been meaning to try it out. I was surprised at the nutritional value these little seeds pack, and that they are technically not a whole grain as I'd always thought. Quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah") is gluten-free and one of the few plant-based foods known as a "complete protein," ideal for anybody on a low-carb diet as well as vegetarians and vegans needing to maximize their protein intake. You cook quinoa in a way that's similar to rice, but less simmering time. Many of the recipes I've seen reminded me of the way couscous is prepared, so I figured it wouldn't be difficult to come up with something easy and tasty the first time around. I was wrong! First round, I made some chickpea & quinoa veggie burgers, which would have been great had the quinoa not had a slightly bitter after taste. I went back to the drawing board after finding a helpful article about making fluffy quinoa on theKitchn, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite sites for cooking tips. Immediately I realized my fateful error was not rinsing the quinoa long enough. When you make quinoa, I can't stress the importance enough of not skipping that step (it also can't hurt to soak your quinoa if you have the time, although some say this isn't a necessary step.)
On its own, the Mexican Quinoa Salad is vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free. I served it for a light dinner with spiced grilled shrimp, mostly for gratuitous use of my new toy, the Le Creuset Cassis Square Grill Pan, which I can recommend with as much enthusiasm as I did the 10" cast iron skillet featured in my last post. I have finally graduated beyond the George Foreman grill, ladies and gentleman! If you live in an apartment or otherwise don't have access to an outdoor grill, a cast-iron grill pan would be a seriously worthy upgrade in your kitchen. Much like a cast-iron skillet, it retains heat incredibly well. This means unlike most indoor electric grills, this grill pan actually gets hot and stays hot throughout the cooking process. Because of that, your food gets cooked properly, enabling you to get the flavor and grill marks reminiscent of outdoor cooking. Our George Foreman grill will probably still get some use around here, but that will be relegated to kid-friendly meals like the grilled sandwiches my son likes to create. For true indoor grilling, a cast-iron grill pan is the way to go.
Don't fret though. For this recipe, a cast-iron skillet or other heavy bottomed skillet is going to give you great results for seared shrimp, as an alternative to grilling. Because at the end of the day, we're here to make good food. If you see a recipe that you like, but you don't have the right equipment, figure out how you can adjust it to what you do have. Can you season the ingredients per the recipe, but cook it in a different way? Sure, in this case we can. Learn to adapt. You'll find a wider range of recipes out there at your disposal if you learn to tweak them for what you have in your own kitchen. So anyway, you've gotta try this shrimp. I mean just look at them...now imagine the scent of fragrant Mexican spices mingling with the subtle smoke of the skillet and sizzling coconut oil. You're going to want to try this one.
1 c. dry organic quinoa, rinsed and drained*
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 c. veg broth
1 T. coconut oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 can organic black beans, rinsed & drained (or 1 1/2 c. soaked & cooked black beans)
1 c. diced bell peppers, various colors
1 - 2 jalapenos, seeded & diced (for a spicier salad, just thinly slice the jalapenos)
1/2 c. finely chopped cilantro
For the vinaigrette:
4 tbsp coconut oil
Juice & zest of 1 large lime
1 tbsp seasoned rice wine vinegar**
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
kosher salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
**Rice wine vinegar adds a slight sweetness. If gluten-free is a concern you'll want to make sure the rice wine vinegar used is gluten-free. Your preferred vinegar can be substituted.