If quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) isn’t already part of your diet, it’s time to get acquainted. “(Insert your name here), meet quinoa. Quinoa, meet (insert your name here).” Quinoa is a grain-like seed . This pinhead-sized micro miracle has many benefits, but its greatest claim to fame is the fact that it’s a plant-based complete protein. The long and short of complete proteins is as follows: our bodies require eight essential amino acids in the right proportions to repair and rebuild themselves. This harmonious balance is easily found in animal protein sources, but not as often in plants. Plant-based sources usually contain a few of the essential amino acids, but rarely all eight in the correct ratio. Quinoa is the exception and this is one of the many reasons it’s a vegetarian diet staple. And if the meat-eating omnivores still need a reason to love this seed, try these on for size: high protein content, healthy complex carbohydrates, good source of zinc and folic acid. Sold yet?
Today I’d like to share a colorful and nutritious quinoa-centered meal that’s quick enough to whip up on a weeknight, but impressive enough to serve when you have company. My Chipotle Quinoa and Shrimp dish, inspired by Mark Bittman’s recipe in The Food Matters Cookbook, is almost a one-pot meal and uber-quick to prepare. Like any well-balanced entree, there are so many unique and exquisite flavor components tickling your tastebuds, it’s impossible to pick a favorite: the nuttiness of the quinoa, the smoky heat of the adobo-soaked chipotles, or the cool creaminess of the avocado? Hmmmm… Each of these flavors lend themselves to this Latin-inspired masterpiece! Last and, perhaps, best of all, this recipe is another testament to my theory that eating delicious food and eating healthily are not mutually exclusive choices. I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we did and I look forward to sharing more great ways to incorporate this wondrous seed into your diet in future posts.
Chipotle Quinoa and Shrimp
For the shrimp and marinade:
16 peeled jumbo shrimp
1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. seeded jalapeno pepper, minced
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. seeded jalapeno pepper, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 – 4 canned chipotle chilies, minced, with some of their adobo sauce
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. cumin
3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
Salt* and pepper to taste
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
3/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1 avocado, skin and pit removed, cubed
Combine the shrimp and marinade ingredients in a large resealable plastic bag. Seal tightly and work the mixture around with your hands until well combined. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
In the meantime, pour olive oil into a medium sized pot over medium heat. Add garlic, jalapeno, and onion and cook 5 minutes or until everything has softened. Add chipotle chilies and adobo sauce, oregano, and cumin and cook for an additional minute. Turn the heat up to medium high and add the quinoa, salt, and pepper. Toss around and coat evenly for 3 – 5 minutes. Add the beans, corn, and stock, bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the lid and test the quinoa for doneness. When the quinoa is fully cooked, it will be tender and look like a semi-transparent globule with a cream colored orbit or curly string hanging off. If it’s not quite there yet in appearance and is still a little crunchy, add a bit more stock, cover, and simmer for another few minutes. Once done, remove from heat, stir in cilantro leaves, cover and set aside.
Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add shrimp and sear for approximately 2 minutes on each side or until the flesh is completely opaque.
Place a mound of quinoa on each dish and top with shrimp and avocado. Serve with lime wedges.
A few notes:
- We like our fair share of heat and only used 3 of the chipotle chilies with approximately 1 teaspoon of adobo sauce. Start with less and add more at the end if you desire. The peppers and adobo pack a lot of heat and should be used sparingly.
- Pick your protein: I used shrimp, but tofu, eggs, chicken, or fish would all work equally well with this dish. The next morning, Joe and I had it for breakfast with eggs in place of the shrimp and it was absolutely fabulous.
- I didn’t add any salt to this dish and you may not need to either. Taste as you go and use your judgement.