Monday, April 20, 2015

Recipe of the Day: Mexican Quinoa Salad and Grilled Shrimp!

With quinoa being the new craze for people who are trying to live a healthier lifestyle, I decided to share a new, unique recipe that will fill you up without feeling guilty or awful. Quinoa is gluten-free and one of the few plant-based foods that is considered a "complete protein." It is low on carbs and high in protein so it is ideal for vegetarians or individuals following a low carb diet.  Another beauty behind this miracle seed is that it is easy to prepare. You can cook quinoa in a similar fashion to rice, but with less simmer time. I prepared this dish using shrimp, but feel free to add or take out whatever you please. It is great with anything! Enjoy.

Mexican Quinoa Salad and Grilled Shrimp
A delicious, healthy treat

Mexican Quinoa Salad & Grilled Shrimp
                        Yield: 4 Servings                    Prep Time: 30 minutes                  Cook Time: 20 minutes

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

For the shrimp:
1 lb large or jumbo shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. ground Chipotle or Mexican chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 lime
Kosher salt, to taste

*Prior to cooking, dried quinoa should be rinsed extremely well in cold water until the water runs clear. This removes the saponin, a natural chemical extract which protects the quinoa from predators. It can leave a bitter taste if not rinsed. For best results use a fine mesh strainer and use your hand to swish the quinoa around in the water to really get in there. Most packages will say you do not need to soak the quinoa first, but I had better results soaking for 20 minutes before rinsing the water.

**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.

Mexican Quinoa Salad and Grilled Prawn

1) In a small pot over medium heat, add the coconut oil. Once hot, add minced garlic and half of the diced onions. Cook until onions soften, 2-3 min.
2) Add quinoa and kosher salt, stirring constantly until lightly toasted, 3-4 min.
3) Add vegetable broth, bring to boil then cover loosely to allow steam to escape. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10-12 min until liquid is fully absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 5 min, covered.
4) Fluff cooked quinoa and transfer to your serving bowl, allowing it to cool while prepping remaining ingredients.
5) To prepare the vinaigrette, finely mince the 2 garlic cloves then use your knife to smash the garlic into a paste. This will help the vinaigrette to emulsify (a fancy way of saying it will prevent the oil and vinegar from separating.)
6) In a small bowl, combine the lime zest, lime juice, vinegar, garlic paste, cumin and cayenne, then whisk in the coconut oil. Season to taste with a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Coconut oil solidifies when it is cool, so it is best to use room temperature ingredients. The vinaigrette can be gently warmed for a few seconds if necessary to soften the oil; just place your bowl in a larger bowl of warm water and whisk.
7) Add the black beans, peppers, remaining onions, and jalapeno to the quinoa. Toss with the vinaigrette and cilantro. By the way, the salad stores well in the fridge and can be eaten warm at room temperature or cold, so take those leftovers with you to lunch!  I like to freshen it up with extra lime the next day.
8) Since the salad can be eaten warm or cold, you can do the shrimp before or after - if you want hot grilled shrimp, save that for the last thing you do as it only takes a few minutes to cook shrimp. As you heat up your grill pan, toss the peeled shrimp with the coconut oil, spices, and a good pinch or two of kosher salt.
9) In batches, grill the shrimp 1-2 minutes on the first side depending on the size. When the shrimp has seared on one side and has turned opaque, that's when you know to flip it over and finish grilling another minute on the other side. Nobody wants overcooked shrimp, so don't walk away from these.

Grilled Shrimp on pan
Make sure you do not overcook your shrimp!

10) Squeeze some fresh lime over the shrimp as you're taking it off the grill. Try to let it get to your plate before eating it.

Mexican Quinoa Salad and Grilled Shrimp

That's it...serve and enjoy. Make your plate as pretty as you want with some extra cilantro and lime as garnish. To serve the quinoa salad in a molded shape like I did, just pack it into a small cup or bowl so the quinoa is level with the top of the cup. Place your serving plate over the cup, and holding the cup, flip the plate over so the cup is now inverted over your plate. Carefully lift up the cup to reveal the quinoa salad!