Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Adventures with Quinoa & Skinny Shrimp Scampi

So as you know I recently tried quinoa for the first time. Similar to pasta and rice, it's fine on its own, but works better with a sauce or other ingredients mixed in with it. So this past week I messed around with different ideas getting inspiration from couscous recipes and other things I found on the glorious word wide web.

I have come to realize that I love homogeneous mixtures. Just in case, homogeneous means "consisting of parts all of the same kind" (the trusty mac dictionary). When talking about food, to me it means taking bites that are all similar - so all kinds of ingredients mixed up in to some kind of tasty goodness.

This came as a little bit of a shock to my awareness since as a kid I refused to allow any of my foods to touch. And I would eat one at a time, saving the best for last. AND I yell at my boyfriend from time to time for including more than one of each of my carefully crafted sides in one bite. But I have apparently been converted, because mixtures seem to be my thing now-a-days.

Here are some examples:

One morning I tried quinoa with scrambled eggs and tomato.

Non-stick spray
1 c. cooked quinoa
2 eggs
1/2 small tomato
Salt and pepper to taste

Once the pan is hot, add the cooked quina, leaving an open circle in the center of the pan.
Crack eggs in to the opening and break yolk with your spatula.
Add tomatos around the edges.
Once the eggs start to firm up, use the spatula to scramble and mix ingredients.
In the pan before plating.
All broken up in my homogeneous mixture!

Room-temp quinoa salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, red wine vinegar, and hummus
This was good, but too much red onion. Here is a modified recipe from what I used that I think would be better:

1 c. cooked Quinoa
1/2 c. cucumbers
1/4 c. tomatoes
1/8 c. red onion
2 T. hummus (I used Marketside Roasted Garlic - my new fave hummus!)
1 t. red wine vinegar

Mix ingredients, let them sit to reach room temperature, and enjoy! :)

so many fresh flavors :)
Quinoa with meatballs and tomato sauce
1 c. cooked quinoa
2 homemade meat balls (mom's! :) )
1/2 c. tomato sauce
1 t. parmesan cheese

Heat ingredients (except for the cheese) separately until they reach desired temperature, then mix, top with parmesan and enjoy! :)

Quinoa with tomato sauce is probably my favorite way to eat it so far (although I really did enjoy all of these combinations!) This is a great way to enjoy an old favorite for anyone who is gluten-free! Plus it would be easy to make both quinoa and pasta and allow your guests to choose.

before mxing..

tastes way better than it looks, promise!

Frozen, pre-cooked under warm water to defrost
Finally, the "Skinny Shrimp Scampi"
I'm calling it "Skinny" because I got the recipe from Bethenny Frankel's site (creator of the Skinny Girl Margarita)  I changed it up just a little, so here it goes...

  • About 12 large pre-cooked shrimp
  • 2 1/2 T. BestLife buttery spread
  • 1/2 c. white wine (Charles Shaw Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1 t. red pepper flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 3/4 lemon juice
  • 1/2 lemon zest
  • 1 c. cooked quinoa
The Process:
- First I ran the frozen, pre-cooked shrimp under warm water to defrost them. (frozen bag of 3-4 servings of 12 is only $5 at Walmart!)

- In a medium sized sauce pan I added the buttery spread, wine, red pepper,  lemon juice and garlic, and brought to a boil.

- Meanwhile, I attempt to get some lemon zest from my lemon... without a zester. I've been talking about kitchen gadgets and this is next on my list! Although not impossible, zesting is difficult without a zester, for sure. To zest without a zester you need to use a veggie peeler or a knife to get some of the skin off, but none of the white parts (If you look int he picture I got a littttttle bit of white in there) The pieces you cut should be yellow on both sides, at least for the most part, and then cut in to tiny pieces. I'm working on my knife skills so here's a tip: keep the nose of the knife down and just move the handle up and down and from left to right to cut the zest.
Before chopping the zest in to tiny pieces

- This is also a good time to heat the quinoa (I used a microwave for about 35 seconds) and plate it, making a nice bed for your shrimp and sauce.

- Once the sauce came to a boil I reduced it to simmer and added the shrimp. It's very, very important that you do not over-cook shrimp - they are GROSS when they're overcooked, trust me... I did it once, the first time I ever cooked for one of my close friends here at grad school - I'm surprised she let me cook for her after that!

- After 1-2 minutes the shirmp should be warm, so remove the pan from the heat.

- Because I wanted a pretty presentation for my picture, I decided to remove the shrimp with tongs, place them where I wanted them on the bed of quinoa, and then pour the sauce over last. That's probably the easiest, least messy, least dangerous (the sauce is HOT!) way to do it - so I recommend it.

- Top with lemon zest (and parmesan if you wish; I didn't) and that's it! I couldn't believe just how easy it was and how quickly I was able to do it! Especially for the first time! (TWHS). It only took about 30 minutes start to finish! (Keep in mind the quinoa was already cooked).

Serving Suggestion: I would suggest serving this with a nice, big, fresh salad and either garlic bread or a simply toasted Italian or French bread for dipping :)

Substitutions: This recipe can be adapted very, very easily for all different tastes and some dietary concerns! Shrimp could be swapped for veggies or chicken, and quinoa could be switched for pasta if you're not a fan. You could also try olive oil over buttery spread if you're avoiding dairy. :)

So, being the lover of homogeneous mixtures that I am, despite how pretty this plate looks now, I totally mangled it later on. First I cut off each tail and ate the shrimp meat inside of them. Next I cut the remaining shrimp in to pieces and mixed it all together. This is the moment when I realized I really love to mix things up!  But I guess that's the whole point here, right? Mixing things up - trying new things :)

I can not wait to make this for guests who love seafood, and especially my newly gluten-free friend, my boyfriend and my mom. I'll probably use pasta when I make it for them (quinoa for myself and my GF friend) but I think they'll love it! There's no heavy cream, the buttery spread is better for you than butter, and therefore there isn't much fat and so many less calories than the restaurant version! And TRUST ME, you don't miss them! The fresh garlic, fresh lemon, spicy cracked pepper, mmmm!  Truly delectable!

I'm loving quinoa! But I'm going to take a break from it for awhile I think - a little over-kill this week! But I'm so glad I experimented with it in so many ways, because next time I make a batch (one of the things I have to think about, living alone) I will have so many delicious options for how to use it up!

What's your favorite way to eat quinoa?
Any good tricks/tips/articles/blog posts you know of for knife training? :)

1 comment:

  1. YUMM! You just gave me so many good ideas for quinoa! Quinoa in eggs sounds amazing! :)