Friday, March 23, 2012

Shrimp, avocado & orange quinoa salad

News flash: I'm not a very trendy person.  I'm picky and selective and favor articles of clothing considered classic -- items that won't look out of place six months or a year from now. 

So, when I purchased a pair of skinny jeans, it was a big deal.  Huge!  I waited almost six months after they initially hit the market before getting my own.  I think it's because I wanted to see if skinny jeans had any staying power and weren't just a passing trend.

I suppose that's what I've been telling myself about quinoa.  What is this weird grain?  Why is everyone and their mothers, brothers, and neighbors talking about this stuff?  What's the big deal?  And, how on earth do you pronounce it?

To answer the last question first, it's pronounced "keen-wha", though Matt would reward you with a high five for pronouncing it "kwi-no-uh."  He's a weird guy, that one.

Though you'll hear it referred to as a grain (guilty), quinoa is technically not a grain but the seed of a leafy plant related to spinach.  It's grown in South America and has an amazing nutty smoky flavor and is less filling than most grains and pastas.  Quinoa is a complete protein source and chock full of vitamins and minerals.  I won't bore you with the details, but check out the nutrition profile if you're curious.  Basically, quinoa is as close as it comes to being a perfect food source in the balance of nutrition it provides... count me in!

I was a little nervous for my first quinoa cooking adventure, but post-experience I can tell you that if you can cook pasta, you can cook quinoa.  I'm also happy to report that it's easier than cooking rice.  (Am I the only one who can never get rice right?)

And, speaking of pasta and rice, use quinoa in place of either of those.  In soups, frittatas, stir-fries, salads, and casseroles.  I've fallen hard for the stuff and have so many ideas swirling in my head that it's almost overwhelming.  

I wanted to start small and do something fresh and light for dinner since summer seemed to creep in on western PA without the slightest of warnings.  I swear, once the temperatures go up, my appetite for real food goes way, way down.  All I want for dinner is ice cream.

Ice cream this is not, but totally delicious and filling it is!  Talk about a meal of opposites.  While the placemat had snowflakes (it was the last day of winter, and I wanted one final use), what was inside the bowl on said placemat was all tropical!

Creamy avocado slices, bright and sweet oranges, and spicy shrimp all atop fluffy and poppy quinoa.  You must give quinoa a try!

I cooked the quinoa in chicken stock, topped it with the rainbow of additions, and gave another shake of Old Bay for good measure.  The quinoa cook into these fluffy little springs that just pop in your mouth.  The avocado almost melts around the spiced shrimp before the sweetness of the orange finishes it all off.

Since I've made this first dish, I can't stop raving about quinoa.  My goal is to get more people to try quinoa for themselves.  Consider it both a recommendation and a challenge, straight from this girl.  Get to it!  Any questions will be answered promptly, I promise :)

Have a fantastic Friday and catch you on Monday!  This week has been b-a-n-a-n-a-s with 80+ temps, but it's going to be a rainy weekend, so get ready for lots of recipes next week.  Happy cooking!

One year ago: Sally Lunn white bread
Two years ago: Maple marinated salmon

How to cook quinoa

A few notes: The bottom line is to maintain a ratio of 1 part quinoa to 2 parts liquid, regardless of the amount.  Using all water is just fine, but as with any grain, using a bit of stock will add more flavor.

1 cup dried quinoa
1 cup water
1 cup low sodium chicken stock

In fine mess strainer, rinse quinoa well and drain.  Combine quinoa and cooking liquid in saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce to simmer and cook, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes.  Uncover, fluff with a fork, and check for doneness.  If some liquid remains, cook, partially covered, a few minutes more.  Top with desired ingredients and serve immediately.  Enjoy!


  1. you need one heck of a fine strainer to rinse. I skip that step and still find the same results.

    1. I had the same concern with my normal strainer, but it worked like a charm. Without rinsing, I discovered some of the bitter coating (saponins) stayed on the quinoa and gave it a bit of a funky taste. Here are two great options:||NoFacet-_-NoFacet-_-NoMerchRules-_-

  2. I <3 quinoa... I love making extra and having it for breakfast in place of oatmeal sometimes. I agree, more people should try quinoa, so I think we should start a Pittsburgh Quinoa Appreciation Club (the name may need some work!).

    1. Oooh, quinoa for breakfast? Have you tried mixing it with yogurt? That could be totally delicious. I need to hear more about this idea for sure.

      Also, yes, a club is totally necessary. We could call it P-QAC for short :)

  3. Thanks, Katy. I have a box of the stuff in my pantry and your presentation has inspired. Adding the featured ingredients to my list for the weekend.

    Also, you may want to try Wheat Berries; same concept, different flavors.