I love cooking. If you’ve been following me on Instagram over the last year or so, you may have noticed a few more home-cooked meals than before. That’s because I recently moved into a condo where one of my “needs” was to have a good kitchen, which I got. When I cook, I usually try to eat healthier even though it may seem as if my caloric intake is higher than the norm. Perception is everything I guess. Since this new kitchen entered my life, I’ve learned the value of a well-stocked pantry extending to the fridge. That means, plenty of spices, a few select grains or seeds, aromatics and basic vegetables, herbs, plenty of citrus, proteins, sauces, and cheeses. This led me to my latest recipe: Lime-Creole Shrimp with Quinoa.
I know it’s not the best thing to have since fresh is always best, but a bag of frozen uncooked, shell-on shrimp is a staple in my place now. It doesn’t take much time to defrost or prepare, and I like save the shells to make a good stock. Also, quinoa is a food I’ve always liked, but never really prepared, not that I don’t like it. I know it’s good for you, but it’s usually a little bland, which got me thinking, maybe I just haven’t had “good” quinoa. So, with a well stocked pantry and a keen cooking sense, I prepared what was surprisingly a delicious and relatively healthy meal.
Similar to making good rice, couscous, or any grain or seed, you can impart a lot of flavor comes from the liquid you cook it in, also known as a stock. Whether you’re using chicken, beef, vegetable, or shrimp stock, you choose what would go best. A recent voyage to New Orleans inspired me in a creole sort of way, which is where I got some of Joe’s Stuff Creole Spice Mix from the New Orleans School of Cooking (one of the greatest places on this planet). What if there was a way to make a stock with some of those flavors? Just like a New Orleans traditional crayfish boil, the flavor is in the stock. So, that’s what I did.
For this recipe, you can use as much shrimp as you want. I really like shrimp, so I used a pound, which you can find in any grocery store. If you can, buy fresh; if not, go frozen like I did. Just make sure to defrost it first. Put it in a colander in the sink and run luke-warm water over it, or leave it out at room temperature to thaw naturally. If you don’t have a creole spice mix, you can blend some of your favorite spices together, or find a creole spice mix in the grocery store. Just make sure you’re ok with the amount of heat it will give off. Also, the ratio of liquid to quinoa you should always is 2 to 1, so two parts liquid to one part quinoa. This will yield 3 cups of cooked quinoa, so make sure the pot you use is big enough. In this recipe, I’m making my own creole-inspired stock which worked out very well. If you don’t want to do that, just use quinoa and any other stock, and omit the other ingredients listed under quinoa.
Lime-Creole Shrimp with Quinoa (4 servings)
1 medium-sized saucepan
1 medium-sized pot
2 rubber spatulas or wooden spoons
Microplane or zester
1 pound (454 grams) of shrimp, peeled, and de-veined
2 vine tomatoes
1 clove of garlic
1 medium yellow onion
zest and juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons of creole spice mix
2 tablespoons of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of quinoa
2 cups water
2 cloves of garlic
1 medium yellow onion
1 celery stalk
1 green bell pepper
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons of creole spice mix
1 tablespoon of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
First, prepare the quinoa:
1. Heat a medium-sized pot to medium heat. Finely chop the garlic, then dice one onion, green pepper, and celery stalk into small similar-sized pieces. Add to the pot and cook until onions are translucent, and all vegetables become a little soft, about 5-7 minutes.
2. Add 4 tablespoons of creole seasoning to the pot and stir well to combine. Cook for about 2-4 minutes so the vegetables are well coated in the spices and the pot is somewhat dry.
3. Add 2 cups of water to the pot, then the bay leaves and bring to a boil. Stir from the bottom to make sure the vegetables aren’t sticking. Cover the pot to let it heat up faster and to prevent evaporation.
4. Once the creole stock has reached a rolling boil, add the quinoa and stir a few times to make sure none of it is sticking to the bottom. Turn the heat down to low, cover the pot and let it sit for 15 minutes. You may be tempted to uncover it, but trust me, don’t. Let it sit there and absorb the stock. While that’s cooking, you can move on to the shrimp.
To prepare the shrimp:
5. Defrost, peel, and remove the vein from the shrimp. If you are using de-veined shrimp, it’s best to check each one to ensure they are in fact removed.
6. Dice the two tomatoes and one of the onions, and set aside.
7. Zest one lime, then cut it in half to squeeze it directly in the pan later.
8. In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. Add the diced onions, and cook until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
9. Add the tomatoes and creole seasoning to the pan. Cook until the tomatoes have broken down and have created a light sauce for another 5 minutes.
10. Add the shrimp and lime juice. Cook until the shrimp turn pink. Add a little salt and pepper to taste.
Finish it up:
11. After 15 minutes, uncover the quinoa and fluff with a fork. Taste, and add salt and/or pepper if needed. Place in the center of a plate.
12. Right before serving, add half the lime zest to the shrimp, and stir to incorporate.
13. Add the shrimp on top of the quinoa, and garnish with a few strands of the lime zest.
14. Serve and enjoy!