Monday, February 4, 2013

Plant-Based Protein: Quinoa Aduki Bean Pilaf with Chimichurri Sauce

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How have I never written on quinoa? Who am I? I apologize. It's one of the greatest foods ever! - so much so that even the United Nations has declared 2013 the 'International Year of Quinoa'. You can eat quinoa for breakfast, lunch or dinner... as a savory snack or sweet dessert... on a train, plane, or bus (you get the idea)!

So... if you can find it in your heart to forgive me for withholding such a gem, I will now make it up to you!

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) originated in the Andes and was domesticated about 4,000 years ago. You might think it's a grain, but don't be fooled. It's actually a chenopod, closely related to spinach and my best friend, the beet. But real identity aside, quinoa makes a great addition to your diet, especially if you're trying to wean yourself off refined grains like white rice OR if you're going gluten-free. Quinoa can easily be substituted in a stir-fry or other exotic dish calling for rice. You can even sprinkle some over your salad or make a breakfast 'oatmeal' with quinoa instead of oats! The options are endless.

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Here's why you should work quinoa into your diet...

PROTEIN - Quinoa is a complete protein, meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, which is needed for building and repairing muscles, tissues and organs. Protein is also instrumental for hormone production and fluid balance.

FIBER - Quinoa has almost double the amount of fiber found in grains. Fiber helps regulate blood sugar, reduces blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, aids in digestion and keeps you full longer! If you're trying to lose weight, fiber is your best friend. 

ANTIOXIDANTS - The antioxidants in quinoa work to prevent damage to cell mitochondria during energy production, while also protecting cells from cancer-causing free radicals.

IRON - Looks like red meat's not the only place you can get your iron! Quinoa is right up there too! Iron keeps your red blood cells healthy, supplies your muscles with oxygen and also increases your brain function. 

Last week I dropped in for the third class in a 4-week series on 'Cooking to Cleanse' at Freshmade NYC. During this grains-focused class, Chef Ella taught us simple techniques for cooking grains and incorporating them into our whole foods cleanse. One of my class favorites was the Quinoa Aduki Bean Pilaf with Chimichurri Sauce. While you most frequently find chimichurri topping a big, fat steak, it was surprisingly satisfying on the quinoa! (cross my heart, hope to die... I wouldn't lie to you).

Please note that I added shrimp to mine, but the rest of the recipe is true to the original form. Here's a play-by-play of Ella's recipe...

Grab your chimichurri ingredients: 1 bunch of organic cilantro and 1/2 bunch of organic parsley (washed, de-stemmed and chopped), 1 clove of garlic, 1 lime, 1/4 cup of good quality extra virgin olive oil, and 1/2-1 tsp of sea salt.
Mince the garlic, then lay the knife on top of the garlic and use your fingers to push the knife against the pieces,
making a softer paste or gel.
In a food processor or blender, combine the parsley, cilantro, garlic, and the juice of 1 lime.
Now add the olive oil, salt and 2 Tbs. of water. 
Process until you have a smooth, light green sauce. If it's still chunky, add a bit more water or olive oil to taste.
It should look just like this!
Now grab the rest of your ingredients... organic quinoa, a can of aduki beans, grapeseed oil or olive oil, half a lime, sea salt and shrimp. In a large saucepan, boil 2 cups of water.
In a saucepan over medium heat, toast 1 cup of quinoa (rinsed). This will only take about 3 minutes or so. You'll see the quinoa turn slightly brown as it starts to smell nutty. At this point, add the quinoa to the boiling water and cover. Cook for 15 minutes until the water is absorbed (the trick is to never peak... keep the lid on until your timer goes off).
Meanwhile, saute your shrimp in 1-2 Tbs. of grapeseed or olive oil. As they cook, squeeze the juice of half a lime on top and salt and pepper to taste.
You'll know your quinoa is done when it looks nice and fluffy like this and all the water has been absorbed!
In a large mixing bowl, combine the quinoa, 1 can of aduki beans (drained) and the chimichurri sauce.
Mix well and top with the shrimp. You might even want to grab some hot sauce for your South of the Border fiesta!

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