This is one of those recipes that definitely took more than one try. Darren and I loved the initial flavor (and the nutrient profile is hard to beat), but our first attempt was missing that special something. After much contemplation, we realized we forgot to add any fat! Fat is a key component to properly balance flavors, and is one of the main reasons why fat-free versions of your favorite foods often fail. When we started to talk about the natural complements to shrimp and corn, we realized that what this dish needed was bacon. It was a-may-zing! Who knew crazy quinoa could taste so good! The beauty of bacon is that a little goes a long way, so just 3 slices of the nitrate-free variety was enough to take this recipe from good to great (while still keeping the total amount of fat at a healthy level). Read: Do not omit (unless you’re vegetarian, then follow my tips below).
If you’ve never cooked with quinoa, you are missing out. Quinoa (KEEN-wa) is an ancient “grain” that has recently been rediscovered, and is now considered by many as one of the top “superfoods”. After doing further research, I discovered that quinoa is actually not a grain at all. It is a technically an edible seed, and is a member of the chenopod family (the same one as spinach). In ancient times, the Incas fed quinoa to their soldiers before battle to give them the added stamina they needed to defend their enemies. Quinoa is a complete protein, high in fiber, naturally gluten free, and full of phytonutrients and antioxidants. Shrimp is a great low mercury seafood option to feed your whole family. Most Americans are currently deficient in vitamin D and vitamin B12, shrimp provides a substantial supply of both. My bacon, corn, and shrimp risotto is crazy healthy, crazy tasty, and super easy to make.
Ingredients (3 generous servings):
Medium shrimp, ½ pound, peeled and deveined
Nitrate-free bacon, 3 slices, thinly sliced (I used 365 brand applewood smoked)
Quinoa, 1 cup, uncooked
Corn, 1 cup, fresh or frozen
Red bell pepper, 1, seeded, cored and chopped
Lime, 1, zest and juice
Chives, 5 – 6, for garnish
Chicken broth, 2 ½ cups
Garlic powder, 1 tsp
Ground cumin, 1 tsp
Chili powder, 1 tsp
Red pepper flakes, ¼ tsp
Sea salt, ½ tsp
Fresh ground black pepper, ¼ tsp
Preparations (5 minutes):
• Seed, core, and chop 1 red bell pepper (or any color).
• If using fresh corn, cut from cob
• Combine all ingredients listed under “seasonings”.
• Zest and juice one lime into a small bowl or ramekin.
• Remove all vegetables from cutting board.
• Use kitchen shears to cut 3 slices of nitrate free bacon into ¼ inch strips. Hand wash shears as you will need them for the chive garnish.
• Promptly cover and refrigerate all ingredients if not utilizing within the hour. Bell pepper, corn, and lime zest/juice can be stored in the same bowl. Bacon should be stored separately.
Instructions (25 – 30 minutes, all hands on):
• Heat a large, deep skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
• Add bacon to skillet and cook until crispy, about 8 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer bacon crumbles to paper-towel lined plate.
• Add 1 cup dry quinoa and combined seasonings to bacon drippings. Stir constantly for about 2 minutes.
• Reduce heat to medium low. Add ½ cup chicken broth to quinoa, and stir constantly until nearly all the liquid has been absorbed. Repeat four more times with remaining 2 cups broth (1/2 cup at a time). The amount of time that it takes for the quinoa to absorb the broth will continue to lengthen as the risotto progresses (about 20 – 25 minutes total).
• Once the quinoa have “popped” (the seed separates and it appears as though there is a ring around it, think Saturn), add one-half pound peeled and deveined shrimp. Stir 2 minutes more, just until shrimp have turned pink.
• Add chopped bell peppers, corn kernels, and lime zest/juice. Continue stirring for another minute or two, until veggies are heated throughout, and the risotto has reached a nice, creamy consistency.
• Transfer to a large serving bowl. Garnish with crispy bacon and freshly snipped chives (kitchen shears work best).
• Serve and enjoy!
Notes: This dish is naturally gluten free and free of any nuts or nut products. It is super kid friendly (I did cut Annie’s shrimp into thirds), and is a great way to add quinoa to your family’s diet. Vegetarians can omit the shrimp, and replace the bacon with two tablespoons of butter. Additionally, be sure to swap out the chicken broth for vegetable broth.
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