Quinoa with Shrimp, Roasted Poblanos, and Tomatillo Sauce

Recently, a friend sent me a delicious-looking recipe for a Quinoa, Sweet Potato, and Avocado Timbale with Roasted Tomatillo Dressing.  I was going to make it as-is, but when I started gathering ingredients I decided to make some changes.  I wanted to reduce the fat – easy enough by baking the tortillas instead of frying them, and reducing the oil in the dressing – and play up the Latin flavors a bit more.  To this end, I added oven-roasted poblano peppers, jicama, toasted pumpkin seeds, and extra roasted tomatillos that I chopped and added to the dish (not just pureed in the dressing). Since I added the poblanos, I skipped the jalapenos from the original recipe and because I had so much going in, I decided to leave out the avocado, but I added shrimp to round out the meal.

A lot more prep-work went into this recipe than I’m usually willing to do for a weeknight dinner. But I’m off work for Christmas break, so I had the time to fix it for dinner tonight.

For the quinoa, bring to a boil in a small saucepan:

  • 2 cups vegetable broth

Then add:

  • 1 cup quinoa

Simmer the quinoa, covered, for 15 minutes.  Strain off any excess broth, return the quinoa to the pan, cover with a clean towel, cover with lid and let sit for 10 minutes.

While the quinoa cooks, peel:

  • 1 jicama (about 3-inches in diameter)

Cut into match-sticks (about 1/8 inch).  Toss with lime juice to prevent any discoloration while you prepare the rest of the meal. Lime juice also tastes great with the natural sweetness of the jicama.

In the meantime, heat your oven to 300-degrees.  Spread 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet. Bake in oven, stirring a few times, for 10-15 minutes until toasted – keep a close eye on them once they start smelling a little toasted so they don’t burn. Set aside.

Turn the oven up to 400 degrees, place on baking sheet:

  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces

Drizzle with about 1 tsp olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then toss to coat.  Bake about 15 minutes, until tender (you should be able to put a fork into the piece with no trouble).  Set aside.

Turn the oven up to 450 degrees. Place on a foil-lined cookie sheet:

  • 2 poblano peppers
  • 6 tomatillos

Roast, turning a couple of times, for 10-15 minutes until they are are browned and slightly charred on all sides.  Transfer to a bowl and cover.  Once they are cooled enough to work with, remove the peel from the peppers (this website describes the process and has good pictures of what it looks like), take out the stem and seeds, and cut into about a 1/4 inch dice; add to the cooked quinoa.

Keep 3 of the tomatillos whole (for the sauce), and roughly chop the other three.

Next, cut into about 1/4 inch wide strips:

  • 4 corn tortillas

Arrange them on a single layer on the baking sheet, then bake for about 5 minutes until they are crispy.

To put together the dressing, place in the bowl of a food processor:

  • 3 whole (roasted) tomatillos
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1/3 c. chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp agave nectar
  • juice of 1 lemon

Pulse several times, then turn the processor to on, and slowly drizzle in:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

Continue to blend until this has a sauce-like consistency.

Finally, place on oiled baking sheet:

  • 1 pound peeled, deveined shrimp (whatever size you like)

Toss with cajun seasoning (cumin would also be good) and roast in 450-degree oven until cooked through (4-7 minutes or so, depending on the size of shrimp you used).

To serve, place some sweet potato pieces into the bottom of a 1-cup measuring cup, then spoon in quinoa (and press into place).  Turn this out onto a plate (repeat with other plates).  Top each with a spoonful or so of the chopped tomatillos.  Surround this with the jicama, tortilla strips, and shrimp.  Spoon sauce over, and sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seeds.

This dish is my favorite combination of tart and sweet, crunchy and chewy.  It would also be fun to serve this at a dinner party, putting the quinoa mixture onto each plate, then letting guests choose whatever toppings they want. There’s also a lot that could be done in advance – toasting the pumpkin seeds, roasted the poblanos and tomatillos, cutting up the jicama, making the sauce – so you could easily start this the day before.

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