Hello from Southern California! This week, we had a couple of hot days brought on by the Santa Ana winds. Then, as we’re on the cusp of Winter and Spring, (we do too have seasons!) it was followed by rain.
The heat put me in mind of a salad, then the cold ‘snap’ inspired a heartier version with sweet potato, quinoa, and the pop of pomegranate seeds tossed with a tangy lemon vinaigrette. I included oven roasted shrimp but chicken or salmon would also be great here. Without animal protein, this dish still provides 10grams of protein per serving.
It can be served either chilled, or room temperature
The nutritional stars of this salad are the quinoa and sweet potatoes. Quinoa is a naturally gluten free grain that’s high in protein, fiber, B-vitamins, and iron. Quinoa and sweet potatoes are both magnesium rich, and a serving of this salad, even without the shrimp, provides more than one third of the recommended daily Magnesium intake!
Magnesium plays an important role in glucose control and insulin metabolism to keep your blood sugar balanced, but what I love most about Magnesium is the support it gives brain function. Magnesium aids almost every part of the stress response from recovery to repair. As a result, stress causes us to waste our magnesium like crazy, and we need it to, you know, deal with stress!
For the shrimp, I chose oven roasting. I find it easy and foolproof and keeps clean up to a minimum. Toss the shrimp with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper, then place them in a single layer on a parchment or foil covered sheet pan. Roast in a preheated 400 degree oven.
I used 16-20 per pound shrimp and roasted for 8 minutes, and then another minute of two to rest after I removed them from the oven. If you are using smaller shrimp, adjust the cooking time by a minute or two. The shrimp can be served whole on top of the salad, or cut into chunks and tossed with the rest of the ingredients. I’ve shown it both ways.
To cook the quinoa, please give it a good rinse first! While I’ve seen preparations that don’t call for rinsing, I strongly recommend you do so. It removes quinoa’s natural coating, called saponin, which gives cooked quinoa a soapy taste and can cause stomach upset. I once used an organic brand we all know and love that didn’t call for rinsing, I thought perhaps it was pre rinsed, or maybe the saponin had been removed in some way. But, nooooo! I ruined what should have been a delicious batch of jalapeño chicken, kale and quinoa soup. That was a sad day in the kitchen!
I rinse mine in a metal strainer and shake it around to help rub off that soapy saponin! Let it drain while you prep the shrimp, and then place 1 part quinoa to 1 1/2 parts water in a medium saucepan. (This is less than the usual 1 to 2 ratio for grains, because the quinoa will have already absorbed some water during rinsing). Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then immediately turn the burner to low, and cover for 15 minutes. Let sit off heat, covered, for an additional 5 minutes. I guarantee this will yield perfectly cooked, fluffy quinoa. If it doesn’t work for you, I want to hear about it!
To make the candied nuts, heat 1/2 cup of walnut pieces over medium heat in a non stick skillet until fragrant. Increase heat to medium high and sprinkle with 1 Tbl of granulated sugar. Allow the sugar to begin to melt, about 30 seconds, then I use a heat proof silicone spatula to stir constantly until the nuts are bathed in the sugary syrup. Turn out onto parchment paper, foil or plate until cool. If you’re using larger pieces, you can chop them after they’ve been cooked and
As I was packaging this salad to give to my neighbors, (and yes, you totally do want to be my neighbor) I thought, this would a be great dish for a picnic. It travels well, and is really delicious after the dressing has a chance to be absorbed by the other ingredients. Hope you love it as much as I do!
- lb large shrimp peeled and deveined
- 2 large sweet potatoes (4 cups large dice)
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
- ½ cup Pomegranate seeds, fresh or frozen. (dried cranberry or diced tart green apple would be good substitutions)
- ½ cup candied walnuts (or just toasted)
- Juice of 1 lemon (3 TBL)
- 5 TBL olive oil
- Butter or baby lettuce leaves (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400
- Rinse and drain quinoa
- Peel and chop Sweet Potato. Toss with Olive oil, salt and pepper and place in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment or foil.
- Toss shrimp with olive oil, salt and pepper and place in a single layer on a sheet pan lined with foil or parchment paper.
- Place both pans in the preheated oven and set a timer for 8 minutes
- Add 1½ cups water to drained quinoa in medium sauce pan and heat over medium high heat to boiling, then turn the heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes, then, let steam with the lid on, off heat, for an additional 5 minutes.
- After removing the shrimp from the oven, give the sweet potato chunks an additional 20 minutes.
- To assemble: Place sweet potato, shrimp, quinoa and tomatoes in a large bowl. Whisk together the lemon juice with the olive oil and a pinch of salt. Drizzle dressing over the top and toss. Add pomegranate seeds, toasted or candied walnuts and toss again. Taste for salt and pepper and, if desired, serve on baby greens or lettuce leaves