Sunday, March 22, 2015

Fresh Herbs Series... Mexican Quinoa with Cilantro and Pepitas...

One of the great aspects of being a Jamie Oliver Food Rev ambassador is that we get to share our unique culture, passion for food and cooking with our fellow ambassadors around the world. It is always amazing to see what others are doing half way around the world in their homes and communities. We are given various food challenges to complete every month, and for March, the team in U.K. have challenged us to make a meat free meal in celebration of Australia and U.K.s' global Meat Free Week campaign. I had a bunch of herbs leftover from my kids' cooking class I hosted a few days ago, and I thought why not make it a week-long vegetarian challenge doubled with a personal one of using up those fabulous fresh herbs! So to kick-off my duo challenge, I first present to you cilantro! Cilantro also known as Chinese parsley and coriander offers two distinct tastes in one- the lemon peel, cumin and sage taste of the leaves as well as the citrus flavour of the seeds- coriander. Storage Tip: The best way to store cilantro is in a container with just enough water to cover the washed cilantro stems, a plastic bag over the cilantro leaves and refrigerated- keeps fresh for about four weeks, although mine would be long gone before then.

I absolutely love using cilantro in Asian cooking such as Chinese and Vietnamese, in Mediterranean and also Mexican and Southwest dishes. If you love cilantro, give this tasty high-protein, high-mineral quinoa recipe with the addition of healthy pumpkin seeds a try with a Mexican flair!

Mexican Quinoa with Cilantro and Pepitas
Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 cup quinoa
1/2 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 cup cilantro leaves, saving 2 Tbsp. for garnish
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 jalapeño chile, chopped (optional)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. lime juice
1/2 coloured bell pepper, chopped

1 cup spinach leaves, chopped
2 green onions, chopped

Prepare quinoa according to package directions and fluff when ready with a fork. Heat skillet over high heat, dry-toast the pepitas, shaking the skillet over the heat until they begin to pop. 

Place into a blender along with cilantro, garlic, jalapeño, salt and cumin and process, scraping the sides down frequently until all is well minced. Add the olive oil and lime juice, processing until smooth.

Stir the cilantro mixture, pepper, spinach and green onions into the quinoa while still warm. Or cool before adding remaining ingredients. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, a splash of lime and top with cilantro leaves upon serving.

I love eating it warm with all the nutty cumin flavours and crunchy texture of the vegetables and herbs intermingling beautifully with piquant bite!

Try some of my other favourite dishes that uses cilantro: Vietnamese Summer Shrimp and Pork Rolls, Vietnamese Curry Chicken Wings, Steamed Chinese Whole Fish, Thai Coconut Pumpkin Soup with Cilantro Pesto, Persian Kotlet Meat PattiesBeef, Bean and Rice Burritos and any of my other Mexican recipes using cilantro as a topping such as Tacos and Chicken Fajitas.

Join me back on my next post on refreshing mint used in a sauce to dress roasted zucchini...

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