Lemon-Chile Shrimp with Miso Brussels Sprouts and Quinoa

This is a dish I dreamed up after watching the dreamy Nigella toss about some glorious shrimps with red chiles, garlic and grated lemon peel. I just LOVE watching her cook. She drizzles, dashes and drops but manages to turn out beautiful food every episode. And her soothing accent doesn't hurt either. I guess I'd be a big fan of anyone who allows herself to be caught raiding the fridge after bed-time. Nigella, you're my biggest fan! :)

If you follow my posts (thank you, I'm now YOUR biggest fan!) you might remember I have this obsession, thanks to Mark Bittman, about the evolution of a home cook. You start out following every recipe to the letter, no riffing allowed, then you mellow slightly and look to cookbooks for inspiration but start swapping out ingredients and varying techniques as you become more confident. The third stage of the home cook, and one I'm proud to say I'm knocking on the front door of, is when you begin to come up with your own recipes based simply on what you might have in the fridge and what sounds good to you that day.

It wasn't until I was halfway through my lovely little shrimp dish that I'd created this pretty much on my own, thanks to some inspiration from Nigella. I will be honest and say I didn't even go to look up her shrimp recipe. I recreated it because it sounded good, and I added two additional components because I needed to use up the brussels sprouts before they went bad and I'm still in love with quinoa. I don't care if it's just a trend.

You know what I love about shrimp? If it's fresh, it's hard to mess up, other than cooking it too long. I had a jar of open piquillo peppers from a previous recipe, so I simply diced some of those up and tossed them in some olive oil, along with garlic and the zest of a lemon. You can use fresh chiles if you want - I actually prefer them but I didn't have any on hand and I needed to use up the open jar. Necessity is often the mother of invention, no? I tossed the shrimpies about in this mixture and quite quickly had them resting in a bowl ready to top my miso-roasted brussels sprouts and quinoa.

The quinoa is simple enough, but it can taste bitter if you don't rinse the grains off in a fine-mesh strainer first. Also, I like to punch up the flavor-content a bit by quickly toasting the grains in a hot, dry skillet before submerging them in chicken stock to fluff up.

I love brussels sprouts, particularly roasted or seared in a cast-iron skillet until they become crispy and caramelized. For this dish, I prefer cooking the sprouts in a skillet and adding my miso-butter at the end. Yes, miso butter. It should really be slathered on anything  that you put in your mouth. In the recipe below, I give you the amount to make a batch of it, because honestly, it deserves to go on a lot of food as often as possible.

Lemon-Chile Shrimp with Miso Brussels Sprouts and Quinoa

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the Shrimp:

1 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, chopped into large chunks

2-4 fresh or bottled red chiles (however spicy you like it!)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 T. olive oil

Zest of one lemon

For the Brussels Sprouts:

1 lb brussells sprouts, trimmed and halved

2 T. olive oil

2 T. miso butter

For the Miso Butter:

2 sticks unsalted butter

1 cup white miso

Directions:

*For the miso butter, simply bring the butter and miso to room temperature and whip together with a spoon until combined. You're welcome.

1. Start the quinoa first as it takes about 20 minutes total and you can work on the other two components of the dish as it soaks. Thoroughly rinse 1 cup of quinoa using a fine mesh strainer and drain well. Heat a dry skillet over medium heat and toast the quinoa gently until they begin to smell nutty and darken just a touch. Bring 2 cups of water or broth (chicken or vegetable is nice) to a boil and add the quinoa. Cover, lower the heat to low and cook gently for about 15 minutes or until tender.

2. Fire up your cast-iron skillet on medium-high to high (depending on how hot your oven cooks - you want to develop charred, crispy bits but you don't want to completely torch your sprouts). Add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and toss your sprouts about until they become deeply roasted, browned in spots and crispy. Season with salt and pepper. When the sprouts are nearly finished, dollop at least 1 tablespoon of the miso butter in the sprouts, tossing them to make sure every one is evenly covered.

3. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a skillet (I like to use a non-stick pan but you can use one here if you'd like) and heat to medium / medium-high heat. Toss in the chiles and garlic and heat until the garlic starts to turn golden and the chiles become tender, about 2 minutes. Grate the zest of one lemon into the skillet and stir together with the garlic and chiles. Then slide your shrimpies into the pan and cook away until they just turn pink. Don't forget to season them with salt and pepper! I like to finish the dish with a squeeze of lemon juice from the lemon, but you can omit that if you don't like things too lemony.

To serve: I kinda fancy-pantsed this dish for pictures, but you don't have to make yours this formal. Just ladle out a scoup of quinoa and top with the miso brussels sprouts and the shrimp.