quinoa, asparagus and feta salad
A few months ago, my Mom broke her foot, remember? We had been out for a morning jog, she landed wrong, rolled her foot and several x-rays later, she walked out of the hospital on crutches. I’m happy to report that Mom is “up and running” pun intended. But Dad, isn’t. He’s having back surgery in a few weeks.
I’ll spare you the details. He’s got a great doctor, so we’re hopeful that this procedure will get him back to his usual self. In preparation for the procedure, the doctor has given him a special diet. Not for weight loss (though he will drop a few pounds just by virtue of what he’s supposed to eat and not eat), but to boost his immune system and give him the best opportunity for a smooth recovery. Aside from the protein shakes, which are chock full of weird powders and oils, he’s focusing on lots of green veggies and high protein foods. I started thinking about some fresh ways to approach this regimen.
Quinoa was one of the foods on his list to enjoy, so I started there. There was some beautiful, thin asparagus at the store and my Dad enjoys sweet peas. The veggies add texture and a pop of color and fresh herbs add a light freshness . I had tarragon and mint, complimentary flavors in my book, so that’s how this dish began.
The lemony vinaigrette makes it tangy and light and chunks of feta adds a salty bite. I think this is one salad that the doctor would approve of. It would be a complete meal on its own, but since Dad is really focusing on a high protein diet, those organic chicken breasts I picked up for him this week would make a great go-with.
This simple dish had a ton of flavor and a satisfying mouth feel from the tender-crisp asparagus and chewy quinoa. It keeps well for several days in the fridge. Serve chilled or as we did, at room temperature.
- 1/2 cup quinoa I used red quinoa, but plain works fine as well
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 pound asparagus tough ends trimmed, cut into 1" pieces
- 2 scallions thinly sliced
- 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon white wine or champagne vinegar
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup feta cheese crumbled, or cut into 1" cubes
In a small saucepan combine quinoa and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes, until tender, but still chewy and white spirals are visible around each grain. Remove pan from heat, take off the lid allowing the quinoa cool.
Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath by placing 1-2 cups of ice in a medium bowl and adding water. Set aside. Bring another small pan of water to a boil. Add asparagus and cook until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or spider, scoop out the asparagus and plunge it into the ice water bath to stop the cooking and set the color. Remove the asparagus and pat dry with a paper towel or clean dish cloth.
For the dressing: Using a microplane, remove the zest from the lemon and cut the lemon in half. Combine the lemon zest and juice from half of the lemon in a small bowl. Add the vinegar, olive oil, tarragon and mint. Whisk to combine.
In a medium bowl, combine the peas, asparagus, quinoa, scallions and feta. Toss with the dressing and serve.