It’s officially Spring, but when you live in the tropics, the transition to a new season is muted at best. The change is so slight, so minor as to be imperceptible to the casual observer. To visitors, it’s just more of the same blue skies and sunshine. I guess I can’t complain about that…
That said, I always missed experiencing the change of seasons after moving to South Florida . Especially Spring. I miss the newly budding trees and fresh blades of grass just peaking through the soil and that particular shade of pale green that promises warmer weather to come. I have no choice but to translate the spirit of the change of seasons through food — like this Spring Asparagus Quinoa Salad.
This salad is inspired by the kaleidoscope of green that emerges everywhere else in the country at springtime. From pale sage and heather to vibrant kelly and deeper forest greens, they are all represented in this simple, healthy dish. Tossed with thin slices of crunchy vibrant-hued radishes and briny nuggets of kalamata olives, this Spring Asparagus Quinoa Salad is a feast for the eyes and belly!
I used a bright lemon-shallot vinaigrette that’s speckled with fresh herbs to dress the simple dish. Bonus, the recipe for the dressing makes extra and is delicious on any salad or grilled or roasted fish or chicken. I start with just 2-3 tablespoons of dressing and toss it into the quinoa and veggies. If it needs more, I add one tablespoon at a time. The salad should be flavored with the vinaigrette, but not soupy.
But wait, there’s more… Crunchy toasted walnuts add another layer of flavor and texture to this hearty, flavorful dish. Whether you’re looking for a tasty vegan or vegetarian main course, or a side dish to go with grilled chicken, lamb or pork this salad delivers!
Spring Asparagus Quinoa Salad
This simple salad has all the flavors of new spring vegetables. A great vegan main dish or perfect side for grilled poultry, pork or seafood.
For the salad
- 2 cups cooked quinoa (from 1 cup dry quinoa), cooled to room temperature
- 1/2 pound asparagus
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 -5 radishes , very thinly sliced
- 1 cup frozen peas , thawed
- 1/2 cucumber , peeled, seeded and sliced into thin half moons
- 1/2 cup kalamata olives , seeded and roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup walnuts toasted
For the Lemon Shallot Dressing
- 1 lemon
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons whole grain dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 small shallot , minced
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
- 2 teaspoons fresh tarragon chopped
- 2 teaspoons fresh parsley chopped
Preheat the oven to 300° Spread the walnuts on a sheet pan and cook for 10-12 minutes until toasted and fragrant. set aside.
Cook the quinoa according to the package directions -- when it's fully cooked, remove the lid, fluff it with a fork and set aside, uncovered, to cool to room temperature.
Trim the tough ends from the asparagus (usually about the bottom inch or two). Slice the asparagus spears into one inch pieces. Bring a pan of water to a boil. Meanwhile, set up an ice bath -- a medium sized bowl filled with ice and water.
When the water comes to a boil, add the salt and the asparagus pieces and cook for 3-4 minutes until bright green and tender. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the the asparagus to the ice bath to stop the cooking and help it retain it's bright green color. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the radishes, peas, cucumbers and olives. Remove the asparagus from the water bath and pat dry with paper towels. Add the asparagus to the bowl. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and check to make sure it's at room temperature and if it is, add it to the vegetables. Toss to combine.
For the Lemon Shallot Dressing
Zest the lemon and transfer it to a small bowl. Add the minced shallot, dijon mustard, whole grain mustard, honey, kosher salt, pepper and the juice from the lemon - about 3 tablespoons. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly until emulsified. Stir in the chopped tarragon and parsley.
Add about 1/4 cup of dressing to the salad and toss to coat. Salad should be moist but not goopy - so take care not to overdress the salad. Adjust seasoning to taste, adding salt, pepper or more lemon juice as needed. Roughly chop the toasted walnuts and add to the salad just before serving, so they stay crunchy.