This bright quinoa asparagus salad makes a great vegan main course or a delicious side dish with grilled lamb or chicken. Chock full of flavorful Spring vegetables like radishes, peas and cucumbers as well as dark, briny kalamata olives and crunchy walnuts, this Zesty Quinoa Salad with Lemon Tarragon Dressing is perfect for the change of seasons.
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, consequently, I always missed experiencing the change of seasons after moving to South Florida . Especially spring. We don’t get the newly budding trees and fresh blades of grass just peaking through the soil, and I miss that particular shade of pale green unique to this season. Instead, spring comes to me via the market — and what’s fresh, abundant and ON SALE. Spring is definitely the time for this quinoa asparagus salad.
Ingredients for Zesty Quinoa Salad
- Kalamata Olives
To Make the Quinoa Asparagus Salad
- Spread the walnuts on a sheet pan and toast them until golden and fragrant.
- Cook the quinoa according to package directions. Move the pan from the heat and remove the lid. Let the quinoa cool to room temperature and fluff with a fork.
- Trim the tough ends off the asparagus and cut into bite sized pieces
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch the asparagus for a minute or two until very bright green and tender. Use a spider to transfer the cooked asparagus to an ice water bath to shock it.
- Prep the radishes, cucumbers, olives and peas and transfer to a large bowl.
- Remove the asparagus from the ice bath and pat dry with paper towels. Add the asparagus to the rest of the vegetables.
- Fluff the cooked and cooled quinoa with a fork and add it to the bowl.
- Spoon a few tablespoons of dressing over the salad and toss to coat. If the salad is too dry add more dressing a little at a time.
Ingredients for Lemon Tarragon Dressing
- Dijon Mustard
- Whole Grain Dijon Mustard
- Olive Oil
This tangy lemon tarragon dressing with fresh herbs, a double dose of mustard and tart lemon is the perfect way to dress the quinoa asparagus salad. Bonus, the recipe for this vinaigrette makes extra and is delicious on any salad or grilled or roasted fish or chicken.
Pro Tip: Don’t overdress the Start with just 2-3 tablespoons of dressing and toss it into the quinoa and veggies. If it needs more, add one tablespoon at a time. The salad should be flavored with the vinaigrette, but not soupy or wet.
Finally, top the zesty quinoa salad with crunchy toasted walnuts for another layer of flavor and texture. 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!
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Zesty Quinoa Salad with Lemon Tarragon Dressing
FOR ZESTY QUINOA 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 LEMON TARRAGON 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.
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