I love the colours of this salad – all the soft green shades of spring-going-into-summer.
Our asparagus patch is providing us with a bounty of thick, crisp stalks to steam, grill, roast and eat raw in salads. What a treat to gorge ourselves on this favourite green vegetable. I like nothing better than to break a spear off and crunch it as I’m walking around the garden lamenting all the weeds popping up from the continuous rain showers we’ve been having (never mind the wild windstorms and several tornado warnings to add excitement).
This truly is seasonal eating at its best, and I’m thrilled that the asparagus patch is finally mature enough to produce plenty of spears for us to indulge ourselves almost daily. It’s taken several years of tender, loving care to get it here. . . digging sand into the soil, and adding manure, and weeding, and watering and mostly waiting, waiting, waiting for the plants to mature.
My favourite quick way to eat asparagus is to break the spears off at the point where they break naturally when bent (saving the ends in the freezer to add flavour to soup stocks), cutting the spears into 2 to 3 inch pieces, and briefly sautéeing them in hot olive oil (just till they turn bright green all over). I give them a sprinkle of fine sea salt and fresh ground pepper and bring them to the table. Mmmmmm . . .
I often add a raw spear or two of asparagus, thinly sliced on the diagonal, to green salads. It tastes of fresh green peas with a slight but pleasant bitterness and adds a wonderfully juicy crunch.
For this quinoa salad, however, I briefly blanch the asparagus, to get that gorgeous emerald colour and make each morsel fully sweet and juicy. Bright, tender green peas, fresh cucumber, chives, and feathery green fronds of dill complete the palette of greens for a salad that goes so well with any summer menu. Its flavour is light and fresh – an especially good complement to grilled shrimp or salmon.
And with the powerful protein hit of quinoa and the good amount of fiber in this salad, I find the leftovers perfectly filling as a lunch the next day.
Kitchen Frau Notes: If you use frozen peas, they can be put into the salad frozen and will thaw by the time it is served – plus they help chill the salad. Frozen peas are already blanched before freezing. If you use fresh shelled peas, just tip them into the blanching water with the asparagus.
English cucumber is the kind you can eat with the skin on and has less noticeable seeds. I like the green colour of the skin in this salad. If you only have regular cucumbers, you will need to peel them, and you may have to scrape out the seeds if they are too large and watery.
You can easily substitute green ingredients in this salad – try frozen edamame beans instead of peas, or slice and blanch fresh green beans instead of asparagus, use celery instead of cucumber, or parsley instead of dill . . .
This recipe makes a lot, but it is really lovely packed in a container to take to work for next day’s lunch.
Green and White Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Cucumbers and Peas
-inspired by a salad I had at my friend Norine’s house.
- 4 cups (960ml) cooked quinoa (about 1 cup/240ml raw) -see how to cook it here
- ¾ pound (350gms) fresh asparagus (about 12 stalks, or 2 cups/500ml when sliced)
- 2 cups (500ml) frozen baby peas (or fresh peas)
- 2 cups (500ml) diced English cucumber
- ½ cup (120ml) minced chives or green onions
- ½ cup (120ml) chopped fresh dill (stems removed)
- ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon (75ml) grapeseed oil
- 4 tablespoons (60ml) white wine vinegar
- ¾ teaspoon dry mustard
- ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
Cook, cool, and measure the quinoa.
Heat a small saucepan of water to boil. Have a bowl of cold water ready beside the stove.
Slice the asparagus into ¼ inch (.5cm) slices on the diagonal.
When the water boils, put the asparagus pieces (and the peas if using fresh ones) into the water and let them cook just until they all turn bright green (usually 1 to 2 minutes – the water may just come back to a complete boil). Scoop them out with a slotted spoon or wire strainer and plop them into the cold water to stop the boiling process. When cool, drain them.
In a large bowl, put the cooked quinoa, blanched asparagus, peas, cucumber, chives and dill.
Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and pour over the salad. Toss to combine. It may taste like there’s too much vinegar, but it will absorb into the quinoa within a short time.
Makes 10 cups salad – to serve a crowd or a smaller bunch with leftovers to fight over for lunch the next day.
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