It feels like the big wind-down right about now. The kids have a month of school left, yes, but they've already taken their big tests, had their spring concerts. (Birdy playing Space Oddity on electric guitar! Be still my heart.) The lilacs have given way to the peonies. My cigar-tube vase is full of bleeding hearts and lilies of the valley and even, already, a purple iris.
The cat is finding nice shady spots to rest in.
We've eaten the last of our friends' morels, picked from beneath their apple trees. Sauteed with butter and wine and cream.
|Perfection on toast.|
Ben is in summer bartending mode.
|Fresh cherry-mint mojito.|
|Arugula with peppered farm cheese, slivered dates, toasted almonds, and a warm white-wine-vinegar vinaigrette. Can I get an amen? I promise that if I had pictures of Michael and me fighting about stupid stuff, I'd post those too.|
And the salad, below, with a long headnote explaining itself. We ate it at home, and had enough for lunch the next day. It would be perfect for a potluck.
Meanwhile, I have pieces to read here at Parents, and here, at the brand-new Motherwell, if you are so inclined! Thank you, as always, for being here.
Warm Quinoa Salad with Asparagus and Herbs
This is the kind of thing I always want to eat for dinner: fresh and wholesome and incredibly tasty, with lots of different flavors and textures to keep you interested through an entire bowlful. It’s also the kind of thing that mostly uses ingredients I have already, except for whatever the main veg is. In this case, a friend of ours had given us a lovely bunch of green garlic, which actually inspired me to make this. And all our herbs are flourishing, so all I had to do was pop out to the asparagus stand nearby! I was also inspired by Anna Jones’ A ModernWay to Eat, which I checked out of the library. She makes a similar salad, but using broccoli and spinach and different kinds of seeds. Feel free to swap those in for the asparagus, or to use snap peas or green beans if that’s what you’ve got. A diced red radish would be nice too!
1 ½ cups quinoa
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 leek or some green garlic, thinly sliced, or ½ an onion, finely chopped
1 bunch of asparagus, ends trimmed, thinly sliced
1 cup of fresh or frozen green peas (I didn’t have these, but I wished I did!)
Finely grated zest and freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons capers
1 cup chopped fresh herbs (I used mint, basil, parsley, and chives)
1 cup crumbled feta
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts (or almonds, if you prefer)
Chive blossoms for garnish, if you have them
Bring a medium or large pot of water to a bowl over high heat and salt it heavily. It should taste as salty as the sea, so we are talking a fair amount of salt. Add the quinoa and stir, turn the heat down to medium-high and cook it for 10-15 minutes, uncovered, until it is just tender and the grains have spiraled open a bit. (It will continue to cook as it steams, so don’t cook it until it’s soft at this point.)
Drain it really, really well in a fine sieve—I mean, really shake it around to get the water out—then put it back in the pot, stretch a doubled dish towel over the top of the pot, and put the lid back on. Leave it to steam for 5 or 10 minutes, or up to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a wide pan over medium-low heat, and sauté the leeks (or whatever you’re using for this) with a large pinch of salt, until they’re tender. This may take a while, up to 15 minutes, so if they start to dry out go ahead and add a splash or two of water. When the leeks are tender, add the asparagus, and sauté until just bright green. Turn the heat off. If you’ve erred on the side of overcooking the asparagus, transfer everything to a large bowl, otherwise you can leave it in the pan with the heat off to cook a little longer.
At some point, add the frozen peas to something still hot so that they thaw and briefly steam. The quinoa pot is a good choice, as is the panful of asparagus.
Squeeze the lemon juice into a glass measuring cup or just a glass, add the zest and a teaspoon of kosher salt (or half as much table salt), then measure in enough olive oil to match the level of the lemon juice. Season with black pepper and whisk to combine.
Put the quinoa, vegetables, and capers in a large bowl and pour most of the dressing over. Stir gently with a rubber spatula and taste. The feta will add some saltiness, but if it’s radically undersalted at this point, add some more salt. Likewise, add the rest of the dressing and/or a bit of lemon and/or olive oil if it needs livening up or seems underdressed. The key to this being delicious is to season it really well.
Stir in the herbs, feta, and pine nuts, taste one last time, garnish, and serve.