Asparagus season is the official kick-off to summer in our kitchen.
Even though it’s available nearly year-round these days, the fresh, locally grown bunches available come spring can’t be beaten. Fresh asparagus has an unmistakable sweetness and tenderness, and I find myself wanting to put it in everything.
In a stir fry? Sure. On top of pizza? Yup. In a grilled cheese sandwich? You know it!
When choosing asparagus, the most important factor is freshness. Choose the freshest batch by inspecting the tips to ensure they are tightly closed, and the cut bottoms to ensure they have been kept moist. Both thick and thin stalks are delicious, and their thickness is not an indicator of age or quality. They grow out of the ground the width they will always grow.
The high ratio of asparagus to everything else in this salad recipe is intentional and makes the fresh, seasonal produce the star of the show. Feel free to swap in a different grain of your liking if quinoa isn’t your fave. Barley, wheat berries, or a small pasta shape, like orzo, would be fantastic.
As always, if you’re making this for a family with lots of different taste buds, reserve a few pieces of plain asparagus, some plain quinoa and a few crumbles of feta cheese on the side. More selective eaters can pick and choose the ingredients they want for their salad if they don’t like this (delightful) combination. The bonus for you is, no short order cooking!
Happy (almost) summer!
Asparagus and Quinoa Salad with Feta and Lemon
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 small bunches of ½” thick asparagus (about 2 pounds), chopped into 1.5 inch pieces, asparagus tips separated
- 200 g feta cheese, crumbled
- Zest of 1 lemon
- ¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted (optional)
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
Prep and Cook
- 1Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add quinoa and cook for 11-12 minutes and drain. Set aside and allow to cool.
- 2Bring a second large pot of water to a boil. Add asparagus stem pieces, cook for 1 minute then add asparagus tips. Cook for an additional 2 minutes. Drain asparagus and transfer immediately to a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.
- 3In a small bowl, whisk dressing ingredients together. (Extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, shallot, honey and mustard.)
- 4Add asparagus and dressing to quinoa and combine thoroughly. Serve immediately.
- 5*If making this salad in advance, wait to toss with dressing until just before serving to ensure asparagus remains bright green in colour.