I’m afraid this asaragus salad won’t get a fair shake here today. You see, all I really want to talk about is three! day! weekends!, such as the one that lies just ahead of us. Or maybe also holidays that practically require one to fire up the barbecue and drink cold beers in the hot sun. But really, most of all, I just want to shout from the rooftops: I’M GOING TO NAPA THIS WEEKEND!
Because I am and, oh man, am I excited. Honestly, it’s the first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning and the daydreams refuse to abate as my day unfolds. Sun! Wine! Ad Hoc! Those perfect rows of vines! Colorful hot-air balloons floating overhead! A stolen dinner in San Francisco! As you can see, I’m beside myself.
Which makes me worried that I’m too distracted to give this salad its due. So, I’ll just cut to the chase, which will allow me to return to my state of dreaminess and will allow you to proceed directly to the kitchen to make this salad. And, trust me, that’s precisely what you should do—because this is the best thing I’ve made in a long while. It’s so good, in fact, that I’ve made it several times already and, as it holds up well in the fridge, I’ve eaten it over and over again over the past week-and-a-half.
It makes for a hearty lunch or light dinner. It’s equally lovely served warm or chilled. It’s lemony and garlicky and crunchy and substantial and springy and peppery. Plus, it involves a liberal sprinkling of salty, creamy feta—never a bad thing. I’m obsessed. It’s practically the only thing that can snap me out of my wine country-bound haze.
Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Lemon & Feta
Serves 2 to 4
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more (to taste) for seasoning the salad
1 pound asparagus, trimmed
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon shredded parmigiano-reggiano
fresh cracked black pepper
1 large garlic clove, peeled and left whole
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 cup crumbled feta
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Combine the quinoa, water and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium size pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook (covered) for about 20 minutes, until the water is absorbed. Set aside.
While the quinoa cooks, spread the asparagus on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Drizzle 1 tablespoon oil, the shredded parmigiano, salt and pepper over the asparagus; toss to coat the spears evenly and spread the spears into one even layer. Place the garlic clove on top of the spears and roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until the asparagus is blistered in spots, but retains a bite. Allow the spears to cool slightly and slice into one-inch pieces. Mince the garlic.
While the asparagus roasts, whisk together the mustard and lemon juice in the bottom of a large bowl. Whisk in the remaining oil. Season with salt and pepper.
In the large bowl holding the vinaigrette, add the cooked quinoa, sliced asparagus, minced garlic and toasted almonds. Toss to distribute the vinaigrette throughout the quinoa. Taste for seasoning and add salt and/or pepper as needed. Transfer to a serving platter and top with the crumbled feta.
Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.