A Divine Asparagus Salad
The cool weather of early spring is peak season for asparagus – an especially elegant side dish at spring meals.
Asparagus has only 27 calories per cup and is packed with fiber and antioxidants including beta-carotene and a host of protective phytochemicals. It's an excellent source of the B vitamin folate and vitamin K, and provides iron and potassium, too.
This year, dress up asparagus by putting it in our beautiful, cancer-preventive salad of quinoa, pomegranate seeds and walnuts. Each of these ingredients contains cancer-preventive compounds, as well as unique flavors. Together they make a stunning dish.
This salad is both dairy-free and gluten-free, which can be helpful when you are cooking for a large number of guests. It also has plenty of protein from the quinoa and a fair amount of fiber from all of the ingredients.
Here are some tricks for making this salad a real showpiece:
- Buy a pomegranate with smooth skin. To remove the seeds easily:
- fill a large bowl with cold water;
- slice the pomegranate in half;
- place both halves in the cold water and refrigerate for 5 minutes;
- remove from refrigerator and, with your hands in the water, gently pull out seeds with your fingers;
- remove and discard peel and membranes;
- use strainer to drain pomegranate seeds and pat them dry with a paper towel.
- Rinse your quinoa well before cooking it to remove the bitter outer coating.
- Give walnuts a toasty taste by placing them in a small dry skillet over medium-high heat and stirring frequently for 2-3 minutes until lightly browned. Immediately transfer to a small dish and cool before using.
Quinoa and Pomegranate Salad with Asparagus and Walnuts
- 2/3 cup quinoa (makes about 2 cups cooked)
- 2/3 lb. asparagus
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 1 cup chopped parsley
- 1/2 cup finely chopped mint leaves
- 1/2 cup finely chopped dill
- 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, optional
- 1/2 cup chopped scallions, green part only, optional
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 cup lemon juice from Meyer lemons* (or 1/4 cup lemon plus 1/4 cup orange juice)
- 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
- Black pepper, to taste
- 1 cup pomegranate seeds, divided (use 1 large pomegranate)
Cook quinoa according to package directions. Drain and cool.
Steam whole asparagus for 3 minutes or until bright green. Remove from pan immediately, drain, and let rest on plate with ice cubes. Slice diagonally into 1/4-inch pieces.
In large bowl, combine quinoa, asparagus, carrots, parsley, mint, dill, walnuts and cilantro and scallions, if using.
In a separate bowl mix olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Toss with quinoa mixture and then add 3/4 cup pomegranate seeds.
Serve as is for buffet or spoon individual servings over 1 cup baby lettuce or mixed greens. Garnish with remaining pomegranate seeds.
Makes 8 servings.
Per serving: 145 calories, 7 g total fat (1 g saturated fat), 20 g carbohydrate,
4 g protein**, 3 g dietary fiber, 165 mg sodium.
*Meyer lemons lend a great citrusy flavor that combines well with the pomegranate seeds.
**For a little extra protein: Add half cup cooked cannellini beans to each serving of lettuce and top with quinoa combination.