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A Divine Asparagus Salad

Quinoa and Pomegranate Salad with Asparagus and WalnutsThe 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:
    1. fill a large bowl with cold water;
    2. slice the pomegranate in half;
    3. place both halves in the cold water and refrigerate for 5 minutes;
    4. remove from refrigerator and, with your hands in the water, gently pull out seeds with your fingers;
    5. remove and discard peel and membranes;
    6. 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

Ingredients

  • 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)

Instructions:

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.

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