Much like kale, quinoa is one of those foods. I see it everywhere lately, from food blogs to lunch menus to dinner parties. And there's a good reason why: it's quick to make, simple and inexpensive, and much higher in protein than many other grains.
So when a reader wrote in this week asking for protein-heavy vegetarian dishes, a big bowl of spring vegetable quinoa salad seemed like the easy choice. If you've never cooked quinoa before, it's pretty simple. Once you get the hang of it, the amino acid-rich seed may just became a new household staple as it has in our house. With its fluffy, light, almost creamy flavor, it pairs well with most vegetables, soft cheeses, eggs, and beans.
For this recipe, I used red quinoa because it's what we had on hand. But feel free to use a more traditional white quinoa instead. What I love most about this recipe is that it's such a colorful celebration of the season, but also that the dressing is such a simple, bright dash of lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper. For vegetarians and meat eaters alike, this recipe is spring encapsulated.
A few quick notes: I do quickly cook the asparagus and peas together. I don't find it changes the flavor of either and it's quicker this way. While I use goat cheese for this recipe, it would be wonderful with an even saltier cheese like ricotta salata if you have that on hand.
Spring Quinoa with Chickpeas, Asparagus, and Fresh Peas
Serves 4 to 6
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 3 1/2 cups water 1 teaspoons fine-grain sea salt, plus more to sprinkle on top 2 cups quinoa, well-rinsed and drained 1/2 pound fresh asparagus, cut into 1-inch segments 3/4 cup sugar snap peas 1 lemon 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed 1/4 cup radishes, rinsed and sliced thinly 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped (should yield about 1/2 cup) 2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil and water over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Salt the water well, add the quinoa and stir. Bring back to a boil, then turn down the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the quinoa absorbs the water, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside for 10 minutes, still covered. This will allow the quinoa to fully absorb the water and become nice and fluffy.
In the meantime, heat a large pot of salted water on the stove on medium-high heat and prepare an ice water bath. Add the asparagus and sugar snap peas to the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes, or until they've just begun to soften. Once finished, drain the vegetables and toss them into the ice water bath to prevent further cooking.
Zest the lemon, and squeeze 3 tablespoons of lemon juice into a small bowl. When the quinoa has cooled, add the asparagus, snap peas, chickpeas, radishes, lemon zest and juice, parsley, and chives. Stir to combine. Sprinkle the goat cheese and finishing salt (like Maldon) on top. Garnish with extra chives or parsley if you like.