Saturday, April 3, 2010

Quinoa, Asparagus & Hazelnut Salad

This was one of my favorite dishes from the seder, although I'm not sure my guests would agree. The dishes that received the most compliments were the matzah ball soup, the fish fritters, the brisket, the duck, the kale, and the date almond balls. In comparison to all of these, the quinoa was very light and fresh tasting, and for a meat-loving crowd, it might not have been exactly what they were expecting. Nonetheless, I thought it went well with the meal, as a counterpoint, and I have relished the leftovers!

What I like most about this salad is that it is well balanced in so many ways. Nutritionally, it's a complete meal, containing proteins, carbs, vegetables, and even fruit. The taste is well balanced in terms of acidity and brightness, which come from the lemon juice, lemon zest and parsley, and fattiness (which is not a strong point, since it's a light dish) from the hazelnuts and olive oil, and sweetness from the currants. The texture is also well-balanced because it has the airiness of the quinoa, the crunch of the hazelnuts, and the bite of the asparagus. All together, this dish is much more than a side dish. It could be (and has been for me) lunch, all by itself. Make it for as long as the asparagus keep springing up!

Quinoa, Asparagus & Hazelnut Salad
2 cups quinoa (mix of red and white varieties adds color interest)
3 3/4 cups water
1 1/2 tsps. salt
2 bunches asparagus (thinner is better), trimmed of woody ends and cut into 1" pieces
1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil (for brushing)
1/2 cup hazelnuts, chopped
1/2 cup currants
zest of 2 lemons
juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped

In a covered saucepan, combine quinoa, water and 1 1/2 tsps salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed.

Heat a large cast iron skillet over high heat. Brush with grapeseed oil. When hot, add asparagus and "grill" for 5-10 minutes (until you get some color), stirring occasionally. Season the asparagus lightly with salt and pepper. Transfer the asparagus to a large mixing bowl.

In the same cast iron skillet, toast the hazelnuts over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.

Toss the cooked quinoa, cooked asparagus, toasted hazelnuts, currants, lemon zest, lemon juice, and olive oil in a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and toss to incorporate. Just before serving, add the parsley and toss.

May be served warm or at room temperature. Serves 15-20.

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