Quinoa asparagus pilaf

This pilaf, flavored with shaved parmesan, parsley and lemon vinaigrette, is best with fresh local asparagus from the farmers market. Add quinoa, a high-protein whole grain that can be found at most major supermarkets, and you have a recipe that is perfect for the spring. Enjoy as a satisfying lunch with a piece of fruit or as a side dish for dinner with a lean protein.

Servings: 8 servings, about 1 1/2 cups each

Ingredients

Pilaf

  • 2 cups uncooked quinoa
  • 16 cups water, for cooking quinoa
  • 2 bunches (about 1 1/2 pounds) fresh asparagus
  • 2 trays of ice cubes
  • 1/2 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 ounces Parmesan Reggiano, shaved into thin strips

Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (from half a lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

  1. Bring water to boil, add quinoa and boil uncovered on medium-high heat for 11 to 14 minutes until there is no white “dot” of starch evident in the center. Test a few grains; they will have a slight crunch. Drain in a fine mesh colander and let sit 5 minutes. Transfer quinoa to baking sheets and cool to room temperature.
  2. While quinoa is cooking, make the vinaigrette. Zest half of lemon into medium bowl, then juice the lemon into same bowl. Add olive oil, salt and pepper. Whisk with a fork until emulsified. Set aside.
  3. Set a large bowl of water aside and add ice cubes to it.
  4. Bring a second large stock pot of water to boil. Prepare asparagus by snapping the woody ends, about 2 to 3 inches, off the bottom of the stalks and discard ends. Then cut the asparagus stalks into 1-inch pieces.
  5. Add asparagus to boiling water, boil for 1 minute, then drain in colander and run under cold water. Immerse asparagus in bowl of ice cubes and water for 5 minutes, then drain. This will stop the cooking process and ensure the asparagus is crisp and tender.
  6. In a large bowl, combine cooled quinoa, vinaigrette and parsley. Then toss in asparagus and garnish with shaved parmesan cheese. Taste to balance flavors and add salt or pepper if needed.
  7. Serve with a lean protein — chicken, fish, buffalo, shrimp or grilled tofu — or with marinated Portobello mushrooms.

Nutrition Information (per serving)

  • Calories: 280
  • Fat: 13 g
  • Carbohydrates: 32 g
  • Fiber: 5 g
  • Protein: 11 g