Bon Appetit!

With Spring in the air, we are changing up the menu with a growing variety of produce. Hello, blackberries, asparagus, squash, zucchini, okra and new potatoes!

I actually got weak in the knees last Sunday at the market when I saw one of spring's most virtuous vegetables, asparagus! I've been waiting patiently for this slender green favorite and so I picked up two bundles--though I will have you know that I refrained from snatching any of the four gorgeous purple cauliflowers.

With asparagus on my mind and in my fridge, something light, easy and flavorful was in store.

If you haven't yet picked up or taken time to read through this the May issue of Bon Appetit, I found lots of inspiration there and tabbed a handful of pages, as a reminder of what I want to make.
Here's a glimpse into what caught my attention--(Will somebody please notice that there is not one single dessert recipe listed below?? And this is an honest review of all of my tabbed pages!! It's working...). 
I will eventually get around to making a few of these recipes, but the first on my list? 
Photo from Bon Appetit
What most attracted me to the winning recipe is that it comes from a wellness spa just north of San Antonio, Lake Austin resort. Years ago, I attended a cooking class with the spa's then Executive Chef Terry Conlan, and his food was full of flavor and loaded with good-for-you ingredients. But what impressed me was that I didn't feel like he was whipping up small servings of air for us to eat. It was real food and it was really good.

Even though Conlan is no longer at the helm, Executive Chef Stephane Beauchamp equally dazzled me with his creativity and bold flavors featured in the magazine feature on a "Low Cal" luxury lifestyle. I picked the black rice salad but made it using both what I had and what I wanted, which proves that you can always modify a recipe to suit the exact moment.

Rather than black rice, I used quinoa and substituted the edamame with garbanzo beans. I also replaced the green beans with roasted asparagus pieces for depth of flavor and texture and chopped up a bit of avocado as well.

If this is what the new season has in store for me, it's going to be a very bright spring!

Buen provecho!
Quinoa Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
The Cowgirl Gourmet adapted this recipe from the May 2013 issue of Bon Appetit

Print recipe

The original recipe called for black rice, but I opted for quinoa--and I only used a half cup instead of a full cup. I also replaced the edamame with garbanzo beans and the green beans for roasted asparagus. But do nothing to the dressing, as it is light and super flavorful as is! Maybe you prefer black beans? Use them instead and add finely diced red peppers. I also served this salad over a bed of greens dressed with the lemon vinaigrette. A remarkable, nutritious and delicious way to welcome spring back into our lives.

Makes 6 servings

1/2 cup organic quinoa (click here to learn more about quinoa and how to cook quinoa)
Kosher salt
1/3 cup walnuts
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup organic gazbanzo beans, no salt added, drained and rinsed
1 cup grape tomatoes, rinsed and halved
1/2 cup kale, julienned
1 bunch asparagus, trim about 1/4 to 1/3 off the ends, depending on how hard the ends are--but you want to cut all of the hard stem off
Fresh spring greens (I used the Central Market Herb Spring Mix)
Avocado slices, optional
Lemon vinaigrette
1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon raw honey, make sure it's locally made
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Click here for how to prepare quinoa. theKitchn.com has a great tutorial.
Place asparagus on a half baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. When the oven is at temperature, put the asparagus in and check after five minutes. You want the asparagus al dente, not mushy. You want to be able to cut them in pieces, so use your best judgment, as the size of the asparagus will determine how long you will need to cook it.

On a small piece of aluminum foil, place the walnuts and slip them in the oven as well. These will take about 5 minutes to turn golden. Remove them from the oven when they are ready and set aside to cool. When they are cooled, coarsely chop the walnuts.

Open the can of garbanzo beans and drain in a colander. Rinse well and set aside in the sink to drain thoroughly.

Thinly slice the green onions and halve the tomatoes. Roll the kale leaves together and then cut into thin strips.

To make the vinaigrette, add the Meyer lemon juice to a small bowl, white wine vinegar and honey and whisk to combine. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, add the mostly cooled quinoa and top with asparagus pieces, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, julienned kale, toasted and chopped walnuts and dress with half of the vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper and taste. Adjust seasonings if needed.

In another bowl, add the spring mix and--depending on how many people you are feeding--toss with
the remaining vinaigrette or just some of it. You can always add more...

Plate the dressed greens on a plate and top with quinoa-vegetable salad. Add a slice or two of avocado, if desired. And more salt and pepper...


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