A series of mishaps around a Chef’s published recipe (some hers, some mine) turned out to be quite the happy accident. The result though is nothing less than a fabulous alchemy of flavors: lightly grilled smokey asparagus, punchy Kalamata olives, shaves of nutty Parmesan and nutty Quinoa form the base of Grilled Asparagus and Quinoa Salad. Really this is a main meal, maybe a brunch meal – the term Salad doesn’t do it justice.
I don’t know what could have been better with those ingredients than my slightly sweet, slightly tangy Honey Citrus Vinaigrette and a touch of tarragon (you gotta try that dressing, even if you don’t make this salad) until I dropped a poached egg on top of the whole works. Somehow that egg, mixed with all the other flavors and ingredients in a way that was just a little magical…and to tell the truth, I’m not even a huge egg fan. (I usually just don’t mention it!)
About Grilled Asparagus and Quinoa Salad:
This is why, when the first time I made this I ran into trouble with the recipe. The chef, it seems didn’t know how to soft boil an egg and neither did I! I assumed the fault was mine. So that was a small disaster, and dutifully, I repeated the recipe, line by line, making sure I was extra careful. Well, now I had double the crappy soft boiled eggs!
All of which might be more of a tell on my personality than I’d like to reveal. Gibs (below) happily helped me out with the disaster eggs over the next couple of days and I went with poached, instead. It was so the right call. I used my Poached Eggs in the Microwave. They turn out beautifully but you might have to fiddle the first time you make them; microwaves vary in strength. Have extra eggs! I promise you won’t go through as many as I did, lol!
Don’t discount what the egg does, here – while Hollandaise is a perfect pairing for Asparagus, the egg and the Citrus Vinaigrette melded together and formed a most marvelous “sauce.” Between the egg, quinoa, and cheese, this is a pretty high protein meal, but you couldn’t go wrong with simple grilled chicken or fish alongside. I vote for Salmon! And you couldn’t go wrong with a little grilled Crusty Bread on the side. Especially as long as you’re grilling that asparagus anyway!
Making Grilled Asparagus and Quinoa Salad:
There are several components to this salad, all easy on their own but a bit much altogether. I know it’s a lot, but when you finally serve and taste this salad, you’re going to think you’re at a high-end bistro. Save yourself some trouble and make some of them ahead. Or better yet, if you cook with someone, divide up the steps! And while you might be tempted to try another dressing, maybe a store-bought one…don’t. Ok, that’s bossy, but that Honey Citrus Vinaigrette is just too good on this. A few mandarins on the side helped drive that orange flavor home, too.
I’ve had my share of run-ins with grilling vegetables, standing there while everyone else is having fun, fussing and turning and ending up with something that looks gorgeous but was overcooked in some places and under in others! I finally got smart and now par-cook most of them, by poaching in water or in the case of this asparagus, tossing it in the microwave using my recipe for “Asparagus Standing in the Microwave.” That microwave method for asparagus is a small miracle. Only cook it for about three minutes though; it still gets lightly grilled and that will finish it off.
As far as the original recipe, by the time I was done with the eggs, I just went rogue and didn’t really make anything in it! I cooked my quinoa using my own method, and you can check that recipe, for Light, Fluffy Quinoa in the Instant Pot or Stovetop. There’s a little secret that makes it turn out perfect every time, and I always make more and toss the extra into the freezer, bagged and tagged so there’s some for another recipe down the road.
A few shavings of Parmesan or even better Romano (it has a stronger flavor and is usually a bit less expensive) and a handful of Kalamata olives finished off everything to perfection. I’m always happy to use a few out of the jar that always seems to be in my fridge!
Saving Money on Grilled Asparagus and Quinoa Salad:
Asparagus & Quinoa Salad will be in my rotation whenever Asparagus is reasonable, even though it’s not necessarily a low-budget salad – it is that good. Watch for sales and let the prices guide when you’ll make your Grilled Asparagus and Quinoa Salad. Asparagus on sale is usually half price (or better.)
For hard cheeses like Romano or Parmesan, watch for sales. And when the sales happen, usually buy one get one 1/2 off, it doesn’t take but a minute to check the producer for coupons or use an app on your phone. Kalamata olives are one of those things I check for at the discount shelves at the store. The “best if used by date” really has no meaning when it comes to olives. Once opened, make sure they’re covered with brine. If necessary, empty them into a glass measuring cup (it has a spout so it’s easy to pour from) pick out what you need, then pour the brine back into the bottle to cover the remainder.
There is no doubt about it, Quinoa is a pricey ingredient but it has a high payoff in nutritional value. See what The World’s Healthiest Food has to say about it. This salad would also be great with a beautifully cooked brown rice instead. If you use quinoa often, it pays to know where it costs less; compare the health food store, any grocery stores you shop at and at your own store, check the healthy organic aisle, the bulk aisle and the rice & bean aisle. The prices can vary wildly.Print
Grilled Asparagus and Quinoa Salad
A fabulous salad for a meatless brunch or a light dinner, or a starter for a Mediterranean meal. Great with grilled chicken or fish.
- Prep Time: 40 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 55 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: Salads
- Cuisine: American
- 3 cups cooked Quinoa (about 1 cup uncooked) cooked and cooled
- 3 to 4 tablespoons Honey Citrus Vinaigrette
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh chopped tarragon to taste (1/4 teaspoon dried, or substitute another herb)
- 1 pound of asparagus, tough ends trimmed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
- 4 eggs
- 1/4 cup Kalamata Olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
- 1 ounce Parmesan or Romano shaved
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- salt & pepper to taste for all components
All the components of this recipe are best made a bit ahead. When nearly ready to serve, preheat the grill to high, then grill the asparagus and poach the eggs, then assemble.
- Cook Quinoa using the recipe for Light Fluffy Quinoa or your own method, allow to cool. May be prepared several days ahead.
- Prepare Honey Citrus Vinaigrette, mix with the tarragon. Set aside. May be prepared several days ahead.
- Par cook asparagus using the recipe for Asparagus Standing in the Microwave. Set the time for three minutes only. When finished, lay out on a clean towel and gently roll to dry. May be prepared day before or earlier in the day.
Shortly before serving:
Preheat grill to high. Place asparagus on a plate, drizzle with olive oil and give them another roll to lightly coat. Grill until just done and the color slightly turns. Remove, sprinkle with salt and let cool to room temperature.
Poach eggs using the recipe for Poached Eggs in the microwave, or your own method (Eggs may be made slightly ahead and held on a damp plate.)
To serve, divide quinoa among four plates. Top with asparagus. Arrange egg and olives on the plates, Drizzle with dressing, then sprinkle with parsley and shaved cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This can also be served as a Salad Bowl, chop the asparagus, while not as attractive is just as good.
Keywords: Asparagus, Bargain Meal of the Week, Breakfast or Brunch Dish, Cheese, Eggs, Main dish salad, Olives, parmesan, Poached egg, Quinoa, Salad, Salad Dressings