Grilled Asparagus and Quinoa Salad

Grilled Asparagus and Quinoa Salad

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.

Grilled Asparagus and Quinoa Salad

Grilled Asparagus and Quinoa Salad

 

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!

Gibs was very happy with the eggs, btw!

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. 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.

Grilled Asparagus and Quinoa Salad

Grilled Asparagus and Quinoa Salad

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Grilled Asparagus and Quinoa Salad

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.

  • Author: mollie kirby
  • Prep Time: 40 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Salads
  • Cuisine: American
Scale

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

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

Grilled Asparagus and Quinoa Salad - fabulous grilled asparagus, quinoa, olives, shaved Parmesan and a citrus vinaigrette. Top with an egg! You'll think you're in a Bistro and a lot of this is make ahead. #Asparagus #Quionoa #AsparagusQuinoaSalad

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Light Fluffy Quinoa instant pot or stovetop

Light Fluffy Quinoa Instant Pot or Stovetop

I remember when Quinoa first came on my radar, years and years ago. It was supposedly a “rediscovered” ancient grain and no one knew how to pronounce it (KEEN-wah), let alone cook it!! Well, it turns out that people have been eating Quinoa all along, even if we in the States haven’t, it isn’t a grain at all, it’s a seed and it IS possible to make Light Fluffy Quinoa in the Instant Pot or on the Stovetop.

Light Fluffy Quinoa

Light Fluffy Quinoa

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Southwestern Quinoa Salad

Southwestern Quinoa Salad

Are you looking for a versatile summer to fall salad that ‘s super healthy but so good you wouldn’t even guess it and that can double up as a side or a vegetarian main dish salad? That’s Southwestern Quinoa Salad. And it’s jumping with flavor, lime, garlic and all of the usual suspects that go along with that fresh Southwestern vibe.

Southwestern Quinoa Salad

Southwestern Quinoa Salad

 

 

I’m lovin’ this salad, which is fabulous throughout the year, but especially as an end of summer/early fall salad. The flavors are bold, the veggies are gorgeous and it has some heft from the beans and quinoa. It’s def protein-packed and ya gotta love that. And ya gotta love that this is a great salad to use up some gorgeous grape or cherry tomatoes if you grow your own and have a glut of them. And if you don’t grow them, who cares? They’re going to be at a great price at a farmer’s market or the store and have marvelous flavor in season.

About Southwestern Quinoa Salad:

Southwestern Quinoa Salad is super versatile. Just take the basic concept and the marvelous dressing and run with it. Don’t have grape or cherry tomatoes? Just use chunks of the standard ones. Don’t like beans? You’re not alone; leave them out. No green onion? Try red onion. Have an extra ear of corn leftover from dinner? And let’s not forget avocado if you have it on hand. I didn’t put it in the original recipe, but I’m eating more and more of them lately. How about you? Add it if you want. Or black olives. Well, you get the idea! Make Southwestern Quinoa Salad your own.

I had a big surprise with my salad; my son decided to toss some grated cheese on his and loved it. When I was faced with a few leftovers, that inspired me to add a little Feta. It was fantastic and changed things up a bit. Mexican queso would be even better and more in keeping with the style.

Not only is this salad versatile as a side or a main vegetarian dish, but it’s also just about the perfect thing to bring to a barbecue or a cookout. There’s really nothing in this that needs to be a big concern if left out for a while and it’s great cold or at room temperature. That also makes it a great meal prep recipe for lunches. And the flavors just get better and better as it sits a bit.

This salad is gonna be perfect as a side with anything Southwestern, maybe on a bed of lettuce or spinach if you’d like, and goes especially well with grilled chicken or fish. It does have a bit of zestiness from the red pepper flakes in the dressing, just a touch, not anything overwhelming, and that makes it a good marriage for Cajun or Barbecue flavors, too. That dressing, btw? It makes a fantastic marinade for chicken or fish, too.

Light Fluffy Quinoa instant pot or stovetop

Light Fluffy Quinoa, Instant Pot or Stove

Making Southwestern Quinoa Salad:

The only actual cooking involved is to make the quinoa. I have a great post on Light, Fluffy Quinoa, with directions to make in the Instant Pot or on the stove. You’ll need about 3 cups of cooked quinoa. Start with 1 cup of raw quinoa and you’ll end up with three times that amount. Any time I make quinoa, though, I make extra and freeze it for down the road.

You may need more than 1 lime for the dressing; with a big juicy lime, one is usually sufficient but if your limes are small and stingy, they’ll give about half the juice a big one.

It’s key to cut the tomatoes in half because the juices are going to blend with the dressing and the rest of the ingredients. I like to place them inside a lid with a lip, like you’d find for yogurt or cottage cheese, then place a second lid, lip side down over them. Hold the top lid firmly and slice through, between the two lids, horizontally. Easy peasy. Just make sure to keep a few lids on hand!

Saving Money on Southwestern Quinoa Salad:

I priced this meal out at $6.54 and I usually like to keep most my meals around five dollars. Less expensive options would have been green pepper rather than yellow, whole tomatoes in chunks instead of grape or cherry, and beans cooked at home (divide them into 3 portions and freeze the other two; a pound will give roughly the equivalent of three cans) rather than canned. Sugar is cheaper than honey and that would knock off a penny or two.

So you see, it’s a lot of small decisions that affect the total cost. What’s a dollar a meal over the course of the year? $1,095 dollars. A dollar and 54 cents? $1,796. Wow.

The elephant in the room as far as cost is really the Quinoa and the olive oil, though. Both are a little pricier than say rice or vegetable oil, for instance. The bottom line is that the first few substitutions would not have had a huge impact on the flavor or quality of the meal – just the looks. Messing with the olive oil and the quinoa would have really affected the nutritional value. I’m willing to buy ingredients that are a good nutritional value, even if they cost a bit more. If you’d like to see more on the nutritional value and health benefits of Quinoa, check out what The World’s Healthiest Foods has to say.

Southwestern Quinoa Salad

Southwestern Quinoa Salad

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Southwestern Quinoa Salad

Southwestern Quinoa Salad
  • Author: mollie kirby
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings 1x
  • Category: Salad
  • Cuisine: Mexican or Southwestern
Scale

Ingredients

Dressing:

  • zest and juice of one or two limes (about 1/4 cup juice)
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (may use fresh minced garlic)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)

Salad:

  • 1 bell pepper (any color) diced small
  • 1 1/2 cups of grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley, cilantro or a combination
  • 4 green onions, white and green parts, sliced thinly on the diagonal
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 cups cooked quinoa, cooled

Instructions

Cook Quinoa according to package directions 1 cup uncooked) or check my post on Quinoa for the best Light, Fluffy, Quinoa. Best if quinoa is room temperature or cooled.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients, the lime & zest, vinegar, olive oil, honey, cumin, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, and salt & pepper. Add vegetables and herbs first, tossing to coat. If time allows, let sit for 20 to 30 minutes, then add the black beans and the cooked and slightly cooled Quinoa. Mix together and serve at room temperature or refrigerate as desired.

Keywords: Beans, Bell Peppers, canned beans, Cherry Tomatoes, Dried Beans, Green Onion, Lime, Main dish salad, Mexican or Southwestern, Quinoa, Red onion, Salad, Tomatoes, Vegetarian Meal.

 

 

Cooking & Kitchen Hacks:

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Healthy ingredients, tomatoes, peppers, beans & quinoa, and bold Southwestern flavors make a winning combination! Main dish vegetarian or a side. #QuinoaSalad #SouthwesternQuinoaSalad #TomatoPeppersQuinoaSalad



Spinach Quinoa Salad with Candied Pecans

Spinach Quinoa Salad with Candied Pecans

There’s salad and then there’s SALAD – you know, the one that shouts rather than whispers? The one you want MORE of…the salad that has that little something extra to take it over the top. That’s this salad, Spinach Quinoa Salad with Candied Pecans.

Spinach Quinoa Salad with Candied Pecans

Spinach Quinoa Salad with Candied Pecans

 

 

What is it about salty, sweet, tart that makes you want to take another bite and another and another? That special balance of flavors that hits all the right notes? This salad (you might have guessed from the name, lol) has Candied Pecans. Yep – golden, crunchy, sweet candied pecans to help balance out all the healthiness of this Spinach Quinoa Salad.

About Spinach Quinoa Salad with Candied Pecans:

But that’s not all this salad has. There’s spinach of course, and sweet and tart blueberries along with crunchy pears or apples, and a handful of chickpeas tossed in for a little heft. Mix all that with the golden quinoa, cooked perfectly al dente for just the right amount of chew, and you have a little magic going on.

But wait there’s more!  A deceptively simple, tart dressing with just a hint of honey (and strangely, a smidge of sesame oil that gives a “what’s in this” touch) perfectly offsets the rest of the flavors. melding all those disparate ingredients somehow into a gorgeous alchemy of flavor. Of course, you do have some latitude with this salad and it’s a great one to adapt to any seasonal flavors. If blueberries and pears aren’t your idea of nirvana, try something else. Maybe strawberries and blueberries? Maybe you just want to go rogue and use some melon or citrus. Hey, it’s your salad; add what you love and you can’t go wrong.

“Where’s the meat?” my sister asked, but between the light, fluffy quinoa, the chickpeas, and the pecans, this is actually a pretty substantial salad with a good amount of protein. It may not be “man” substantial, or even “sister” substantial, at least in my family apparently, and if that’s the case in yours, too, serve with poached or grilled chicken, either mixed in or alongside.

Making Spinach Quinoa Salad with Candied Pecans:

There are a few components to make for this salad, and all can be made ahead. First of all, there’s the quinoa, and I gotta give a shout out to my Light Fluffly Quinoa for the Instant Pot or Stovetop. It always turns out beautifully and a great recipe takes out all the stress of cooking it. Whenever I make Quinoa, I try to get a leg up for a rainy day; I make extra and bag and tag it and freeze for later.

Then there are the Candied Pecans. They might seem like an “add on” and maybe not totally necessary, possibly a bit frivolous, but they add so much to the salad. They’re like a special little “cheffy” touch that does make this salad seem like it came from a high-end restaurant, and they’ll be part of the reason you keep eating this otherwise healthy salad! And they’re surprisingly quick and easy to make. Make a few more than you think you’ll need; you won’t be sorry! Btw, if pecans aren’t your thing, this same recipe can be used with just about any other nut.

Now the Chickpeas can be cooked up, and I have a recipe for Braised Chickpeas on my site here or Instant Pot Chickpeas. It always makes sense to me to make a full recipe of either when I need some and stash the rest in the freezer (about 1 1/2 cups are the equivalent of a can and that makes three cans worth in a pound). Since you’re already making the dressing, the quinoa, and the pecans, you might just be ready to open a can and rinse it off; there’s no shame to that game!

Saving Money on Spinach Quinoa Salad with Candied Pecans:

Quinoa may not be cheap to buy, but its a good value for your money. It’s packed with protein, nutrients, and flavor and it’s a great way to up your nutrition game. It does pay to shop around, even at a single grocery store. Check the rice & beans aisle, the bulk aisle, and the health food aisle. You might need a calculator to figure out which is the best price. And of course, if you’re up to shopping around, compare prices at different stores; I’ve found they vary wildly.

There seems to be a big secret, and I get why you might want to pick up a big bag of spinach, especially since it seems like it’s ready to go. You still need to wash that spinach; greens can pose a health risk if you don’t. But that’s not the secret. The secret is that bagged lettuce, spinach, etc. is four to 10 times the amount of buying it by the head or the bunch. Those huge bags are “fluffy”but weigh very little. They’re priced by the ounce, which makes them hard to compare to actual non treated vegetables priced by the pound. Every time you pay more for less, you’re sending a message from the store all the way to the producers that it’s ok. And because they make so much more money selling by the bag, they’re happy to sell it to you, Happy to the point that it’s actually getting difficult to buy fresh vegetables in some stores – They are starting to stop carrying them.

Watch for sales on the blueberries or pick them up at your Buyer’s club or Aldi. They’re the new darling of the berries and have become readily available and so much cheaper! Pears of course, ae cheapest in season; if they’re on sale buy some that are ready now and some to ripen on your counter for later. Pecans and other nuts are best picked up during the fall sales prior to Christmas and tossed in the freezer. Again, your buyer’s club or Aldi may have great prices if a limited selection.

Spinach Quinoa Salad with Candied Pecans

Spinach Quinoa Salad with Candied Pecans

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Spinach Quinoa Salad with Candied Pecans

Spinach Quinoa Salad with Candied Pecans

Spinach Quinoa Salad with Candied Pecans is one of those salads you’ll just want to keep eating and eating! A combo of sweet, tart, crunchy & chewy! Full of good for you ingredients! The easy candied pecans add a cheffy restaurant touch!

  • Author: mollie kirby
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings 1x
  • Category: Salads
  • Cuisine: American
Scale

Ingredients

Dressing:

  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (or your choice)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil

For the Salad:

  • 1 bunch of spinach, rinsed, stems removed
  • 3 cups of cooked quinoa (1 cup uncooked), see Light & Fluffy Quinoa
  • 1 cup chickpeas, canned or cooked at home
  • 1/2 pint (8 ounces) of blueberries
  • 1 pear or apple sliced into quarters, hulled and then sliced across into 1/4” pieces
  • 1 recipe Candied Pecans

Instructions

For Dressing:

Mix together all ingredients together in a jar and shake. Drizzle over salad just before serving.  You can add more honey to this, to taste. The dressing is very tart which plays wonderfully with the Candied Pecans.  If you’re not using the Candied Pecans, you may like a bit more sweetness.

For the Salad;

Arrange salad as desired. Suggested: lay down a bed of the spinach, top with the quinoa and sprinkle the rest of the ingredients over the top. Drizzle with dressing right before serving.

Notes

If not using the candied pecans, add a little more honey to the dressing.

Keywords: Bargain Meal of the Week, Berries, Blueberries, Chickpeas, Dried Beans, Main dish salad, Pear, Pecans, Quinoa, Salad, Salad Dressings, Spinach, Spinach Salad

 

Nutrition Facts
Servings 6.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 334
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 16 g 24 %
Saturated Fat 2 g 9 %
Monounsaturated Fat 9 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 4 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg 0 %
Sodium 215 mg 9 %
Potassium 583 mg 17 %
Total Carbohydrate 43 g 14 %
Dietary Fiber 7 g 29 %
Sugars 11 g
Protein 8 g 17 %
Vitamin A 109 %
Vitamin C 35 %
Calcium 9 %
Iron 26 %

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This post for Spinach Quinoa Salad with Candied Pecans was redone in September 2019. I’ll be posting to Fiesta Friday #294 this week. It’s being hosted this by Antonia @ Zoale.com


Spinach Quinoa Salad with Candied Pecans is one of those salads you'll just want to keep eating and eating! A combo of sweet, tart, crunchy & chewy! Full of good for you ingredients, spinach, chickpeas, quinoa, apples or pears & blueberries.! The easy candied pecans add a cheffy restaurant touch! #SpinachQuinoaSalad #HealthySpinachSalad #SpinachSalad