Warm Spring Salad + Best Ever Dressing

April 16, 2016

It's my sister's wedding social tonight. If you're not from Manitoba, you might not have heard of socials before. It's just a big party that people buy tickets to, with raffle prizes, and lots of drinking. Socials often pay for the wedding and can be pretty fun. There's music and a midnight lunch, too. I have to go and help get the hall ready in a little bit.

Unfortunately, it's snowing right now, but it was above 20C a couple of days ago, so I think this salad is warranted. We don't have local asparagus right now, and won't for at least a month, but I caved at the grocery store the other day and bought some from the US. Everyone else is eating it, you know? If I wait until it is in season here, it's no longer available anywhere else. And it's snowing outside. I question why people live here sometimes.

In other news, we don't have Milo, the kitten we were fostering, anymore. I'll catch you up on that next week. I miss him.

We've also bought our one-way tickets to Germany, so we are moving at the beginning of September! I'm a little nervous, but excitement is starting to edge that anxiety out.

Oh man, so much news. I also tried earthenware, a type of pottery, for the first time this week. It's amazing. I've been doing pottery for over six years and have never had this much fun doing it before. I love everything about it. I posted a picture on instagram making a bunch of little tester bowls. That's a much more accurate representation of me, too, if you're curious about what I look like. Ha.

On to the recipe!

It might be a little presumptuous to say that this is the best ever dressing. I don't usually want to eat my salad dressing with a spoon, though, so I'm going to say it anyway. It's reminiscent of caesar dressing, but less gloopy, and without eggs. It's like extra lemony, lighter caesar dressing. This dressing, and the whole salad, is very easy to make. You might want to make a big container of the dressing and keep it in the fridge. I've made it every day since that first trial. I use an immersion blender to make it, but if you have a food processor or a small blender, both of those will work too.

The salad has a quinoa base, but you can substitute just about any grain in its place. Try millet or amaranth for similar results. I just can't seem to get millet to cook evenly for some reason. If you like to cook big batches of grains on the weekends to last throughout the week (I recommend it) then you can put this salad together in a few minutes. Just make the dressing, cook the vegetables, and toss them on whatever you have in the fridge. Even if you are cooking the quinoa for this meal, it'll still only take about fifteen minutes in total. You can get everything else done while the quinoa's cooking.

There's asparagus, green peas, and spinach topping the salad. I added a few pistachios, too, but you could use something like hemp hearts or pepitas in their place if you can't have nuts. The pistachios add some nice richness and texture, as well as some good fats. This is a complete meal on its own but it would make an excellent side dish.

Serves 3-4 people

3 cups water
1 1/2 cups quinoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon avocado oil
300 grams asparagus (1 bunch), washed and with any woody ends removed
1 cup fresh or frozen peas*
2 cups fresh spinach*
1 clove garlic, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted pistachios

Zest of a lemon
3 tablespoons lemon juice (1-2 lemons)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced*
1/2 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

Add the water, quinoa, and salt to a pot. Bring to a boil, and then lower the heat to medium-low. Simmer, covered, for about fifteen minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed.

Heat a large pan over medium heat with the avocado oil. Slice the asparagus in half lengthwise. Once the pan is hot, add the garlic and asparagus. Cook for two minutes, or until the garlic starts to turn golden, stirring frequently. Add the peas and spinach, lower the heat, and place a lid on the pan. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes or until the peas are cooked and the spinach is wilted.

To prepare the dressing, blend the lemon zest and juice, mustard, garlic, honey, salt and pepper until fully combined. This took a few seconds with my immersion blender. Slowly add the olive oil in a stream while continuing to blend. This emulsifies the oil into the other ingredients and creates a smooth, creamy dressing.

To serve, place the quinoa on a large platter, add the vegetables and pistachios, and top with the dressing. It's best warm but good cold. It will keep in the fridge for a couple of days if you have leftovers.

1. If you use frozen peas, add them a minute before the spinach so they have some extra time to cook.
2. I don't recommend using frozen spinach for this recipe.
3. I mince the garlic before adding it to make sure there aren't big garlicky surprises floating around in the dressing. Some people don't like that.

P.S. thanks to my favourite hand model, Ashley, for being awesome at this and having extra pretty hands.

12 comments on "Warm Spring Salad + Best Ever Dressing"
  1. So I got SUPER excited when I read that you're a fellow Manitoban, but then I read you're moving to Germany! Gah! So rarely do I meet fellow food bloggers in this area. You'll have an amazing time in Germany though! And I love this warm salad!

    1. Ahh, I know what you mean! It's a bit of a desert, isn't it? My mom lives here, though, so I'll be back. Thank you!

  2. This looks amazing and your photography is stunning! Absolutely love it. I think I need to try this very soon! Thanks for sharing :)

  3. You're moving to Germany! That's so exciting! I lived in Germany for 3 months during a summer of my undergrad (in 2003). I was a coop student and my last work term was in a lab in a small town called Schwenningen. It was super scary, and because I was in a small town, most people didn't speak English, except for some of the young students at the school where my lab was. Anyways, all that to say, I had an AMAZING time there even though I didn't know a single word of German. German people are so sweet and kind. I had a blast. And living in Germany allowed me to travel a lot, so on weekends, I'd visit other neighbouring cities, I even went to Liechtenstein to spend a day there and get my passport stamped. And with the Eurorail you can visit so many places. My landlord was Italian so on the weekends, his family would invite me upstairs for Sunday lunch. It was a beautiful experience. I'm sure you will meet amazing people, and now with facebook and Twitter, you will be able to more easily find new people to meet and to help you adapt. I'm sure of it.
    P.S. I'm definitely going to give your dressing recipe a try. Also, I cannot believe you had snow. Yuck!

    1. Woah, you were on the opposite end of the country from where we'll be! I bet it was really beautiful, that's a lovely area. My family all lives in Northern Germany, so that's where we'll be living, but I am going to Munich in October to visit a friend. I'm excited about being able to travel more there - it's so expensive here! Haha the joys of living in Manitoba!

  4. YUM! This sounds incredible -- I love the medley of green flavours and textures. Pinning! Thanks for the innovative recipe. :)

  5. This looks amazing! It sounds like a really refreshing dish, perfect for the summer! I'm sorry you don't have your post cat anymore. Dang things make there way into your heart don't they? sigh.

    1. Thank you! We knew he wasn't going to stay, it's just a bit sad where he is now.

  6. This is one of the best salad dressing I've seen in a while! As a passionate lover of asparagus, I am definitely preparing your recipe, Alexandra! Can I use lime juice instead of lemon juice?

    1. Thank you so much, Agness! I think you could, although it will of course alter the flavour slightly. I think lime would be all right though.