Nothing says “Spring!” quite like fresh asparagus, tender peas, and fragrant mint. This healthy dish features them all, along with nutty, satisfying quinoa and “meaty” shiitakes. Served as a side dish or a hearty vegetarian/vegan entree, I think you’ll agree, this Spring Vegetable Quinoa has the best flavors of the season. As a side, you’ll get approximately eight 1-cup servings bearing only about 220 calories each.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 1/2 c. quinoa
- 2 1/2 c. water
- 1 t. salt
- 1 c. vegetable or chicken broth
- 2 c. frozen peas, thawed
- 5 T. fresh mint leaves
- 1 garlic clove, finely minced or pressed (about 1 t.)
- Juice and zest of two lemons
- 3 T. olive oil
- 1 large leek (white and pale green parts only), halved, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
- 3/4 c. sliced shallots
- 8 oz. fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, sliced (morels would be perfect for this dish if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on some)
- 10 oz. asparagus, trimmed, cut on into 1-inch pieces
- Grated parmesan cheese for topping (optional)
Start out by thoroughly rinsing your quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer until water runs clear. Add the quinoa, water, and salt to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the water has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender (about 15-20 minutes).
Note: There are several different colors of quinoa, including white, black, and red. The flavor is the same, so use whatever you have available/prefer. Pictured above is red quinoa.
While the quinoa is cooking, prepare your veggies. First, you need to know that leeks are full of very fine sand and silt. You’ll want to cut yours, length-wise and then slice into 1/4-inch half-moons. Place them in a bowl of luke-warm water and swish them around to release all the sand. Strain them from the water and give them one good, last rinse. Next, you can move on to slicing your mushrooms, asparagus, and shallots.
Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the shallots and leeks. Sauté until soft and lightly brown. Next, add the asparagus and mushrooms and sauté another five minutes or so, until the shiitakes are soft and the asparagus is tender-crisp. Add the garlic and remaining peas and cook another minute or two more, just to get the raw flavor out of the garlic.
While the veggies are getting to know each other in the skillet, zest the lemons (setting the zest aside) and juice them into a blender. Into the blender, add the mint, vegetable (or chicken) broth, and one cup of the peas; puree until smooth.
Finally, add the puree and lemon zest to the quinoa, then stir in the veggies. If you like, add more lemon zest, some minced mint leaves, or a little parmesan grated over the top.