Friday, April 16, 2010

Quinoa with Asparagus & Tabasco

As springtime slowly, very slowly, begins to break through the layers of clouds and rain and cold, it is time for us to put away the warm comfort foods of winter and get ready for the green flush of spring vegetables. While the roots and squashes of winter keep us warm and happy through the chilly months, I am always a little giddy when the weather starts to warm and we begin to see piles of vibrant green stuffed into our bi-weekly CSA box. And early spring means one favorite green thing in particular: Asparagus.

Since asparagus has such a short season, it is always a gift to get it fresh from the farm where it was grown. We have enjoyed asparagus in many, many different ways over the years here in the Tiny Kitchen, but thought we might mix it up a bit with a recent recipe from Heidi at 101 Cookbooks, a favorite go-to of ours for delicious and healthy meals.

We jumped onto the quinoa bandwagon sometime ago, (again, thanks Heidi) and after we discovered this filling, hearty and delicious grain, we have been preaching the gospel ever since. Quinoa is amazingly simple to prepare and can be paired with just about anything you would eat with rice or couscous, that is to say just about anything at all. For this recipe, the addition of the tabasco butter makes the quinoa creamy and stands apart nicely from the slightly bitter asparagus and earthiness of the pine nuts. I have shaved the ingredient measurements down a bit to fit making this dish for only two people; the orginal serves 6. When making the butter, add or subtract the tabasco and dijon mustard to suit your tastes, we like things a bit spicy here in the Tiny Kitchen so we my have been generous in our pours. Keep in mind the butter cuts the heat of the hot sauce nicely, so don't be afraid to add a few extra drops.

Quinoa with Asparagus & Tabasco


Tabasco Butter:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
15 - 20 drops of Tabasco
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch of sea salt

1 bunch of asparagus, cut into 1 inch lengths
1/4 cup of pine nuts, slightly toasted over low heat
1/2 cup of red or white quinoa

To cook the quinoa, first rinse well through a very fine mesh strainer. Quinoa cooks at about a 1 to 3 ratio to water, so bring 1 1/2 cups of water or vegetable stock to a boil and add quinoa. Cover, lower heat, and allow to simmer for 15 - 20 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the little grains let out their little white tails.

To prepare the tabasco butter, add the butter, dijon mustard, lemon juice, salt and Tabasco sauce in a mixing bowl. While the original recipe calls to use a mixer, this is such a small amount of ingredients that was really just easier to do by hand. Using two forks, smash, whip and stir the ingredients together until the butter is soft and has been completely combined with the other ingredients. Stir about 2/3 of this into your waiting quinoa and set the rest aside to dollop a little into your bowl.

Finally, get a small pot of water going to a slow boil and add your asparagus pieces. Let them cook for no more than a minute, or minute and a half. Keep an eye out, they will begin to get even darker and more vibrantly green. Once the asparagus has cook for just a short time, pull them out with a spider or strainer and add them directly to your quinoa. Stir into the buttery quinoa along with the pine nuts and serve.

Quinoa is deceptively filling and incredibly nutricious; just a small bowl of this is all you really need for a complete, healthy dinner. This dish was a delightful way to celebrate the arrival of asparagus and, slowly but surely, the coming of spring. Thanks once again to Heidi at 101 Cookbooks for the great recipe, it is always a pleasure to see what she will think of next. Enoy!


Pastor Dennis said...

Joel, I just discovered quinoa the past year, and often forget that I have it in my cupboard, but I like the flavor, and I do have asparagus coming up in my garden, so I will experiment with this recipe.

Joel said...

Dennis, yes quinoa is wonderful! I hope you try this recipe and love it. I've got one more recipe with quinoa coming, probably later this week. Stay tuned!