It might be an overstatement to call this quinoa and asparagus salad “the perfect spring meal.” But in my world, this dish is as close as it gets to seasonal perfection, and I can tell you that this is the sort of recipe that I will make again and again as summer progresses, varying the vegetables based on what’s freshest and most appealing. I never seam to get tired of quinoa salads; they make for such a quick and easy lunch, and they can be easily paired with soups or stews for a satisfying dinner.
This week’s quinoa salad was inspired by a bunch of purple asparagus, kindly sent to me by the folks at Frieda’s. Frieda’s has been in the produce business since 1962, and the company’s founder, Frieda Caplan, was/is apparently the first woman to own a produce business. Frieda’s is known for stocking grocery stores with unusual fruits and vegetables, including purple potatoes, sunchokes, Elephant garlic, and Habanero Chiles. I’ve been lucky enough to sample some of Frieda’s seasonal produce, and it’s always a treat–especially since the company often features and shares fruits and vegetables that I might not think to find and use on my own.
Purple asparagus is a great example. I love regular asparagus, as does my boyfriend, so we buy it frequently all spring and summer long. But I’m rarely intrepid enough to pick up different colored asparagus at the farmer’s market, and it was nice to have an excuse to use the purple variety for a change. Purple asparagus is very similar in texture and taste to green asparagus, but it is slightly sweeter (it has about 20% more naturally occurring sugars). I love the tender, sweet bite it lent to this salad.
As you can see, some of the purple color fades as the asparagus cooks. But the nice thing about trying a new shade of a favorite vegetable is that one can reap the benefits of a different set of phytonutrients. Anthocyanins–the pigments that lend purple color to this variety of asparagus, as well as to plums, blueberries, strawberries, purple cabbage, eggplants, and cherries–are a type of flavonoids. Flavonoids are known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and anthocyanins boast a particularly impressive array of potential benefits (1). They seem to have a protective effect against cardiovascular disease (2, 3, 4), likely because they can help to relieve systolic blood pressure and arterial stiffness. They may also help to fight neuroinflammation, which may lead to increased cognitive function and memory (5, 6), and a few studies, both in vitro and in human test subjects, have shown that they may help to prevent proliferation of tumors associated with colon cancer (7, 8). Like other forms of asparagus, the purple stuff is also rich in Vitamins A and C.
But enough of the health benefits. Asparagus is delicious, and it is a perfect celebration of spring produce. Here, it meets tender, sweet green peas and a peppery lemon dressing. I love the addition of pea shoots on top of the salad: it adds texture, crunch, and a beautiful, bright dose of green color.
My favorite kind of dish: nutritious, bright, and oh-so-pretty to look at. It’s hard not to love pea shoots on just about anything. If you don’t happen to have pea shoots, though, feel free to substitute other sprouts, or a handful of crispy arugula or dandelion greens instead. As for the asparagus, it certainly doesn’t have to be purple — regular asparagus will work perfectly, even without the anthocyanins.
I hope you enjoy this seasonal recipe, everyone. As always, let me know if you like it. If you’re on the hunt for more spring recipe inspiration, I also wanted to share last week’s New Veganism recipe with you. It’s a vegan fried rice with baby bok choy and peas (because I just can’t get enough of them!). It’s quick, easy, and super flavorful–perfect for a mid-week meal.
Speaking of that, I hope that your week is off to a good start. I’ll be back on Thursday with a new, springtime soup recipe!
1. Webb, D. Anthocyanins. Today’s Dietitian. 2014; 16 (3).
2. Wallace TC. Anthocyanins in cardiovascular disease. Adv Nutr. 2011;2:1-7.
3. Mink PJ, Scrafford CG, Barraj LM, et al. Flavonoid intake and cardiovascular disease mortality: a prospective study in postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(3):895-909.
4. Jennings A, Welch AA, Fairweather-Tait SJ, et al. Higher anthocyanin intake is associated with lower arterial stiffness and central blood pressure in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;96(4):781-788.
5. Spencer JP. The impact of fruit flavonoids on memory and cognition. Br J Nutr. 2010;104 Suppl 3:S40-S47.
6. Youdim KA, Shukitt-Hale B, Joseph JA. Flavonoids and the brain: interactions at the blood-brain barrier and their physiological effects on the central nervous system. Free Radic Biol Med. 2004;37(11):1683-1693.
7. Wang LS, Sardo C, Rocha CM, et al. Effect of freeze-dried black raspberries on human colorectal cancer lesions. Presented at: AACR Special Conference in Cancer Research: Advances in Colon Cancer Research; November 14-17, 2007; Cambridge, MA.
8. Thomasset S, Berry DP, Cai H, et al. Pilot study of oral anthocyanins for colorectal cancer chemoprevention. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2009;2(7):625–633.
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Great salad recipe! I made this for dinner tonight. Took a picture and tagged my friends for sharing this wonderful yumhie salad. I did not have pistachios on hand so added sprouted pumpkin seeds instead. Thanks for the recipe!
This looks sooooo delicious! Beautiful photos!
Yum! This is so fresh and perfect! I love the pistachios! This looks wonderful and fun to modify too, great pictures. Thanks!
We love how well raw asparagus works in this dish, but you can also roast it for a different flavor. Salad= Healthy + Hygienic. 🙂
Wow, this looks amazing. I’m already having summer withdrawals as we head into winter here in the Southern Hemisphere! I may just have to make this salad to trick my mind.. Thank you for sharing! 🙂
Salad = Healthy + Hyegienic and its a salad of purple asparagus and purple is my fav color. it looks stunning as well delicious. i will take it as my one time meal in a day. Thanks for sharing for a amazing blog or recipe. 😉
i’m so with you on the peas and asparagus! normally i dont love peas, even though they’re pretty popular in indian cuisine, but i’ve been craving their bright fresh taste! i love this purple asparagus with the pea shoots 🙂
also, i just posted a cauliflower “fried rice”! haha. but i love your columns on food52, i reread them regularly so i will check this out too 🙂
and another thing- i do appreciate the references!
It does sound like the perfect spring salad! I love the veggie combined with the quinoa – especially since I’m seeing asparagus at the Farmer’s Market now. I’ll have to see if I can find purple =)
never heard of purple aspargus!! love this salad 🙂
salad (is combo) = healthy + hygienic, of peas and pea shoots with purple asparagus mouthwatering salad. In a day i will definitely going to take this. Thanks for sharing. keep going and post new, i will keep visiting your post with new recipes. (Y)
I love eating the rainbow. I’ll be glad to add purple asparagus to my repertoire of purple foods. 🙂
Yum! This really is the perfect spring salad. I’ve never had purple asparagus, only green and white. I can see how the extra sweetness would be a fun thing for certain recipes.
I just thought you might want to know that the ingredient list says “cauliflower” instead of “asparagus.” I’m sure it would be delicious with cauliflower, too, though! : )
Ha! It would be, but what an absurd typo. Thank you for catching it!
I’ve never seen purple asparagus! It’s a shame the purple disappears when cooked ( like purple sprouting broccoli) but I’m sure it’s still tasty and full of good nutrition.
I definitely agree with you on this being the perfect spring meal – and share your love of green peas too!
Haha, I just made the most fabulous new recipe with my purple asparagus from Frieda’s!