Show your spear-it!

While cold weather continues to threaten fragile blossoms, Ontario asparagus soldiers on. A few emerald stalks showed up at farmer’s markets last week, and provincial crop experts say we should be seeing larger quantities “very, very soon.”

To whet your appetite for one of the earliest asparagus seasons ever, here’s a new recipe from Foodland Ontario. Between the grain, chickpeas and fresh vegetables, it’s super healthy, low in fat and tastes great.

Cooked quinoa quadruples in volume, so you’ll have a big bowlful. Neighbours Ted and Brigid agree, this one’s a keeper!

Quinoa and Grilled Asparagus Salad

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

1 lb Ontario asparagus, trimmed

1 greenhouse sweet pepper, seeded and quartered

1 large onion, cut in rings ½-inch thick

2-3 tbsp vegetable oil

19-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 tsp grated orange rind

¼ cup orange juice

1 tbsp liquid honey

1 tbsp each red wine vinegar and Dijon mustard

1 small clove garlic, finely minced

½ tsp each salt and pepper

In medium saucepan, bring quinoa and 2 cups water to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 15 minutes, or until most of the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl to cool.

Meanwhile, brush asparagus, sweet pepper and onion with 1-2 tbsp of the oil. Place directly on a greased grill over medium-high heat. Close lid and grill, turning occasionally, until tender-crisp and lightly marked, 5-10 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Cut vegetables into bite-size pieces and stir into quinoa with chickpeas and parsley.

In small bowl, whisk together 1 tbsp oil, orange rind and juice, honey, vinegar, mustard, garlic and salt and pepper. Pour over quinoa mixture and toss to coat. Serve at room temperature.

Serves 6-8.

Asparagus tip: Try this simple way to cook green asparagus. Snap off the ends and lay spears in a single layer in a large skillet. Turn heat to medium high, add 2 tbsp water and cover tightly. Cook 2-3 minutes, depending on thickness. That’s it!

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