My official job title is storyteller, cook, speaker and author. It intrigues people. How exactly do cooking and storytelling go together? Well, shortly before my first cooking demo ever I called my husband’s friend Robin Davis, who has spent lots of time cooking and speaking and being generally fabulous. She gave me one piece of advice: never stop talking.
Robin’s advice has served me well. Unlike on television where they can edit prep down to 5 minutes, in front of an audience a 20 minute dish truly takes 20 minutes and you’ve got to fill that time.Hence, a storytelling cook was born.
But there’s another question I’m not often asked. How did I become a storyteller? because that happened long before I started cooking in front of audiences. I’ve always used the long form, in writing, in speaking, whether I am giving directions or describing a favorite plant from the garden. I mean, let’s face it, Aquilegia viridiflora is a Columbine that I remember so well because Dr. Allan Armitage described it to the plant nerds reading his Herbaceous Perennial Plants textbook as “a green flowered species which no one will like but you.”
Living in Washington, DC and seeing the chasm between how issues are captured in discussion versus through television soundbites, I’ve come to believe that few things in this world are best described in two words rather than two paragraphs. (Except for Far From the Madding Crowd, sweet Jesus Thomas Hardy, did we need to know how the ivy looked growing on that wall over the course of an entire year?!).
All of that is to say that when you read my posts or hear me speak it will likely be in long form, illustrated with words which hopefully paint a rich enough reward for the extra time you spend with me. My recipes, however, are typically mercifully brief, using flavors and ingredients efficiently to deliver flavors that delight with just a little twist. This salad is just that, with the finely chopped asparagus providing a grassy, sweet background for the bitter bites of larger pieces of herbs all balanced by the fat from Feta.
And I’ll leave it at that.
Asparagus Quinoa and Feta Salad
Finely sliced asparagus and roughly chopped herbs keep this savory and fresh tasting. With the complete proteins in quinoa, its the perfect take-to-work lunch or make-ahead light spring supper. Cook the quinoa ahead of time and the rest of the salad is done in 10-15 minutes!
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 lb asparagus, ends snapped off
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup Champagne vinegar
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2/3 cup olive oil – the good stuff!
- 1/4 lb Feta cheese, crumbled
- 6-8 chives
- 4-5 stems parsley
- 3-4 sprigs thyme, tough stems removed
- Cook quinoa: place quinoa in a 2 quart saucepan with 1 1/3 cups water and a pinch of salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook until all the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let rest, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove from pan, fluff with a fork and allow to cool.
- Lay asparagus in a 12” skillet just covered with cold water. Place over high heat and cook until the water just comes to a simmer and asparagus is still crisp tender. Remove asparagus to an ice bath – half ice and half water – and let cool, about 5 minutes. Drain, pat dry and slice into thin rounds.
- Make vinaigrette: Place garlic on a cutting board, sprinkle with coarse salt and mash into a paste with the flat side of a knife.
- Place garlic paste in medium bowl and whisk together with vinegar and mustard. Drizzle in oil, while whisking, to form a creamy emulsion.
- Chop herbs roughly leaving them in large pieces – about 1/2”.
- Mix together cooked quinoa, asparagus, crumbled feta and fresh herbs.
- Taste salad with vinaigrette, season vinaigrette to taste balancing the flavor of the oil and vinegar and dress the salad.