Things are beginning to look up. I spent the entire day last Sunday working on the garden; turning the soil, working in compost, and planting my spring seeds while Luca tore around the garden like a little hellion, leaping across raised beds and over tomato cages, jumping through hose water, and finally, lounging in the shade with her tongue hanging out. I got a bit carried away this year, as I already planted onions, shallots, radishes, spinach, romaine, kale, shelling peas, and sugar snap peas–and that is just the spring crop! Every year around this time, I feel like the world is waking up again. We’re peeling off our winter layers, airing out our houses, and getting some much needed sunshine.
Well, here in Colorado, the first blossoms just arrived on the trees, random crocuses and tulips are appearing everywhere, and my chives have returned in full force. Sugar snaps won’t be ready until May or June, but planting inevitably got me anticipating my spring crops. When I went grocery shopping later that day, impatience trumped local, seasonal eating (oops). I couldn’t help but buy a handful of sugar snap peas to hold me over until the time arrives to pick my own.
I welcome the switchover to each season. At the first hint of spring weather, I immediately crave more delicate, brighter flavored foods as opposed to the heavier fare of winter. I mean, come on. Eating a belly-warming vegetable or meat braise when the sun is shining and the trees are blossoming is like wearing a cable knit sweater and mittens on a tropical vacation. It just doesn’t balance out.
One of my favorite foods in any season is quinoa (think “keen-wa”). During the summer, it’s my Southwest Quinoa Salad, laden with peppers, tomatoes, and farmers market corn, tossed with chile-lime vinaigrette. In this springy version, I toss quinoa with sugar snaps, chopped mint and toasted almonds, and coat with a gingery yogurt dressing. The flavors are fresh and crisp, slightly sweet, hinted with lemon and laced with ginger and garlic. The sesame oil is almost imperceptible, except that it adds a rounded depth to the dressing. This salad makes a great light lunch on its own, or would pair nicely with some grilled salmon.
I can’t wait until I can make this with peas straight from the garden, although I’ll have to have a little self control; most of my sugar snaps never actually make it into the house since I consider them gardening snacks and eat them straight from the vine. Colorado is always a little late on the warm-weather front. I’m curious to know what sorts of spring signs are popping up around you…do tell!
- 1 cup quinoa
- ½ pound sugar snap peas, thinly sliced on the diagonal
- ½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
- ¼ cup fresh roughly chopped mint leaves
- ¾ cup plain low fat yogurt or plain vegan unsweetened yogurt
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1½ tablespoons lemon juice from 1 medium lemon
- 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon honey
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¾ teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
- Thoroughly rinse the quinoa, drain well and place in a small saucepan. Add a scant two cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 12 minutes, or until the quinoa is tender and a what looks like a white thread spirals around each grain. Transfer to a plate to cool. If the quinoa appears to be cooked, but there is excess water in the pan, uncover, increase heat to medium, and cook for an additional minute or two, stirring constantly, until the water has evaporated.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sesame oil, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, honey, salt and pepper.
- Place the cooled quinoa, sugar snap peas, almonds and mint in a medium bowl. Stir to combine. Add the yogurt dressing and gently toss to coat. Garnish with additional almonds and mint if desired. Serve cold or at room temperature.