Asparagus is one of those vegetables that I didn't eat when I was a child. I almost wrote that "I didn't eat a lot," but that isn't true - I didn't eat asparagus at all. I'm not sure if it was something that my parents had tried once and didn't like or if they had never really ate it either, but I remember that the first time I tried asparagus was when I was out of college and in my 20s. It was the start of a seasonal love affair. I have never tried frozen or canned asparagus and I doubt that I ever will, because there's something so decadent about asparagus - I don't ever want that sense ruined by something that's sub-par.
So you can imagine how excited I was when I tried this recipe from Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks. I was a bit intimidated by the idea of liberal amounts of Tabasco, intrigued to cook quinoa for the first time and excited to cook a dish that promised to be healthy and something different for my lunch box.
As Heidi mentions in the headnote of this particular blog post, the taste of the Tabasco is subtle ... it's enough to bring your taste buds to attention, but not enough to have you running for a water glass. The notes of lemon and mustard marry well with the butter.
My husband even liked this dish - I imagine that this will be one for the books and one that will be incorporated into our repertoire for years to come.
Tabasco & Asparagus Quinoa
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
25 drops Tabasco sauce
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
**Just a note - knowing that this was going to make more Tabasco butter than needed, I ended up halving this recipe. It worked just fine.
1 pound asparagus, cut into 1-inch segments
4 cups cooked quinoa*
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted (I omitted)
scant 1/4 cup creme fraiche - optional (I omitted)
more Tabasco sauce to taste
Start by making the Tabasco butter. I used my mini food processor and combined the butter with the mustard, Tabasco sauce, lemon juice and salt.
Boil the asparagus in a large pot of well salted water, for just for a minute or so - depending on the thickness of your asparagus. Drain.
Take 4 cups of hot cooked quinoa and toss with 3 tablespoons of the tabasco butter. Stir in the asparagus. Serve with more Tabasco sauce on the side.
Serves 4 - 6.
*To cook quinoa: Combine 2 cups of well-rinsed dried quinoa with 3 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 25 - 30 minutes or until quinoa is tender and you can see the little quinoa curliques.