Spring is here! the beautiful flowers and trees blooming, the smells and aromas, the birds singing in the morning….And what I love the most about spring is the abundance of new market produce, when I think of this part of the year my mind goes straight to fresh peas, asparagus, broadbeans, small potatoes, strawberries, herbs, onions…so good.
I recently finished reading two books from my History of Medieval diet Professor and many interesting facts came out of it. For centuries our ancestors have been fighting the seasons and changes of climate, finding new ways to preserve food in case of shortage or for winter seasons. They would plant many different varieties of plants in case one or more wouldn’t be successful so they would have many options to choose from (this is what Biodiversity is). In any case Nature, and it’s sudden “changes of plan”, has always been seen as the enemy. And all the attempts at preserving food the best way wasn’t for pleasure but for Survival, making people see seasons in a negative way, and their idyllic world was one without seasons. The world we live in now is one where canning tecnquics and other preservation methods have improved exponentially, and also transportation systems make it no problem if in one part of the globe the tomato harvest of the summer went badly. And this is exactly what our ancestors wished for. But yet, in the last decade or so, the food media is all about buying local and seasonal foods, in Italy we say “km zero” (meaning zero miles). There are websites able to calculate food miles and many other things. And the same goes for “regional” /local cuisines. In medieval times, the aspiration was to create a universal way of consumption, while in today’s mass industrial society, after globalization, we are now searching for local cuisines. If you go to a restaurant in Italy for example, the restaurant will likely not just serve Italian food, but Sicilian, from Piedmont, from Florence or Rome and so on.
What is right or wrong is difficult to say, but what is clear is that it seems like mankind is always searching for what he doesn’t have, he is driven by desire of the unreachable.
Anyways, the books my professor Montanari wrote are very interesting and this was only one of the many reflections that made me think while reading his books. (“la fame e l’abbondanza” & “il cibo come cultura”, all translated in several languages.
Back to the recipe! This is a simple easy to make (ahead also) salad perfect for a spring picnic, lunch on the go or dinner with friends (this was my case).
→1 cup quinoa
→1 big bunch of asparagus, 1-inch chopped
→1 cup of freshly podded peas (from 1 big bag of peas)
→6/7 radishes, sliced thinly
→20 leaves or so of mint, chopped roughly
→1 green onion (or 1/2 fresh shallot), minced
→1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted and chopped
for the dressing:
→juice of 1 lemon
→extra virgin olive oil (double the amount of lemon juice)
→1 tsp mustard
→1 tsp honey
→salt & pepper
Rinse the quinoa, add to a small pot with 2 cups of water, 1 clove garlic, pinch of coarse salt. Bring to boil, then lower to simmer and cover. Check and stir every once in a while and turn off the heat once all the water has evaporated, keep the lid on for 5 minutes.
In the meantime, pod the fresh peas, chop the asparagus (don’t use the bottoms which are too fibrous but can be used to make a broth). Bring a pot of water to boil and blanch the peas and asparagus for 3 minutes then drain, and add to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking (and also to keep the green vibrant color).
In a big bowl add the cooled quinoa, peas, asparagus, radish, onion, mint, and the toasted pumpkin seeds.
Make the dressing in a mason jar, so you can shake it well. Dress the salad just before serving.