Spring means asparagus! It’s officially spring in Washington, DC (some would argue we’ve jumped straight into summer) so it’s time for asparagus to shine. I love asparagus in spring as much as I love Brussels sprouts in winter. The only problem is, Omar does not love it as much as I do. He likes it, but he prefers his trusty broccoli as his vegetable of choice. Since he’s on travel for work, I get to indulge in all of my asparagus cravings!
I’ve been eating out frequently in the last two weeks because I’ve had friends and family in town, so I’m on a kick to make up for my lost vegetables. This means finding my protein from non-animal sources such as tofu, legumes, and quinoa.
Quinoa is often touted as one of a few complete proteins that is plant-based. Recently, I’ve been reading about the effect of increased quinoa consumption on food security and food sovereignty. Articles in the New York Times, the Guardian, and NPR gave me pause because the reporting focused on global consumption of quinoa and the effect of higher prices on global food security. Should I avoid quinoa to help alleviate the upward pressure on the demand and price for it? After all, I am fortunate enough to have the economic means to purchase protein rich foods that are sourced locally. On the other hand, the UN declared 2013 as the “International Year of Quinoa” and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations does not paint nearly as grim of a picture. It’s hard to decipher whether the increasing price of quinoa may have a direct impact on malnutrition and food security. What is the responsible thing to do? Certainly, this is an issue that is complicated and deserves more digging before I come to a decision. One this is for certain, I already have a four-pound bag of quinoa in my pantry that shall not go to waste.
QUINOA PATTIES WITH ROASTED ASPARAGUS
For the quinoa patties:
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup quinoa
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 slice whole wheat bread or 1/3 cup bread crumbs (I like to use the end pieces of the loaf for this)
¼ cup parsley, roughly chopped
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 teaspoon feta cheese (optional)
For the roasted asparagus (and other veggies):
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound asparagus (approx. 15-18 large spears), trimmed
½ cup cherry tomatoes
½ cup baby bella mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
Pre-heat oven to 425F.
In a small pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add the quinoa, stirring to coat and toast for about 1 minute. Add the broth to the quinoa and bring the quinoa and broth to a rolling boil. Cover and lower the heat, allowing the quinoa to simmer until done, (about 15-20 minutes). Turn off the heat and let the quinoa cool to at least room temperature.
In a large skillet or cast iron pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and set the onions and garlic aside to cool to room temperature. Don’t clean the skillet yet, we’ll use it again to brown the patties.
As the quinoa and onions are cooling, prepare the asparagus and various veggies for roasting. Trim the asparagus and place the asparagus, tomatoes, and mushrooms on a large cookie sheet. Toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt, and pepper until the veggies are well coated. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the asparagus is bright green and tender, but not wilted and mushy.
In a small bowl, whisk the egg lightly and crumble the piece of bread into the whisked egg, set aside. If you are using bread crumbs, skip this step and don’t mix the crumbs into the egg, just mix the crumbs in with the rest of the ingredients.
In a large bowl, combine the cooled quinoa, onions, egg, bread or bread crumbs, parsley, and red pepper flakes, if using. The quinoa and the onions need to cool enough so the egg doesn’t cook while you are combining the ingredients. Form the mixture into small patties. I was able to form 10 small patties from this mixture, but your yield will depend on the size of your patty.
Place the skillet or pan you used for the onions over medium heat. Add the final tablespoon of olive oil and cook the patties for 6-7 minutes, then flip and cook for another 6-7 minutes until both sides are lightly browned. I fit 3-4 patties in my skillet at a time so I did this in three rounds. Make sure the patties don’t touch, they need room to breathe.
Serve the patties with the roasted vegetables, and sprinkle the crumbled feta on top. Freshly shaved parmesan would work well too.