It's that time of year when a picnic in the park sounds like an excellent idea, and so I wanted to add a little inspiration with my latest Pair with Mere!
We recognize both Sonoma and New Orleans are unique, in that both places, it’s legal to sip wine in our square and parks. If it’s not legal where you live, then we encourage you to replicate the experience in your own backyard or front porch because the intention of this pairing is motivated by our April theme:
A picnic necessitates a dish that’s easy to eat and doesn’t require heating or refrigeration. I was inspired by what I consider the star veggie of the spring season -- asparagus. Asparagi (yes, that is the plural for asparagus according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary) have such a short season we need to capitalize on it.
Asparagi are often considered a difficult veggie to pair with wine because some of their compounds cause wines to taste bitter or metallic. However, if you cook them just right and add other complimentary foods that do pair well with wine, you can create a delicious harmony.
Having said that, asparagus is best with white wines because the tannins in red wine will certainly trigger a train wreck on the palate. I’m pairing this recipe with our 2017 Ashby Park Sauvignon Blanc, but my buddy Lou loves it with the 2015 Judge Palmer Sur Les Peaux. It's your choice! Or...you can take both to the park for your pals to weigh in on the discussion and let us know what you decide!
I love this salad because it’s easy to put together and offers a few bonus topping ideas that each person can add to customize their own salad creation.
For the Dressing
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp honey
Zest of one small lemon
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a covered jar and then shake it to allow all the ingredients to mix. Store in the fridge until you’re ready to pack-up your picnic and you’ll probably need to shake again before serving.
For the Salad
1 cup quinoa, uncooked
2 cups vegetable broth or chicken broth, low sodium
2 sprigs thyme + 2 tsp chopped thyme
1 shallot, sliced in thin half-rings
1 bunch of asparagus
1 small log of goat cheese (plain or herbed)
Grape tomatoes, halved-optional topping
Green olives, halved- optional topping
Marcona almonds- optional topping
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Combine quinoa, broth and thyme sprigs in medium pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the temperature and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy (about 20 minutes). Remove thyme sprigs and set aside.
Meanwhile, warm about a teaspoon of olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add shallots and thyme and cook until they’ve softened and caramelized a bit (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside.
Trim the asparagus and place on a baking sheet. Spray or drizzle with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast 11-15 minutes (ideally you want them to still be a little crisp and not mushy). Once they’ve cooled cut into 1-2inch pieces.
To build the salad mix the cooked quinoa, shallots, thyme and asparagus in a bowl. Fold some of the goat cheese into the salad while it’s warm to help infuse the flavor into the salad. Reserve the rest for guests to top their salad with before eating. You can choose to add the dressing now or save for each guest to add later.
Package it all up-- Divide the salad mixture into 4 individual containers with lids. Bring tomatoes, olives, nuts, dressing and goat cheese along for each person to top as they like. (Don’t forget napkins, forks, and wine glasses).
Serve with your pals and the Ashby Park Sauvignon Blanc or Judge Palmer Sur Les Peaux. Cheers!
*Note: I’ve also added cooked shrimp or chickpeas to the salad to boost the protein content or you could serve a shrimp cocktail or assorted cheeses alongside the salad.