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Home plate: Spring has sprung

Spring is in the air. And with that comes time to put Minnesota’s classic staple – the hotdish – on a back burner and toss a salad or two (in the bowl, of course).

The Quinoa Salad is one I found in Coborn’s catalog of recipes. I added feta and bumped up the amounts of red wine vinegar and grapeseed oil a bit (which are reflected in this recipe).

Asparagus is arriving at the store, always something to cheer about. The Spicy Peanut Penne Salad is a reminder of the garden bounty ahead. And the three-bean salad (with horseradish vinaigrette!) was developed to encourage Minneapolis school kids to eat legumes. Go figure.

Quinoa Salad

1 mango, peeled and diced

1 red pepper, seeded and diced

1 cup scallions, chopped

1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil

2 cups quinoa, cooked and cooled

1 ½ cups black beans, drained and rinsed (15-ounce can)

Feta cheese

Combine mango, red pepper, scallions and cilantro in a bowl. Mix red wine vinegar, grapeseed oil and salt and add; stir to combine. Add quinoa; stir until everything is well incorporated. Fold in black beans. Serve immediately or let sit to allow the flavors to meld. Sprinkle feta cheese on top (optional).

Spring Grill of Asparagus

and Scallion Salad


1 medium shallot, minced

½ tablespoon (1 ½ teaspoons) balsamic vinegar

½ tablespoon red or white wine vinegar, or cider vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 teaspoons coarse, dark mustard

5 tablespoons heavy, dark mustard


1 bunch pencil-slim asparagus (1 pound) trimmed of tough ends

3 bunches scallions (20 or so), trimmed of roots and of 1 inch of their green tops

1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper


2 tablespoons minced fresh chives or scallion tops

To make the dressing, in a medium bowl, blend the shallot and vinegar with salt and pepper to taste. Mix in the mustard and heavy cream. Taste for seasoning, and set aside.

Set an oven rack about 5 inches from the broiler.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cover a large baking sheet with foil. Spread the asparagus and scallions over the sheet, leaving enough room so they do not touch. Sprinkle them with the olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Roll the vegetables gently to coat them with the seasonings.

Roast for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the asparagus is barely tender when pierced with a knife (you should hear sizzling). Turn on the broiler and broil for 2 minutes. The scallions should have some browned leaves and the asparagus should pick up color. If some of the pieces are browning faster, feel free to pull them out and set aside while other pieces finish.

Pile the vegetables on a platter and zigzag dressing over them. Sprinkle with chives and serve.

Spicy Peanut Penne Salad

This is a recipe that can be modified based on what’s coming out of the garden – from sweet peas and radishes and later on, corn. Carrots, cucumbers, green beans and cabbage and kale can be used. The dressing can be used on sandwiches and to liven up rice.

8 ounces penne, garganelli or other pasta

6 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 to 3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons dark sesame oil

1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic

½ cup chopped green onions, white and green parts

2 cups chopped, fresh seasonal vegetables

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Lettuce leaves

1/3 cup chopped cilantro for garnish

¼ cup unsalted peanuts for garnish

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil. Drop in the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain.

While the pasta is cooking, whisk together the peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, dark sesame oil, garlic and green onions in a large bowl. Thin the dressing with a little water if it is too thick.

Add the drained pasta and vegetables to the bowl of the dressing, turn to coat with the dressing and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve on the lettuce leaves, garnished with cilantro and peanuts.

Three Bean Salad

with Horseradish Vinaigrette

2 cups cooked black beans

1 cup kidney beans

½ cup cooked navy beans

1 cup fresh peas or frozen peas, thawed

¼ pound radishes, diced, about one cup

¼ pound fresh carrots, diced, about 1 cup)

¼ pound baby turnips, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)

¼ cup chopped dill

¼ cup chopped parsley

½ cup horseradish vinaigrette, or more, if needed

Horseradish vinaigrette:

¼ cup preserved horseradish, or more

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

¼ cup rice wine vinegar

¼ cup lime juice

½ cup rice bran oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the horseradish, dill, vinegar and lime juice into a blender and puree until smooth. Slowly add the oil in a steady stream. Store the vinaigrette in a sterilized jar in the refrigerator.

Toss the black beans, kidney beans, navy beans, peas, radishes, carrots, turnips, dill and parsley, work in the vinaigrette so the ingredients are lightly coated. The salad will store, covered, for up to five days in the refrigerator.