Asparagus has only 27 calories per cup and is packed with fiber and antioxidants including beta-carotene and a host of protective phytochemicals. It's an excellent source of the B vitamin folate and vitamin K, and provides iron and potassium, too.

This year, dress up asparagus by putting it in a salad of quinoa, pomegranate seeds and walnuts.

This salad is both dairy-free and gluten-free. It also has plenty of protein from the quinoa and a fair amount of fiber from all of the ingredients.

Quinoa and Pomegranate Salad with Asparagus and Walnuts

Makes 8 servings.

2/3 cup quinoa (makes about 2 cups cooked)

2/3 pound asparagus

1 cup shredded carrots

1 cup chopped parsley

1/2 cup finely chopped mint leaves

1/2 cup finely chopped dill

1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

1/2 cup chopped cilantro, optional

1/2 cup chopped scallions, green part only, optional

2 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup lemon juice from Meyer lemons* (or 1/4 cup lemon plus 1/4 cup orange juice)

1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

Black pepper, to taste

1 cup pomegranate seeds, divided (use 1 large pomegranate)

— Cook quinoa according to package directions. Drain and cool.

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Steam whole asparagus for 3 minutes or until bright green. Remove from pan immediately, drain, and let rest on plate with ice cubes. Slice diagonally into 1/4-inch pieces.

In large bowl, combine quinoa, asparagus, carrots, parsley, mint, dill, walnuts and cilantro and scallions, if using.

In a separate bowl mix olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Toss with quinoa mixture and then add 3/4 cup pomegranate seeds.

Serve as is for buffet or spoon individual servings over 1 cup baby lettuce or mixed greens. Garnish with remaining pomegranate seeds.

— Per serving: 145 calories, 7g total fat (1g saturated fat), 20g carbohydrate, 4g protein,** 3g dietary fiber, 165mg sodium.

*Meyer lemons lend a great citrusy flavor that combines well with the pomegranate seeds.

**For a little extra protein: Add half cup cooked cannellini beans to each serving of lettuce and top with quinoa combination.

Hints: Buy a pomegranate with smooth skin. To remove the seeds easily: fill a large bowl with cold water, slice the pomegranate in half place both halves in the cold water and refrigerate for 5 minutes, remove from refrigerator and, with your hands in the water, gently pull out seeds with your fingers, remove and discard peel and membranes. Use strainer to drain pomegranate seeds and pat them dry with a paper towel.

Rinse quinoa well before cooking to remove the bitter outer coating.

Give walnuts a toasty taste by placing them in a small dry skillet over medium-high heat and stirring frequently for 2-3 minutes until lightly browned. Immediately transfer to a small dish and cool before using.

(American Institute for Cancer Research)

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