By Stefanie Cassetto

When we talk about getting back to the basics of eating—adding superfoods to your diet should be a top priority. Superfoods are foods that are high in chemical compounds that naturally occur in plants. They are a great source of antioxidants, high in nutrients, and low in calories—which make them especially beneficial to the healthy lifestyle.

This week it’s all about the good kind of fat. As we have said before, not all fat is the same. Saturated and trans fats are harmful to your diet and can increase cholesterol levels and chances for cardiovascular disease. The healthy dietary fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Foods with these fats help reduce the risk of heart disease. That’s why we are highlighting walnuts this week. They are loaded with monounsaturated fats and are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. And that is only one reason they get to be on the superfood list.

Walnuts are members of the tree-nut family. Not only do they boast helpful fats, they also carry a variety of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. You can also find minerals like calcium, chromium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.

These flavorful nuts provide a range of cardiovascular benefits including improvement of blood quality, improved vasomotor tone, as well as decreased risk of excessive clotting and inflammation. Research shows that with as few as 4 walnuts per day, adults have been able to increase their blood level of alpha-linolenic acid—which helps improve blood pressure.

Walnuts also have cancer-fighting properties. Because of the walnut’s amount and variety of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, this nut has been linked to reducing the risk of prostate and breast cancer.

This amazing nut can be mixed to salads, used as a topping for yogurt, or can be added to sautéed vegetables. You can also make pesto, add them to stuffing, sprinkle them on top of oatmeal, or use them in a trail mix. There are many ways to get the delicious benefits of walnuts on a regular basis.

The recipe this week offers a little bit more of a challenge. Something a little bit out of the ordinary and a bit of stretch compared to some of our simpler recipes. I know the title calls for spring veggies…but this just looked to good too pass up.

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  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon diced shallots
  • 1 ½ cup of quinoa
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 3 cups of vegetable stock or water
  • 1/2 cup shelled English peas
  • 1/2 cup asparagus stems, woody bottoms removed and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup fava beans (outer pod removed, beans blanched)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, shells removed
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 large bunch kale, washed and chopped, stems removed
  • 5 basil leaves, stems removed
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/8 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 large shallots, sliced thin
  • 4 basil leaves, thinly sliced (chiffonade)
  • 1/2 bunch dandelion greens, cleaned and bottom of stems removed


Cooking the quinoa. Set a saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour in the oil and butter and cook until the butter melts and begins to foam. Add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until they are soft, about 3 minutes. Add the quinoa to the pan and toast it, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the salt and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan, and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, pour the mixture evenly onto a cookie sheet, and allow it to cool. (You can also cook the quinoa the day before and refrigerate for up to one day.)

Cooking the vegetables. Set a large pot of salted water over high heat (the water should be as salty as the ocean). Have a large bowl full of ice cubes waiting in the sink. Bring the salted water to a boil. Add the peas and cook for until they begin to rise to the surface, about 2 to 3 minutes. Using a strainer, remove the peas from the water and plunge the strainer into the ice bath. Allow the peas to remain on ice until they cool down, about 2 to 3 minutes. Put into a large bowl.

Bring the water back to a boil and add the asparagus pieces. Cook until they begin to rise to the surface, about 1 minute. (You want a crunch to these.) Using the same strainer, remove the asparagus from the boiling water and plunge the strainer into the ice bath. Allow the asparagus pieces to remain on ice until they cool, about 1 minute. Put into the bowl with the peas.

Bring the water back to a boil and add the fava beans. When the first fava beans begin to rise to the surface, about 2 to 3 minutes, pluck one out of the water. Peel its shell away and look at the bean. It should be a nice bright green. If it’s not, cook the beans for a minute longer. Using the strainer, remove the beans from the boiling water and plunge the strainer into the ice bath. Allow the fava beans to remain on ice until they cool, about 3 minutes. When the beans have cooled, peel away the remaining shells. Put the beans into the bowl with the other vegetables.

Making the pesto. Put the walnuts and garlic into the robot coupe (that’s the food processor for the rest of us who are not chefs). Buzz them into an almost paste. Add the kale and basil. Pulse until everything starts to get chopped up really fine. Drizzle in the olive oil, slowly, as the robot coupe is running. Stop the robot coupe and taste the pesto. Season with salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice and cheese and pulse the pesto until everything is combined. If the pesto feels thick, you can thin it out with a bit of water.

Finishing the dish. Set a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the olive oil. When the oil runs around the pan easily, add the shallots. Cook, stirring, until they are soft, about 3 minutes. Add the basil leaves and cook until they release their fragrance, about 1 minute. Put all the vegetables into the sauté pan and toss them around, cooking, until they are nice and toasty, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the cooked quinoa. Toss it around on the burner until it is nice and hot, about 3 to 4 minutes. Taste. Season with salt and pepper.

Smear some pesto on each plate. Top it with the dandelion greens. Scoop some of the quinoa and vegetables onto the dandelion greens. Serve immediately.