This season, I’d like to give a little credit to an underrated vegetable: asparagus. Its merits are endless, but the main reason I love it is that its appearance at the farmers market signals the arrival of spring. Goodbye, winter. I’m sorry, but it’s over between us.
Raw asparagus is a thing
I’m betting you didn’t know that you can eat asparagus raw. The spears are succulent and tender, with a crisp, refreshing crunch. They offer quite a few vitamins and minerals, including folate, vitamins C and B6, and thiamine. To top it off, they are packed with fiber.
These nutrients (not to mention the crunch) tend to get lost in the cooking process, so this spring, try asparagus in all its raw glory with this gorgeous asparagus ribbon salad with garlicky breadcrumbs and a lemon-mint vinaigrette.
The down-low on this recipe for asparagus ribbon salad
There are so many ways to highlight the beauty of asparagus, but shaving them into elegant ribbons is one of my favorites. Asparagus’ long emerald stalks fade to white on the inside, making for an ombre effect — very on trend. The tips of the stalks look like little purple flowers.
Asparagus pairs well with lemon and fresh herbs, so this lemon-mint vinaigrette is a delicious complement. Toss in some bread crumbs for texture, strawberries for sweetness, and edible flowers for aesthetics, and the result is absolutely stunning.
This salad really does look like an edible gift basket, which is why this salad is perfect for your spring holiday spreads.
So without further ado, let’s dive into the recipe.
The better the bread, the better the breadcrumbs. You don’t have to fly to France to pick up a baguette, but avoid using soft, presliced, packaged breads. Look to the bakery section of your store instead. I use La Brea Bakery Italian Round Loaf for this recipe.
You can substitute 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese to replace the walnuts and nutritional yeast if you aren’t living a vegan lifestyle. Regardless, the walnuts and nutritional yeast are a dynamite combo!
Edible flowers may be hard to source locally depending on where you live. I often find them at the farmers market, and sometimes at Whole Foods near the herbs. These are mainly for presentation, so they are not necessary for the flavors in the recipe. Whatever you do, though, please do not add flowers from the florist or the grocery store! These are often sprayed with pesticides and artificial ingredients, and could be dangerous to your health.
If possible, prepare the vinaigrette and garlicky breadcrumbs two or three days in advance, so assembling the salad just before serving is easy and quick. Keep the dressing in the fridge and the breadcrumbs in an airtight container.
Asparagus ends are tough and not at all fun to eat. One way to remove those fibrous ends is to bend each stalk until it snaps at the natural point where it goes from fibrous to succulent. The quick approach is to do that with one stalk, and then cut the rest at a similar point. If you end up with stalks that look alive and juicy instead of like dead branches, you’re good!