I love it when fresh asparagus is in season! This colorful and tangy entree salad is ideal for a simple weeknight dinner, yet elegant enough for entertaining. It’s also a terrific way to repurpose any leftover ham from Easter, which is what actually inspired this salad a few years ago. Chicken, rotisserie or otherwise, would make a great substitute for ham.
It works for leftovers too, even after being dressed with the vinaigrette. In fact, I’m munching away on a salad from yesterday’s photo shoot as I type this post. The vegetables are still crunchy and contrast nicely with the creaminess of the havarti cheese and the zippy dijon dressing. It’s so satisfying, along with being a visual delight. Leftovers never looked so good!
When shopping for fresh asparagus, choose bright green or violet-tinged spears with firm (not bendable) stems. Make sure the tips are closed and compact. Whether you prefer thick or thin spears (size is not related to quality), just be sure that they are fresh. My favorite method of storing asparagus is to transfer the bunch to a tall container filled with about an inch of water. Make sure the container sides are high enough so that it won’t tip over, similar to placing flowers in a vase. Cover loosely with a plastic bag and refrigerate. I find that asparagus holds quite well this way for 3 to 4 days.
Blanching the asparagus is the key to achieving the vibrant green color and tender, yet snappy, texture. I prep the asparagus by trimming the bottom 2″ or so of the woody stems, then slicing the remaining spears into 1″ long pieces. Rinse them off in a colander and the pieces are ready to go into a pot of boiling, salted water. After 3-4 minutes, scoop out the asparagus and place in a bowl of iced water to chill it down rapidly and stop the cooking process.
I think this salad tastes best when it’s had a few hours to marinate in the vinaigrette, although you could dress it just before serving if necessary. I like to garnish with sunflower seeds, shredded parmesan cheese, and fresh herbs for extra flavor, textural contrast, and visual appeal. The end result is simply delicious.
While asparagus is available throughout much of the year, it’s at its very best and most affordable when it’s in season locally. Get this wonderful, low carb vegetable while the getting is good!
- Dijon Vinaigrette
- 1½ ounces / 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1½ tablespoons dijon-style mustard
- 1 tablespoon shallot, peeled and finely diced or grated
- 1 teaspoon mayonnaise (helps keep dressing emulsified)
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ⅛ teasoon ground black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
- 4 ounces / ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, or avocado oil
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh chives or parsley
- 1 pound fresh asparagus spears,washed & trimmed of woody ends, sliced into 1" pieces
- 8 ounces raw mushrooms, button or cremini, cleaned and cut into ½" pieces
- 8 ounces red bell pepper, washed & seeded, ½" dice
- 12 ounces ham, ½" dice
- 6 ounces harvarti cheese, ½" dice
- 1½ ounces of parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, freshly grated, for garnish
- 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds, for garnish
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives or parsley, for garnish
- For vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients except oil. While whisking, add oil slowly. Stir in chives. Set aside. If making more than a few hours ahead, cover and refrigerate.
- Prepare an ice bath by combining 1 quart cold water with 1 quart ice in a large bowl. Set aside.
- In a large pot, bring 2 quarts water and 1 tsp salt to a boil. Add asparagus pieces, reduce heat to medium-high to maintain a simmer, and cook until bright green and tender but al dente, about 3-4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer asparagus to ice bath to chill for about 5 minutes. Drain well and dry in a salad spinner or by patting dry with paper towels.
- Transfer asparagus to a large bowl and add mushrooms, bell peppers, ham, and havarti. About two hours before serving, whisk vinigrette to blend. Pour ⅔ of the vinaigrette over the salad and toss to combine. Add more vinaigrette if needed, and/or reserve any remaining vinaigrette on the side. Cover salad and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Plate the chopped salad and garnish with parmesan cheese, sunflower seeds, and fresh chives or parsley just before serving.
- To make a day ahead, prep all of the ingredients. Transfer to storage containers or ziptop bags, keeping vegetables, garnishes, and ham & havarti separate, and refrigerate. Two hours before serving, combine the salad ingredients (reserving the garnishes) with the vinaigrette, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
*I use Living Cookbook 2015, along with package information and data from www.nutritiondata.self.com, to calculate the nutritional information for my recipes. Thus, I can make no guarantees as to the accuracy.
For another tasty asparagus recipe, see my Marinated Roasted Vegetable Salad with Spanish Vinaigrette.
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