A spring vegan asparagus salad, hearty enough for a meal, loaded with asparagus, potatoes, lentils, radishes, sugar snap peas, and mint – all dressed with a bright lemon vinaigrette.
Spring wakes slowly here in the mountains. After relishing the explosion of spring for decades outside San Francisco, I’m adjusting to a more tentative, gentle springing forth. I see four fuzzy buds one day on a bush when walking Paprika, and the next day another two gather up their nerve to step out and join them. And then another day of snow flurries. Regardless of the weather, my body begins to crave salads that balance spring vegetables of spring with the hardiness of winter fare. Like this asparagus salad.
Asparagus spears are the graceful wands of spring. Sure, they’re available all year round, but come spring they are at their most tender. They can be harvested as early as February, but they’re at their peak in April.
What’s the Difference Between Thin and Thick Asparagus?
The skinny asparagus we see in the stores is not asparagus that’s been harvested before it matures. The spears are as mature as the fat specialty ones, but the plant they were harvested from is likely younger. There is some debate over which is more tender, but my experience is that the thinner ones are more fibrous than the fat ones.
How to Prepare Asparagus
Slender asparagus is best roasted. Break the spears in half, toss with a little olive oil, and a light dusting of salt and pepper. Roast the spears in the oven at 400˚F for 10 – 15 minutes, depending on their thickness. Add it to salads or serve as an appetizer with a dip.
Because it’s not as tender as fat asparagus, it’s important to use it within a day or two at the most after purchasing it. It will begin to dry out, making it tougher.
When I purchase fat asparagus, I roast, sauté, and steam it. I add this asparagus to quiche, risotto, soup, casseroles, or as a simple side dish tossed in olive oil and a squirt of lemon.
Cooking Tips for Lentils
For this recipe, be sure to use lentils that hold their shape well when cooked. Green lentils, French Green Lentils, or Puy Lentils are excellent choices, as are Black Lentils. Here’s a link to some of these products – as a note this blog is an Amazon affliate and makes a few pennies from your clicks and purchases at no extra cost to you. This provides support to maintaining this blog for you!
A small steamer basket is incredibly useful for so many recipes. I just store mine inside one of my pots. There are collapsable ones, but I confess I still use the folding kind shown below. I’m a fan of OXO products for easy grips, and use this one with the handle.
Cook your lentils in broth for a little more flavor. Sometimes I add a dried pepper, or some garlic too.
For the Meat/Fish Eaters at the Table:
Toss in some roasted salmon when you add the asparagus.
Asparagus, Potato, and Lentil Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
- 1 1/2 cups cooked French, Puy or green lentils
- 1 pound small potatoes or fingerlings
- 1 bunch asparagus about 1 pound, trimmed and sliced into 1
- 1 cup sugar snap peas thinly sliced
- 5 - 6 radishes trimmed and thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh mint
- 1 /2 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon garlic paste or minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- If you don't have them on hand, cook up the lentils while you make the rest of the salad. When cooking lentils, use a 3 to 1 ration of water to dried lentils. So, 1 cup of lentils will require 3 cups of water or broth. All lentils are quick cooking, but differ between different kinds of lentils. I used French green lentils, which need to simmer around 40 - 45 minutes, and hold their shape beautifully.
- Bring a medium pot of well-salted water to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Add the potatoes, and cook until tender when penetrated with a sharp knife, 10 - 20 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes. Remove the potatoes using a spoon, and pour out enough water to insert a steamer basket. Allow the potatoes to cool and slice in half or quarters, depending on their size. Place in a bowl with the snap peas, radishes, mint, salt and pepper.
- Place a steamer basket into the same pot used for cooking the potatoes, and fill it with the asparagus. Steam until just tender, about 10 minutes. Add to the bowl with the potatoes.
- Pour one-half of the vinaigrette over the vegetables and very gently toss, using a large metal spoon. Let sit for 10 minutes to absorb some of the dressing, and pour additional dressing - according to your own preference - over the salad before serving.