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.Jump to Recipe
Spring wakes slowly here in the mountains. After relishing the explosion of spring for decades just 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 join them. And then snow flurries dust those brave buds.
Regardless of the weather, my body begins to crave salads that balance the vegetables of spring with the hardiness of winter fare. Especially if they involve graceful asparagus wands.
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.
Ingredient Tips For Asparagus Salad
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.
Because they're often not as tender as fat asparagus, use slender asparagus within a day or two after purchasing them. Otherwise, they can begin to dry out, making them even tougher.
How to Prepare Asparagus
We can debate this, but I think asparagus is best lightly roasted. Although I acknowledge both slender and fat spears can be simmered in water, steamed, sautéed and even grilled.
Just break the spears in half (the bottom halves are typically more tough and stringy), toss with a little olive oil, and a light dusting of salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 400˚F for 10 - 15 minutes, depending on the thickness.
For salads, use lentils that hold their shape well when cooked, and French Green Lentils is my #1 choice for salads. If you see Puy Green Lentils, it just means these are green lentils grown specifically in the Puy Region of France.
I should mention I'm also a fan of Black Beluga Lentils for salads. They are another great lentil that holds its shape.
For a full primer on lentils - how to cook the main kinds of lentils that are most frequently seen in markets, and the best ways to use them, check out this post.
The key to making the best potato salad is to use starchy potatoes for creamy, lusciousness. Therefore, I prefer to use Yukon Gold potatoes for this salad. But you can also use Russet potatoes if that's what you have on hand, although the texture will be affected.
For the Meat/Fish Eaters at the Table:
Toss roasted salmon, shrimp or chicken into the salad.
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Asparagus, Potato, and Lentil Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
- 1 ½ cups cooked French Green Lentils, or ¾ cup dry lentils
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or ½ teaspoon table salt
- 1 pound asparagus, trimmed
- 1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled, cut into chunks
- 1 cup sugar snap peas, thinly sliced
- 5 - 6 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
- ¼ cup thinly sliced fresh mint
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- If you don't have them on hand, cook up the lentils while you make the rest of the salad. Bring salted water to a simmer, and ¾ cup dry lentils. The typical ration is 3 cups water for every cup of dry lentils. Follow the directions on the package for cooking them. French green lentils typically require a 40 - 45 minute simmer.
- Roast the asparagus in a 400˚F oven for 10 minutes, or until just tender. I use my toaster oven for this since it preheats so quickly. Slice into 1-inch pieces. Alternatively, you can steam the asparagus on the stovetop.
- Place a steamer basket in a medium pot, and add enough salted water to reach the bottom of the basket. Bring it to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Add the potato chunks, cover the pot, and cook until tender when penetrated with a sharp knife (10 - 15 minutes depending on the size of the potato chunks). Remove and drain the water.
- Combine the sugar snap peas, radishes and mint in a large bowl. Add the potatoes, roasted asparagus and cooked lentils.
- Whisk together all of the Vinaigrette ingredients except the olive oil. Pour in the olive oil while continuing to whisk.
- Pour one-half of the vinaigrette over the salad and very gently toss, using a large metal spoon. Let sit for 10 minutes to absorb some of the dressing, and add additional dressing - according to your own preference just before serving.