In my ongoing valiant quest to present legitimately quick, easy, delicious and nutritious meals, here is what His Lordship and I had for dinner last night, courtesy of our Saturday trip to the farmer’s market, where the signs of spring are truly undeniable, as evidenced by the asparagus, radishes, baby greens, scallions, rhubarb, early tomatoes and fresh herbs we picked up. I also stopped by my favorite cheesemonger and picked up some of the lovely and sharp Canadian cheddar he recommended a while ago during a side-by-side tasting with several imports from the UK, during which the Canadian stuff beautifully held its own while costing half the price.
By the time we’d gotten the goods home, we’d already decided to roast the asparagus, and I decided to combine it with the salad we’d also planned to have instead of serving it on the side. Because radishes can be peppery and a little bitter, His Lordship suggested a sweeter dressing, so I threw together a basic honey-mustard vinaigrette, which worked very well with all the components. The cheese shavings on top were not only decorative but gave a nice sharp-but-smooth contrast to the sweetness of the asparagus and the dressing and the crispness of the radishes, to say nothing of adding some extra protein.
This is a really delicious, satisfying, and pretty salad which would make a very nice first course as well as a light main course.
Roasted Asparagus, Radish and Canadian Cheddar Salad
Serves 4 as first course, or 2 as main course
2 bunches asparagus
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons dijon or other smooth European-style mustard
2 tablespoons clover or other light-flavored honey
Salt and pepper
1/3-1/2 cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons-1/4 cup sherry vinegar
2 large scallions, white parts only, or 1 shallot, minced
4-6 cups mixed baby greens, washed and thoroughly dried
1 small bunch radishes, finely sliced
The reserved green tops of the scallions, sliced
2 oz Canadian or other sharp, aged dry cheddar, finely shaved
Preheat oven to 425 F. Clean asparagus and use a vegetable peeler to peel away the tough and woody outer layer on the end of each stalk, or bend each stalk gently until the tough lower portion snaps off, saving those parts for soup. Toss the spears with the olive oil, salt and pepper, and lay in a single layer in oven-proof dish. Roast the asparagus uncovered for 15-20 minutes, or until easily pierced with a sharp knife, but not so long that it loses its bright green color and becomes mushy. Once the asparagus is cooked, remove from the oven and cut each stalk into two or three smaller segments.
While the asparagus is roasting, combine the mustard, honey, salt and pepper in a bowl, stirring with a small whisk or a fork until thoroughly combined. Slowly add the olive oil in a thin stream, stirring briskly to emulsify. Once the oil has been incorporated, add the minced scallion and drizzle in the vinegar.
In a large bowl, toss the greens, radishes, scallion tops and asparagus with salt and pepper, then add half the vinaigrette and toss, tasting to see if it’s sufficiently dressed. If not, add the remaining vinaigrette to taste and toss again. Divide the salad between plates, and sprinkle over the cheddar shavings before serving.
Notes: Parmesan, gruyere, or another sharp and dry cheese should work equally well here. If you’re not a vegetarian, poached or roasted chicken or duck, or perhaps even pork, would be a good addition to round out the salad into a complete meal.