Shaved Carrot and Asparagus Salad

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Last Saturday morning I went to the farmer’s market in New York’s Union Square, planning to check out what fresh green vegetables were finally in season and then decide on a side dish for an impromptu dinner party my boyfriend Joe and I were cooking at his apartment that night. Nice try, me! The market was still largely in winter hibernation mode, with lots of carrots, potatoes, mystery apples from last fall, and a lot of baked goods. It was important to try some of those to see if they might qualify as side dishes.

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The menu needed something light and bright, so I went with carrots and decided to make a fresh, lemony carrot salad.   I also cheated a little and pretended I found asparagus there, because you might already be able to find it, and because there was enough in the grocery store to convince me it’s in season somewhere.

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This is an easy, versatile and absolutely delicious side dish. The shaved carrots and asparagus are tossed in a simple lemon juice and olive oil vinaigrette, which softens them slightly. The cumin in the dressing gives the salad an earthy, Moroccan air, and the mint, goat cheese and pistachios turn a simple bowl of vegetables into a dish bursting with flavor and lots different textures in each bite. If a vegetable side could be a showstopper, this would definitely be it.

The only real work here is the vegetable prep, which takes a little patience, but is so worth it, especially because you can make this whole dish ahead of time and let it sit in the fridge until dinner. (Then just add the mint, goat cheese, and pistachios before serving.)

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While the asparagus is shaved with a simple vegetable peeler, there are a few different ways you can cut the carrots. You can spiralize them, you can cut them by hand with a sharp knife (a little time consuming, but works!) or use a julienne peeler.  I bought one last week on Amazon for $10, and it was a total revelation.  If you like to make zucchini noodles, butternut squash noodles, or other vegetables cut into long strips (cucumber! radish! potato?) you definitely need this thing. The blade is a regular peeler on one side, and julienne on the other, and is much sharper than other peelers I’ve used. Just be careful with your fingers!

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Like many of my recipes, this salad serves 4-6 people, but you can easily double it for larger groups. Just get a friend to help with the vegetable prepping! (Winkie promised he would help, but he had trouble using the peeler.)

Shaved Carrot and Asparagus Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ pound carrots
  • 1 pound asparagus stalks
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint, plus more for serving
  • ½ cup shelled pistachios, plus more for serving
  • ½ cup crumbled goat cheese

Directions

  1. Using a sharp knife, cut the carrots into long, thin matchsticks. If you have a julienne peeler, or Spiralizer, this will be even easier. Place in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Trim 1-inch from the bottom of the asparagus stalks. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the asparagus into thin ribbons. (I lay the stalks flat against a cutting board, and holding the asparagus at the thick end of the stalk, shave through the flowery head.) Cut any remaining pieces of asparagus stalk you weren’t able to reach with the peeler into 1-inch pieces and add them to the bowl.
  3. In a glass measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin. Pour over the carrots and asparagus and toss well.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to six hours. When ready to serve, add the mint and pistachios, and toss well. Transfer to a serving dish and top with additional chopped mint, pistachios, and the goat cheese. Serve immediately.

Balsamic Cherry and Goat Cheese Crostini

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If you ask me, cherries are an underutilized fruit. True, they have a short season, but so do lots of other fruits and vegetables that get a lot more love. (Rhubarb…peas..fiddlehead ferns. Really, fiddleheads?)  Ripe summer cherries are bright red, plump and juicy, sweet and just a little bit tart. Like strawberries, figs and plums, they can go both the sweet and savory route, and a combination of the two is especially good.

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These Balsamic Cherry and Goat Cheese Crostini are a really easy summer appetizer, and a surprising one, too, when people are expecting the classic tomato-basil-balsamic combo. (They’re also BEAUTIFUL, which doesn’t count for nothing.) Creamy goat cheese is the perfect base for the juicy cherries, and basil adds a nice fresh herbal note.  This is the time to use a high-quality balsamic vinegar- the sweeter and more syrupy, the better. A really acidic or sour vinegar will overpower the the cherries and basil.

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The recipe itself couldn’t be easier. All you have to do is heat the cherries with a little bit of honey, the balsamic vinegar and basil, toast some bread, and assemble the crostini. Total time, 20 minutes. While a cherry pitter is not absolutely necessary here, it will make your life a lot easier, and your fingers a lot less red. I’ll leave that up to you.

Balsamic Cherry and Goat Cheese Crostini

  • Servings: makes 20 crostini
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Ingredients

  • 1 lb fresh cherries, pitted and roughly chopped
  • one French baguette, cut into 1/2 inch diagonal slices
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tbs fresh basil, cut into thin ribbons, divided
  • 8 oz plain, creamy goat cheese
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the cherries, honey, vinegar, 2 tbs basil and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cherries are just starting to release their juice. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
  3. Meanwhile, arrange bread slices on a sheet pan. Brush lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted.
  4. To assemble the crostini, spread a layer of goat cheese onto each slice, then top with a spoonful of cherries. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tbs of  basil over the crostini and serve immediately.
  5. Note: While you can make the cherry mixture in advance, the longer it sits, the more the cherries lose their bright red color. I would recommend making them right before serving.