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.

Farro with Shaved Asparagus, Peas and Pecorino

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There’s a limit to how many stalks of limp, soggy, brown-green asparagus I can eat before I start to feel like one myself. And there’s really no reason to overcook green spring vegetables, when they have such a great crisp crunch that lots of them can eaten raw or just barely cooked.  Raw asparagus stalks might be a little too “raw” for most people, but when peeled into slivers, they are tender and absolutely delicious. The thin ribbons absorb the lemon vinaigrette beautifully in this salad, and continue to marinate as the salad sits.

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Similarly, shelled English peas have a great crunch and while you could make this salad with frozen peas (I would recommend defrosting, and blanching them for 30 seconds in boiling water first) what makes it especially good is the combination of different textures and fresh, bright flavor- the chewy farro, the crunchy peas and pistachios, the lemony asparagus ribbons, and the salty flakes of Pecorino. This is a recipe to celebrate Spring’s greatest hits, and the better your veggies are, the better the salad will be.

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This  is a great grain-and-vegetable-in-one side dish, but having now eaten for it a week as I’ve worked on the recipe, I can say it makes a pretty good dinner on its own, with a soft boiled egg on top.

Farro with Shaved Asparagus, Peas and Pecorino

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pearled farro, rinsed and drained
  • 3 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
  • 3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 stalks of asparagus, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup shelled fresh peas
  • 2 tbs chopped Fresh mint
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/3 cup shelled pistachios, roughly chopped

Directions

  1. Combine the farro with 3 cups of water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 20-25 minutes, until just tender.
  2. 2, Meanwhile, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
  3. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the asparagus stalks into thin ribbons. (I found this is easiest if you lay the asparagus flat on a cutting board.)
  4. When the farro is cooked, drain and add to the bowl with the dressing. Add the peas, asparagus and mint, and toss to combine. Let the salad cool completely, then add the Pecorino and pistachios, and mix well.
  5. Serve at room temperature.