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.

Grilled Chicken Paillard with Winter Green Salad

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In case you haven’t wandered into a CVS or Rite Aid lately, let me tell you: Cupid’s big day is upon us. (All the good cards have been gone for weeks, sorry.)

While I love a swanky dinner date as much as the next girl, when it comes to Valentine’s Day, my ideal night is actually a delicious dinner for two cooked at home. Most restaurants have Valentine’s Day prix-fixe menus that are supposed to make you feel like you’re experiencing “romance” and “love” when really you’re just choosing between salmon and steak and being rushed through your chocolate cake so the next couple can sit down and have their romantic evening. At home, you can relax, go at your own pace, make whatever you feel like eating, and really enjoy each other’s company.

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But what to make? I’m thinking Grilled Chicken Paillard with Winter Green Salad. Inspired by a dish that I had with my valentine (hi Joe!) at an Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village, it’s simple and quick to make, but is still “fancy” and more importantly, delicious. The chicken is tender and well seasoned, and topped with a salad that’s bright, crunchy, and strikes the perfect balance between savory, sweet and bitter. You guessed it, this salad is a metaphor for love!

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I love the way the plate looks with a grilled chicken breast peeking out under a mountain of greens, walnuts, grapes and blue cheese. It’s restaurant-style presentation that’s so easy to recreate at home. AND, it’s the sort of dinner that leaves you with enough room for a decadent chocolate dessert.

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The only labor-intensive part of the recipe is pounding the chicken, which I do in a plastic bag to make cleanup easy. I discovered that while a meat mallet is technically the right the tool for the job, a bottle of wine works just as well.

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Whether you’re planning on spending Tuesday night with that certain special someone, getting drinks with friends, or staying in and watching The Holiday, Valentine’s Day is – at the very least- a great excuse to celebrate the love in our lives with a delicious dinner and several large glasses of wine. And that, I think, is something we can never do too often.

Grilled Chicken Paillard with Winter Green Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 ½ cups baby arugula, lightly packed (2 ounces)
  • ½ small head radicchio, cored and sliced very thinly
  • ½ cup walnut halves, toasted and chopped
  • 2/3 cup seedless red grapes, cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoonsDijon mustard
  • 2/3 cup large-diced mild, creamy blue cheese, such as Blue D’Auvergne
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Place the chicken breasts into a gallon-size Ziploc bag. Using a meat mallet, a rolling pin, or a wine bottle, pound the chicken breasts through the plastic until they are 1/2 inch thick. (This takes a few minutes – be careful not to pound so hard you tear the meat.)
  2. In a small measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Pour marinade into the bag with the chicken, seal, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the arugula, radicchio, walnuts and grapes. In a small measuring cup (you can use the same one you used for the marinade) whisk together the sherry vinegar, mustard, 2 tablespoons olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Set aside.
  4. Heat a grill pan over medium high heat. Remove the chicken breasts from the bag, pat dry with paper towels, and grill for 3-5 minutes on each side, until there are dark grill marks on each side and the breasts are just cooked through. (Alternatively, you can cook the chicken in a large sauté pan: heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat and cook each breast for 3-5 minutes on each side, until evenly browned and cooked through.)
  5. Add the vinaigrette to the salad and toss to combine. Add the blue cheese and toss gently. To serve, place each chicken breast on a plate and top with a mound of salad. Serve immediately.