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.

Greek Avocado & Herb Dip

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When I have friends over for dinner, I very often have a big crudité platter out on the table when everyone arrives. It’s an easy hors d’ouevre that I can throw together quickly, and one that works for almost any crowd, season and occasion. So often crudités are boring and uninspired: round plastic trays, limp celery, gloopy white dip… you get the idea. But by taking a little extra time to make a delicious homemade dip, and choosing fresh and colorful veggies, you can turn something that’s usually underwhelming into an edible work of art.

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First, let’s talk about this Greek Avocado & Herb Dip. Made with Greek yogurt, feta, and avocado, it’s thick and creamy but much lighter than sour cream-based dips. And with lots of lemon juice and fresh green herbs, it’s  bright and refreshing and perfect for spring. The best part is, it’s really easy to make. All you do is combine the ingredients in a food processor or Vitamix, and blend until everything is smooth and the prettiest shade of green!

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The lemon juice in the dip keeps the avocado from turning brown for a surprisingly long time- even 24 hours later, it’s as green and fresh as it was on day one. This recipe makes a big batch, so it’s perfect for a party, but you can easily halve it. Or, you could make the full recipe and repurpose the leftover dip the next day. Thin it with a little extra water and you’ll have a creamy green goddess salad dressing, or spread it on bread with some chicken breast and roasted red peppers for a seriously good sandwich. It’s even great as a condiment and makes a simple piece of grilled chicken or fish much more exciting.

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But do give this a try with crudités first. My personal year-round faves are radishes, English cucumbers, and endive leaves, which make the perfect little dipping spoons. As spring vegetables come into season, sugar snap peas or thin stalks of fresh asparagus would be great, too. Use your own favorite vegetables, pick the freshest ones you can find, and don’t be surprised when they disappear in no time!

Greek Avocado & Herb Dip

  • Servings: About 1 Quart
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Ingredients

  • 2 small, ripe Hass avocados
  • 2 (7-oz.) containers Fage Greek yogurt (I use 0% fat)
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 4 tablespoons minced fresh chives, plus extra for serving
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ pound feta cheese, diced

Directions

  1. Cut the avocados in half, remove the pits, and scoop the flesh out of their shells. Roughly chop the avocado.
  2. Combine all ingredients except the feta in the bowl of a food processor (or powerful blender such as Vitamix) and pulse until combined. Add the feta and 2 tablespoons water and process until completely smooth.  If the dip seems too thick (this will depend on the size of your avocados) add an additional tablespoon or two of water and pulse again until smooth.
  3. Serve immediately with crudités or crackers, or refrigerate in a sealed container with a piece of plastic wrap pressed against of the surface of the dip to prevent browning, for up to 24 hours.