Raw Asparagus Salad with Walnuts & Parmesan
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Yesterday morning, one of you, a local reader who found your way here via Margaret Roach’s A Way to Garden, dropped off a pound of freshly harvested homegrown asparagus. What a treat?! (Thanks, Richard!)
I knew exactly the recipe I would make with those pristine spears, one that would truly allow them to shine in all their earthy glory: Joshua McFadden’s raw asparagus salad with bread crumbs, walnuts, and parmesan from his book Six Seasons.
I’ve made this salad many times over the years, and, as with all of the recipes I’ve made from Six Seasons — which is a lot — this one is as delicious, as addictive, and as impossible to stop eating. I’ve quoted this passage from the book before, but in case you’ve forgotten, let me refresh:
When creating a dish, Joshua’s goal is for it “to taste like a potato chip,” meaning it should be “so tasty and savory that you can’t help but take one more bite…and then another.”
You will experience this upon tucking into this one.
In this recipe, the “dressing,” a mix of toasted bread crumbs, walnuts, parmesan, fresh lemon, and olive oil, is what keeps you going back for more — it’s textured, highly acidic, and has a nice kick thanks to a hefty amount of crushed red pepper flakes. The original recipe calls for mint, too, but I didn’t have any yesterday, didn’t feel like running out to get some, and, as it turned out, didn’t miss it!
Hope you all love this one as much as I do. I’ve included a few more favorite asparagus recipes below.
5 Favorite Asparagus Recipes
- Mark Bittman’s Super Asparagus-y Farro Risotto
- Shaved Asparagus and Fennel Salad with Avocado
- Spring Wheatberry Salad
- Shaved Asparagus and Arugula Salad
- Pasta Carbonara with Asparagus
Raw Asparagus Salad, Step by Step
Gather your asparagus. You need about a pound for this. Trim away any tough ends.
Slice the stalks thinly on the bias.
Meanwhile, toast up some stale bread (whizzed in the food processor) with a few tablespoons of olive oil. You only need 1/3 cup of toasted bread crumbs for this recipe, but I find it easier to make a large batch of crumbs than a small one. Save the remaining crumbs for other salads, soups, or eggs. They’re irresistible!
Combine in a large bowl: toasted walnuts, grated parmesan, bread crumbs, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes.
Add the asparagus and dress with fresh squeezed lemon juice. Taste. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Then add the olive oil.
Toss to combine. The original recipe calls for mint, too. Add it if you have it, but don’t worry if you don’t.
Transfer to a platter and serve.Print
Raw Asparagus Salad with Walnuts & Parmesan
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: Serves 2-4
- Diet: Vegetarian
From Joshua McFadden’s Six Seasons, a favorite cookbook.
Bread Crumbs: I love whizzing up stale bread in the food processor and toasting the crumbs in olive oil. If you’re not up for this, panko bread crumbs would be fine. I would still toast them in olive oil before adding them to the salad. You also could omit the bread crumbs and add more walnuts in their place.
Also: You only need 1/3 cup of toasted bread crumbs for this recipe, but I find it easier to make a large batch of crumbs than a small one. Save the remaining crumbs for other salads, soups, or eggs. They’re irresistible!
for the toasted bread crumbs:
- a large hunk of bread, to yield 1.5 to 2 cups lightly packed fresh crumbs, see notes
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
for the salad:
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1 lb. asparagus, tough bottoms trimmed
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1/4–1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- salt to taste, I use Maldon here
- freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- zest from 1 lemon
- Juice from 1 to 2 lemons to yield 1/4 cup
- 1/4 cup lightly packed mint leaves, optional
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- To make the crumbs: Place day-old bread in the food processor and whiz until fine. Measure out 1.5 to 2 cups of crumbs. Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the crumbs and the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until crumbs are golden brown. This could take 5 to 15 minutes (or longer) depending on your heat level. If you have the time, go slowly to prevent burning. When the crumbs are nice and golden, turn off the heat. Let cool briefly. Taste. Add more salt if necessary. Measure out 1/3 cup of the crumbs — this is the amount the original recipe calls for. You can use more if you wish.
- To toast the walnuts: Place the walnuts in a medium skillet. Set the skillet over low heat. Allow the walnuts to toast slowly while you prepare the salad. Remove them from the heat when they smell and look toasty. You can chop them on a cutting board or by gently crushing them in a tea towel.
- Prepare the asparagus: Using a sharp knife, slice the asparagus thinly on the bias.
- Assemble the salad: In a large bowl, combine the toasted walnuts, the 1/3 cup (or more!) toasted bread crumbs, the grated Parmigiano Reggiano, the crushed red pepper flakes (starting with 1/4 teaspoon if you are sensitive to heat), salt and pepper to taste, the zest of the lemon, and the lemon juice. Stir to combine. Add the asparagus and toss to combine. Taste and adjust to taste by adding more salt, pepper, chile flakes, or lemon juice. “When the flavors are bright and delicious, add the mint (if using) and 1/4 cup olive oil.” Toss to combine. Taste and adjust the flavors again if necessary.
- Transfer to a serving platter. Crack more pepper over top if you wish.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Salad
- Method: Chop
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: raw, asparagus, salad, walnuts, lemon, parmesan
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99 Comments on “Raw Asparagus Salad with Walnuts & Parmesan”
I used panko and almonds instead and it turned out great. I made it this past Sunday and had a little leftover until Wed and still tasted great. This is the most delicious salad ever and will make it to my list of staples — thank you for bringing it into my life!
Great to hear, Kat! I love this one so much, too. Thanks so much for writing 🙂
Love this recipe! Thank you! Will definitely be checking out your other asparagus recipes as I have a lovely asparagus patch!
Great to hear, Mary! Very envious of your asparagus patch 🙂
I made this quick dish as a side for salmon. I hate when reviewers say this, but here I go…I did change the recipe by sautéing the asparagus briefly, as neither my husband nor I care for raw asparagus. The flavors were great together and I’ll definitely be making it again. And again.
Great to hear, Susan! Thanks so much for writing and sharing your notes.
I haven’t tried it yet but will pick up the ingredients tomorrow. My question for you is what is the best olive oil to use? Some taste too thick and greasy.
I love the California Olive Ranch brand. All of their oils are great!
This looks perfect to go with Easter ham, of course your mustard sauce ( everyone’s fav) & scalloped potatoes . My question…how long can I make this in advance? I always like to prep early but I’m a stickler for everything finishing at the same time.
Happy Easter to you and your family & thanks for all the best food ever 🙂
Awww Liane, thank you for all of this 🙂 I think you could toss the salad 1 hour in advance. If you wanted to make the dressing in advance, I would just leave out the bread crumbs and add those last minute: you could toast them hours ahead of time. You could make the dressing hours ahead of time. You could slice the asparagus hours ahead of time — I would store it in the fridge, maybe with a damp paper towel covering it loosely. Then assemble last second. Hope that helps!
Ali……thank you. Now I won’t bother anymore so you can enjoy your Easter holiday 💕🐰🐣🌷
You could never bother 🙂 🙂 🙂
Absolutely delicious, can’t wait to make this again. I made it with toasted matzoh crumbs and served it for Passover to rave reviews!
Thanks so much for a yet another wonderful recipe!
Great to hear, Susan! Thanks so much for writing and sharing your notes. Matzoh crumbs are such a great idea 🙂 🙂 🙂
I just want to tell you how much I love this salad. As is, no changes.
Great to hear, Timmie! Thanks for writing 🙂
As usual, your raw asparagus salad was a major hit….my stars, everyone just kept sitting at the table taking just a bit more. It is so cool and refreshing. Perfect!!!! This will be a regular in our hot Arizona summer meals, and now a new Thanksgiving tradition. Many many thanks 😊
So nice to hear this, Liane! And so funny: I am just returning from Arizona! We did a Sedona and Grand Canyon trip with the kids. Absolutely loved it!
This was so good! Made it 3 times in the past 2 weeks. This last time I didn’t have everything on hand (or enough asparagus) so I added a bag of mixed lettuces, peas, and sunflower seeds.
Yum! Love this idea 🙂
So…we are obsessed with this dish! I’v made it three times in the last week! I may add a smidge of garlic or garlic powder (depending on how ambitious I feel tonight.) Yep. Having it again tonight! We just bought 3 lbs of asparagus for the two of us. For anyone who likes asparagus- make this NOW! You won’t be sorry. Thanks, Alexandra!
Yay! So nice to hear this, Christine 🙂 I share your enthusiasm: I could eat this salad every night this time of year.
This salad is so delicious! Thank you so much for the recipe! I will definitely be making this one again and again. How do you recommend storing the extra toasted breadcrumbs? In a container in the fridge or can they keep at room temperature?
I’d keep the toasted breadcrumbs in an airtight vessel at room temperature.
Great to read this, Manisha!
Amazing!! I’ve never had raw asparagus before. Thanks for sharing this.
Great to hear, Lori! Thank you for writing 🙂 🙂 🙂
Alexandra, I love this recipe. I didn’t have walnuts in the house one time so I toasted pecans. Yummy, equally as good. This is such a perfect pot luck and picnic dish to bring. FYI, I don’t see when you are to add the lemon juice, it’s only mentioned when you “dial in” the flavors. I’ve been adding the 1/4th cup regardless but wanted to be sure I wasn’t confused about the recipe. (On another note, I only used your sourdough bread recipe and I love it)
Hi Carolyn! So great to read all of this. And thank you for catching that confusing step in the instructions — I just edited the recipe. Great to hear about the sourdough, too. Thanks for writing 🙂 🙂 🙂
I LOVE Six Seasons and was super excited to make this. I think I messed up the bread crumbs, I used my own and they were a bit too fine (and I missed the toasting step, I just realized) so it was a textural fail. But have to share the fix as it was stupendous: I popped the leftovers onto a quarter sheet pan in a v. hot oven (450 I think? ), then hit it w/the broiler to finish it to a crispy, amber thing, almost sheet-y around the edges (just watch it closely so it doesn’t burn). Oh my god. Reminded me of my mom’s stuffed artichoke, and of the fiddlehead ferns I’ve made w/ crispy bread crumbs and caramelized balsamic & brown butter. Crispy & chewy, earthy and bright, yum
Wow, how fun?! I love this idea so much. Sounds almost like asparagus frico? Yum!! Will try.
This salad is so delicious! Thank you for the recipe!
Great to hear, Leah!
Great salad! Adding to my rotation for summer salads. Thank you!!
Great to hear, Emily! Thanks for writing 🙂 🙂 🙂
Just made this recipe. It is deeeeeelicious. Definitely on my keeper list. To make things simple I used my basic dressing recipe – 4 T. olive oil to 2 T. lemon juice. I tried the recipe dressing but it was way too much lemon for me. Otherwise, this recipe is outstanding. Thanks for sharing.
Great to hear! Thanks for writing and sharing your notes 🙂 🙂 🙂
Fantastic salad! My whole family loved this salad. So fresh and light. It will be my go to salad from now on.
Great to hear, Tracy!