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
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.
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.
- 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 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, and the zest of the lemon. Stir to combine. Add the asparagus and toss to combine. “Taste and dial in the flavors by adding more salt, black 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