Spring is in full bloom in Nashville, and it is glorious. Everywhere you look, flowers are blooming and new green leaves are unfurling to soak up the sun (or the rain – we’ve certainly had plenty of that).
In response, I find myself craving food that matches the seasons – fresh, green, and crisp. Salads fit the bill perfectly, and I have been throwing them together several times a week with whatever is available in the fridge. This is my typical way of making a salad: I grab some lettuce and whatever veggies I can find, and then I fashion a homemade vinaigrette that matches the rest of the meal’s theme. For example, balsamic vinaigrette goes well alongside a pasta main dish, and a dressing spiced with cumin and lime matches dishes with a Mexican bent. That said, I don’t usually go for salad recipes that take a lot of prep work. To me salad is a quick, easy side and therefore should not require much more work than rinsing and chopping.
This salad is an exception to that rule, but it’s worth it! It combines some of my favorite spring vegetables, asparagus and peas, and pairs them with tender spring greens, spinach and arugula. Then you add toasted pine nuts, some shavings of fresh parmesan, and, finally, my favorite honey mustard vinaigrette. It’s a perfect blend of flavors for a spring evening! It was inspired by a recipe my mom clipped from the Lexington Herald-Leader years ago. A quick google search led me to the original creator, Dr. Spratt. I’ve added the peas and spinach and my own salad dressing recipe, but Dr. Spratt was the inspiration. You can find her salad recipes here.
Now, there is some planning required to get this on the table, mainly in roasting the asparagus and toasting the nuts, then giving them time to cool. Thankfully this can be done a day in advance (or just early in the day). Everything else comes together fairly quickly.
Spring Salad with Asparagus, Peas, and Arugula
Serves 2 (You will have enough vinaigrette for 4-6 salads)
2 handfuls of baby spinach
2 handfuls or arugula
1/2 pound asparagus
1/2 cup peas (fresh or frozen; fresh peas should be shelled)
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 oz of parmesan cheese, shaved (a vegetable peeler works well here)
Honey Mustard Vinaigrette
1 tbs honey
1 tbs mustard
2 tbs white wine vinegar
4 tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Prep the asparagus by breaking or cutting off the tough ends of the stalks. Then toss with olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Roast in single layer on a baking sheet in a 350 F oven for about 10-12 minutes. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Once cool, cut the asparagus stalks in bite-sized pieces. This step can be done one day in advance; just store asparagus in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
2. Toast the pine nuts. Spread them in a single layer on a small pan. Place in a 350 F oven for about 10 min, stirring once halfway through. Once they start to brown, watch closely to prevent burning.
3. If you’re using frozen peas, cook them according to the package directions. Once done, use an ice bath to stop the cooking process and cool them down quickly. Drain. If you’re using fresh peas, they can be added to the salad raw or lightly steamed.
4. Prepare the vinaigrette by combining all the ingredients in a small mason jar. Secure the lid and shake until combined. If you don’t have a jar with a lid, you can combine everything in a small bowl and whisk vigorously.
5. Right before serving the salad, combine the spinach, arugula, roasted asparagus, peas, cheese, and pine nuts. Toss to combine. Divide the salad between two serving dishes and top each with about a tablespoon of the vinaigrette.
6. Any extra vinaigrette should be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days. Shake or whisk before use.
I just couldn’t resist this picture, which I took just prior to roasting the asparagus.