When asparagus is fresh and in season, you don’t need to cook it. Just cut it thinly or shave it, and its wonderfully juicy, crunchy texture will be perfect for spring salads. This simple recipe also features cannellini beans, plus a cheddar frico in place of croutons.
Total time: 35 mins
Storage Notes: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 5 days, storing the salad and the frico separately so the latter stays crisp.
2 – 3
Tested size: 2-3 servings
1 cup (4 ounces) coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese (may substitute vegan cheddar-style cheese shreds plus 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil); see NOTE)
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon fine salt, plus more to taste
8 ounces asparagus, trimmed and thinly sliced on a diagonal
One (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added cannellini or other white beans, drained and rinsed or 1 1/2 cups cooked
1 cup (1 1/2 ounces) watercress sprigs or baby arugula
Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle the cheese all over the surface in an even layer, and season with a few grinds of black pepper. Let the cheese melt and then bubble as the oils separate from the solids and the cheese darkens slightly to a pale brown color, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the cheese cool for a few minutes, until it turns crisp. Using a thin spatula, loosen it from the pan, transfer to a plate and let cool completely. Break into pieces.
In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon zest and juice, honey or agave and salt. Taste, and add more salt and/or honey as needed.
Taste the asparagus: If you’re working with less-fresh asparagus that you don’t like the taste of raw, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Add the asparagus and saute the slices until just tender, 1 to 2 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the asparagus, beans and watercress or arugula. Toss with the dressing to coat. Just before serving, top with the frico.
NOTE: If using vegan cheese, after you add the pepper, drizzle the 2 tablespoons oil over and around the cheese. It may take a minute or two longer to brown than the dairy cheese, depending on the brand. Cook until it turns a medium-dark brown, then pour off any excess oil before letting it cool.
Adapted from “Snacks for Dinner” by Lukas Volger (Harper Wave, 2022).
Tested by Joe Yonan.
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