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Dressed up for spring salad

November 20, 2010

If you’ve been following this blog the last few weeks, you will have noticed that spring has become synonymous with “salad season” for me, but more specifically, salads bursting with all sorts of exciting colours. The first time I made this salad all I could see was the pattern and colours for the perfect spring dress. Now this salad conjures up images of the perfect flowy backless spring dress, being worn on the way to a picnic in the park. That involves feeding ducklings… and snacking on this salad, with bread still warm from the oven and some lime-spiked juice.

As well as being pretty, it uses the best of spring’s bounty: new salad leaves, radishes, spring carrots, and asparagus. I dressed mine with a simple lemon mustard dressing  spiked with fresh chopped basil, but you could use whatever dressing you like really, so long as it isn’t too overpowering. If using a sour dressing, let the radishes and carrots sit in the dressing for a bit while you prep all the other things, as this will let the flavours frolic a little. Whatever you do, only make this salad when the ingredients are fresh (definitely no more than a week old) and in season, and dress it lightly. The flavours are as refreshing as the colour combination suggests – lightly sweet, crunchy and juicy. Speaking honestly, some might find this a bit bland, because all the flavours are quite mild, but there is something to be said for subtlety here. It’s a nice break from the creamy, powerfully herby or alarmingly sweet and sour salads that often accompany BBQs. You can therefore pair it with almost anything, equally mild or strong. Now if only I can find a dress in the same colours…

Dressed up for spring salad

serves 2 as a large side or 4 as a small side

  • mixture of salad greens (green and purple preferably), rinsed
  • handful of radishes (about 5), brushed and thinly sliced
  • 1 small-medium carrot, grated
  • 4-6 asparagus spears, rinsed and bottom few cm peeled, cut diagonally
  • cooking oil for asparagus

lemon mustard dressing with basil

  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • twice as much oil as lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste (start small, add more later if necessary)
  • fresh finely chopped basil leaves (about 6), or chives, or oregano, or mint, or spring onions

Whisk salad dressing ingredients together in your serving bowl or shake up in a small jar, until thickened a little and the mustard is blended through. Mix together with carrots and radishes, set aside. Prep other ingredients while they sit in the dressing for a bit. Some of the carrot juice will come out to play – don’t worry, this adds an extra flavour dimension!

EDIT: Did you know you can eat asparagus raw? It tastes lovely this way in this salad so if you’re wary of overcooking asparagus, you can omit this next step and throw straight into the salad. Heat a Tablespoon of oil in a frypan on medium low heat and add asparagus. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, cover and let sear for about a minute. Shake the pan gently and let sear one more minute. Uncover, and stir in with radishes and carrots. Taste, and season further if necessary. If you care about prettiness, place salad leaves on plates first then top with the dressed veges, and spoon over the dressing at the bottom. Serve!

PS. If you’re actually going to take this to a picnic, let the asparagus cool first before mixing it together with everything else, especially the leaves, otherwise your leaves will be a bit wilted when you get to your picnic destination!

PPS. I made this for a potluck and my lovely friend Sarah said it smelt like a garden after the rain. I took this as a compliment, given she also liked the salad.

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