If you love peas, you’ll love this salad!
Spring means the return of fresh, local green things! Fiddleheads, ramps, spring lettuces, radishes, pea shoots, and the much-anticipated asparagus. How we love those first spears, pulled fresh from the earth! There will be grilled and steamed asparagus, asparagus soup, asparagus in stir fries and salads, served up with Hollandaise or grated eggs, asparagus tarts and quiche, and even raw asparagus dipped in a bit of dressing. So many possibilities.
At a recent visit to the farm stand, I found some beautiful asparagus, and crisp French breakfast radishes. There were also beautiful bunches of radish thinnings, with vibrant tops the flea beetles had not had their way with, and they begged to be used. A large bag of pea shoots filled out my basket, and I knew there would be a perfect seasonal salad for lunch.
Smoky grilled asparagus, always ready!
When we grill in the spring, I’ll always toss a bunch asparagus on at the last. They take just a couple of minutes to cook, and after the current meal, I’ll have plenty to save for salads over the next couple of days. They are delicious marinated in a simple vinaigrette. So I knew my spring salad would feature these grilled treasurers. If you don’t have a grill, this salad is also lovely with steamed asparagus.
Don’t throw away those radish tops!
Too often, when we go to the market or even farm stand, the radish tops have already been lopped off and sent to the compost. But the tops actually have more nutrition than the radishes themselves! Filled with anti-oxidants, vitamins including healthy does of C, A, and B6, lots of minerals such as potassium, calcium, and iron. They are also good sources of fiber and protein. Best of all, they taste delicious!
The nutrition of Spring greens
This salad might be all about the pretty, but it packs nutrition on every front. The pea shoots also have great nutrition and flavor, but I didn’t want to stop with just the salad. I used a small handful of the radish tops as well as the pea shoots in the dressing, and it turned out to be a keeper! With the addition of some thawed frozen peas (our local peas won’t make their debut for quite some time), the dressing has delightful pea flavor and color. A few leaves of fresh mint from the garden added just a little zip to it all.
This makes a lovely luncheon salad, or starter for a spring dinner party under the budding sugar maple trees! You can substitute or augment with other grilled vegetables, whatever is fresh and delicious. But you need the peas and radish tops!
If you love peas, you’ll love this salad.
Spring Pea and Grilled Asparagus Salad with Radish Top Dressing
- 1 large bunch of pea shoots
- 1 large bunch spring radishes with tops
- ½ lb. asparagus, trimmed and grilled or steamed
- 2 cups peas, cooked, divided (or thawed frozen)
- 4 cloves garlic
- ¼ cup white wine vinegar
- A few mint leaves, or a pinch of dried mint
- ¼ tsp. sea salt
- A few grinds of fresh pepper
- ½ cup fruity extra virgin olive oil
Cut the radishes from the tops, and slice them in half, and tear up the tops for the salad.
Arrange on a platter a bountiful layer of all but a handful of the pea shoots, and all but a handful of the radish tops, and combine them with your fingers. Save a couple of the whole radishes for garnish of you like.
Add the asparagus and radishes to the plate, then scatter with ½ cup of the peas. If you have some happy little pansies in the garden, add those as a garnish as well.
The dressing: In a food processor, combine the garlic cloves, 1 ½ cup of the peas, the vinegar, mint leaves, salt, and pepper, and mix well. Use a spatula to scrape the sides down. Put the top of the food processor back on and add the olive oil to the feeding tube with the insert.
The little hole in the bottom of the insert will slowly distribute the oil into the rest of the dressing to emulsify everything nicely. All food processors have this, but most people don’t realize it is the best and easiest ways to emulsify a dressing or even to make mayonnaise! Pass this tip along!
Taste for seasoning and correct. You will have dressing left over for other uses; it makes a lovely topping for a simple omelet the next morning!
Serve the dressing on the side and let everyone help themselves.
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