Move over Brussels sprouts, there’s a new green vegetable on the dinner table! While not as trendy, asparagus is just as delicious and nutritious as other popular veggies.
Nutritionally speaking, asparagus is a goldmine. Despite being low in calories, just 90 grams (about half a cup) of cooked asparagus contains over half the recommended daily intake of vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting and bone health.
It’s also an excellent source of many other essential vitamins and minerals, including folate, vitamins A, E, and C, potassium, and phosphorus.
In addition to the asparagus, this salad also has healthy fats from roasted walnuts and extra-virgin olive oil. However, nutrition isn’t all this salad has going for it.
When the grated cheese is mixed into the salad, it melts and creates these addicting gooey, cheesy bites that I just couldn’t get enough of. And to make it even better, there’s this salty-sweet thing going on as well, thanks to the sliced dates.
Speaking of dates, for the longest time I would see date recipes but avoid them, since I wasn’t sure which ones to buy or where to buy them. After spending too much money initially and getting my fingers super sticky removing the pits, I’ve finally gotten buying dates down.
First of all, make sure to note what kind of dates the recipe calls for. Most will use Medjool dates as they’re generally easy to find, and have a rich, sweet flavor with a firm texture. That’s what we’ll be using for this salad.
Next, buy in bulk. Whether it’s the bulk bins at the grocery store or you’re buying large bags online, do your bank account a favor and skip the small packages that are often found in the produce section.
Lastly, buy pitted dates. If you no longer have to slice each date in half, remove the pit, and then clean a very sticky knife, you’ll save yourself time and stress.
If your dates are a bit too firm, you can reconstitute them by soaking them in hot water for about 10 minutes.
Another delicious part of this warm asparagus salad is the simple homemade vinaigrette. It’s easy to make a salad seem over-the-top impressive with a homemade dressing.
While this recipe calls for whisking the ingredients in a small bowl before drizzling over the salad, if you want to do this step ahead of time or even make a little extra, I recommend using a mason jar. All you’ll have to do is add the ingredients, screw on the lid, and give it a good shake before you use it.
With the variety of textures and flavors offered by the various ingredients and the homemade dressing on top, this dish is a tasty, nutritious way to shake up the traditional salad. Just be ready to fight over those coveted date-and-cheese-filled bites!Print
Tossed with a homemade vinaigrette, this warm asparagus salad is an impressive, yet simple way to get your family to eat more vegetables.
- 2 pounds asparagus, sliced in half lengthwise
- 1 ¼ cups walnuts halves and pieces
- ¾ cup pitted Medjool dates, sliced in quarters lengthwise
- 2 ounces freshly grated Pecorino cheese
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 ½ teaspoons salt, divided
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 350°F and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- Spread walnuts in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Roast for 8 minutes, or until lightly golden and fragrant. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
- While the walnuts are cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat and add 2 teaspoons of salt. Place sliced asparagus in boiling water and cover. Blanch for 2 minutes, or until slightly soft and vibrant green.
- Using tongs, immediately transfer the asparagus to a large bowl of ice water. Soak in the ice bath for 5 minutes. Drain water from bowl and then pat the vegetables dry with a paper towel. Place blanched asparagus in a large serving bowl.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the minced shallot, lemon juice, olive oil, remaining ½ teaspoon of salt, and black pepper. Set aside.
- Add roasted walnuts, sliced dates, and grated cheese to the serving bowl. Drizzle the dressing on top and toss to coat. Serve immediately.
- Category: Vegetables
- Method: Stovetop, Roasting
- Cuisine: Salad
Keywords: asparagus, spring, salad, Medjool dates, Pecorino cheese, walnuts
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Preheat Oven, Prep Vegetables, Slice Dates, and Measure Out Ingredients
Thoroughly rinse the asparagus to get rid of any grit, then slice in half lengthwise. Mince the shallot and slice your pitted dates into quarters lengthwise.
Step 2 – Roast Walnuts
Once the oven is preheated, place the walnuts in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet.
Roast in the oven for 8 minutes, or until the walnuts are lightly golden and fragrant.
Remove from the oven, transfer walnuts to a small plate, and allow to cool completely.
Step 3 – Blanch Asparagus
Prepare an ice bath by filling a large mixing bowl with ice and covering the ice with cold water.
Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat, and add 2 teaspoons of salt.
Once boiling, add the sliced asparagus and cover. Boil for 2 minutes, or until slightly soft and bright green. Keep track of your time and don’t overcook the vegetables – you just want them to be lightly blanched.
Using tongs, quickly transfer the asparagus to the ice bath to stop the cooking process.
Soak for 5 minutes, then pat the vegetables dry with paper towels and transfer to a large serving bowl.
Step 4 – Make Vinaigrette Dressing
In a small bowl, whisk together the minced shallot, lemon juice, olive oil, ½ teaspoon of salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside.
Step 5 – Toss It All Together
Add the roasted walnuts and sliced dates to the large serving bowl.
Add freshly grated Pecorino.
Drizzle prepared dressing over the top, and toss well to coat. Serve immediately.
Getting Creative with Vegetables
Vegetables may be good for us, but we’re not always great at eating them. This salad offers a delicious way to add fresh, seasonal produce to your diet.
Share your favorite ways of making veggies more exciting in the comments below!
Loved this recipe? Make sure to rate it.
Need more vegetable side dishes? Look no further than these recipes:
- A Fancy Beet, Goat Cheese and Orange Salad
- Dijon and Sage Roasted Squash
- Roasted Lemon Garlic Green Beans
Photos by Kelli McGrane, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on July 1, 2009. Last updated: April 11, 2019 at 13:21 pm.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Kelli McGrane
Kelli McGrane is a Denver-based registered dietitian with a lifelong love of food. She holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in nutrition science from Boston University. As a registered dietitian, she believes in the importance of food to nourish not only your body, but your soul as well. Nutrition is very personal, and you won’t find any food rules here, other than to simply enjoy what you eat.