Warm Asparagus Salad with Dates, Roasted Walnuts, and Pecorino Cheese

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.

Vertical closely cropped overhead image of a square shallow bowl of fresh green springtime vegetables with walnuts, grated cheese, and chopped pitted dates with a fork, on a brown wood surface next to another identical bowl at the top left of the frame, printed with orange and white text in the middle and at the bottom of the image.

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.

While asparagus is clearly the star ingredient, the chewy, sweet dates, roasted walnuts, and freshly grated Pecorino cheese are why I went back for seconds (and was tempted to go back for thirds).

Vertical overhead image of a white ceramic bowl of fresh green springtime vegetables, walnuts, dates, and cheese, on a gray surface with a pair of metal tongs tipped in black plastic in the background.

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.

Vertical oblique overhead image of a white plate and a bowl of fresh green springtime vegetable stalks with grated cheese, walnuts, and chopped pitted dates, with a fork, on a wood table.

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!

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Horizontal overhead image of a white ceramic bowl of asparagus with walnuts, dried fruit, and freshly grated cheese, on a gray and white marble slab on top of a brown wood surface.

Warm Asparagus Salad with Dates, Roasted Walnuts, and Pecorino


  • Author: Kelli McGrane
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 minutes
  • Total Time: 18 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x

Description

Tossed with a homemade vinaigrette, this warm asparagus salad is an impressive, yet simple way to get your family to eat more vegetables.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the minced shallot, lemon juice, olive oil, remaining ½ teaspoon of salt, and black pepper. Set aside.
  6. 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

Preheat your oven to 350°F and cover a medium-sized baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

A pile of fresh asparagus on a gray and white marble slab, with a a gray background.

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.

Closeup image of walnut halves and pieces on a white piece of parchment paper.

Roast in the oven for 8 minutes, or until the walnuts are lightly golden and fragrant.

Horizontal image of oven-roasted walnuts toasted to a golden brown color, on a metal baking sheet lined with a piece of parchment paper, with a red cloth kitchen towel to the left.

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.

Horizontal image of metal and black plastic tongs gripping a bunch of asparagus, held over a large stock pot, with a black background.

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.

Closely cropped overhead image of a large glass bowl of blanched asparagus in an ice bath, on a brown wood surface.

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

Vertical oblique image of a white bowl of asparagus with walnuts and chopped dates, on a gray surface with a block of cheese and a pair of tongs in the background.

Add the roasted walnuts and sliced dates to the large serving bowl.

Vertical image of a hand with manicured and polished fingernails grated a block of cheese with a microplane onto the asparagus salad below, in a white bowl on top of a gray marble surface.

Add freshly grated Pecorino.

Vertical image of a hand using metal tongs to toss an asparagus salad with dried fruit and nuts, topped with grated cheese, in a large white bowl on a gray surface.

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!

Horizontal overhead image of a white ceramic bowl of asparagus with walnuts, dried fruit, and freshly grated cheese, on a gray and white marble slab on top of a brown wood surface.

Loved this recipe? Make sure to rate it.

Need more vegetable side dishes? Look no further than these recipes:

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.

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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.

11 thoughts on “Warm Asparagus Salad with Dates, Roasted Walnuts, and Pecorino Cheese”

  1. I have made this recipe a few times this summer. There is something magical about asparagus and pecorino. I’m sad they are almost gone for the summer.

  2. Thanks, you guys!

    Lan – I know. Summer salads are wonderful.

    Hannah – Thanks and me too!

    Lainey – I wish you could come, too!

    Whitney – There’s something magical about Pecorino period. I think it might be my favorite cheese.

    TJ – Asparagus and I came together slowly, but now we’re friends for life.

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