We’re exactly one week into asparagus season and I’ve already eaten asparagus for the past six days straight. I’ve tossed asparagus onto pizza, sauteed it with mushrooms and soy to pile onto a bowl of rice, and tucked it into an omelette. I’ve also roasted asparagus with baby potatoes and thrown it into this salad, which I originally made to have for dinner Sunday night, but ended up saving to pack for lunch all week.
Asparagus is pretty amazing. Did you know it can grow up to 10 inches in just a day? You could actually lounge around in your garden and watch it grow, then pick and eat it for dinner. I don’t have an asparagus garden, but I do have a neighbor who grows it, so I just walk down the street to grab a bundle of asparagus from their little farm stand.
Out here, the going rate for a bundle of local asparagus is $4.00, which I eagerly pay in exchange for the fresh, grassy, bright flavor of this short-lived spring vegetable. Just a few short weeks later, asparagus season ends and I don’t eat it again for another 11 months. Asparagus is expensive, as vegetables go, but it’s one of the foods that I only buy when it’s in season. In fact, I don’t even think about it for the rest of the year. It’s best when its young, tender, and super fresh, so buying woody asparagus from the grocery store that’s been shipped from somewhere across the world just doesn’t appeal to me. Plus, it’s even more expensive out-of-season at the grocery store, and there’s no way I’m paying $6 or more for stringy old asparagus.
But come spring, when the weather is just starting to warm up outside and I’m seriously, seriously getting sick of last fall’s produce that we stored in the chest freezer or the cold storage root veggies available at the farmer’s market, asparagus is like springtime heaven to my taste buds. I always snack on a few spears of it raw as soon as I grab it from the farmstand, then take the rest home to cook with.
My most recent bundle of asparagus was destined to be roasted. To make this lentil-salad-meets-potato-salad, first you are going to need some lentils. I chose french lentils, which are small and have a tortoise-shell like blue-green pattern. Full disclosure: green or black lentils work just as well, but I think the french ones are just so, so pretty. So I buy them, even though they wind up looking brown after they’ve been cooked.
While the lentils boil, you are going to slice some teeny tiny baby potatoes in half, and roast them in the oven. Halfway through roasting the potatoes, you’ll toss some sliced asparagus onto the pan and stick it back into the oven. A lemon-loaded dressing gets whisked together while the lentils, potatoes, and asparagus finish cooking; finally, everything gets poured into the bowl with the dressing and a handful of kalamata olives, then tossed together. You could add feta, or some leftover roasted salmon or chicken, but I really loved this simple, plant-heavy salad. As always, you’re in charge in your own kitchen- adjust as you see fit.
This salad is great warm, but as it cools it absorbs even more of the dressing’s flavor, keeping it especially flavorful even when it’s several days old and eaten cold straight from the fridge. I’ve been enjoying a bowl of this salad for lunch all week at work (with one of these on the side), and have been secretly dreaming of taking it out on a picnic with friends instead of just eating it alone at my desk.
I hope you give this simple, hearty, super-nutritious salad recipe a try. It’s the perfect way to get your yearly dose of asparagus, but would absolutely work with another vegetable like green beans or thinly sliced broccoli, if your region’s asparagus season has already passed. You could also make it with fiddleheads, which would make you my new best friend. Invite me over to have some? I’ll bring the cake.
- 1 pound baby or fingerling potatoes* + olive oil, salt, and pepper to cook
- 1 cup dry french lentils
- 1 pound asparagus
- 1/2 cup kalamata olives
- juice and zest from 1 lemon
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
- 2 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane or finely minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
- 1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper (not essential- just makes clean up easier). Slice potatoes in half and place on pan. Drizzle with 1 Tablespoon olive oil, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Put in the oven and set a 15 minute timer.
- 2. While potatoes roast, cook the lentils. Put lentils in a medium pot, and cover with at least 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 25 minutes.
- 3. Slice off an inch from the bottom end of the asparagus and throw it away, then slice the bundle of asparagus in half, then cut each half in half again. Essentially, you are cutting each spear of asparagus into 4 pieces. When the potato timer goes off, add the asparagus to the pan and bake for another 10 minutes.
- 4. While lentils, potatoes, and asparagus finish cooking, slice the olives in half. Then make the vinaigrette. Put all vinaigrette ingredients into a large bowl, and whisk to combine.
- 5. Drain lentils, then add them to the vinaigrette with the olives. Whenever potatoes and asparagus come out of the oven, add them to the lentils. Toss everything to combine, taste, and add an extra pinch of salt, if needed. Serve warm, or let cool and store in the fridge for up to 5 days. Leftovers can be eaten cold or at room temperature.
- *I often find teeny little potatoes sold as 'baby potatoes', but fingerling potatoes are a great substitute. You can also use full-sized yukon gold potatoes, just cut them into smaller pieces.