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~ Asparagus Salad with Lemon-Balsamic Vinaigrette ~

IMG_2107A salad without lettuce?  There's no law against it, and, in the case of this salad, lettuce is just in the way.  The combination of tender blanched asparagus, a few halved cherry or grape tomatoes, and, small, creamy, fresh mozzarella balls drizzled with a lemon-balsamic vinaigrette is to-die-for. The only item I do add to it on occasion is: a handful of crunchy croutons.  Nothing more, nothing less.  No other embellishments need apply.  The dressing, loaded with lemon flavor and laced with subtle herbs de Provence, is the star of this salad show, so, don't stray from this flavor profile.

Nothing more, nothing less.  No other embellishments need apply.

IMG_2081For the lemon-infused, white balsamic vinaigrette:

1/2  cup white balsamic vinegar

1/4  cup lemon-infused olive oil

2  tablespoons sugar

1  tablespoon Dijon mustard

1  teaspoon dried herbes de Provence

Step 1.  In a 1-cup food storage container with a tight-fitting lid and pourer top, place all ingredients. Vigorously shake until thoroughly combined.  Set aside and prepare salad as directed below:

IMG_2085For the asparagus salad:

12 ounces medium-thick asparagus, trimmed of woody stalk ends, about 24 spears after trimming, shallow-poached until crunch tender, about 3 minutes & shocked in cold water to halt the cooking process

6  ounces grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half*

6  ounces small, fresh mozzarella balls, sliced in half ("ciligegine" = "cherry-sized")

* Note:  In season strawberries are a fine substitution for grape or cherry tomatoes in this recipe.

IMG_2039 IMG_2039 IMG_2039 IMG_2039 IMG_2039~Step 1.  In  3 1/2-quart chef's pan or deep skillet place 3/4"-1" of water. Add 2 teaspoons sea salt and bring to a boil over high heat.  Adjust heat to the gentlest simmer you can.  Add the asparagus to the pan and cover. Cook asparagus to crunch tender, about 2 minutes.  Drain into a colander and immediately rinse with cold water to halt the cooking process.

IMG_2090 2 IMG_2090 2 IMG_2103~ Step 2.  Lay asparagus flat on a few paper towels to absorb all excess moisture, then, slice  into 1 1/2"-2" lengths.  Transfer to a medium bowl.  Slice and add the grape or cherry tomatoes and mozzarella balls.  Add about half the vinaigrette.  Using a rubber spatula, gently toss until ingredients are evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate about 30-60 minutes, to allow flavors time to marry, prior to serving.

This is one lemony & luscious lettuce-less side-dish salad.

IMG_2124Every succulent bite is a reason to celebrate Summer:

IMG_2129Asparagus Salad with Lemon-Balsamic Vinaigrette:  Recipe yields 4, marinated starter-course salads or side-salads.

Special Equipment List: 1-cup food storage container with a tight-fitting lid and pourer top; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & (glass) lid; colander; paper towels; rubber spatula

IMG_1895Cook's Note:  When it comes to cooking asparagus via any method, freshness always matters more than thickness, and, even the best asparagus recipes are subject to failure if this delicate vegetable isn't treated with care. ~ Choosing, Prepping and Storing Amazing Asparagus ~ is a must read for anyone who's looking to get acquainted with this seasonal but very versatile vegetable.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)


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