A fresh spring salad with crisp cos lettuce, pan-seared asparagus, radish, cucumber, creamy avocado and a gorgeous golden turmeric dressing.
I've been waiting and waiting for asparagus season to arrive, and I'm so excited it's finally here. Asparagus truly heralds the turning of the seasons; when I'm eating asparagus I know warmer days and a change of pace are just around the corner.
So many of my spring and early summer meals revolve around asparagus, salads and new potatoes. I love these simple light meals that are energising and nutritious, and really make the most of seasonal produce.
We're generally very spoiled for choice with high quality produce in New Zealand, and that couldn't be truer for this lovely asparagus which was grown on a farm only 15km (about 9 miles) down the road from where I live. It must officially be one of the shortest deliveries from farm gate to supermarket shelf in existence. There's no food mile guilt for me today! As you might expect, this asparagus was perfectly fresh, crisp, sweet and screaming out EAT ME!
For this salad I halved the asparagus spears lengthways before throwing them into a hot pan with a smidge of olive oil, just for a minute or two. It was just long enough to take away their raw flavour, but quick enough for them to remain crisp and luminous green.
I piled the asparagus onto a simple salad of crisp cos lettuce, radish, cucumber and avocado, before pouring over a stunning golden turmeric dressing and adding a few toasted sunflower seeds for crunch. The resulting salad is a feast for the senses, full of flavour, texture and colour.
Golden turmeric salad dressing
Turmeric is a rhizome or root (similar in form to ginger) that can be used fresh, or in dried powder form. Aside from being a vital curry ingredient, it also has a host of health benefits including antioxidant, digestive, anti-inflammatory, antiplatelet (decreases clotting), cholesterol lowering and anti-carcinogenic properties.
Turmeric's healthy properties aren't news, it's been used in Ayurvedic practices for thousands of years. But turmeric is certainly being talked about now more than ever. Turmeric tea, golden milk and golden lattes are hip right now and an easy way of consuming more turmeric. They usually contain black pepper and some kind of fat, as they increase our absorption of the active constituent curcumin. With pepper and fat in mind, a golden turmeric salad dressing seems like the perfect way to get more turmeric into our day to day diets.
I used lemon juice, tahini, olive oil, garlic and turmeric powder to make this dressing - which I simply shook together in a jar. The dressing is sharp and tangy, mildly spiced from the turmeric, and really delicious in this asparagus salad. It's a perfect match with the asparagus and avocado, but would be good with almost any vegetables I think. I'll be making a bigger batch next time, to dress salads and work lunches for the week.
If you'd like to try your hand at golden milk, check out this recipe for warming turmeric tea from Liberty at Homespun Capers.
For the salad:
- 1 bunch of asparagus halved lengthways, about 12-15 spears
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3-4 cups baby cos lettuce (one supermarket pack - I used mixed red and green leaves)
- ½ a telegraph cucumber thinly sliced
- 2-3 radishes thinly sliced
- 1 avocado sliced
- 2 tbsp sunflower seeds
For the dressing:
- 1 tbsp tahini
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic crushed or finely grated
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Put all salad dressing ingredients into a small jar or sealed container, shake to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if required. If the dressing is too thick, add a little more lemon juice or a splash of water.
- Heat a frypan (skillet) over a medium-high heat. Toast the sunflower seeds in the dry pan until golden brown, scoop out and set aside.
- Put the frypan back on the heat, and add 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil. Throw in the asparagus and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until only just cooked and starting to colour a little on the edges.
- Assemble cold salad ingredients on a platter or large serving bowl and top with the cooked asparagus.
- Sprinkle over sunflower seeds, and drizzle with dressing.
- Serve straight away while asparagus is hot, or let it cool - it's delicious either way.
- Serves 2 as a light meal, or more as a side dish.