Asparagus, Green Bean and Edamame Salad

Asparagus, Green Bean and Edamame Salad - 9 of 10

One of the things I like most about summer is the abundance of vegetables that can be made into salads. No, I’m not talking about salads consisting mostly of lettuce greens topped with a few lonely chunks of cucumbers and tomatoes and doused in some uninteresting dressing. I’m talking about salads made up entirely of vegetables that, while more typically eaten as stand-alone side dishes, can be combined in innovative ways and livened with inventive seasonings.

Vegetables were definitely on my mind one recent Saturday afternoon as I was pleasantly meandering through the vibrantly photographed recipes of Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More. Ottolenghi is an Israeli-born, London-based chef who has published several wildly successful cookbooks, two of which, Plenty and its successor Plenty More, have focused exclusively on vegetables. I have both, and they are terrific. They’re delicious proof that vegetables don’t have to be limited to playing second fiddle to meat but can be the star all by themselves.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are times when I crave a big steak or a superbly roasted chicken as much as the next person. Indeed, what would a summer barbecue be without a big hunk of meat slathered in a tangy barbecue sauce? But there are other times where I want the focus to be on the vegetables. Summer, with its grocery store bins and farmers market stalls overflowing with freshly picked vegetables in a rainbow of colors, is definitely one of those times.

Today’s post features an adaptation of Plenty More’s Spring Salad recipe. The original version caught my attention because it includes two vegetables that I adore but which I had never thought to combine in one dish, asparagus and haricots verts (a.k.a. skinny French green beans). It then takes the dish in an entirely different direction by adding sesame oil, sesame seeds and a diced red chile to an otherwise standard lemon and olive oil-based dressing. The result is an unexpected but delicious blending of Mediterranean and Asian flavors in one dish.

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Asparagus and Hard-Boiled Egg Salad

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Did you know that there is such a thing as a crayon with the name “asparagus”? I learned this surprising factoid while I was reading the section on asparagus in Deborah Madison’s absolutely wonderful Vegetable Literacy. Sure enough, when I looked it up on Crayola’s website, there it was, a member of the green hue family, introduced in 1993.

Then I ran across a different website, one that included a posting called “10 Worst Crayola Crayon Colors.” Guess which color was #6 on the list, sandwiched in between bittersweet and manatee? Yes, it was asparagus. Apparently, this color made the list because the author of the post thinks that kids don’t get excited about vegetables, especially one “that makes your pee smell funny.”

Au contraire! I beg to differ. I think that kids get excited about asparagus precisely because it makes your pee smell funny. I speak from experience. My younger daughter thinks this particular quality of asparagus is hysterical. Sometimes, when I serve it for dinner, it’s the first thing she comments on. And then she scarfs it down.

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