This salad captures the vibrancy of spring, bringing together the quintessential vegetables of the season – asparagus, peas, scallions and carrots – in a way that lets them shine simply but with an unexpected spark to light up your taste buds and keep you wanting more.
That culinary exclamation point comes by way of a marinade – a tangy dressing of olive oil, vinegar and thyme that infuse the carrot and scallions with a quick pickle-like result – a bright, herb-flecked pucker. Slicing the carrot into wide, thin ribbons with a vegetable peeler and quartering the scallion pieces lengthwise gives the vegetables lots of surface area, so they quickly absorb the flavors in the marinade.
The 30-minute window needed for pickling is just the right amount of time to prep the other vegetables, which are simply blanched. I find it easiest to blanch asparagus in a large, deep skillet: Just a couple of minutes in boiling water does the trick before the asparagus is plunged into an ice bath to stop the cooking, locking in its color and chill. The peas (if fresh) then get a turn in the same boiling water and ice bath. (Alternatively, frozen-and-thawed peas can be added to the salad as they are.)
When the bright, tender green vegetables are tossed with the crisp, marinated ribbons of carrot and scallion, along with a couple more tablespoons of the marinade, they join as though they were meant for each other for a colorful side salad that really pops.
Marinated Spring Vegetable Salad
1 medium carrot (about 5 ounces), peeled
1 bunch scallions (about 6), trimmed, white and light green parts only
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves or 3/4 teaspoon dried, plus more for optional garnish
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch asparagus (about 6), woody ends trimmed
1 cup fresh peas or, if frozen, thawed
Using a vegetable peeler, cut the carrot into ribbons, pressing the carrot against a cutting board for leverage to get the widest ribbons possible. If the ribbons are very long, cut them into bite-size pieces, 2 to 3 inches long. (You should get about 1 cup.) Halve the scallions lengthwise, then cut them across into 1-inch-long pieces. In a medium bowl, toss together the carrot and scallions. (The scallion pieces will separate naturally as you toss. You can coax them apart if you want or allow some pieces to stay together.)
In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper. Pour the marinade over the carrots and scallions and toss to coat. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Prepare a large bowl of ice water.
Fill a large, deep skillet about halfway with water and bring to a boil. Place the asparagus in the boiling water and cook until firm-tender but still bright green, 1 to 2 minutes, depending on the thickness. Using tongs, transfer the asparagus to the ice bath (keep the water in the skillet boiling) and chill completely, then transfer the asparagus to a cutting board and cut on the bias into 1-inch pieces. Transfer the asparagus to a medium bowl.
If using fresh peas, add them to the boiling water and cook until they are firm-tender, 1 to 2 minutes, then drain and transfer to the ice bath. (Add more ice if it has melted.) Drain. Transfer the peas to the bowl with the asparagus.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the carrots and scallions to the bowl with the asparagus and peas. Add 2 tablespoons of the marinade to the salad and toss to combine. Taste and season with additional salt, if needed; garnish with thyme, if using, and serve.
Yield: 4 servings
Storage: Leftover marinade can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week. It’s great as a salad dressing or a marinade for a future dish. The salad can be refrigerated in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
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