PHYLLIS’S RAW ASPARAGUS + FENNEL SALAD

I’m sure those of you who regularly read food blogs are well aware of Phyllis Grant and her bad ass blog, Dash and Bella. Phyllis’s writing is funny, raw, heartbreaking, kinetic, passionate… her words can make you belly-laugh and cry all in one sitting. And her food is good, really good.

Back in the summer of 2009 when I started here, I didn’t know anyone writing a blog (let alone a food blog) until one day at the market, Sarah an old friend and early reader of Yummy Supper, said… “Hey did you know Phyllis is writing a blog too?” Phyllis and I had gone to high-school together, had always been friendly, but had never known each other well.

Unbeknownst to either of us, Phyllis and I started our blogs within weeks of one another, each of us
cooking, photographing and writing in our own kitchens on either side of Berkeley. After running into Sarah at the market, I rushed home to check out Dash and Bella and I was immediately hooked on Phyllis’s stories, photos, and recipes. I reached out to Phyllis right away, and we quickly fell into what my husband calls our “blogmance.” For nearly 5 years, Phyllis and I have chatted on the phone for hours at a time, talking about geeky blogging stuff that honestly none of my non-blogging friends would want to hear. Our conversations wander from recipe developing to parenting, aperture to marriage, book writing to home birth. Phyllis has become one of dearest friends and I’m grateful to have had her insights and support throughout this crazy adventure.

……………….

I first made Phyllis’ asparagus fennel salad way back in 2010 when Dash and Bella was still in its infancy and I haven’t been able to forget how good it tasted. When I asked Phyllis if she minded if I shared her salad here, she said she had forgotten all about the recipe. What?! I told her, “This salad is way too good to be forgotten!”

With asparagus reining as queen of the market these days, I want to eat it every which way while the season lasts. I like that Phyllis leaves the asparagus raw in this salad, combining the slivers with shaved fennel, Parmesan and a dressing that packs a serious punch.

INGREDIENTS from Phyllis Grant’s Dash and Bella
printable recipe

  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 teaspoon champagne or white wine vinegar
  • juice and zest of 1/2 Meyer lemon (any lemon will do here)
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 anchovy, chopped fine (Vegetarian friends: leave out the anchovy. The dressing will still be packed with flavor.)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 stalks of asparagus, rough ends trimmed
  • a medium fennel bulb (core and stalks removed) + fronds
  • flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Parmesan, Piave or Reggiano
  • optional: serve on a bed of steamed quinoa

First, whip up your dressing: Combine shallot, vinegar, lemon juice and zest, capers, and anchovy. Set aside for 10 minutes. Then, add mustard and finally whisk in olive oil. Feel free to adjust seasoning with additional lemon juice or olive oil to taste. Set aside. Keep in mind that the dressing can be made (even a couple of days) in advance.

Cut asparagus at an angle into very thin slices. (Phyllis suggests peeling asparagus stalks until just before the tip. If you are using tender young asparagus, the peeling isn’t necessary. ) Place asparagus slices in a serving dish. Slice fennel as thinly as possible, using a mandolin if you’ve got one. Toss the fennel slivers in with the asparagus.

Generously dress the asparagus and fennel. Season with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Top with a few feathery fennel fronds, plenty of shaved Parm. Serve immediately. (Any leftover salad dressing can be stored in the fridge for up to a week.)

The salad would be beautiful served with grilled fish or lamb chops for
dinner, and for lunch, I like nestling the salad on top of quinoa,
adding an extra splash of dressing and savoring the party of textures
and flavors.

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