Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ribboned Asparagus and Zucchini Salad with Violets

This salad is literally springtime on a plate. I smile every time I look at it. It takes advantage of the vegetables (and flowers) that are in season at the moment. It may be one of the most creative and most beautiful salads I've made. It's unbelievably fresh tasting because the vegetables are raw. Frankly, after eating this salad, I can't justify the need to ever cook asparagus again.
Incorporating raw vegetables into the diet is extremely beneficial. When vegetables are uncooked, they retain all of their enzymes and heat sensitive nutrients. Some people choose to follow a completely raw foods diet, although I personally don't think I could thrive on that type of diet. But I have no problem eating some of my vegetables raw. The idea of eating raw foods is so much more sophisticated than carrot and celery sticks...there are so many creative options.
It's pretty simple to turn your asparagus and zucchini into pretty ribbons. Basically, you just take a good vegetable peeler and run it down the asparagus and zucchini. For the asparagus, start at the tough end and peel towards the tip. For the zucchini, you'll get wider ribbons (because zucchinis are thicker than skinny asparagus), but I just cut them so that they would be the same thickness as the asparagus.
For all you skeptics out there, violets are edible. They have a very mild taste and I like them because they're a really special addition to salads. They actually have some health benefits and are used in herbal medicine to treat a variety of conditions. They can be recognized by their heart-shaped leaves. This time of year, they grow on lots of lawns and I just happened to notice a few growing on mine today and was totally inspired.

Ribboned Asparagus and Zucchini Salad with Violets

1 small bunch of asparagus
1 zucchini
juice of half a lemon
extra virgin olive oil
Fresh Parmesan cheese (not grated or shredded)
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
violets (if you can find some)

1. Wash the zucchini and asparagus. Trim the pointy tips off the asparagus and set aside.

2. With a sharp vegetable peeler, peel ribbons of the asparagus and zucchini. Put the ribbons on a large platter. They don't have to look perfect. This is a rustic salad.

3. Add the asparagus tips to the ribbons. Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice over the ribbons and toss with your hands. Sprinkle with sea salt and fresh ground pepper and toss again.

4. Using the vegetable peeler, peel shards of Parmesan cheese over the top. Use as much cheese as you want. The salty wonderfulness of the Parmesan is amazing in this salad.

5. Top the salad with violets or other edible flowers, if you can find any. If not, I'm sure any type of fresh herb, like basil, would be nice.


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