Saturday, 5 April 2014

Artichoke, Asparagus and Fennel Salad with a Lemon Dressing

This is a beautiful, Spanish-inspired dish, which really takes salad to a whole new level.

It makes great use of what some would consider luxury ingredients, and with the Spanish slant, goes wonderfully with things like grilled chicken, fish and seafood, or my Moorish-Spiced Pork and Padron Pepper kebabs, and makes a stunning dish on a table of food to share with friends.

Serves four as a side, 91 calories per portion.
Feel free to chop and change the ingredients according to what you’ve got! [Calories in square brackets]

1 fennel bulb, any tough outer leaves removed and bottom root cut out, fennel fronds reserved (about 200g once trimmed) [34]
200g fine asparagus (woody ends snapped off and saved for soup) [56]
1 tin artichoke hearts, drained weight 240g, quartered [60]
1 tsp olive oil [45]
1 courgette (zucchini) (about 130g when topped and tailed) [23]
3 tbsp lemon juice [12]
1 tbsp good extra virgin olive oil [130]
Salt and freshly ground black pepper [1]
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped [2]

Put 1 tbsp lemon juice into a medium-sized bowl along with 50ml water. Finely slice the fennel from the bottom upwards, either on the thinnest setting of a mandolin, or the slicing attachment in a food processor (you may have to halve or quarter it to fit it down the chute if using a food processor, but that’s fine). Put all of the fennel into the acidulated water (lemon/water mix) and toss to make sure it’s all coated. This will stop it going brown, as well as imparting a lemony flavour. Set aside.

Take a medium to large sized non-stick frying pan with a lid, and heat the tsp of olive oil in it over a medium heat. Add the asparagus, and put the lid on, tossing the asparagus every 30 seconds or so for about 3-4 minutes so that it cooks in its own steam and slightly chars in the oil. Remove the lid and add the artichoke quarters and toss with the asparagus for a further minute to pick up the flavours from the oil and the pan. Add a tbsp of lemon juice and toss for another 30 seconds. Take off the heat and set aside to cool down for a few minutes until lukewarm.

Finely slice the courgette on the same setting, and put into a large bowl. Drain the fennel of the acidulated water and give a gentle squeeze to get rid of any excess liquid. Add to the courgettes along with asparagus and artichokes, the chopped parsley, the final tbsp of lemon juice and the extra virgin olive oil, the chopped parsley and some salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Toss together (your clean hands are best for this), and taste for seasoning, and then serve scattered with the reserved fronds of fennel. The salad will happily stand around for half an hour or so while you prepare other food, as there is nothing in it to wilt in this time. Enjoy!

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