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better, even

May 13 2009 by Kristin at The Kitchen Sink in Recipe,Salad » 19 comments

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I’m well aware that this salad is unlikely to have the same appeal as that chocolate sheet cake I was fawning over a couple days ago, but I’m still going to try my best to convince you that the salad is every bit as a good as the sheet cake.  Better, even.  There, I said it.  I’ve probably either lost you or caught your attention—so farewell to the former and hello to the latter.

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To be fair, I too questioned this recipe, which filled out the Mother’s Day brunch we hosted on Sunday.  The brunch otherwise consisted of tomato-feta strata, a giant platter of fruit, grilled breakfast sausages and a dozen or so members of Kevin’s immediate and extended family.   This line-up was almost perfect; all it needed was a salad and I had asparagus on the brain (don’t we all?).   Then I found this recipe, which looked promising, but my hang up was this: Dates?  Really?  I don’t love dates and before this salad I wasn’t even so sure I liked dates.  In fact, I’ve probably picked them out of salads and and baked goods many times before.  There may have been a bacon-wrapped exception to my no-dates policy, but that was it.   Then again, though, dates did seem kind of breakfast-y, so I went with it.

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And I’m so thankful I did, because the dates are key to this salad.  They lend chew and sweetness—a perfect foil to the crunch of the asparagus, the meatiness of the walnuts, the salty nuttiness of the pecorino.  The salad was the undeniable hit of the brunch.  Don’t tell her I told you, but Kevin’s grandma stationed herself by the salad leftovers after brunch, as we tidied up the kitchen.  From her perch, she picked up stray pieces of asparagus and pecorino between her thumb and index finger and popped them in her mouth.   If I hadn’t been up to my elbows in dirty dishes, I would’ve joined her.

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Grandma and others demanded the recipe.  So, without further ado …

Asparagus Salad with Walnuts, Dates & Pecorino
Adapted from Food & Wine

1 1/4 cups walnuts
1 small shallot, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons walnut oil
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 pounds asparagus, thinly sliced on the bias and blanched for 2 minutes in salted, boiling water
3/4 cup dried pitted Medjool dates, quartered lengthwise
3 ounces dry pecorino cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the walnuts in a pie plate and toast for about 8 minutes, until lightly golden and fragrant. Let cool completely, then coarsely chop.

In a small bowl, combine the shallot with the lemon juice. Whisk in both oils and season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, toss the toasted walnuts, asparagus, dates and pecorino. Add the dressing and toss. Serve at once.

19 comments so far. »
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  1. holler says on May 13 2009 at 2:24 pm:

    That sounds truly great! I would be hovering around the dish too! Smart lady, that Grandma :)

  2. Melissa says on May 13 2009 at 2:42 pm:

    Go grandma! I find this more droolworthy than the cake. It was awesome, no doubt, but this is more my taste right here. Never had dates, but I’m betting on liking them when I do.

  3. Jodye says on May 13 2009 at 3:29 pm:

    This looks like a wonderful salad! I cannot stop eating asparagus this time of year!

  4. heather says on May 13 2009 at 3:30 pm:

    I agree that this is FAR better than any chocolate sheet cake. Walnuts, walnut oil, asparagus, dates, pecorino… oh boy, oh boy!!

    cheers,

    *heather*

  5. RonnisSweetTooth says on May 13 2009 at 3:46 pm:

    I really dislike dates. I’ll pick one up every couple of years to try to see if my tastes have changed and I haven’t liked one yet. I suppose raisins or dried cranberries could work in this recipe (maybe?), but I’m sure the dates are integral.

  6. Dana says on May 13 2009 at 4:16 pm:

    That’s a recipe that I would have (and did) pass over because I share your ambivalent feelings about dates. You make it look so lovely, I’ll give them a chance with this salad.

  7. Treehouse Chef says on May 13 2009 at 5:02 pm:

    This looks so yummy! I will try this recipe soon.

  8. Natanya says on May 13 2009 at 7:17 pm:

    I’ve been looking for new ways to serve asparagus because (oddly enough) my picky child likes asparagus. I’ll admit this combination of ingredients is a little unexpected but it just looks fantastic.I bet you could toss in some prosciutto and make this a one-dish summer meal.

  9. Whitney Merritt says on May 14 2009 at 7:06 am:

    This looks like the perfect salad to use up some of the wonderful asparagus that is around this time of year.

    yum!

  10. LilSis says on May 14 2009 at 8:08 am:

    Looks like a perfect combination to me! I’ll definitely be making this salad very soon. Thanks!

  11. Jen says on May 14 2009 at 8:36 am:

    I keep scrolling back to savor the pecorino slices…I’m always looking for ways to gussy up asparagus and want to try this recipe ASAP.

  12. Kate says on May 14 2009 at 10:17 am:

    How can a salad with that much pecorino not be fabulous? I love the dates with the cheese too — reminds me of a salad I had in Italy that had pecorino drizzled with chestnut honey.

  13. rachel says on May 14 2009 at 10:58 pm:

    Iovely, I am in an asparagus and pecorino phase at the moment so this fits in quite beautifully.
    I’ll take this over the cake anyday.

  14. Polly Rice says on May 15 2009 at 4:07 pm:

    What a creative salad, thanks for getting past your date aversion to give a try for us! And now that you have found a recipe in which you could tolerate dates….if you are feeling adventurous you should sometime try a date shake. Yum! But then, I do love dates.

  15. Katie says on May 17 2009 at 7:09 am:

    This has everything I love…asparagus, walnuts, dates, and cheese! Yumm! My favorite salad here is at a restaurant called Charlestons…it has fresh strawberries, pineapple, grilled chicken and sliced dates with a light champagne vinaigrette dressing. I didn’t think I liked dates until I had that salad…now it’s one of my fav ingredients!

  16. Liesel says on May 17 2009 at 8:47 pm:

    Mmmm…that looks so yummy. As soon as we got a real grocery store in this town and I don’t have to drive 2 hours for some Pecorino, I’m on it. Drooling…

  17. Kristin at The Kitchen Sink says on May 18 2009 at 2:12 pm:

    Well, who know that I would cast myself in the role of date spokesperson?!? I guess I’ll embrace it. I just saw Ina Garten make a date cake that looked wonderful ….

    Ronnissweettooth: I think you’d be fine with another dried fruit. What about figs? Do you like those?

    Natanya: I like the prosciutto idea!

    Liesel: I think you could get away with parmesan, in the meantime …

  18. Culinary Cory says on May 18 2009 at 6:20 pm:

    Hmm…sounds like an interesting combo. I love the shavings of cheese on top of the salad. So pretty.

  19. spouseless eating | Whitney in Chicago says on June 02 2011 at 8:35 pm:

    [...] for epic amounts of asparagus. I picked up two bunches yesterday at the market with plans to make this salad but I’ve been flipping through this book the last few nights and remember a recipe that [...]

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