Asparagus salad with pickled spring onions is a peak-season delight

Eating with the seasons has real nutritional advantages. It’s a seamless way to build variety into your diet, which is important because each fruit and vegetable has its own unique footprint of nutrients and anti-nutrients. When you eat a diverse array of produce, you wind up with a broader spectrum of health-promoting compounds and a reduced risk of getting a meaningful amount of any that could be harmful.

Seasonal produce tends to be picked at its peak of ripeness and is quicker to get from field to plate, so it often tastes better and is more nutrient-dense. Eating seasonally also helps us to experience each stretch of the year more fully and to tune in more closely to the natural world. To me, the most exciting dishes expand that connection, coaxing just-picked produce to tap all the senses.

This recipe brings together quintessential spring ingredients — asparagus, spring onions and fresh herbs — in a way that reflects the essence of the season. The spring onions are halved (or quartered, if large), then the layers separated and quick-pickled in red wine vinegar spiked with pomegranate juice, to wind up looking like pretty pink flower petals.

The asparagus is simmered until tender and bright green, then chilled and cut into bite-size pieces.

Those pink petals and bright green shoots are tossed in a mustardy vinaigrette, then garnished with dill fronds and parsley leaves for a dish that’s lovely with anything you might be grilling or as part of a spread of chilled plates.

It’s a nourishing bowl of colors, textures and aromas that echo the experience of a walk in the park this time of year — a way of taking in the best of the season.

• Ellie Krieger is a registered dietitian nutritionist and cookbook author who hosts public television’s “Ellie’s Real Good Food.” Learn more at


Asparagus Salad With Pickled Spring Onions

This recipe brings together asparagus, spring onions and fresh herbs in a way that highlights the very best of peak-season ingredients. The spring onions are quick-pickled in a mix of red wine vinegar spiked with pomegranate juice, so they wind up looking like pretty pink flower petals — feel free to use scallions if spring onions are not available where you are. The asparagus and pink petals are tossed in a mustardy vinaigrette, and garnished with dill and parsley. The salad makes a lovely side alongside anything you might be grilling or as part of a spread of chilled dishes.

Make ahead: The spring onions or shallots need to marinate for at least 30 minutes at room temperature. The asparagus can be blanched up to 1 day in advance.

Storage: Refrigerate leftover salad for up to 3 days. Refrigerate pickled spring onions or shallots for up to 2 weeks.

1 bunch spring onions (about 6) or 6 small shallots

½ cup red wine vinegar

1/3 cup unsweetened pomegranate juice

1 tablespoon honey

¼ teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon fine salt, divided

1 bunch asparagus (1 pound), woody ends trimmed

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons fresh dill fronds

2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Remove the bulbs from the spring onions; save the greens for another use, such as a stir-fry or vegetable broth. Trim the root end from each bulb and slice each in half lengthwise. (If using shallots, trim both ends, slice in half lengthwise and peel.) If the onions/shallots are large, quarter them. Separate the onion or shallot layers so you wind up with bite-size pieces resembling flower petals.

In a medium bowl or 2-cup wide-mouth jar, whisk together the vinegar, pomegranate juice, honey and ¼ teaspoon of the salt until the honey is dissolved. Add the onion and press down so the pieces are submerged in the liquid. Let marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour at room temperature, or refrigerate until needed. You should have about 1¼ cups; you’ll need ½ cup for this recipe.

Fill a large, deep skillet or pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Have a large bowl of ice bath near your workspace.

Add the asparagus to the boiling water and cook until crisp-tender and bright green, 1 to 3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the spears. Using tongs, transfer the asparagus to the prepared ice bath and let cool completely. Transfer the spears to a clean kitchen towel and pat dry.

Transfer 1 tablespoon of the marinade from the pickled onions or shallots to a small bowl. Whisk in the oil, mustard, the remaining 1/8 teaspoon of salt and the pepper until combined.

Cut the asparagus at an angle into 1- to 1½-inch pieces and transfer to a medium bowl. Add about ½ cup of the drained pickled onions. Toss with the dressing, then garnish with the dill and parsley, and serve.

Substitutions: Vegan? Use agave instead of honey. No asparagus? Use sugar snap peas or broccolini. For the spring onions you can use scallions. And for the red wine vinegar you can use white wine vinegar.

Serves 4 (makes about 3 cups)

Nutrition per serving (¾ cup, without pickled spring onions): 83 calories, 5g carbohydrates, 0mg cholesterol, 7g fat, 2g fiber, 3g protein, 1g saturated fat, 102mg sodium, 2g sugar

— From cookbook author and registered dietitian nutritionist Ellie Krieger.

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