Grilled Asparagus and Spinach Salad with Smoked Paprika Dressing

by on May 11, 2008
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Grilled Asparagus and Spinach SaladI suppose I’m going to have to refer to this as “the recipe that broke my grill pan.” To be fair, it wasn’t the recipe’s fault that the pan broke–I blame that on Emeril. A fairly new cast iron double-sided griddle, it should hold up in an earthquake, not succumb under the pressure of some tender, green asparagus. It was only the fourth time I’d used it, the second day in a row I’d used it to grill asparagus for this salad, and I wasn’t abusing it or teasing it or anything. The asparagus were sizzling, and I was on the other side of the kitchen tossing the spinach with the salad dressing when I heard a loud POP. When I rushed to the stove I found my grill sporting a 4-inch long crack from one side into the middle.

Fortunately, the asparagus were fine. I may have lost a grill, but I wasn’t about to lose my asparagus! Since creating this salad the day before, I had developed a constant craving for it that wouldn’t go away. That doesn’t often happen to me when salads are involved, particularly fat-free salads. You may not have noticed, but I don’t put a lot of salad or salad dressing recipes on this blog, and there’s a reason for that. While many fat-free dressings are good enough for me to use to moisten my own salads, they don’t really pass my First Test of Bloggability: Would I serve it to someone else? Honestly, for most fat-free salad dressings, the answer is no. When company comes over I invariably whip up an olive oil vinaigrette rather than subject my guests to one of my fat-free dressings. The Goddess Dressing is a notable exception–as is this one.

While I would call the Smoked Paprika Dressing good, it’s very good in this particular salad. Its smokiness complements the real star of the show, the grilled asparagus. Though I love roasted asparagus, it’s got a rival in my affections now. Something about the grilling, even in a pan on the stove, imbues the asparagus with the deep, slightly-charred flavor of a charcoal grill. They don’t cook long enough to get scorched or soft, so they maintain a solid, salad-like crunch. Even if you decide to skip the dressing, do give the salad a try, tossed with your own favorite dressing. But maybe use a different brand of grill.

Grilled Asparagus and Spinach Salad

Grilled Asparagus and Spinach Salad

(printer-friendly version)

If you’re eating this salad as one course of a meal, consider this recipe about 2 servings. But if you’re like me and like a really big salad as a meal on its own, call this one serving and perhaps toss a handful of chickpeas into it to make it more filling.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces asparagus, tough ends snapped off
  • olive oil spray
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 ounces baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts (may omit or substitute chickpeas)
  • Smoked Paprika Salad Dressing (see below)

Instructions

  1. Set a seasoned grill pan over medium-high heat. While it is heating, snap off the tough ends of the asparagus, place it in a dish, and spray it lightly with olive oil (just a couple of quick sprays). Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to distribute the oil and seasonings.
  2. Put the asparagus on the grill and cook, turning often, until just beginning to brown in places but still crisp and bright green, about 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and cut spears in half.
  3. Toss the spinach with the dressing and arrange in two bowls or plates. Divide the asparagus between the two salads, and sprinkle each with a tablespoon of walnuts.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s) | Cooking time: 10 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 2

Makes 2 standard servings. Each serving, with walnuts but excluding dressing: 60 Calories (kcal); 4g Total Fat; (47% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 46mg Sodium; 3g Fiber.
Without walnuts or dressing: 36 Calories (kcal); 1g Total Fat; (30% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 46mg Sodium; 3g Fiber.

Grilled Asparagus

Smoked Paprika Dressing

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon white organic miso
  • 1 tablespoon Nayonaise (or other vegan mayo) OR silken tofu
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground flax seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • small amount of sweetener to taste, just enough to offset the lemon juice (I used a tiny scoop of calorie-free stevia.)

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients into a small blender and puree until smooth. Let rest for at least a half hour to allow flavors to develop. Makes about 4 servings (enough for 4 standard-sized salads).

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Per serving (using fat-free Nayonaise and stevia): 12 Calories (kcal); trace Total Fat; (23% calories from fat); trace Protein; 2g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 82mg Sodium. (Calories and fat grams increase slightly when made with other mayo or sweeteners.)

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 SusanV June 8, 2010 at 11:41 am

All comments before August 2009 were lost during a blog move, so I’m copying the older comments here:

Mary Frances said…

And I really thought cast iron was indestructible…huh. The salad looks yummy. I think I have everything except the asparagus and the miso.

Do you have any recommendations on purchasing miso? We bought some miso soup packets a few months ago and ended up throwing them away because it tasted so bad.

10:52 PM, May 11, 2008
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Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said…

I love grilled asparagus, too. I throw them completely unadorned onto the grill (usually outside), cook them on very high heat until a bit charred on the outside, and eat them like candy. (and p.s., I hope your grill is going right back to the store — no way it should crack, even after 4000 batches of asparagus).

5:27 AM, May 12, 2008
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Carrie said…

That asparagus looks absolutely delicious!!!

7:51 AM, May 12, 2008
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Mary R said…

Cast iron actually has a fairly brittle structure for a metal, and an especially brittle one when compared to alloys like stainless steel. It may look indestructible, but it can crack if it is heated too quickly or if a significant amount of cold liquid is poured into a hot pan. Sometimes you can get away with preheating it on medium high/high it if there’s a very large roast in the pan/on the grill to ‘absorb’ some of that heat…but that’s not likely to be the case in vegan applications. My grandmother was practically religious in preheating her cast iron on low before cranking up the heat to no more than slightly above a medium, and I know that Le Creuset advocates using “low to medium heat for best results.”

That being said…new reader here! Though I currently eat meat, I had been a vegetarian for about five years and am now looking for more ways to reduce my animal consumption. Your blog has gone a tremendous way in bringing me around to vegan cooking and your writing style has kept be reading. Thanks for continuing such a wonderful project!

8:52 AM, May 12, 2008
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Anonymous said…

What brand griddle was this? I just bought a new Nordicware griddle with extremely deep ridges. I’m having a tough time cleaning it.

1:27 PM, May 12, 2008
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Lily Girl said…

I have Lodge cast iron and I’m really happy with it. I have their double burner griddle/grill pan and I’ve done veggie fajitas over at least medium-high heat with no problem. I’ve also preheated my skillets in the oven before pouring in my corn bread batter with no problem.

Mary Francis – I love miso! I get mine at my local health food store. You should look for unpasteurized, organic miso in the refrigerated section, in tubs or bags. Pasteurization kills the good-for-you active cultures in miso and conventional soybeans are one of the most genetically modified and pesticide laden crops. Also, the only ingredients should be soybeans, salt, and usually a grain such as rice or barley. Miso soup is fairly simple to make yourself, and I’ve never tried a dried packet that I like. Miso that is shelf-stable is almost always pasteuruized and so you loose many of the health benefits. Hope this helps!

2:27 PM, May 12, 2008
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kotzebue said…

Awesome! I actually have every single ingredient for this in my house at this very moment. Yahoo! Dinner is going to be so good.

I am completely enamored with smoked paprika.

3:05 PM, May 12, 2008
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Anonymous said…

I just made your salad for dinner. WOW it was delicious!!! Thank you! thank you! Another keeper like all of your recipes. (((HUGS)))

5:48 PM, May 12, 2008
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Kate said…

What a great blog! I have not made the conversion completely to vegan, but your recipes and stories have made me more aware of what goes into my food. I was a vegetarian for many years in college. I try to incorporate as many veggie based dishes as I can to my meat and potatoes family. And your lasagna recipe is a favorite!

Thanks again for your continued energy and obvious love for this project!

6:09 PM, May 12, 2008
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Kate said…

I just read your previous post and wanted to extend a congratulations! I live in Napa, just about 45 min over the hills to Santa Rosa. I’m going to do my best to attend. How very cool for you! Great job!

6:12 PM, May 12, 2008
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shellyfish said…

This sounds scrumptious! Thrilled that today is market day- going to go buy some fresh spinich & asparagus, and sorry about your grill!
If I weren’t on another continent I would love to go see you- I don’t always comment, but I always read your blog, and love it. I’m waiting for *your* cookbook to appear…

1:14 AM, May 13, 2008
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moonwatcher said…

This looks fantastic!!

11:45 AM, May 14, 2008
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Diane said…

I made this tonight, and it was great. I made a couple of modifications — I didn’t realize we were out of lemons, so I used lime juice and my husband is allergic to walnuts, but I had some pine nuts in the freezer. Very good!

10:44 PM, May 15, 2008
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Aly said…

Aha! I was looking for the perfect recipe for the bundle of asparagus in my fridge, and I think I have found it! It looks amazing…

4:45 PM, May 24, 2008
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Amanda said…

I made this for my lunch today–and it was delicious! You’re right, I often get bored with my big ETL salads, so this was a welcome change. I added some leftover navy beans to make it more filling, and I made the dressing without the nayonaise/tofu (because I was out–I was out of silken tofu! shocking) and it still worked just fine. Without the tofu, it was more of a vinaigrette, but it was still delicious! I’m going to try the dressing again with the tofu, and whichever one I prefer, I’m going to make a big batch and keep it in the fridge–I liked it that much. Your blog is such a great resource!

2:14 PM, May 29, 2008

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2 Molly June 29, 2010 at 8:37 pm

This recipe is freaking AMAZING. When I made the dressing (with silken tofu) I was skeptical, thinking it smelled like barbecue sauce, but I let it sit in the fridge for a few hours. It was still pretty thin, so next time I think I would use more tofu, or more flaxseed, or something else to emulsify it a little better, but the flavor was *outstanding*!!! I ended up making a large salad and using the whole dressing recipe at once. Perfect, perfect, perfect. Way to go, Susan!

Reply

3 Kat October 5, 2010 at 12:06 am

This looks really interesting and I just got a bunch of asparagus and greens in my veggie box. Do you think this would work over cooked greens instead of spinach salad? My greens are definitely not spinach (not sure what they are….) and I don’t think they’d be nice raw.

Reply

4 SusanV October 5, 2010 at 7:36 am

I think that would be great, especially in colder weather. Hope you enjoy it!

Reply

5 aleonard January 9, 2011 at 1:29 pm

I LOVE this dressing. I make it frequently for both green salads and quinoa salads. The most interesting thing to me is how baffled people are that salad dressing can be homemade – but as soon as they get past that, they’re dazzled by the lovely, smoky flavor!

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6 lea February 14, 2012 at 12:18 pm

This salad is soooo delicious – WOW. I loved it! I added beans to bulk it up a little, plus some smoked sundried tomatoes – a new product for me, tasted almost bacony. A very welcome change from my typical daily salad. I can’t wait to make it again, next time to share. Thanks Susan!

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7 Karen June 12, 2012 at 7:08 pm

This is incredible!

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8 Marshall January 26, 2013 at 12:56 pm

I need a recipe for a vegan, low salt, low fat, low protein, sugar-free salad dressing.
(there’s a mouthful). I also need storage and expiration instructions. I am diabetic with lots of other problems. my RD-nutritionist speaks in generalisties. I need specifics, which I can follow.
Thanks, Marshall

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9 Lean April 16, 2013 at 9:50 pm

How about just using vinegar like a balsamic or flavored rice vinegar? Store it at room temperature and it lasts a long time.

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10 Rhoda Yoder April 6, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Hey Susan, I was looking for a great asparagus salad and clicked on yours without realizing at first that it came from a friend. I’m trying it tonight. Thanks!

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11 Susan Voisin April 6, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Rhoda, I hope you like it as much as I do!

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12 Mia June 24, 2013 at 10:27 pm

I absolutely love smoked paprika. I will definitely be trying this recipe

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