I 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? But for this dressing, the answer is an emphatic Yes!
It’s particularly good in this salad. because 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
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.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Smoked Paprika Dressing
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon white organic miso
- 1 tablespoon fat-free Nayonaise, Tofu-Cashew Mayonnaise (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.)
- 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.)