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Asparagus Salad with Preserved Lemon Dressing and Passover Potatoes

April 3, 2014

Asparagus Salad with Preserved Lemon Dressing and Passover PotatoesPin it!

My dissertation stress has been catching up with me recently, more than ever before. So much that I actually considered not posting a recipe this week.

I have all sorts of big and little deadlines, self-imposed and otherwise, and I sometimes fall into the trap of too much calendar-checking—trying to conceptualize too many future obligations at once. This always leaves me feeling overwhelmed: while working on one task, I can’t help but feel guilty that I am not working on others. (As absurd as that sounds.) So inertia takes hold and instead of getting to work, I do nothing, while feeling increasingly… awful.

The one thing that helps—other than working on the dissertation (but even that doesn’t help sometimes)—is cooking.

Ingredients for Asparagus Salad with Preserved Lemon Dressing and Passover Potatoes

When it comes down to it, I would rather spend my non-dissertating hours being productive in the kitchen rather than moping and fretting. (Although believe me, I still do plenty of moping and fretting.)

Spending time in the kitchen feels like the best kind of productivity. A little hands-on work with something so much more palpable than words on a screen, the hunger and anticipation as appetizing smells start to float throughout the house, and the immediate gratification. Your efforts are all rewarded just as quickly as you can pile food onto a plate, with something that satisfies and with something you can feel good about eating, since you made it yourself. (And, in the best case scenario, your efforts are rewarded with leftovers!)

Shaved asparagus and blanched asparagus tips

While cooking brings its own stresses, it is relaxing in the sense that it temporarily lifts the weight of everything else off my shoulders: it keeps me focused on being in the moment, without any guilt about other things I should be doing. And it pulls me away from my laptop—maybe that’s the real reason it always puts me in a better mood.

How to shave asparagus for raw shaved asparagus salad

This springtime salad was the perfect excuse to spend some time away from my laptop last weekend. Despite feeling the tug of my to-do list, I sent myself into the kitchen to prepare it, and emerged in a much better mood, buoyed by a feeling of accomplishment just as satisfying as the salad itself. And a renewed conviction that this is precisely what weekends are for.

Asparagus Salad with Preserved Lemon Dressing and Passover PotatoesPin it!

I set out to make something that would be at home on a Seder table (for Passover) and I think this fits the bill. But it was tricky to come up with an idea for an original-ish Passover recipe, mostly because I spent about a week really, really focused on matzah.

My sister, Jess, recently helped me come up with all sorts of matzah-based ideas for Passover-y recipes, including matzah kugel, chocolate-covered matzah toffee, and salmon cakes with matzah meal (although, as she also pointed out to me, almost any kind of gluten-free dessert will pass the kosher-for-Passover test), but I rejected them all.

Boiling potatoes for Asparagus Salad with Preserved Lemon Dressing and Passover Potatoes

I absolutely love matzah ball soup, so much that I will enjoy it all year round (especially when I’m feeling sick!), but really, who wants to cook with matzah any other time of the year but Passover? (Hint: if you’ve never tasted matzah, you’re not missing much…)

Shaved Asparagus for Asparagus Salad with Preserved Lemon Dressing and Passover Potatoes

I wanted to celebrate spring with something fresh and green, and I wanted to come up with something that I might actually make a few times now that it’s asparagus season. I also remembered that my friend Rachel has a lovely, simple recipe for “Passover potatoes” (I’m not sure if she’s the one who named it that, or if that was my mom, when she borrowed Rachel’s recipe during Passover).

Asparagus Salad with Preserved Lemon Dressing and Passover PotatoesPin it!

Small new red potatoes are boiled, peeled, and drizzled with tangy red wine vinegar, to soak up the seasoning while they’re still hot. They are delightful served at room temperature, and somehow even more delectable served cold.

Asparagus Salad with Preserved Lemon DressingPin it!

I decided to toss the vinegared potatoes on top of a bed of shaved asparagus—if you’ve never tried raw shaved asparagus, now’s the season; it’s unexpectedly sweet and crisp! I can’t get enough of it, dressed with my new favorite salad dressing, made with homemade preserved lemons.

Making Preserved Lemon Salad Dressing

I got my preserved meyer lemons going back in December, but it’s not too late to make your own—they’ll pickle in just 2-3 weeks. I followed the instructions in this video from Food52, packing the scrubbed and quartered lemons in fine sea salt, then letting them hang out in a cool dark cabinet for a few weeks. (Or you can substitute a regular fresh lemon in the salad dressing recipe.)

Making Preserved Lemon Salad Dressing

The preserved lemons have since been moved to my fridge. They are quite salty, even after you rinse them, but they’re also intensely tart and addictive. I’ve tried nibbling on them, adding them to chicken tagines, and even dicing them up to toss into a (strange but delicious) risotto. But my favorite use for them by far is blended up into salad dressing.

Asparagus Salad with Preserved Lemon Dressing and Passover PotatoesPin it!

This recipe for preserved lemon dressing just has a few ingredients, but is bursting with bracing, tart flavors. The preserved lemon, together with a little shallot, oil, and vinegar, creates a thick emulsion that seems impossibly creamy, considering it’s made without any dairy. Depending on your shallot, the dressing can take on a pinkish hue, so if that puts you off, you can add a (tiny) pinch of turmeric to bring it back to the yellow side as a bright reminder of its star ingredient, lemons.

Preserved Lemon Salad Dressing for Asparagus Salad and Passover Potatoes

After my disappointment at missing Purim last month, I was extra determined not to miss Passover. While I won’t be hosting or attending a Seder (Passover dinner) with my dissertation deadline looming, Paula and I will still try to find time to make ourselves some matzah ball soup, charoset, and possibly chocolate covered matzah. And this salad will be making an encore appearance as well.

Asparagus Salad with Preserved Lemon Dressing and Passover PotatoesPin it!

Print both recipes! (PDF)


Preserved Lemon Dressing

(Makes just over ¾ cup)

Active and Total time: 5 minutes.

~ ¾ of a preserved meyer lemon (or  ½ a lemon, yellow peel and pulp, but not white pith)
~ ½-¾ of a shallot, roughly chopped
~  ¼ cup red wine vinegar
~ ⅔ cup olive oil (or ⅓ cup olive oil, and ⅓ cup lighter oil, like avocado or canola)
~ salt, to taste
~ black pepper, to taste
~ tiny pinch of turmeric (will turn it a brighter yellow-orange)

How to make it:

1. Taste the preserved lemon and rinse it off if too overly salty. (I usually don’t bother rinsing mine, but then I don’t need additional salt in the dressing.) Remove and discard any lemon seeds, then roughly chop (both the peel and the pulp).

(Or if using ½ of a regular lemon, use a vegetable peeler to remove wide strips of yellow zest, then use a knife to cut the thick white pith away from the pulp and discard. Remove and discard any seeds, then roughly chop the lemon pulp and the pieces of yellow peel.)

2. Add the chopped preserved lemon (or fresh lemon pulp/peel), the chopped shallot, the red wine vinegar, and the olive oil to a blender (or use an immersion blender). Blend until smooth, then taste and season as desired; blend again until well combined. Refrigerate for up to a week (warm to room temperature before using).

Asparagus Salad with Passover Potatoes

(Serves 6, as a side salad)

Active time: 30 minutes; Total time: 1 hour.

Ingredients for the Potatoes:
~ 1½ lbs. small, round new red potatoes, scrubbed well
~ 1½ Tbsp. red wine vinegar
~ 1 Tbsp. olive oil
~ kosher salt, to taste
~ fresh dill, gently torn

Asparagus Salad Ingredients:
~  ½ – ⅔ bunch of fresh asparagus, rinsed and bottom inch or so discarded
~ preserved lemon dressing, to taste
~ seasoned potatoes
~ additional fresh dill, gently torn
~ scallions or chives, diced
~ fresh mint leaves, gently torn
~ 1-2 hard boiled eggs, diced

How to make it:

1. Place the potatoes in a large stockpot and cover them with two inches of cold water. Cover the pot and bring to a boil (this may take 10-15 minutes). Once boiling, uncover and keep at a steady boil for 15-25 minutes. Choose one potato to test with a fork (since it will ruin the appearance of that potato), and test periodically after 15 minutes until the fork both goes into and comes out of the potato easily. Do not overcook them so much that they become mushy.

2. Drain the potatoes in a colander and rinse under cold water for 1-2 minutes. They’ll still be quite hot. Then return them to the empty stockpot set back over the same burner as before (but with the burner off)—allow them to sit there for several minutes as they dry out and lose their moisture from the residual heat. Then transfer to a bowl. Gently peel the potatoes with your figures as soon as they are cool enough to handle (after 5-10 minutes). Then, while the potatoes are still hot, drizzle over red wine vinegar, then olive oil, and gently toss to coat. Season with kosher salt and fresh dill, then refrigerate until ready to serve. (Serve at room temperature or chilled, over bed of shaved asparagus.)

Boiling potatoes and blanching asparagus tips        Letting the boiled potatoes dry

3. While the potatoes are cooking or cooling, prepare the asparagus. Holding the tip of an asparagus stalk with one hand, use a sharp vegetable peeler with the other to shave a strip from just below the tip down to the end of the stalk. Flip the stalk over once (so it’s now sitting on the flat, shaved side), then shave 4-5 strips from the other side until it’s too thin to continue. (Even then, you can usually get one last shaving by picking up the tip and pulling that up against the vegetable peeler while you hold the peeler down.) Slice off the asparagus tips and reserve.

4. Blanch the asparagus tips: in a pot of boiling water (or in the same pot where the potatoes are boiling, if the timing works out), blanch the tips for 60-90 seconds. Then drain them or fish them out (they’ll float above the potatoes), and plunge them in ice water or rinse them in cold water to stop them from cooking.

5. Pile the asparagus shavings on a serving platter, and sprinkle the blanched tips over them. Drizzle the asparagus with a few spoonfuls of preserved lemon dressing, then top with the seasoned potatoes. Garnish with fresh dill, scallions, and mint. Optionally sprinkle over diced hard-boiled eggs. Pass additional dressing at the table for each person to add to individual servings as desired.

Print both recipes! (PDF)

Asparagus Salad with Preserved Lemon Dressing and Passover PotatoesPin it!

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Pasta Genovese with Pesto, Potatoes, and Green Beans Grilled Apricots with Arugula and Burrata Asparagus Risotto with Shrimp, Lemon, and Goat Cheese Fig and Walnut Balsamic Vinaigrette
64 Comments leave one →
  1. hoytapeo permalink
    April 3, 2014 9:11 am

    Awesome Salad!

    Kind Regards

  2. April 3, 2014 9:32 am

    This plate looks full of garden freshness! I like the use of preserved lemons. Good luck with the dissertation, I use cooking as relief and escapism too x

  3. Bad Kitty permalink
    April 3, 2014 9:33 am

    I just bought a big box of matzo, a lightly toasted, homely dimpled platform for anything leftover in the fridge. Heart matzo big time.

    • April 3, 2014 9:40 am

      You’re right—it does make a pretty good vessel for all sorts of condiments/toppings… (I’m actually eating a (second) breakfast of matzah topped with charoset at this very moment!)

  4. April 3, 2014 9:39 am

    This looks delicious! I have a jar of preserved lemons in my fridge that I keep meaning to utilize and I just can’t seem to get motivated. This might be just the thing.

    • April 3, 2014 9:41 am

      Thanks! Yes, you should definitely try making salad dressing with your preserved lemons! I love it so much… and the recipe above makes more than enough for the asparagus salad. I’ve been enjoying the leftover dressing drizzled over sliced tomatoes & avocados!

  5. April 3, 2014 9:45 am

    That looks fantastic – I grow salad potatoes which would be perfect for this and the sharpness of the preserved lemon (which is also sitting in my fridge) will work perfectly. I only use it for a lamb and apricot stuffing so shall definitely be adding this to my repetoire. Thanks

    • April 3, 2014 10:04 am

      I’m so glad to hear it! I didn’t even know there was such a thing as ‘salad potatoes’, but that makes sense—the smallest, roundest, smoothest little red potatoes are the best for this kind of salad. I love the idea of adding preserved lemons to savory stuffings, too.

  6. April 3, 2014 9:52 am

    I haven’t even read your whole post yet but wanted to let you know you’re not the only one who feels that multi-deadline guilt (feeling guilty, while completing one task, about the other dozen tasks you’re not ALSO doing at the same time). Thanks for pointing out that it’s absurd- needed to be reminded of that :)

    • April 3, 2014 10:05 am

      Thank YOU for saying that! I actually added that bit about it being absurd as an afterthought, but I’m glad I did, because yes, I need to keep reminding myself of that, too!

  7. April 3, 2014 10:13 am

    It looks delicious.
    I also really liked what you wrote. Sometimes I can stress myself with thinking about me, (often self imposed) to do list instead of just starting to do it. Cookimg or baking helps me to relax and get my thoughts sorted.
    Good luck with your dissertation.

    • April 3, 2014 11:27 am

      Thank you for your comment! It’s so reassuring to hear that others identify with my to-do list inertia (and cooking escapism), too! And I appreciate the good wishes for my dissertation… I’m probably just going to be more and more stressed about it until it’s all over sometime in June!

  8. April 3, 2014 11:35 am

    OMG. This recipe is brilliant. Shaved raw asparagus, seasoned potatoes, blanched tips, preserved lemons, all laid out so simply. I cannot with this. Thank you for sharing. I’ll be sure to make this for my Passover table too, although my husband has a potato allergy. Oh man I cannot wait to have this. Mint leaves? Brilliant. Beautiful photos too. Good luck with your dissertation and good Pesach!

    • April 3, 2014 11:52 am

      Aw, you leave the sweetest comments!! Thank you! You could definitely make this with just the asparagus and the dressing, since your husband has a potato allergy. (And make the potatoes on the side for others?) And/or, instead of potatoes, you could top the asparagus with diced hard-boiled egg or other blanched spring vegetables (I almost added shelled edamame, but then I thought that’d be kinda strange to be serving edamame for Passover…).

      • April 3, 2014 12:03 pm

        Ha! Good suggestions. Thanks. I definitely want to try this.

  9. April 3, 2014 11:43 am

    Ah, the inertia and the feeling awful. I too can relate. Love the asparagus shavings, I’ve never done that. Can’t wait for asparagus season!

    • April 3, 2014 11:55 am

      Thank you—not that I’m happy that you can relate to feeling awful, but it is nice to remember that others are in the same boat.

      I had never tried shaved asparagus either until this spring! I love it SO much though; I’m going to be torn between shaving and roasting with each bunch of asparagus I bring home from now on!

      • April 3, 2014 1:54 pm

        Have you ever cooked with white asparagus? I haven’t, as it’s always so pricey (I guess in part because only ever see imported packs, never locally grown), but I’m intrigued after seeing a post on here as to how different it takes to the regular old green stuff. Can’t get enough of asparagus when the season comes around!

      • April 10, 2014 10:19 am

        I’ve never cooked with white asparagus, but I’ve definitely eaten it a number of times, mostly inside bocadillo sandwiches in Spain. It tastes kind of similar to green asparagus, but the stalks are often thicker!

  10. April 3, 2014 11:45 am

    This looks absolutely delicious!!

  11. April 3, 2014 12:39 pm

    Good heavens, this is beautiful–I heart, heart, heart everything you cook. Love shaved fresh asparagus, and preserved lemons, and potatoes!

    • April 10, 2014 10:20 am

      Wow, thank you Danguole! I was SO honored and happy to read this comment of yours last week. (Have just been dissertating away since then and neglecting my blog… but thank you for the encouragement!)

  12. April 3, 2014 1:46 pm

    What an amazing and fresh mix of flavors and colors, Allison! Perfectly seasonal:) Have my eye on the passover potatoes recipe…

  13. April 3, 2014 3:28 pm

    Gorgeous salad and pics, love the lemon infused dressing, so clever!

    • April 10, 2014 10:22 am

      Thanks, Cheri! I love any kind of lemony/citrusy dressings, and the preserved lemon kicks it up another notch with the bracing tartness (and saltiness); it’s truly delicious.

  14. April 3, 2014 4:42 pm

    Allison, I love your beautiful and bright recipes. Happy Passover! Good luck with your dissertation. Cooking is a great stress reliever. Your photos reflect the elegance and vibrance of the dishes. Chag Sameach!

    • April 10, 2014 10:23 am

      Thank you, Shanna! Happy Passover to you, too! Cooking is definitely a stress reliever. (…which makes me think I should probably try to do even more of it…)

  15. April 3, 2014 5:25 pm

    How very spring-y! This looks delicious. I definitely know what you mean about cooking being a great non-academic yet productive activity, and it’s SUCH a nice break to get away from the laptop, isn’t it?! Well, although I still use my laptop when cooking, to view recipes, but oh well. Good luck with the dissertating process and managing dissertation-stress!

    • April 10, 2014 10:26 am

      Thanks! Oh that’s true—I definitely use my laptop even when cooking sometimes, to look up recipes, but that’s different than sitting at it for hours, hunched over, getting carpal tunnel… And yes, I’m starting to think that cooking is the BEST way to manage my stress (aside from maybe yoga, which I do less often), and then as a bonus, you get to eat afterwards!

  16. April 3, 2014 7:21 pm

    What a delicious looking salad! And your photos are magnificent.

  17. April 3, 2014 8:12 pm

    Hopefully this gave you a needed break :) Looks tasty!

  18. April 3, 2014 8:37 pm

    This is so gorgeous Allison. I love spring vegetables and you’ve completely done them justice in this beautifully prepared salad!! Argh, I know what you mean about finding an escape in cooking. I was the same when I was at uni. I still procrastinate/relax/escape through cooking when I have other stuff that I don’t want to do at home, haha :) I love the dressing you created for this. I definitely want to give it a go before our warm weather disappears completely. Beautiful xx

    • April 10, 2014 10:48 am

      Thank you, Laura! Yes, I guess even after I graduate I will still need to use cooking to procrastinate, relax, and escape from the stresses of post-PhD real life… I’m honestly just dreaming of finding a 9-5-ish job so I can leave most of my stress behind when it comes time to cook every evening! (But then again, I had a full-time job before graduate school, and unfortunately it was the kind where you could never leave 100% of your stress at work… it always spilled into my life.) At least we have cooking!

      This dressing is sharp, bright, and truly delightful—it’s one of my new favorites. I definitely hope you get to try it!

  19. April 4, 2014 4:06 am

    What a yummy-looking salad.

    I have been fixated with preserved lemons for months. This is a long fad for me I usually get obsessed with something for a week or two & the forget about it. However their incredible, intense flavour still surprises & delights me. I could really imagine how good this salad tastes as I read your post. Looking forward to asparagus season now.

    Good luck with the dissertation – I never had a cleaner house than when I was writing mine!

    • April 10, 2014 11:05 am

      Thank you! I also go through various ingredient fixations (chili, cinnamon, coconut, za’atar…), but for me I’m pretty sure lemon and lime are here to stay.

      Ah and I WISH my house were clean from dissertation procrastination, but I’ve probably never had a *messier* house than now when I’m getting near the end of the whole ordeal… I guess I’m just more into procrasti-cooking than procrasti-cleaning. :(

  20. serendiipitously permalink
    April 4, 2014 6:34 am

    Very good idea! thanks!

  21. April 4, 2014 7:17 am

    I just wanted to comment to say that I totally understand the dissertation stress. Writing mine almost wrecked me. I used cooking as a way to de-stress, too, until the last few months when I had to spend all of my waking hours on writing tasks. The good news is that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and even if you have to take a break from regular life things (cooking, cleaning, etc.), you’ll get back to them when it’s all over.

    A fellow dissertating linguist once gave me this great advice: “One dish at a time.” When you’re facing a mountain of dirty dishes (like on Thanksgiving), you just have to take it one dish at a time. Eventually, you will get through the whole pile. That was my motto towards the end…one dish/paragraph/page/chapter at a time. Hang in there!

    • April 10, 2014 11:21 am

      Thank you so much, Inge! This is exactly the kind of empathy and encouragement that I need to hear. I am already in the last few months (defending the dissertation on June 6th, if all goes as planned…), and I’m not even spending all of my waking hours on writing tasks (yet), so maybe that’s a good sign that I’m building in enough cooking time (or a bad sign that I’m not working fast enough…).

      I really like that approach of taking just one dish/paragraph/page/etc. at a time. And I’m glad to hear from someone else who survived their dissertation and made it through to the other side! :)

  22. April 4, 2014 4:57 pm

    Ha! Great minds think alike–we blogged about asparagus and preserved lemon today too. I love the addition of potatoes. Very nice vinaigrette. ken

  23. April 5, 2014 4:37 am

    This looks delish, all my favourite ingredients I am so making this Xx

  24. afracooking permalink
    April 6, 2014 5:45 am

    I know what you mean. Sometimes cooking can almost be like meditation, focussing you in the now. Wishing you strength and focus :-)

    • April 10, 2014 12:09 pm

      Thank you! I definitely need strength and focus right now. (And I know I can get those both from yoga, too, but if I only have time for either yoga or cooking dinner, then it’s obvious which one of those has to go…) :)

  25. April 6, 2014 7:48 am

    I’m absolutely swamped right now – work, ideas, projects! But the kitchen is like mediation, isn’t it?

    Asparagus and potatoes – two of my favourites in one lovely dish! YUM.

    • April 10, 2014 12:12 pm

      Yes—and the best kind of meditation! (Well, maybe… I haven’t tried actual meditation… I just like any experience that ends in eating good food.)

      I am sure you are absolutely swamped, and (not that I’d wish that on people, but) it makes me feel better to remember that others are in the same boat… but I still had to laugh at the idea that one could be swamped with “ideas”! I love it. :)

  26. April 7, 2014 11:47 am

    How springlike! Perfection. So full of flavor.

    • April 10, 2014 12:16 pm

      Thanks! Yes, this is the perfect burst of greenery and flavor to welcome in the spring. (After a winter of eating a ridiculous amount of sauteed/steamed kale, I was ready for something fresh, green, and raw to accompany my indulgence in vinegary potatoes.)

  27. April 8, 2014 4:45 am

    really, really love this! We do Easter around here, but every year i struggle, as i always want to throw a bounty of vegetables at people, but my guests (husband’s family)…a little more on the “meat and potatoes” side than my family is. but these would make EVERYONE happy! i love it, for both the flavors and that it looks beautiful.

    • April 10, 2014 12:19 pm

      Yay, thanks, Shannon! I think this would be lovely for Easter, too! (I actually had the thought that the whole round potatoes look quite egg-like, which works perfectly for Easter or Passover, symbolizing spring, renewal, etc…. and actual hard-boiled eggs would be nice on this salad, too!)

      Maybe just increase the amounts of the potatoes if you’re serving it to a meat-and-potatoes crowd that might view the asparagus you so lovingly shaved as just a garnish. :) (But even then, more asparagus for you!)

  28. April 8, 2014 6:33 pm

    wow! this is such a great salad. love how you’ve peeled strips of asparagus and used that in the salad and using preserved lemons is also such a great idea.

    • April 10, 2014 12:21 pm

      Thanks, Aditi! I am really into using the preserved lemon dressing on all sorts of salads, but yes, it was especially nice on the shaved asparagus. I’ve loved roasted asparagus for a while, but I can’t believe how long it took me to discover how nice it is shaved & eaten raw!

  29. April 20, 2014 8:43 pm

    Lovely dish!!! Enjoyed exploring your space… See you sometime @ :)


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