FreshTartSteph Recipe: Grilled Asparagus Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette

Layer cool, crunchy greens with something hot off the grill et voila—dinner! The play of hot against cold, tender against crunchy, preferably with a salty-sweet vinaigrette, hits enough texture and flavor notes to transform a simple salad into a meal.

The recipe below is just one idea—think of it as a formula to play with all summer long, as other vegetables come into the market. I added protein in the form of bacon (shocking, I know), but another time I would skip the bacon and layer in creamy-runny burrata. Or a poached egg, of course. I added last week’s pickled carrots for crunch, but the sweet radishes showing up at the market right now would be perfect too.

Pea shoots are the greens here, but spinach and early lettuces are showing up too. Add torn mint or basil. If you use a warm vinaigrette, like the version below (recognize it from this recipe?), don’t toss it with tender greens, just drizze over the salad right before you serve it.

To grill other than asparagus? Use pretty much anything you can skewer! As the season progresses, try okra, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, onions, corn, and on and on and on…

Grilled Asparagus Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette

Serves 2

For the salad:
12 spears asparagus, trimmed
olive oil
Kosher salt
3 c. gently torn pea shoots (or other greens)
1/2 c. sliced pickled carrots or radishes
1/4 c. sliced scallions
freshly ground black pepper

For the bacon vinaigrette:
5 strips bacon, cut into fine julienne
2 Tbsp. real maple syrup
5 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat grill.

Spear the asparagus with two skewers, one near the top, the other near the bottom, to make for easy turning on the grill. Don’t crowd the asparagus spears too near each other. Lay asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle both sides generously with olive oil. Set aside while you make the vinaigrette.

Put bacon in a medium skillet and set over medium heat. Stir until bacon is golden brown, 10-15 minutes, and remove pan from heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel, reserving bacon drippings.

Set pan aside and let the drippings cool off a bit. Reserve 4 Tbsp. of drippings in the pan. Whisk maple syrup, vinegar, and brown sugar into the drippings. Return the pan to medium heat, bring vinaigrette to a simmer, and whisk until the sugar starts to caramelize, about 5 minutes.

Transfer dressing to a small stainless bowl and cool to just-warm. Whisk in mustard, olive oil, and salt & pepper to taste. Stir in bacon pieces.

While vinaigrette cools a bit, sprinkle the asparagus generously with salt, then grill, over medium-high heat, about 4-5 minutes per side, until lightly charred.

To assemble the salad, divide the pea shoots, carrots, and scallions between two plates. Top with warm asparagus, then drizzle the bacon vinaigrette over the whole. Finish with a generous grind of black pepper and serve immediately. (Cover and chill leftover dressing—it tastes great for up to a week. Rewarm to use.)