Published On: Tue, Apr 2nd, 2024

Bacon vinaigrette works wonders in this asparagus and white bean salad

Bacon vinaigrette works wonders in this asparagus and white bean salad
Bacon vinaigrette works wonders in this asparagus and white bean salad


I get positively giddy when spring rolls around. Not only do we get to enjoy sunsets past 7 p.m., but the season also brings a bounty of new produce to save me from the routine root vegetables of winter. Near the top of my list is fresh asparagus.

While you can certainly find asparagus year-round, it’s at its best in spring. During this season, you can find young, tender stalks that are good enough to enjoy raw, when they’re slightly sweet. For less than peak asparagus — or anytime you want a more vibrant hue — a quick blanch in salted boiling water helps to improve color, texture and flavor.

Get the recipe: Asparagus and White Bean Salad With Bacon Vinaigrette

When shopping for asparagus, I look for bunches where the stalks are all roughly the same size so that they will cook evenly. They should be an even green color with no signs of shriveling and have compact tips. Thinner spears might be more aesthetically pleasing to some, but, perhaps counterintuitively, thicker asparagus is actually more tender.

With its mildly grassy, vegetal flavor, asparagus — raw or cooked — is a perfect backdrop for bold flavors. This Asparagus and White Bean Salad With Bacon Vinaigrette features earthy white beans, creamy Manchego cheese and smoky bacon in two forms — with crispy bits and rendered fat in the dressing.

First, you fry up bits of bacon until perfectly brown and crisp, to add salty, umami-filled crunch. What makes this dish special is that you then put the rendered bacon fat to use in a bright vinaigrette to dress the salad. White wine vinegar and Dijon mustard provide a good dose of acidity, while the bacon grease adds a hint of smoky savoriness, all joining forces to become dressing that’s greater than the sum of its parts. (Sure, you could use a more healthful fat, such as olive oil, if that’s important to you, but here my priorities are flavor and resourcefulness.)

If you’ve never had a bacon vinaigrette before, you’re in for a treat. My version creates a balanced, thick salad dressing that just might be your new favorite. (You’re welcome.)

To round it out, canned beans add protein and, alongside croutons, heft to make this substantial enough to be a main course. (The croutons also give this salad panzanella vibes as the bread absorbs the dressing as it sits.) A small amount of Manchego cheese adds creamy, tangy nuttiness and another layer of umami.

Altogether, this asparagus salad is both bright and earthy with textures that are creamy, crunchy and crisp — a vibrant ode to the season.

Get the recipe: Asparagus and White Bean Salad With Bacon Vinaigrette


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