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Asparagus, Artichoke, Fennel, and Mozzarella Salad with Lemon-Oregano Dressing

The beautifully complementary flavors and textures of the asparagus, artichokes, and fennel create an extraordinary side or even main dish salad. Inspired by a Jewish-Italian recipe, this one gains mouthwatering nuance from the additions of mozzarella, roasted red pepper, and lemon dressing with well-rounded herbal flavor from both fresh and dried oregano. Fennel seeds minced into fine bits fabulously accent the vegetables; taste some on a small portion first to make sure you like the effect. Start making the dressing and prepping your ingredients while the water for the asparagus comes to a boil. For a vegan dish, omit the mozzarella.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 2 mins
Resting Time 30 mins
Course Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine Italian, Jewish, Jewish-Italian

Ingredients
  

Salad

  • 1 bunch asparagus, preferably thin spears, washed and tough woody ends removed
  • 1 small fennel bulb, stalks and bottom tough layer removed, thinly sliced into approximate 2-inch strands (about 1 cup) (see note)
  • 1 14-ounce can quartered artichoke hearts in water, drained
  • ½ cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained and cut into approximate 2-inch slivers
  • 8 ounces part-skim mozzarella, cut into approximate ½-inch cubes, optional
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, minced or crushed, optional

Lemon-Oregano Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, from about 1½ large lemons
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano (from about ¼ cup leaves)
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried oregano

Instructions
 

  • Place a large pot of salted water over high heat.
  • Meanwhile, finish prepping the other ingredients. Also make the dressing: Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh oregano, and dried oregano in a small bowl. Taste and add more salt, pepper, or lemon juice as needed. Set aside.
  • When the water is boiling, add the asparagus and blanch 1 to 2 minutes, until bright green and just crisp tender. Remove the asparagus with tongs and plunge into a dish of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and cut into 2-inch pieces.
  • In a large bowl, toss the asparagus with the fennel, artichoke hearts, roasted red pepper, and mozzarella. Add just enough dressing to thoroughly coat, and toss until well combined. Let salad rest at room temperature 30 to 45 minutes.
  • Toss again, adding more dressing as needed. Serve on individual plates and sprinkle servings with a very light dusting of fennel seeds if using.

Notes

To slice the fennel after removing the stalks and tough bottom layer, cut the bulb in half from the stalk end to the root end. Turn the flat, cut sides down and slice into thin pieces, setting aside any tough or green parts along with the stalks for another use, such as soup stocks. You can also use the fennel fronds for a garnish if you like.
Keyword Artichokes, Asparagus, Gluten-Free