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When spring is sprung, my house goes into asparagus overdrive. And who can blame us? There’s nothing more hopeful than asparagus’s unique and divine flavor, which practically sings of new sunshine and even chlorophyll. And with a short season, it’s worth obsessing over. I made a commitment to myself a few years back to only eat asparagus in season, and while it means my pleasures are brief, they are all the more precious.

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And while my fellow asparagus fanatics may already be trimming and roasting spears, I’ve discovered that asparagus is also the queen of salads. Which means that in early spring, I make a delicious asparagus salad as much as I can.

Go here for my favorite spring salad: Shaved Asparagus and Fennel Salad with Meyer Lemon Dressing

Why I Love This Shaved Asparagus Salad

Shaved raw asparagus, if you have never eaten it, is a revelation. It’s crunchy, sweet, and the very essence of freshness. Wedded here to the anise hit of fennel and the spicy bite of red onion, brightened with sweet Meyer lemon and grounded with nutty Manchego and a final bracing hit of dill, it is a salad that I frankly never really adjust, which for those who know my tendency to tinker with a recipe, find shocking.

Having trouble finding Meyer lemons? If you cannot source these delicious lemons near you, you can use fresh lemon juice from your grocery store’s regular lemons and add just a tiny squeeze of honey. Or, combine half lemon juice with half tangerine juice to approximate the floral sweetness of Meyers. If you happen to have an Asian market near you, look for yuzu juice or calamansi juice to substitute for Meyer lemon juice. Just taste the dressing and adjust for seasoning and don’t be afraid to add a bit of sweetness if it tastes too acidic for you.

RELATED: No-cook Summer Salads

Don’t love the big flavor of raw onions? If you like a bit less heat on your onion, which I do, rinse the slices under cold running water, and toss them with one of the teaspoons of lemon juice from the dressing recipe and let sit for ten minutes, which should soften their bite when you add them into the salad.

Looking for some variations in the recipe? Feeling like you need to tinker, just for fun? Add some toasted slivered almonds or swap out the Manchego for an aged cheddar. But truly, you’ll find that making it just as written is pretty perfect.

Want to add some protein? This shaved asparagus salad can certainly serve as a main course salad. But if you’d like some additional protein, consider adding fried rounds of goat cheese, grilled skirt steak slices, seared tuna, or flaked salmon with beautiful results.

Shopping Smart for Asparagus

Peak season begins in April, so keep an eye out at your local market for fresh and local asparagus. Be sure to look for bunches that have firm straight spears with tight heads, that smell like freshly cut grass with no swampy off-odors. The bases should be smooth, not wrinkled. If you aren’t going to make the salad that day, cut a half-inch to an inch off the bottoms of the spears, place in a vase of cold water, and store in a cool place in your kitchen or in the fridge for up to three days, changing the water daily.

Get the recipe, here: Shaved Asparagus and Fennel Salad with Meyer Lemon Dressing

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