Spring Greens with Roasted Asparagus, Fennel & Strawberries with Tahini Vinaigrette

Cooking Light Magazine calls sesame tahini, the new peanut butter. Liquid gold in a jar. Although it doesn't make a good sandwich spread, it is fantastic in my newest vinaigrette. I have to abstain from eating it by the spoonful right out of the jar. This vinaigrette is so good that you can even serve it as a stand alone dip. I did last week with roasted asparagus and it was a wow.

Then there is the salad. My husband, Karl, who isn't a salad devotee, began eating it slowly, started eating it faster and faster and didn't look up until every leaf was scraped off his plate. As for me, I've eaten it every day for a week and don't plan to stop.

In case you are wondering what spring greens are, they are a mixture of baby red and green lettuces, such as arugula, Lolla Rosa, spinach, mizuna and radicchio.  But this vinaigrette will be great on any greens--kale, arugula, chicory, you name it--any season of the year.  I love the strawberries in the salad, but any fruit would be good. In the winter try oranges or pears.

NOTEWORTHY
Tahini should be thick, but smooth. When you lift the spoon out of the jar, it should drop in a thick ribbon. Be sure to stir it all the way down to the bottom and if it gets too thick, thin with a few drops of water.
It's also important to note that not all tahini is created equal.  Joyva brand, which is deeply roasted, imparts a slightly bitter flavor, very thick and tends to separate. I recommend using a lightly toasted brand such as 365 at Whole Foods or a middle eastern brand such as Near East.

Spring Greens with Roasted Asparaagus, Fennel & Stawberries with Tahini Vinaigrette

Salad
2 lbs. asparagus
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
8 to 10 oz. spring greens (about 4 cups)
1 medium fennel bulb, bulb cut in quarters and thinly sliced
1 pint strawberries, cut in half or sliced
Sesame seeds, toasted *

Vinaigrette
1/4 cup well stirred tahini (See Note above)
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Break off the bottom of the stems where they tend to snap off when bent.

Break off the bottom of the stems where they tend to snap off when bent.

To peel, lay spear flat and run carrot peeler toward stem end. Turn and peel all the way around.

To peel, lay spear flat and run carrot peeler toward stem end. Turn and peel all the way around.

  1. To roast asparagus, arrange rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 450°F.  Break bottom part of stem where it naturally snaps off.  If spears are thick, you may want to peel the bottom third of the stem. Arrange spears in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes if thin; 10 to 12 minutes if medium; and 12 to 14 minutes if thick. To test, when you pick up a spear it should bend slightly. It will go on cooking when you remove them from the oven.
    To Make Ahead: Asparagus may be roasted several hours ahead and kept at room temperature. Or, they may be refrigerated overnight and served chilled.
  2. To make vinaigrette, measure tahini into a small bowl (or use the measuring cup). Add the vinegar and oil and stir well. Season with salt and pepper.
    To make Ahead: Vinaigrette may be refrigerated for up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature and stir well.
  3. When ready to serve, put greens into a salad bowl and toss with as much dressing as desired. To make a tossed salad, cut asparagus into 5 or 6 diagonal slices and add to greens with fennel and berries. Add more dressing and toss again. Divide among plates and sprinkle with sesame seeds. To make a composed salad, arrange greens on individual plates or a platter. Top with bundles of asparagus and fennel. Drizzle dressing over. Make a border of strawberries and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Makes 6 servings.

To toast sesame seeds, put them onto a small baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees until lightly golden, 6 to 8 minutes. If you have a toaster oven, I use it to toast sesame seeds and all nuts. 

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