I've also tossed in some leaves of fresh flat-leaf parsley, and not merely as a garnish, but as a full partner to the other ingredients. In fact, almost any fresh herb — including parsley, basil, mint, cilantro, chives, chervil or dill — can play a similarly robust role in a salad.
Lastly, we have pistachio nuts, my favorites. I love them for their flavor, but — at only 4 calories per nut — they're also a boon to the diet-conscious. Of course, you could swap in walnuts, almonds, cashews or pecans if you wanted. They're all sources of healthy fat.
In the end, this spring salad — an exciting and satisfying alternative to the basic green salad — is all about simple, good ingredients. And, topped off with grilled shrimp or chicken, you could call it dinner.
RAW ASPARAGUS, MUSHROOM AND PARSLEY SALAD WITH NUTS AND PARMESAN
Start to finish: 30 minutes
Kosher Salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound asparagus, tough stems trimmed and discarded (peeled if thicker than 1/3 inch)
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
4 ounces firm white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/3 cup pistachios or chopped toasted walnuts
1 ounce shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
In a large bowl, combine a hefty pinch of salt, some black pepper and the lemon juice. Whisk until the salt is dissolved, then add the oil in a stream, whisking. Set aside.
Lay the asparagus flat on a cutting board and slice a few stalks at a time very thin on a diagonal to create thin oblong slices. Add to the salad bowl along with the parsley, mushrooms and pistachios or walnuts. Toss well to coat with the dressing. Divide the salad among 4 serving plates and top each portion with some of the cheese.
Nutrition information per serving: 160 calories; 120 calories from fat (75 percent of total calories); 14 g fat (2.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 5 mg cholesterol; 6 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 7 g protein; 260 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals" and has written three cookbooks, including "Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners."