In Australia, spring is almost here and I am happily anticipating being able to once again enjoy my Chargrilled Asparagus with Feta and Mint. When asparagus is plentiful and inexpensive I like to use it in as many ways as possible. Just a few of the ways I enjoy it are with pasta, in risotto, as a soup or simply roasted as a side dish. However, I also like it in a salad and this is one of my all-time favourites.
My Chargrilled Asparagus with Feta and Mint is a fresh and vibrant salad. By cooking the asparagus and tomatoes on the char-grill they acquire a slight, savoury smokiness. Also, the asparagus and tomato flavours are heightened as their natural sugars caramelise on the grill.
Some feta, tumbled over the top of the asparagus and tomatoes, brings salty, creaminess to the salad. I include two of my favourite flavour boosters here, lemon and mint. There are not many dishes that do not benefit from the inclusion of one or both ingredients. I use freshly squeezed lemon juice in the dressing and some finely grated lemon zest for additional flavour. The mint adds a fragrant, bright note. Finally, for textural contrast, I add some toasted, slivered almonds.
This fresh and lively salad is also packed with health-benefiting nutrients. Asparagus is very low in calories and is a good source of fibre, potassium and Vitamins A, C and K. Additionally, it is high in anti-inflammatory compounds and provides a wide variety of antioxidants. Charred cherry tomatoes provide further nutrition. They are a good source of Vitamins A and C, potassium and also contain powerful antioxidant properties.
Ingredients in my Chargrilled Asparagus with Feta and Mint:
Asparagus is a spring vegetable grown for its young spears which are eaten as a vegetable. It is best to eat asparagus as soon as possible after you buy it. At the time of harvest, asparagus contains a great deal of sugar which quickly converts to starch. The sweet, tender stalks become bland and starchy with age.
Extra Virgin Olive oil:
Extra virgin olive is the highest grade of olive oil available. As well as adding great flavour to this salad, it has been proven to be a healthy fat and contains several health-benefitting antioxidants.
Sweet cherry tomatoes are a great addition to this salad. The sweetness of cherry tomatoes complements the earthy flavour of asparagus.
I use Danish feta as it adds a lovely, creamy texture.
If you would prefer this dish to be vegan, you could certainly omit the feta, or substitute with a plant-based alternative.
Mint is a favourite ingredient of mine. It is a great flavour booster and adds bright, fresh notes to this salad.
There are a number of health benefits to eating mint. It contains anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds along with Vitamins A and C together with manganese.
Blanched almonds have been sliced into little batons to produce slivered almonds. They are readily available in supermarkets.
You could make your own, but it is labour intensive. To begin, you soak the almonds in boiling water for a few minutes and then slide their skins off. Next, you split the almond in half lengthways. And finally, cut the almond halves into slivers.
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper:
I prefer sea salt. Regular table salt often contains additives. Pepper which is freshly ground has the best flavour.
Lemon is a great flavour booster, adding bright, fresh, citrus notes. I use both the zest and juice in my Char-Grilled Asparagus and Feta Salad.
Use a small amount of sugar to balance and mellow the other flavours in the salad dressing. Honey would be a suitable alternative.
Add a small amount of mustard for flavour and its ability to emulsify the oil and vinegar, which means, blending the oil and vinegar together.
How to Make the Chargrilled Asparagus with Feta and Mint:
The end of the asparagus is almost always tough and woody and will need to be removed. To do this, hold the end of the asparagus with both hands, between your thumb and forefinger, and bend until the woody portion breaks off. Pace the asparagus on a large platter. Rub well with olive oil then season with salt and pepper
Heat a barbecue or char-grill pan to medium-high heat then place the asparagus onto the barbecue or char-grill pan. Cook for approximately 5 minutes, turning several times or until the asparagus is lightly charred and tender but still crisp. Remove the cooked asparagus to a large plate and trim to short lengths.
Toss halved cherry tomatoes in olive oil, lightly season and place them flesh-side down on the grill until lightly charred. Add the cherry tomatoes to the asparagus. Arrange decoratively then sprinkle with lemon zest, add mint leaves, crumbled feta and slivered almonds. Finally, drizzle with the dressing and season to taste.
Tips for success:
When selecting asparagus, choose bunches that have firm spears with tight heads and smooth, bright skin. Avoid any that have shrivelled stems or droopy heads. For the best flavour, eat the asparagus as soon as possible after buying. The sugars in the asparagus quickly convert to starch so the sweet, tender stalks become flavourless and starchy.
In this salad, I use both the lemon zest and juice. When using both, zest the lemon before squeezing the juice. When removing the zest, always be sure to take only the thin, outer part of the rind and avoid the bitter, white pith.
Other uses for these ingredients:
- Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
- Roasted Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad
- Cherry Tomato Galettes by A Baking Journey
- Asparagus and Parmesan Filo Rolls
- Roasted Lemon Parmesan Asparagus by Cook it Real Good
- Asparagus Straws by Sprinkles and Sprouts
- BBQ Asian Asparagus by Another Food Blogger
- Radish, Feta and Cucumber Salad
- Spinach and Feta Galettes
- Baked Feta with Olives and Rosemary
- Creamy Whipped Feta
Serving the Chargrilled Asparagus with Feta and Mint:
This side dish is perfect for special occasions. Here in the Southern Hemisphere, it would make a perfect addition to the Christmas table. The flavours will work with poultry, meat or fish and the red and green colours suit a traditional Christmas theme.
However, its adaptable personality means that it is equally at home as an addition to a barbecue or beach picnic.
Whilst I generally serve this salad as a side dish, it is sufficiently substantial to serve as a light, meat-free meal. All you need to accompany it is some warm, crusty bread to soak up the lemony dressing.
Make the most of the arrival of spring asparagus and try it in as many ways as possible. Let me know in the comments below if you make this salad.
Chargrilled Asparagus with Feta and Mint
- 2 bunches asparagus about 8 spears per bunch
- 2 tsp olive oil See Note 1
- 15 cherry tomatoes halved
- 1/2 cup feta, crumbled See Note 2
- 1/4 cup mint leaves loosely packed
- 1 tbsp toasted slivered almonds See Note 3
- 1 tsp lemon zest finely grated
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
- 2 tsp lemon juice freshly squeezed
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Wash the asparagus and remove the woody ends. – See Note 4Preheat a barbecue or chargrill on medium-high heat.
- Add the asparagus to a large plate and drizzle 2 teaspoons of olive oil over the asparagus. Rub into the asparagus with your fingers. Season the asparagus lightly with salt and pepper. Cook the asparagus on the grill for approximately 5 minutes, turning several times or until the asparagus is lightly charred and tender but still crisp. Transfer to a large plate. Cut into thirds, approximately.
- Cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Add them to the plate on which you oiled the asparagus. Toss with the remaining oil or add another teaspoon of olive oil if necessary.Place on the barbecue or char-grill flesh side down to get some grill marks. Grill for about a minute. Remove to the platter with the asparagus.
- Toast the slivered almonds in a dry pan, being careful not to burn.
- Use a zester to remove a few strips rind from lemon. Alternatively, use a vegetable peeler to peel rind from the lemon and then cut the rind into very thin strips.
- Whisk lemon juice and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil in a small bowl. Add sugar and Dijon mustard. Season well with salt and pepper.Drizzle the dressing over the salad. Sprinkle with lemon zest, feta, mint and almonds. Serve immediately.
- Drizzle the dressing over the salad. Sprinkle with lemon zest, feta, mint and almonds. Serve immediately.
- Whilst this may seem a small amount of oil, it will be sufficient to coat the asparagus. Too much oil on the grill will cause it to smoke excessively.
- You could use pan-fried halloumi as a lovely alternative to feta.
- To toast the almonds, add the slivers to a small frying pan. Do not add oil. Heat the frying pan over low-medium heat, stirring or tossing the almonds until they are a light golden colour. Remove the almonds to a small bowl to ensure that they do not go on cooking in the frying pan.
- The end of the asparagus is almost always woody and tough and needs to be removed. To do this, hold the end of the asparagus with both hands, between your thumb and forefinger, and bend until it breaks. The tough, woody end will automatically break off leaving you with the tender part.