My mom, the cook in our house growing up, was always good with vegetables. But her repertoire was limited, consisting of steamed vegetables topped with pats of butter, green salads with dressing she’d shake up using a Good Seasons Italian Dressing packet, and roasted potatoes.
Today, the methods for preparing vegetables has expanded far beyond what I grew up eating. One of my favorite ways to give vegetables the love they deserve is in simple shaved salads.
In this recipe, I use thinly sliced carrots, fennel, radish, and asparagus, then toss the vegetables in a light citrus honey dressing, and finish it with a little Parmesan cheese. The result is a crisp, fresh salad that’s perfect as a light main dish or a healthy side.
If you don’t have one of the vegetables listed, just swap it for something else. This salad is incredibly flexible!
WHAT IS A SHAVED VEGETABLE SALAD?
Shaved salads start with raw vegetables that you cut into paper thin slices and toss with a flavorful dressing. I usually rely on my Japanese mandolin, which makes quick work of slicing vegetables.
This Benriner mandolin is pretty affordable and has served me well for more than 20 years. You can also use a sharp chef’s knife or a food processor fitted with a slicer blade, though the slices may not be as tidy and uniform as with a mandolin.
Once the vegetables are shaved, all that’s needed is a good dressing and any garnishes you like. A variety of herbs, such as mint, chives, basil, and parsley work well in this type of salad, along with nuts, seeds, and crumbled soft or shaved hard cheeses.
WHICH VEGETABLES ARE BEST FOR SHAVED SALADS?
What’s appealing about shaved salads is that they work any time of year, depending on what’s in season. They’re best made with vegetables that are firm enough to cut very thin and still hold up well once dressed (no soggy salads allowed!).
In spring, asparagus is an obvious choice. Zucchini is ideal for summer. Root vegetables, such as kohlrabi, radishes, carrots, celery, and fennel are perfect any time of year. Even the likes of raw beets and winter squash work when shaved thin enough.
WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO DRESS A SHAVED SALAD?
Like any green salad, shaved salads are ideally dressed close to the time you plan to serve them. They benefit from a dressing with plenty of acidity.
You can keep it simple and add a generous squeeze of lemon and drizzle of olive oil, or make a vinaigrette using citrus fruits or vinegar for that hit of acid. Start by piling all the shaved vegetables in a bowl, add the dressing—using less than you think you’ll need—and toss well.
Taste and add more dressing, salt, pepper, or herbs, if needed. I prefer to serve shaved salads on a plate or platter rather than in a bowl, to really show off those vibrant colors.
SUGGESTIONS AND SUBSTITUTIONS
The variations on this shaved salad are literally endless. Here are a handful of suggestions:
- Tinker with the ratio of vegetables. Are you crazy about asparagus? Use more and leave out the carrot, radishes, or fennel.
- Try a different combination of vegetables entirely. Kohlrabi, celery, and daikon radish is a crisp, refreshing trio.
- Use favorite nuts such as pecans, hazelnuts, or slivered almonds.
- Use different cheese, such as pecorino, dry jack, or crumbled goat or feta.
- Add minced chives or parsley to the mix.
- Add dried fruits, such as tart cherries or slivers of pitted Medjool dates.
CAN YOU MAKE THIS AHEAD OF TIME?
What’s nice about this and so many other shaved salads is that you can do much of the work ahead of time.
Shave all the vegetables and pile them into a bowl. Chop the mint. Cover and store both in the refrigerator. Whisk together the dressing and set aside. Just before serving, toss it all together, add the shaved Parmesan, and finish with chopped walnuts.
HOW TO TURN SHAVED SALAD INTO DINNER
This salad is on the light side but can easily be turned into a center-of-the-plate lunch or dinner by adding a protein-rich food. Grill or broil chicken breasts, hard boil eggs and slice in half, or cook a lightly seasoned piece of fish such as salmon, and you have a really nourishing supper.
Leftovers can be packed up and carried to work for lunch the next day. The salad won’t be quite as crisp as when it’s freshly made, but it will still be plenty tasty.
MORE GREAT SALAD RECIPES
Shaved Spring Vegetable Salad Recipe
Cutting tender spring vegetables into paper thin slices and serving them raw is an excellent way to make the most of their flavors, not to mention their nutritional benefits. All that’s needed is a tangy vinaigrette and a few garnishes. Feel free to experiment with the vegetables here. You can do this salad entirely with asparagus, tripling the amount you use, or swap in other vegetables, such as kohlrabi or celery.
For the salad:
- 8 ounces (about 10 medium) asparagus spears, woody ends snapped off
- 2 medium carrots
- 1/2 large bulb fennel
- 6 radishes
For the dressing:
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh mint
- 2 oz Parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 Shave the vegetables: Cut the vegetables into very thin slices using a Japanese mandolin (try to make longer, diagonal slices for the asparagus and carrots). Alternatively, use a chef’s knife or slice them in a food processor fitted with the slicer blade. Pile into a large bowl.
2 Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, zest, olive oil, honey, and salt.
3 Dress the salad: Just before serving, add mint and the dressing (a little at a time). Use a vegetable peeler to shave about 20 thin shards of Parmesan into the salad. Toss again.
Taste and add more salt and dressing if needed. You want your vegetables lightly coated, not swimming.
4 Serve: Transfer to a large plate. Scatter the walnuts over the top. Serve immediately.
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