Recipe Connection: Springtime Asparagus-Opal Apple Salad with Fennel and Dill

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Springtime Asparagus Opal Apple Salad with Fennel and Dill

I’m pretty stubborn.

Bull-headed, some might say.

When I get an idea in my head, I don’t let it go easily, and I worried that I might have really done myself in this time.

When I was asked to develop a recipe with the Opal apple, a cross between a Golden Delicious and a Topaz, I was at first thinking only of desserts I could make. And that was fun just thinking about them!

Then I started thinking more critically…beyond the crisp texture and sweet, bright taste of the Opal, something that sets it apart in my mind from Michigan apples is its season. The Opal apple is in season from February to early April. It’s a spring apple.

I decided I wanted to highlight that aspect in the recipe.

I became determined to make something happen with the Opal and a springtime food, which pretty much means asparagus or greens.

I started asking people for opinions:

“I’m working on a recipe with apples and asparagus…”

The blank looks and long pauses were unanimous.

“Ummmm…did you say apples…and asparagus?”

“Well, it’s either that or kale,” I’d reply.

Experimenting with the Opal

Asparagus Apple Salad Ingredients

I tried a number of variations of this cold fruit-n-veggie salad, so in case you’re wondering about a peanut butter-yogurt-mayo combination, it’s a decent apple dip but not so nice with asparagus, and the balsamic vinaigrette experiment was truly awful.

What I ended up with is a pleasant surprise.

My husband doesn’t like asparagus at all (although he tolerates it cooked in bacon grease with garlic, something to try if you have an asparagus-hater in your household while it’s in season this spring), which meant I needed to bring in some outside testers.

My in-laws come for dinner once a week, and this week I presented them with this spring apple-asparagus salad. (Poor folks, they become unwitting testers quite often!)

Springtime Asparagus Apple Fennel Salad with Dilly Dressing (4) (475x356)

I got some raised eyebrows, and then this from my mother-in-law:

“I hate to say it, but it’s actually pretty good.”

Isn’t that the best backward compliment you ever heard? Ha! I was pretty pleased. My father-in-law didn’t realize it was off the wall, I guess, because he just chimed in, “Yeah, it’s really good!”


Recipe: Springtime Asparagus-Opal Apple Salad with Fennel and Dill

Springtime Asparagus Apple Fennel Salad with Dilly Dressing

If you have any other suggestions for the title of the recipe, I’m all ears. “Dilly OpaliciousAgus Salad?” “Opal of my Asparagus Salad with Fennel?” “Dill-n-Opal Asparagus Salad?” Hmmmm…

In any case, keep an open mind. I figure in a world where you can mix celery, mayo, and apples and it’s a well-known, well-loved salad, pretty much anything goes. ;)

Springtime Asparagus Apple Fennel Salad with Dilly Dressing (12) (475x356)

Springtime Asparagus-Opal Apple Salad with Fennel and Dill
Prep time
Total time
Recipe type: salad, appetizer
Serves: 4
  • ½ lb. fresh asparagus
  • ½ c. fennel, cored and thinly sliced (about ¼-1/3 of a bulb of fennel)
  • 1-2 medium carrots, shredded (or sliced very thinly)
  • 1 Opal apple, sliced thinly and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ c. plain homemade yogurt
  • ½ tsp. dried dill weed
  • ½ tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • ⅛ tsp. salt
  • 10 grinds fresh cracked black pepper
  1. Choose fresh asparagus, the thinner the better. Wash, cut into 1-inch pieces, and steam briefly, 1-2 minutes, just until they turn bright green. Run cold water over them or set in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking. They should be crisp-tender, and you can taste to make sure.
  2. For best results, chill completely.
  3. The dressing should have at least an hour for the flavors to meld together, so make it when you steam the asparagus.
  4. Mix the yogurt, dill, vinegar, salt and pepper. Add a bit of whey or milk to thin it out if needed.
  5. Allow to sit, either refrigerated or room temperature, for at least an hour or overnight.
  6. To assemble the salad, simply toss the cold asparagus, fennel, and apples with the dressing and top with the carrots. (The carrots can be stirred in, too, but I thought it was so pretty with the orange on top.) Garnish with fennel fronds for show if you have them.
  7. Serve cold; store up to 3-5 days in the refrigerator.
The crisp, sweet flavor of the Opal really is a good fit for this blend of vegetables and dill, but I'm sure many other apples would work great if you'd like to try them.

Opal Apple

In case you’re wondering about the Opal apple, my whole family really, really likes them. They live up to the reputation of being “new and better” for sure (why “new” is okay with this apple even though it’s usually a bad sign with food).

I did try a new dessert with them as well:

Apple Banana Pecan Dessert

But you’ll have to wait until fall for that recipe, because I know it would be good with any decent cooking apple.

Which brings me to the real recommendation here: If you find Opal apples, they’re great in this salad, but really – you should just eat them.

The best recipe is:

  1. Wash
  2. Slice
  3. Munch

(And a dip in peanut butter is excellent too, and adds healthy fats for your snack time.)

Opal Apple

Thanks to Opal for sponsoring this recipe and pushing me outside the box while thinking Spring!

Brainstorm with me:

How would you incorporate an apple into springtime food?


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This post was sponsored by First Fruits Marketing. See my full disclosure statement here.

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10 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. elizabeth says

    Since we’ve established that eggs are best in spring, I’d whip out some onions and potatoes from cold storage and slice everything thin, fry them, and serve with scrambled eggs. Side of asparagus and hollandaise if you want more veg and more fancy.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    I thought about eggs but wasn’t feelin’ it…although I have to try my hand at hollandaise this spring for asparagus, thank you! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  2. Andi says

    Hi, Katie!

    Thanks for the post! I’m intrigued! I have never heard of the Opal apple. I’m a gardener, and live in an apple producing state. My first thought was “if there is a springtime apple, I want one for my yard!” I found these are grown in Washington, and their (Washington’s) apple season is fall, like ours. So, these apples are harvested in the fall, but just released for sale between February and April? So…while they are only commercially available for a season, they are no more seasonal than any other fall harvested apple? So, if I were able to score a tree, I would have to save them from the fall harvest to use between Jan and Apr? Just checking…it would be really cool if they somehow actually set FRUIT in early spring! :-)

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Well hmmm….I guess maybe you’re onto something…I checked the First Fruits website (the marketing company for Broetje Orchards, where the Opal is grown) and the organic Opals are in season Nov/Dec – so perhaps it is just a holding thing. I can’t find anything more on it, I was just going with what my contact kept saying, that the season was Jan. through early April, but maybe it’s just a supply thing. I wonder why they’d do that….? It made for some good experimenting anyway! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  3. says

    This recipe looks so delish that I’m picking up the ingredients. I just hope my grocery store has Opal apples. If they don’t what other apples do you recommend?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    I’d use something very crisp, maybe a Fuji or a Golden Delicious…? Please let me know what you think! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  4. Sandi in MN says

    Curious, Is the Opal a GMO if it’s crossed between two other apples, I’ve never heard of it before? Also should mention, we should use organics as apples are known to have at least 50 different pesticides on them. Peeling may help but won’t remove them all. Just sayin’

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    I wrote a post last week all about apples and how they’re not GMO:

    Opals do have organics as well.

    Thanks! Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    Sandi in MN Reply:

    Thanks Katie, I hadn’t seen that post, I’ll check it out! Glad they have organic ones too.

    [Reply to this comment]

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