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
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!)
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
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. 😉
- 1/2 lb. fresh asparagus
- 1/2 c. fennel, cored and thinly sliced (about 1/4-1/3 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
- 1/2 c. plain homemade yogurt
- 1/2 tsp. dried dill weed
- 1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 10 grinds fresh cracked black pepper
- 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.
- For best results, chill completely.
- The dressing should have at least an hour for the flavors to meld together, so make it when you steam the asparagus.
- Mix the yogurt, dill, vinegar, salt and pepper. Add a bit of whey or milk to thin it out if needed.
- Allow to sit, either refrigerated or room temperature, for at least an hour or overnight.
- 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.
- 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.
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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:
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:
(And a dip in peanut butter is excellent too, and adds healthy fats for your snack time.)
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?
First Fruits Marketing. See my full disclosure statement here.