Passover is one of my favorite holidays, not as much for the religious aspect as for the feeling of tradition and togetherness as the extended family sits down for a meal together. My family isn’t very religious and our Seders are quick – never more than 20 minutes (I’ve heard rumors of returning to the table after dinner for a second part but have never experienced that myself) – and are filled with laughter.
Laughing during a religious ceremony? Yeah, we don’t take it too seriously. There’s always a bit of manipulation by the “leader” to make sure that specific “participants” read as the “wicked” or “simple” son, and I always got into the dayenus by leading the whole group in at least two rounds of the song. Not to mention all the fun the kids have searching for the afikoman.
And then there’s the food. I love the Passover meal, not to be confused with the often over-processed, gut-clinging, matzo-based diet many Jews subsist on during the week of Passover. No, I’m talking about the traditional food my family serves during the seder.
There’s always a tender brisket, my mom’s amazing matzo ball soup, gefilte fish, hard-boiled eggs, harosets, apple-matzo kugel, not to mention great desserts (and no, we do NOT serve coconut macaroons or sponge cake – gag!). Delicious food, but very, very heavy.
This year one of the dishes I was assigned was a vegetable side, in addition to harosets and dessert. We’ve never served a salad before, but I thought it would be the perfect way to add a lighter, healthier component to the meal.
I tried to cover all the bases with this salad – something a bit sweet but overall subtle, and I wanted to incorporate asparagus, a spring vegetable that has somehow become synonymous with Passover. The result was a refreshing and filling asparagus and spinach salad with lemon vinaigrette.
Asparagus & Spinach Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 red onion, diced small
3 navel oranges, peeled and cut into supremes (or sliced)
12 ounces baby spinach, washed
Lemon vinaigrette (see below)
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Also prepare an ice bath. Add the aspragus to the boiling water and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or until slightly tender. Remove the asparagus from the water and submerge in the ice bath. Drain the asparagus once chilled and pat dry.
Toast the almonds in a small pan over medium-low heat, stirring every 30 seconds. Remove the almonds from the pan once lighlty toasted and set aside to cool. Be very careful not to burn the almonds.
Soak the diced red onion in cold water for 10 minutes. Drain well.
In a large bowl, combine the asparagus, almonds, red onion, orange slices and baby spinach. Mix well with just enough lemon vinaigrette to coat.
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon sugar
Combine the champagne vinegar and lemon juice in a small bowl. Slowly pour in the olive oil while whisking vigorously. Season with lemon zest and sugar.