An asparagus and white bean salad recipe is topped with crispy fried cheddar – Advice Eating

Fresh asparagus with white beans and crispy cheddar

Total time:35 minutes

Servings:2 to 3

Total time:35 minutes

Servings:2 to 3

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If you’ve eaten at a small restaurant in the last decade or two, you might have noticed something: vegetables are plentiful in the good restaurants. In fact, I’ve long been saying that the trend has helped chefs break their habit of having protein in the center of the plate, leading to creative combinations of ingredients – and many more options for vegetarian and vegan diners.

The same phenomenon takes place this time for hobby cooks in Lukas Volger’s new book “Snacks for Dinner”. Volger was inspired to write it after a friend took him and his husband to lunch in California, disrupting a trip that saw them eat out one restaurant meal after another, and serving them a seemingly effortless and casual selection of small dishes — one Locally sourced tabbouleh salad, farm-fresh carrots, dips, crackers and more became her favorite meal of the trip.

This style of eating is, of course, prevalent in many cultures, from Greek mezze and Korean banchan to the southern banchan board. And as Volger puts it, it’s an ideal way to satisfy plant-based eaters. “You can just have all these different vegetable concoctions,” he told me on a Zoom call from his home in Brooklyn. “As a vegetarian, you actually look forward to eating that.”

One of Volger’s earlier books is Bowls, and I couldn’t help but ponder the connections between a modern grain bowl with its many components and the snacks-for-dinner approach with its many plates. Either way, the dishes — or meals — might seem daunting when you’re starting from scratch, but once you get in the habit of pushing things ahead and aren’t afraid to rely on high-quality, store-bought elements, you couldn’t get faster be assembled. “I see dinner snacks like a bowl for the dinner table,” he said. “All of these components can come together, and you can, to a degree, customize what goes on your plate — or in your bowl.”

Jump into action with these asparagus recipes and tips

I expect to cook my way through Volger’s book, laying out a variety of dishes for friends like mixed mushroom pie, Brussels sprouts chips, nut-and-seed crackers, and chewy tofu strips. But the first thing I made for me and my husband is this Asparagus and Kidney Bean Salad, which beautifully combines seasonal fresh ingredients, a staple, and a twist. The asparagus, fresh from the farmer’s market, can be left raw, as can the watercress. The beans can come from a can — or from your fridge or freezer if you cooked them dry and stored them.

The special touch is a Cheddar Frico, a flavorful chip you make by cooking shredded cheese until the oil separates and it lightly browns, magically solidifying into a disk as it cools. I’d only made it with parmesan or pecorino before and made it in the oven, arranging the shredded cheese into little mounds that turn into crunchy circles, perfect for topping the soup. (Or, if you form them into a cup while they’re still warm, they become a vehicle for appetizer-sized spreads, tossed leafy greens, or bites of whatever you like.) In this recipe, make the frico in a large circle in a nonstick skillet and use sharp cheddar sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper to make a flavorful, delicious, crunchy crouton for the fresh vegetable salad.

Whenever possible, I am happy to offer readers a vegan option. But I was skeptical about making a frico with vegan cheese shreds, which typically contain starch and which I doubted would allow for the oil separation needed for the cheese to dry, deep fry, and crisp. Sure enough, when I first tried it, the vegan scraps were — literally — unaffected by the heat of the pan. But all I had to do was drizzle a few tablespoons of oil over the cutlets, which melted together, then pour off excess oil once the cheese was browned.

The result: a vegan Frico with all the creamy texture of the dairy product. I tossed the asparagus, beans and watercress in a lemon dressing, topped the frico over it and served it to my husband with crackers and hummus on the side. It tasted just like what I wanted to eat and had all the makings of a seemingly effortless snacks-for-dinner party.

Fresh asparagus with white beans and crispy cheddar

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Storage Notes: Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days, and keep the salad (preferably without the dressing) and frico separately to keep everything crisp.

  • 1 cup (4 ounces) coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese (can substitute vegan cheddar-style cheese chips plus 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil; see NOTE)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt, plus more to taste
  • 8 ounces of asparagus, trimmed and thinly sliced ​​on a diagonal
  • One (14.5 ounce) can of no-salt cannellini or other white beans, drained and rinsed or 1 1/2 cups cooked
  • 1 cup (1 1/2 ounces) sprigs of watercress or baby arugula

Heat a medium non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the cheese in an even layer over the entire surface and season with a few grains of black pepper. Allow the cheese to melt and bubble while the oils separate from the solids and the cheese darkens slightly to a light brown color, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the cheese cool for a few minutes until crisp. Remove from the pan with a thin spatula, transfer to a plate and allow to cool completely. Break.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon zest and juice, honey or agave, and salt. Taste and add more salt and/or honey as needed.

Taste the asparagus: If you’re working with less fresh asparagus or don’t like the taste of raw asparagus, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the asparagus and sauté the slices until just tender, 1 to 2 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together the asparagus, beans, and watercress or arugula. Mix with the dressing to coat. Top with the frico just before serving.

NOTE: If using vegan cheese, after adding the pepper, drizzle the 2 tablespoons of oil over and around the cheese. Depending on the brand, it may take a minute or two longer for the milk cheese to brown. Cook until medium dark brown, then drain excess oil before allowing to cool.

Per serving (1 2/3 cups), based on 3

Calories: 417; total fat: 26 g; Saturated fat: 10 g; cholesterol: 40 mg; Sodium: 646 mg; carbohydrates: 30 g; dietary fiber: 7 g; Sugar: 4g; Egg White: 20g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a nutritionist or nutritionist.

Adapted from “Snacks for Dinner” by Lukas Volger (Harper Wave, 2022).

Tested by Joe Yonan; email questions insatiable@washpost.com.

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