Need a leafy salad but not sure how to make it dinner party worthy? We show you how to elevate those leaves with this balsamic tomato salad mixed through with sweet roasted onions and crunchy asparagus.
Why I Love Asparagus, Roasted Onion and Balsamic Tomato Salad
I love this asparagus salad recipe because it showcases some very basic ingredients that are transformed into something a bit more flavourful just in a few simple steps.
Blanching the asparagus, roasting the onion in olive oil and pan frying the tomatoes in balsamic vinegar. That’s it!
And just combining it with the peppery, toasted onion undertones of the nigella seeds sure makes this leafy green a winner.
How to Take the Bad Rep Out of Leafy Salads?
It’s interesting that in this day and age, green leafy salads are still considered rabbit food.
I think the issue is twofold.
Firstly, leafy greens on its own or as the hero of the dish with minimal to no dressing is fundamentally boring! Well, if you can do it because you’re disciplined and on a health bender, I take my hat off to you. But in my book, leafy greens are but one of the many components of an entire salad recipe.
Secondly, some people just aren’t able to think up of recipes or ingredients that would create a leafy green salad that they would eat. I mean, how many times can you eat lettuce with tomatoes and cucumber?
I know many people who have abandoned the idea of making salads because it’s just too hard. But whenever I make one and they love it, they always say, oh!
That was a good idea doing this or adding that. And when they realise it’s so not hard, they get inspired again. This asparagus tomato salad with mixed leafy greens is another example.
But part of the whole premise of our website is to document salad recipes we actually make for our family and friends.
Now the recipes are all in one place so for those of you wanting a yummy leafy salad, you can just come here!
What Are Nigella Seeds?
The scientific name for nigella seeds is nigella sativa.
Nigella seeds are one of the oldest recorded spices and these dried seeds come from the seed pod of the nigella plant.
They are widely used in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines. In Hindi, nigella seeds are known as kalonji.
What Do Nigella Seeds Taste Like?
Nigella seeds don’t actually have a strong aroma. In fact, compared to all the spices out there, I reckon nigella seeds rank very low on the scent scale.
It is therefore surprising to me that it has such a distinctive and strong flavour. Nigella seeds are slightly bitter, has a toasted onion flavour and subtle peppery notes.
As a result of this, it is often mistaken as black onion seeds. The flavour becomes sweeter when they are dry roasted.
Where Can I Find Nigella Seeds?
I found them in the spice rack of my local supermarket, although I have to admit my local skews a little towards the fine food. Otherwise try a Middle Eastern or Indian grocer.
Nigella Seed Substitute
If you’re unable to find them, a good nigella seed substitute would be celery seeds with oregano seeds coming in at second best.
How to Make Asparagus, Roasted Onion and Balsamic Tomato Salad
How to Make Garlic Infused Apple Cider Vinaigrette
For this salad, start with the dressing first.
In a small mixing bowl, add 2 tbsp of olive oil, Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar and the crushed clove of garlic. Mix well.
We are not going to use the garlic in the salad as it’s too strong. We simply want to infuse the dressing for about 30 minutes. You can definitely do this for a much longer period of time if you wish too.
Whilst the garlic is doing its magic, you can start preparing the salad and make better use of your time.
How to Roast the Onions
Let’s start by roasting the red onions as whilst that’s working hard in the oven, we can prepare other things. Cut the onion into 6 wedges. Remove the skin and base so the layers of the onion will naturally fall apart during the roasting process.
In a small mixing bowl, coat the onions with 2 tsp of olive oil. Place it on a baking tray and put into the oven at 180°C or 360°F for 30 minutes.
At the halfway mark, remove the tray and give it a bit of a shake to turn some of the onion so they are roasted evenly.
How to Cook the Asparagus
Boil some water in a small saucepan and add a pinch of salt.
Prepare the asparagus by snapping the woody ends off and then cutting it into smaller pieces, diagonally.
Blanch the asparagus in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and run under cold water. Set aside to dry on some paper towels.
How to Cook the Cherry Tomatoes
With the cherry tomatoes, cut them in half. In a small mixing bowl, add the balsamic vinegar and 1 tsp of olive oil.
On low heat, put the coated tomatoes on a pan and cook on medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Continually toss the pan so the tomatoes are evenly cooked and to prevent it from over cooking. Set aside to cool.
I love blistering tomatoes as they become little pocket rockets of bursting juiciness. Couldn’t resist also making this Blistered Tomato and Basil Salad with Israeli Couscous.
How to Toast the Nigella Seeds
Toast the nigella seeds in a pan for about 2 minutes to bring out the sweetness. Set aside to cool.
How to Assemble the Salad
This is a build salad rather than a toss salad. Mainly because the blistered cherry tomatoes are very fragile and can disintegrate if we try to mix it. The roasted onions are also very soft and I don’t want to squash them.
Lay half the mixed leaves and snow pea sprouts at the base of the serving platter. Arrange half the serve of the onions, tomatoes and asparagus.
Sprinkle with half the nigella seeds, pour half the dressing and season with salt and pepper.
Repeat this process with the remaining ingredients on top of what has already been assembled.
This is a great asparagus tomato salad to serve during the warmer months yet being able to keep it light.
Asparagus is becoming increasingly easier to obtain out of season so we do try and take advantage of that as much as possible as make more asparagus salad recipes. We love giving leafy salads a good name!
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Asparagus, Roasted Onion and Balsamic Tomato Salad
Click on the toggle below for conversion to US Cooking Units.
Salad Dressing (do this first)
- Start with this component first as we need the garlic to infuse for 30 minutes. Whilst that is infusing, you can use the time to prepare the salad.
- In a bowl, mix 2 tbsp of olive oil, 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar, 2 tsp of Dijon mustard and 1 smashed garlic clove until well combined.
- Let it sit for 30 minutes so the garlic is infused into the dressing.
- Cut the red onion into 6 wedges. Remove the base so the layers of the onion will naturally come apart. In a small mixing bowl, coat with 2 tsp of olive oil. Place on a baking tray and put into the oven at 180°C or 360°F for 30 minutes. At the halfway mark, remove the tray and give it a bit of a shake to turn some of the onion so they are roasted evenly.
- Snap the asparagus off at the ends to remove the woody parts. Slice the asparagus diagonally. Blanch in a pot of boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and run under cold running water. Set aside to dry on some paper towels.
- Cut the cherry tomatoes in half. In a small mixing bowl, coat the cherry tomatoes with balsamic vinegar and 1 tsp of olive oil. On low heat, put the coated tomatoes on a pan and cook on medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Continually toss the pan so the tomatoes are evenly cooked and to prevent it from over cooking. Set aside to cool.
- Toast the nigella seeds in a pan for about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- In a large serving platter, place half the mixed leaves, snow pea sprouts, balsamic tomatoes, roasted red onions and asparagus.
- Sprinkle half the toasted nigella seeds and pour half the dressing over salad.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Repeat this process for the second half of the ingredients over the assembled first half.
- Season with salt and pepper again and serve immediately.
- A great nigella seeds substitute is celery seeds. You can also use black sesame seeds and although the flavour is not the same, it will work.
- Asparagus not in season? You can use green beans.
- An alternative to snow pea sprouts is mung bean sprouts or even alfalfa.
- When you’re getting your mixed leaves, try and grab some of the radicchio to give it those vibrant purple colours. Yes, I’m one of those people! LOL!
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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