It’s almost, almost asparagus season in Minnesota, so I just had to jump when this gorgeous purple asparagus appeared at the Coop. It was teasing me with a preview of the spears certain to arrive in the coming weeks, freshly cut, from our local farms.
I figured I should put up a recipe for the big day when our own super-fresh asparagus bursts out of the ground. The cress and mangoes were also looking good, and I was craving a really sweet and tangy salad, with fruit.
So my stroll through the produce section sparked a composition in food, and I had little say in the matter. This salad just had to happen.
I’m deliberately using the word Cress here, since I used a plant called Upland Cress and not true watercress. Upland Cress is a similar tasting leafy green that is much easier to grow and harvest then traditional watercress. The name is a giveaway, as watercress grows in ponds and streams, and is often wild-crafted. Upland Cress is easy to grow in a garden or pot, given enough moisture. The lovely long stems make for a pretty salad, and make picking the leaves much easier than plucking all the leaves from regular watercress.
The distinctive flavor of watercress is peppery and strong, and Upland Cress is definitely milder. It still delivers some punch, making it a great foil for the assertively tangy mango dressing and purple asparagus in this dish.
The nutrition is similar, both plants are superfoods, delivering vitamins A C E, Folic Acid and Calcium and Iron. If cress seems too punchy for your palate, you can always mix it with some butter lettuce or spinach, for a toned down experience.
It’s still deliciously in-your-face, and I love that about it.
The Ataulfo Mangoes have been booming lately, too, they are the yellow variety that you sometimes see labeled as Champagne Mangoes. They are about 3/4 size of the standard Haden mango, and have a more creamy texture, depending on when you cut into them. They seem to arrive a little riper and less rock hard than the big kind, and always deliver tons of flavor. Of course, the sensuous mango is a super food, too.
Don’t let anyone tell you salads are boring. This baby is full of excitement.
Cress, Asparagus and Mango Salad with Chia
This makes extra dressing, which is good, since you will want to use it for salads for the rest of the week. You could certainly make more of a meal of it by adding some nuts, crumbled tofu, or cheese.
16 stalks asparagus
2 medium Ataulfo (Champagne) Mangos
2 tablespoons sliced fresh ginger
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons honey or agave
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 bunch Upland cress, washed and dried
2 tablespoons minced red onions
2 teaspoons chia seeds
First, steam the asparagus just a couple of minutes, just to soften slightly. Rinse with cold water and chill.
In the blender, combine half of a mango, the ginger, lemon, honey or agave, olive oil, and salt. Puree.
On each plate, spread cress leaves. Frame the salad with asparagus spears, and arrange the remaining mango over the cress. Sprinkle with red onion, drizzle with dressing, and sprinkle with chia seeds.