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Shaved Watermelon Radish and Asparagus Salad with Castelvetrano Olives and Gouda

Antonis Achilleos

Servings: 8 to 10

This salad is a beautiful mosaic of complementary textures and fresh spring flavors. Look for magenta-centered watermelon radishes at farmers’ markets. If you can’t track them down, substitute another radish variety. Castelvetranos are big, buttery, bright green olives that are found at most specialty markets. White balsamic vinegar adds sweet acidity without the dark color of regular balsamic, allowing the vibrant colors of this dish to shine.

This recipe is excerpted from Roots: The Definitive Compendium. Read our review.


  • 60 medium-large asparagus spears, ends trimmed or snapped away
  • 2 cups Castelvetrano olives
  • Good-quality extra-virgin olive oil for dressing
  • White balsamic vinegar for dressing
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked pepper
  • 4 medium watermelon radishes, trimmed
  • 5 oz. Gouda or other semifirm cheese


  • Have ready a steamer rack and a pan of simmering water. Fill a large bowl with ice water and place near the stove. Line a platter with a double thickness of paper towels and place near the ice water. Working in batches, arrange about one-third of the asparagus on the steamer rack and place the rack over the water, making sure the water is 1 inch or so below the rack. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and steam the asparagus until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, immediately transfer the asparagus to the bowl of ice water. Let cool for a few minutes and then transfer the asparagus to the towel-lined platter and blot dry. Repeat with the remaining asparagus, steaming and cooling them in two batches.
  • Using a sharp paring knife, slice each asparagus spear in half lengthwise, or in thirds if the spears are particularly thick. Set aside.
  • Pit the olives by crushing them with the side of a chef’s knife or other hard, flat object. Work the pits out with your fingers and discard. Place the olives back into the olive juice (to keep their bright green color) and refrigerate until needed.
  • Place the asparagus in a bowl and toss with just enough olive oil to coat without leaving a puddle at the bottom of the bowl. Drizzle with a splash of vinegar, season with salt and pepper, and then gently toss again. Arrange the asparagus on a platter or divide among individual salad plates.
  • Using a mandoline set on the narrowest setting, shave the radishes into rounds and place in a bowl. Toss the radish slices with just enough olive oil to coat, add a splash of vinegar, and then season with salt and pepper and toss again. Spread the radish slices across the center of the plated asparagus. Drain the olives and scatter them around the platter or plates. Using a vegetable peeler, shave thin slices of the cheese over the top. Garnish with pepper and serve immediately.

    roots: the definitive compendium with more than 225 recipes

Make Ahead Tips

The asparagus can be steamed and sliced up to 4 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

The olives can be crushed and pitted up to 4 hours ahead.


Rate or Review

Reviews (1 review)

  • Krispie | 04/19/2015

    I cut this recipe in half and pared down on the asparagus just a little to make this a starter salad for four. The salad was absolutely gorgeous. My guests could not stop talking about how beautiful it was. Because the dressing is just oil and vinegar, the flavors are incredible fresh. Even if you don't like radishes normally, try this salad - the watermelon radish is very mild and tasty. Next time I will try aged Gouda instead of plain Gouda, just for a slightly sharper taste to the cheese. Will definstely make again if I am luck enough to find watermelon radishes.

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