Shaved raw asparagus and fennel with lemon vinaigrette

Contributed by Preston Maring, MD

Shaved raw asparagus and fennel with lemon vinaigrette

When hospital food is mentioned, many have a response influenced by what they have heard and read but not by their own personal experience. Our hospital food is changing.

Kaiser Permanente in Northern California serves about 6,000 meals per day to its inpatients at 19 hospitals. All types of special diets have to be accommodated. In addition to the regular diet, there are soft diets, liquid diets, cardiac diets, and diabetic diets. Our nutritionists and food service managers have to meet rigorous dietary guidelines while trying to make the food appetizing and tasty. Just getting it served nice and hot on a busy medical floor is a challenge.

Recently I had the privilege to meet with the food service managers from each of our facilities and the managers of Food Service Partners who prepare all the meals. FSP or their predecessors have provided meals for our members for 31 years, 365 days a year, except for 4 facilities on 1 day after the Loma Prieta earthquake, when the Bay Bridge was down.

A woman at FSP has sliced over 20,000,000 pounds of meat for our patients in those 31 years. Another worker has made salads with care for 27 years. I have met these workers, if only briefly. They and many others are doing their best for our members.

Remember, also, that since last August, they can include sustainably farmed fruits and vegetables from small family farmers in some of the dishes they create. You still may not choose to eat at the hospital for a night out, but there are new and good things happening.

Fresh asparagus has been in the markets now for several weeks. This is a very simple and excellent way to serve it. Having farmers' markets nearby and friends with a lemon tree continues to be a great combination.

Enjoy this light, wonderful side dish.


  • 1 pound asparagus, tough ends broken off
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Shaved parmesan


  1. Peel the asparagus and fennel using a vegetable peeler. (I tried a slicer I bought years ago from late-night cable TV without success.)
  2. Whisk the olive oil into the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Toss the vegetables with all or some of the dressing on a serving plate.
  4. Top with some shaved parmesan.