Asparagus Pesto

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It’s only the middle of April but we’re deep into asparagus season around here. For the past month, our weekly CSA box has included a bundle of the elusive green stalks. The first week, I roasted it with just oil and salt and the second week I did the same. But I don’t particularly enjoy repeat meals. Eating the same thing, even for two weeks, is boring to me. So it was time for a change. Last year when this “problem” came up, I pickled it (We can pickle that? Anyone? Just watch the video). This year I went looking for something different.

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Well, that’s not entirely true. Just when I started thinking that maybe I should consider doing something else with the weekly asparagus bunch, the New York Times posted a whole bunch of asparagus recipes. The picture of asparagus pesto caught my eye and that was that. It could be nothing else. And oh, it was a good choice.

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Before you ask, no I didn’t actually look any farther than the picture. This isn’t so much an adaptation of the NY Times recipe as much as a dish inspired by the article. Which is fine since when I went back to check the “recipe” is more of a method. Whatever, it’s still delicious.

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What is it about asparagus that is so lovely? Sometimes I wonder if it would be so popular if it were available year round. Asparagus tastes pretty grassy, very green, which normally means “healthy” and therefore unpopular. But the beginning of the season is always exciting. It becomes a topic of conversation, “Asparagus is back!” By the end of the I’m usually pretty sick of it and almost glad to see it go. Yes, I feel a little guilty about that, as if I’m supposed to appreciate it more. In a few weeks I’ll probably be pushing it on friends in an effort to get rid of it. But for now, a bowl of pasta with a vibrantly green asparagus sauce is just what I’m looking for. After all, it is the taste of spring.

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Last year we ate: Limoncello

Asparagus pesto *
Inspired by Mark Bittman’s article in The New York Times

Makes about one cup of pesto

Just like any pesto, this one is customizable to what you like. Less nuts, more cheese, no garlic, add some lemon. Taste it as you go so that you can make the pesto that you love best.

1 lb asparagus, woody stems removed and spears cut into 3 inch lengths
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup parmesan
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 cup walnuts
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Fill a pot large enough to fit a steamer basket or colander inside (whatever pot you use for steaming vegetables) with about two inches of water and bring it to a boil over medium high heat. Place the asparagus in a steamer or colander and put it over the boiling water so the water doesn’t touch the vegetables. Steam the asparagus for about 10 minutes or until it is dark green and tender. Covering it will speed up the steaming process.

Once the asparagus is steamed add it to a food processor or blender with the oil, cheese, nuts, garlic, salt, and pepper. Blend or process it until smooth. You may need to work in batches if, like me, you only have a mini appliance. When the sauce is smooth enough for you, taste it and adjust any seasonings as needed. Then serve it immediately over pasta, toast, or grilled meat, or store it in the fridge for up to 10 days. You can eat it cold but I think the flavor is best warm or at room temperature.

* My original instructions for this say “Blend. Eat.” It’s not really much more complicated than that.

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