|Right Food for the Season - Late Spring|
|Written by Michelle Collins|
Dinners in my house growing up were always eaten around the table, and made in batches large enough to feed a small crowd. My mother always made sure we had a hot meal to eat together as a family on a nightly basis. Due to our financial limitations, dinners were also kept simple, and the variety of foods we consumed was slim. My siblings and I used to love picking the ripe tomatoes for dinner out of our small, slightly pathetic backyard vegetable garden, and the wild blueberries that grew in random patches were always plucked with pleasure. But we really never had a lot of different foods – just affordable, approachable, “safe” options.
I remember the first time I tried asparagus. I was at my friend’s house for dinner one evening, when I was barely a teenager. I don’t remember a thing we ate for dinner that night, except for the asparagus. I couldn’t even tell you how her mother cooked it – I just remember loving the texture and flavor of this foreign, green vegetable.
Since my first asparagus experience, my palate has matured. I’ve gleefully experimented with numerous asparagus recipes and cooking techniques, including prosciutto-wrapped asparagus with cream sauce, grilled asparagus, and eggs benedict atop a bed of asparagus. Since becoming a vegetarian, I’ve learned to appreciate this young shoot of the Asparagus officinalis plant even more – it’s versatility, it’s health benefits (antioxidants, anyone?), it’s ease of preparation. And since I also love making pesto (I’m a sucker for versatile dishes), I decided to get creative with my food processor – and I’ve never been so glad I did.
Asparagus pesto is different from the traditional basil pesto in several ways. In terms of appearance alone, asparagus pesto is a lot lighter in color. Since I roasted my asparagus, the flavor was also very unique – light, almost refreshing, and allowing the cheese and citrus to stand out as needed, without being overwhelmed with the strong flavor of herbs. I’ve made a lot of pestos in my day, but this version has definitely become one of my favorites, especially now that the humid, heavy weather is rapidly approaching.
Roasted Asparagus Pesto
1 bunch (about 1 pound) asparagus, rinsed and trimmed
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup walnuts
4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Black pepper and salt, to taste
Lemon juice, to taste
Line a baking sheet with tin foil. Spread asparagus out in an even layer on sheet, and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Season lightly with salt and black pepper. Cook in the oven at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes, or until asparagus is tender (when poked with a fork).
Let asparagus cool, then roughly chop into 2-inch segments. Add asparagus to food processor; add garlic, walnuts, Parmesan, and 1 tbsp. of the remaining olive oil. Pulse until smooth; add remaining olive oil as necessary.
Add lemon juice and red pepper flakes; taste for salt and black pepper, and add as needed. Pulse until all of the ingredients are well combined and pesto is smooth.
Pour pesto into a bowl, and serve/enjoy as desired.