Every other week GreenMade will be featuring a new vegetable and a number of recipes starring it. This week GreenMade is showcasing asparagus.
Recipe #1: Asparagus Pesto with Spring Herb Pasta
I have only ever had asparagus roasted… and….um…roasted with lemons. While I find it delicious, it has never been the most inspirational vegetable in my life. To start off the week, I tried my hand at making an asparagus pesto. I paired the pesto with homemade herb pasta (but it would also be delicious on toast or fish) and the final result had a clean and bright taste which embodied the spring perfectly.
My first attempt at preparing a dish with asparagus was sort of a disaster. This was partly because I went into the kitchen without having a clear idea of what I wanted to make. I definitely wanted to make a pasta dish, and had mostly settled on mixing a carbonara with the pesto. Now that the dust has cleared, I sort of regret not following through with that plan, but so much happened in the meantime.
I began with great huge plans. I was going to make nine test dishes with three different kinds of noodles each paired with three different toppings for those noodles. I recently purchased a super low-carb, vegan, gluten-free tofu pasta I wanted to try, wanted to try my hand at making some gluten-free pasta myself, and also wanted a traditional handmade pasta to play the role of the control group. By the time I had finished making the gluten-free pasta and handmade pasta, I was three hours in, already exhausted, and it was way past dinner hour — my spirits were dampening.
One of the biggest problems I face when cooking is the fear of not pleasing my audience (usually just my boyfriend). For some reason when I cook dinner for us I get anxious and begin to doubt my decisions, worrying he is not going to like the final result. It is absolutely ridiculous to let that concept get to me, since he almost always enjoys what I make. In this instance, the gluten-free pasta I made (with ground up chickpeas) was thick and had a weird texture, its inedibility ruined my mood, and made me assume everything else I was going to make was going to be awful.
I then managed to ruin some bacon by pouring wine over it before it had finished crisping, cut my normal noodles too thick, AND fail miserably at cooking my first batch of the supposedly simple steamed asparagus (soggy and bitter).
The next batch of asparagus I decided to blanch and, thankfully, it turned out a lot better that the soggy gross ones, so I turned it into the planned pesto without a hitch. My carbonara actually turned out great (my boyfriend pulled it out of the fridge and loved it) but I had already mentally settled on the fact it that was terrible and had put it away. I liked the way the pesto tasted with my noodles so I decided that would be dinner and was just grating some cheese for it when I cut off the tip my pinky!
Despite all the unnecessary mental turmoil and physical harm I caused myself, the pesto tasted amazing. It was delicious both warm and cold, and would probably be really good mixed with a carbonara (although I did not try this myself since Michael ate all of the “failed” batch). It made me appreciate asparagus in a new way, and both of us preferred this version of pesto to the sometimes overpowering basil version.
adapted from Mark Bittman
Makes approximately 4 servings
1/2 cup almonds
1 bunch of asparagus, woody ends removed
1/4 cup of olive oil, separated
zest of a lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup grated parmesan
2 tbsp chives, minced
1. Preheat oven to 250. Toast almonds for about 5 minutes or until fragrant.
2. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan, once hot, pour over lemon zest (this unleashes the essential oils nicely), set aside until cool.
3. Cut asparagus into thirds, and place them in a baking pan. Boil a small pot of water, dump the boiling water over asparagus. After about 3 minutes taste the asparagus and see if its done (for this recipe it should still have a nice crunch). Remove from water (asparagus ends may be used in the pesto or removed for a nice garnish).
4. Combine toasted almonds, blanched asparagus, garlic, Parmesan, and chives into a food processor and pulse until combined.
5. Add lemon zest olive oil mixture and combine. Taste pesto and add lemon juice, salt, and/or pepper, based on taste preference. Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil while motor is running for a smoother consistency.
6. Serve on Spring Herb Pasta (recipe follows) with freshly sliced Parmesan.
Spring Herb Pasta
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes about 1 lb of pasta
2 cups of flour, plus more for dusting
3 eggs at room temperature
1 tbsp olive oil
pinch of salt
a variety of fresh and seasonal herbs (I used about a tbsp each of tarragon, parsley, and thyme)
1. In a food processor add flour, eggs, olive oil, salt, and herbs until dough comes together. It is recommended that each egg is added separately and beaten in thoroughly.
2. Dust hands and dump dough onto a flat, floured surface. Knead dough for about 10 minutes, it should be smooth and elastic. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
3. Divided rested dough into smaller chunks and roll out very thinly, cut rolled out dough into desired shape (I did 1/2 inch strips, but bow ties and ravioli are easy to make too!).
4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cool shaped pasta in batches.
Note: If you want the dough to have full herb leaves (more aesthetic), do not add it to the food processor. Instead, slowly incorporate leaves while kneading dough.