Posted by: timscooking | July 13, 2010

Confessions of an Asparagus Junkie

I love asparagus. There, I’ve said it. I love it because there are so many different ways it can be used. 

Funny thing is, as a kid, I never ate asparagus. My mom never cooked with it, I don’t think I would have recognized it if someone smacked me upside the head with a bunch. My wife and I still laugh about the time when we were first married and she sent me to the corner store to buy rhubarb for strawberry-rhubarb pie and I came home with asparagus.

Here in Michigan, locally grown asparagus is available from late May to early July and as part of my move to more farm to table recipes, I’ve been buying a lot of it at farmers’ markets in the area. In the past, I’ve written about roasted asparagus in risotto, in pasta, and as a pizza topping but how can you to prepare it without using the oven in the summer heat? Use your grill instead of the oven or make a versatile pesto sauce.

Grilling asparagus is just as easy as roasting it but only quicker. Toss with olive oil and season the trimmed asparagus with salt and pepper, place on a medium grill, turn every 1 -2 minutes depending on how thick it is, until charred on all sides and serve with lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice. Or, you can make a dinner salad using it as the base.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. asparagus, trimmed
  • 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 small melon (about 12 ounces), peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella , cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 2 oz. chopped ham
  • 2 tbsp. pine nuts, toasted

Directions

In a medium bowl, combine the lemon juice and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Whisk until combined. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the melon and mozzarella cheese and toss until all ingredients are combined.

Arrange the grilled asparagus on a platter. Using a slotted spoon, spoon the melon and cheese on top of the asparagus. Drizzle any remaining vinaigrette over the top. Sprinkle the ham and pine nuts on top and serve.

The asparagus pesto requires a little prep but is well worth the effort for its summer time versatility. It can be used as a pasta sauce, a topping for meat, poultry or fish, or a quick dip for raw vegetables and grilled pita bread. It’s pictured here as a sauce with frozen gnocchi prepared according to package instructions and sautéed mushrooms.

Ingredients

For the pesto:

  • 1 bunch asparagus , about 1 pound, trimmed and cooked for 5 minutes in boiling, salted water
  • 1/2 c. packed coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tbsp. pine nuts , toasted
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper , to taste
  • About 1 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan

Directions

Cut the cooked asparagus spears into thirds. Put in a food processor with the basil, pine nuts, and garlic.

With the machine running, slowly add the cup of olive oil. When the sauce is about the consistency of mayonnaise, it has enough oil. Pulse in the Parmesan. Add salt and pepper, to taste and thin with water, if necessary, to achieve a slick, saucy pesto.

Scrape into a bowl or jar, cover with a thin layer of olive oil, and refrigerate until needed. You should have about 3 cups. (Keeps about 2 to 3 days, refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before using.)

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Responses

  1. Asparagus is awesome and so are your ideas to use it!


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