Asparagus! Those tasty but pricey little bundles of beauty. I never understood why they cost so much…until I saw them growing spear by spear out the ground!! So, I always get excited when they go on sale! I usually buy at least two bundles, if not more! One pack to have right away as my favorite-Roasted Asparagus! After prepping, I simply give them a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and a few turns of fresh cracked black pepper and baked on a sheet pan (in the summer, they get grilled!) at 375 degrees until tender-about 15-20 minutes, turning them over once. The other packs I usually freeze-that’s how I get to enjoy them even when out of season!!
Asparagus ends-the woody ends. The ends that most people simply discard, for most recipes say so!! Don’t!! Save the ends! Use them! Freeze them! They make a wonderful cream soup. Simply start by making a vegetable puree and adding in cream (and a little Brie cheese!!). Today, however, we are eating a little healthier!! We are making a pesto-I like to do this not only for asparagus ends but also broccoli stalks.
Pesto-is traditionally made from fresh basil leaves and pine nuts….not something I usually have lying around the house. I do, however, always have some frozen asparagus ends and the other Pesto ingredients-olive oil, garlic, and grated Parmesan cheese! So Presto I have some asparagus pesto!!
Asparagus Pesto: If frozen, no need to thaw out the asparagus ends. Put the ends into a saucepan and just cover with water. Bring to a boil and gently boil until tender. (Will depend how thick the ends are-15-20 minutes, if frozen, 25-30 minutes). Drain. For even more flavor, reserve the liquid to add to water if making pasta. Gently dry the ends with paper towels. Put the ends into a food processor. (Yep, I’m having to get out my big Cuisinart!) Add 2-3 cloves fresh garlic. (I love garlic!!) Pulse until thoroughly chopped. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula. Add 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese and white pepper to taste. Pulse until fully incorporated. While running, add 2 TBSP of olive oil into mixture. Stop to scrape down sides again. Check for smoothness and desired consistency. (Like a thinner version of guacamole!) If needed, add an additional 1-2 TBSP of olive oil while running. This is what the asparagus pesto should look like: Nice and Smooth
That’s it!! The asparagus pesto is ready to use! Try it in your favorite pasta dish! (Excellent in veggie lasagna!!) If making pasta (which I am) add a dash of salt and the remaining water from the asparagus to the pasta water. When pasta is done, reserve some pasta water to use in the sauce. Notice how cloudy the pasta water is after boiling? That’s the starch from the pasta! That starch will make whatever sauce you are making a little smoother!
Tonight I am tossing it with some whole wheat pasta and sautéed (sautéed with a little olive oil) chicken. Think chicken Alfredo-only without all the cream and calories!! Toss hot pasta with some asparagus pesto and 1 TBSP of pasta water in a skillet. This will make sure every strand of pasta is covered in deliciousness!
For more of a treat, brush some crusty bread with the pesto and broil for five minutes! Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. You can certainly add in asparagus tips or other vegetables. (If I had some Greek olives, they would have made it in the pan!) My friend calls this “green pasta” -Alien pasta so her kid’s eat it!!
Put your TO COOK IS TO CREATE thinking cap on: How else could you use this asparagus pesto? I love it as a replacement for the Hollandaise sauce in Eggs Benedict!! What else could you add to the pesto when processing? Almonds add a nice taste and texture!! What other “vegetable” Pesto could you make? I love to make a spinach pesto-using fresh spinach leaves to stuff a roast!
FOOD FUN: According to Wikipedia, asparagus came to the U.S. in the early 1850’s. The asparagus tips, due to their most delicate taste, were once referred to as the points d’amour-“love tips”. Stem thickness indicates the age of the plant. I try to choose thin stalks with tight, close tips. Do the Christmas tree test on the tips-if they are fresh, nothing should flake off! When prepping asparagus, get the family in on the fun! No knives required. Simply pick up asparagus on each end, bend it back and forth until it naturally breaks. You will be left with the tender “love tips” to savor in your favorite recipe and the ends to use as pesto or soup! A win win!!