|Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Asparagus Pesto|
Have I told you that I love asparagus lately? It seems that the arrival of Spring means the arrival of asparagus and searching for many ways to use it. Perhaps this urgency, besides the fact that asparagus is one of my favourite vegetables, is because one of our patients used to bring us over 20 pounds of garden fresh asparagus from his farm every Spring. Good thing I love this vegetable!! The urgency was to create as many dishes as possible before it all went very wrong.
This year I decided on turning to my other favourite...pesto. I don't know about you but I am just in love with pesto. Spinach pesto, traditional basil pesto, garlic scape pesto, red pepper pesto...if it can be thrown in the food processor or pummeled in a mortor and pestle it will show up as pesto on my table. So why not asparagus pesto!!!
With asparagus season upon us it’s time to take out some of my favorite recipes using my favorite vegetable. The following twist on classic Italian pesto is one of my favorite asparagus recipes. It can be used in any way traditional basil pesto can be used. I love this tossed with hot pasta or as a topping for bruschetta and grilled chicken or salmon. I also like to serve this as a dip with toasted pita triangles. Yesterday I stuffed it into some chicken breasts with some fresh rocotta and breaded it and mixed it with ricotta and stuffed it into pasta shells and threw them in the freezer.
There is no real recipe here but in case you are wondering how to make the grilled cheese I buttered both sides of a home-style loaf (in this case flax seed bread), added a layer of asparagus pesto and added thinly sliced Oka cheese on top. Then I sandwiched the 2 pieces of bread together and sprinkled the outside of the sandwich with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Cook your sandwich until the outsides are browned or use a panini press. Enjoy!
** Asparagus Pesto**
1 lb fresh asparagus
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 large handful spinach
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest or 1 chili pepper
2 cloves garlic, mashed
½ cup olive oil
Salt to taste
Wash and peel bottoms of the asparagus. Cut each spear into 4 pieces. Bring a pan of water to a boil**. Blanch the asparagus for one minute in the boiling water and drain. Drop the asparagus into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and keep the asparagus bright green. Remove from the ice water and drain well on paper towels.
When the asparagus is dry place into a bowl of a food processor along with the spinach, cheese, walnuts, parsley, lemon zest (ir chili pepper) and garlic. Pulse until a rough paste has formed. Continue to process adding the olive oil slowly until the pesto is the desired consistency. A few drops of water can be added if it is too thick. Do not use an acid based liquid like lemon juice or wine vinegar or the green color of the pesto may darken unless added right before serving.
Remove from the food processor and place in a small bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate till serving time.
**To steam asparagus: Bring 2 inches water to boil in a large saucepan holding a steamer basket. Place trimmed asparagus on basket and bring water to a rolling boil. Cover pan and steam 8 to 10 minutes until tender.
Makes about 2 ½ cups of pesto. Plenty to create more dishes or to freeze.