Asparagus, Basil, Almond Pesto

I just threw this together and I have to pat myself on the back for this one, it’s deliciously spring-like. The toasted almonds give it a nice, light crunch. It’s very fresh tasting with the addition of a squeeze of lemon juice too. I’m thinking it would also be good as a dip or on pizza and in calzones. I didn’t add any cheese because I like to keep it vegan and let people add their own cheese if they wish.

  • 1/2 C. toasted almonds
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, blanched
  • 1 small to medium size bunch of basil, washed
  • 1/4 – 1/2 small clove garlic
  • Up to 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • juice from half a lemon

Toast the almonds over medium heat but don’t let them get too brown. (You don’t want burnt almonds, you want to toast them until the oils are released from the nuts. You can tell by the smell). Blanch the asparagus (place trimmed asparagus in boiling water for 2.5 minutes, then remove and submerge asparagus in ice cold water in a bowl). Add the asparagus, basil, toasted almonds, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic to a food processor and puree until smooth. You may have to add more olive oil to make pesto smoother. Also, the amount of garlic is up to you. I barely used 1/4 of a clove because I think it overpowers the other flavors. If you’re putting the pesto on pasta, set aside a 1/2 cup of the past water and add it to the pasta/pesto to thin out the dish. The addition of hot pasta water makes for a creamier consistency.

asparaguspesto

Hummus

I like snacky foods and appetizers. I often make a meal of them. I could probably live on guacamole, chips, salsa and hummus and pita. So, you see, I make a great party guest…because odds are I will make one of the above items and bring it to your next party.

I should mention that I really don’t have an exact recipe for hummus. I actually experiment and go by taste. Personally, I like spicy hummus. So, when you make it—and it’s incredibly easy–go according to what you like. Remember, cooking and baking is about having fun and experimenting. Hummus is also a quick and easy appetizer to bring to parties, along with some toasted pita chips.

There’s one store brand of hummus that I like: Sabra. When I’m feeling lazy, I’ll buy it, otherwise I make my own. I should also note, that another hummus that I would kill for is Sahadi’s hummus. If you’ve never been to Sahadi’s GO!! At the back of the store, as you weave your way through the masses, you’ll find a deli counter. Order some hummus and some babaganoush. They are by far the most flavorful you’ll ever experience. Oh, and pick up some fried cauliflower too…then invite me over.

Anyway, back to making hummus. Lately I’ve been making mine pretty spicy with the addition of harissa, which you can purchase pretty much anywhere, or, you can make your own. I suppose you could make your own tahini too, by toasting sesame seeds and grinding them, which would add a different element to the flavor of the hummus, but I just buy tahini in a jar as well. If you don’t have garbanzo beans on hand, try white beans (canellini), black beans or even cooked edamame. When I make black bean hummus I like to skip the chili powder and add chipotle chili powder.

Lisa’s Hummus

1 can of garbanzo beans (I use organic)
2-3 TB Tahini
1 small garlic clove (or, you don’t have to add it)
1 tsp. cumin
1/2-1 tsp. chili powder
1-2 TB Harissa
Dash or two of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. reserved liquid from the garbanzo beans

Combine all ingredients in food processor and mix until creamy. You may have to add a tad more tahini and olive oil to get the exact consistency. If you don’t want to add to the fat calories, a little bit of water will also help achieve smooth hummus. Adjust to your liking.

Pesto, Numerous Ways

It’s been scorchingly hot these past few days in NYC. I’m not a hot weather sort of girl and I seriously don’t want to make my apartment hotter by using the oven when the A/C is running. Even though, I have been itching to bake. Ah, hopefully it will cool down in the next few days. But, I digress.

What’s more simple and yet kind of fancy at the same time than freshly made pesto? I try to not buy the store bought stuff, even though it can be a time saver in a pinch because, for me, nothing beats fresh pesto. Plus, you can freeze single use portions in an ice cube tray and use throughout the year. There are so many greens out there now at farmer’s markets, so let’s use them! Rather than make tradional pesto with basil I like to use different greens like arugula, spinach, or kale. I don’t really have a written down recipe, so what’s below is an estimate that you can tweak to your liking. I usually add some toasted almonds or walnuts too which brings an additional flavor element to the pesto. Use on pasta, grains like barley or farro, potatoes, homemade pizza, or steamed veggies.

I use spinach in this recipe, but this recipe is highly adaptable. Use whatever greens you have on hand.

  • 1 bunch (or 2, if small) of spinach, cleaned, patted dry
  • Handful of toasted almonds
  • 1/4 – 1/3 C. extra virgin olive oil (or more if necessary)
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped.
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in food processor until well blended. I omitted the cheese above, but do sometimes add a bit of good quality pecorino. I also add red pepper flakes to give it a bit of a kick. I used this pesto on pasta, but also tried it on farro which was equally delicious. To me, pesto is summer…eaten hot or cold. Enjoy!