ASPARAGUS OVER ARUGULA PESTO
I sometimes serve this as a first course for dinner parties. An easy, efficient,
and attractive way to serve this dish is to preset it on your table at each plate
just before guests sit down. This arugula pesto is also lovely as a spread on
sandwiches and can be made in advance. If you like my Basil Pesto from the
Super Bowl menu (page 50) or my Lemon Pesto from the Family Dinner menu
(page 102) you can use either of those.
2 garlic cloves
1 cup pine nuts
8 cups arugula
1/2 cup olive oil
(more if necessary for
Juice of 2 lemons
Kosher salt and
freshly ground pepper
(for boiling water)
2 bunches of asparagus, tough ends cut off (approximately 4 to 5 per person)
1-2 logs of goat cheese (or fresh mozzarella or ricotta if you prefer)
A bunch of radishes, washed and thinly sliced (use a vegetable peeler)
1 For the Arugula Pesto: Using a Cuisinart, pulse garlic and pine nuts until a dough forms. Add arugula and continue to pulse, using a spatula to clean sides of Cuisinart.
2 While machine is running, add olive oil to the top streamer. If you want a thinner consistency, add more olive oil. Squeeze in lemons. Pulse until blended.
3 Add salt and pepper to taste, only if necessary. Arugula has a very peppery taste, so you may not need to add any pepper at all. Notice that I do not add any Parmesan cheese to this recipe. I like to keep it light, but if you want, add some at the end to taste.
4 For the Asparagus: Boil water with some salt in a pot or a frying pan large enough to fit asparagus.
Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl. Add asparagus to boiling water and cook until just tender, about 4 minutes depending on thickness of your asparagus. Test with a fork.
5 Using tongs, remove asparagus from the water and plunge into icy water, being careful not to break off ends. Drain asparagus and set aside to cool.
6 Spread pesto on the individual plates. Place asparagus on top of pesto and then the cheese on top of the asparagus.
7 Arrange some radish slices on top of the plate. Garnish with extra arugula leaves if you like. You can also serve this dish as a buffet item and place all of your asparagus on a platter instead of individual plates.
A NOTE ON OLIVE OIL
I like to use a light olive oil when I’m making arugula pesto because arugula can have an intense flavor. Try an olive oil from Puglia.