Asparagus with Walnut-Orange Pesto
Serves 8 to 10 people
2 pounds medium asparagus, thick ends snapped off
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup plus 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano
Freshly ground pepper
Local asparagus is especially delicious in Spring: Learn how to buy the very best Asparagus.
Heat a large pasta pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Set a large ice bath nearby. Blanch the asparagus by adding it to the boiling water; cook until just softened, 1 minute. Using tongs, transfer the asparagus to the ice bath. When it has cooled; drain.
Meanwhile, for the pesto, juice one of the oranges, removing any seeds. You should have ½ cup; set the juice aside for later. Chop what is left of the juiced orange — pith, rind, interior fruit and all — along with the remaining orange (again removing any seeds); place the chopped oranges in a food processor. Add the walnuts, garlic, sugar, 1 cup of the olive oil and 1/4 cup of the pecorino; process until smooth.
Transfer the pesto to a bowl; season with the salt and pepper to taste. If it’s too thick, add up to ¼ cup of the reserved juice to loosen it up. (This pesto will last for 1 week in the fridge if the surface is covered with a layer of oil.) Makes about 3 cups.
To make the citronette, place ¼ cup of the remaining orange juice and the remaining ¼ cup olive oil in a small bowl; whisk to form a thin emulsion.
Arrange the asparagus on a serving platter; spoon some of the walnut-orange pesto over the stems. Drizzle the orange citronette over all. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons pecorino.
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Blanching is an extremely useful technique to master. A quick blanch brings tenderness to even the toughest vegetable, enhances its color, and improves its flavor by adding a subtle saltiness. Blanch your veggies before sautéing for the best texture and flavor, or blanch and then freeze to preserve the bounty of your garden as summer comes to an end. Best of all, blanching only takes a minute or two, depending on the size and shape of your vegetables. Learn the technique with Chris Vaughn, chef de cuisine of B&B Ristorante.
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