Sunday, April 8, 2012
Asparagus with Zesty Balsamic-Pesto Dressing
Asparagus is a popular Easter side dish, and is an excellent choice on any spring day. This super-easy asparagus recipe takes only a few minutes to prepare, and you can multiply it to make as many servings as you need.
To save time, I usually steam asparagus in my microwave oven until just softened (I like asparagus to have a bit of a crunch). In the summer, we often toss asparagus with a little olive oil, grill over indirect heat until softened, and then drizzle or toss it with this dressing or other seasonings.
The Balsamic-Pesto Dressing can be adjusted to your taste by using more or less of the three main ingredients. You can omit the sprinkled shredded parmesan cheese (or substitute another shredded cheese of your choice), and leave off the red pepper flakes for a milder flavor if peppery heat is a concern. The Balsamic Pesto Dressing makes a nice dipping sauce for shrimp as well as for crusty bread or soft breadsticks. You can also use it on other cooked vegetables and on tossed salads.
As with any simple, few-ingredient recipe, this one tastes best if you use the highest-quality ingredients possible. To that end, I've included links to excellent balsamic vinegars, EVOO, an organic pesto (assuming you don't make your own), and real parmesan cheese.
1 1/2 Tbs basil pesto
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
Optional: Shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, crushed red pepper flakes
Wash the asparagus and trim any tough ends--I snap them off. Steam the asparagus to your desired level of doneness, keeping in mind that it cooks quickly and will continue to cook for a little while after removed from heat unless you blanch it in icy water. Blanching also gives it a pretty, bright green color.
While the asparagus is cooking, prepare the dressing either in a small bowl for whisking, or in a small lidded jar for shaking: Combine the pesto, vinegar & oil and either whisk or shake until thoroughly mixed. Taste for balance, adjust by adding a little more pesto or vinegar or oil if desired, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
When the asparagus is ready, shake off any water and pat dry with paper towels (to help the dressing adhere), place in serving dish and drizzle with the dressing. If desired, sprinkle with shredded cheese and pepper flakes.