Spring asparagus. Not the dry and woody and confusingly available in the grocery store in January kind, but pencil thin and freshly picked. Who could limit themselves to just one bunch (@ $2 each!) per week? Not I, said the little cook. And so, after asparagus tart, there was asparagus…well, pesto, in a sense. Puree in another. Sauce? Condiment? Dip? Yes, yes, and yes. Pass the crackers. Hell, pass a spoon.

After my “first of spring” produce splurge this weekend, I had stretched the grocery budget too tightly to handle a whole cup of pine nuts, and so I swapped in the walnuts I already had in the pantry and saved the few pine nuts available for garnish; it was still fantastic. This is an awesome dish from Super Natural Cooking, no matter what you smear it on.

(P.S. It was Heidi Swanson who taught me to make pesto-type toppings out of many green things, including broccoli. So check her out, be brave, and get creative; it’s awesome on the green side.)

Spring Asparagus Pesto
from Super Natural Cooking

1 bunch asparagus spears trimmed (I also cut mine in half to better fit in my pot)
a few generous handfuls of baby spinach
2 garlic cloves, smashed and roughly chopped
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3/4 cup toasted pine nuts (1/2 cup walnuts work as well, if that better suits your budget as it did mine)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 T lemon juice

In a pot large enough to accommodate your asparagus, bring salted water to a boil. Boil asparagus for two to three minutes, until just tender. Drain and transfer to a food processor, along with the spinach, garlic, Parmesan, and nuts of your choice (toast them first, if you can spare the time). Turn processor on and puree, drizzling in the olive oil while it runs. Add lemon juice and salt. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Pesto can be tossed immediately with pasta or kept in a sealed jar in the refrigerator. Cover the exposed puree with olive oil to prevent discoloration.