Sunday, August 8, 2010

Orecchiette with Asparagus Pesto

As you know from my last post, the Lake County Fair is in full swing. It has turned our peaceful suburb into a festive and happening place. As Lady Gaga and Green Day rocked Grant Park, Bonfire-Chicago's AC/DC Tribute Band rocked our town. And we were sort of there.

Our friends, who live in a quiet and private home directly across from the fairgrounds, called to invite us to dinner on Saturday evening. They thought it would be fun to mingle and dine under their pergola and catch some of the excitement going on across the road. We were four couples gathering for an Italian-style meal.

It was the Fair from a very different perspective. We sat out in the backyard, shielded toward the fairgrounds by a privacy fence and lush landscaping. We had a good view of all the neon flashing lights. We heard the siren call of the carnies bellowing "step right up....." . We had a front row seat to some sort of device attached around a crane-like structure that hauled people 50 feet into the air, suspended them for a breathless (well, they were screaming) few seconds before plunging them back to earth. To the right of that contraption, we had a view of the upper portion of the ferris wheel, it's multi-colored lights twinkling in the night. We were just the right distance away to enjoy the festivities without physically being present. Perfect!

Just as we started dinner, the bandstand came alive and we were treated to the music of Bonfire. And the beat went on, and on, and on and..... In our secluded little world, we feasted on flavors of the Mediterranean.

At summer's start, I was delighted to find a recipe for an asparagus pesto that Valli had posted on her wonderful blog More Than Burnt Toast. I'm always looking for more ways to enjoy that wonderful green spear and was not disappointed in this recipe. In fact, I immediately made more and froze some for a winter treat.

Here's my contribution to the dinner:


1 pound fresh asparagus, cut into 2" pieces
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts (toasted)
1 large handful fresh spinach
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 cloves garlic, mashed
1/2 cup olive oil

Blanch the asparagus in boiling water for two minutes. Drain well and dry.

Place the asparagus into a food processor along with the rest of the ingredients except the olive oil.

Pulse until a rough paste is formed. Continue to process while slowly pouring in the olive oil until the desired consistency. If the pesto seems too thick, add a few drops of water. Don't add lemon juice as it tends to darken the pesto.

This makes about 2 1/2 cups. It will last in the refrigerator for several days and freezes quite well.

I used a sixteen ounce bag of the orecchiette. It took almost ten minutes, in well salted boiling water, to get just ever so slightly past al dente which is the perfect texture for this salad.

Drain the pasta and toss with just a bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking together while it cools.

When cool, stir in two cups of the asparagus pesto.

I "dressed" the finished dish with assorted cherry tomatoes, halved, thinly sliced onions and a few sprigs of basil.

And I took the hostess and bouquet of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme from our herb garden.

It was a perfect evening of being sort of at the Fair!