Isn’t it great that there are lots of ways to mush things together and the results taste spectacular? Soups, for example, smoothies, combination juices. The wonderful pesto and hummus. The wonderful mushing together of pastes, oils, nuts, seeds, cheeses, yoghurts, creams, fruits, herbs, spices and vegetables make for an endless variety of goodies. Even lentils and rice, ground together, make amazing fritters and even better fermented or unfermented flatbreads.
Especially great in all things mushed together is that the variety is endless. For example, in the warmer months, I am likely to be seen picking green things from my small pot-garden. Nasturtium leaves, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, cardamom leaf, parsley, curry leaves, basil, lemon verbena, rosemary, thyme – whatever looks good on that day. My handful of herbs gets chopped finely with some nuts or seeds, maybe some cheese or maybe not, garlic, maybe chilli, sometimes some rocket or spinach, lemon zest and whatever else is fresh and on my kitchen bench at the time. This paste forms the base for a salad, gets stirred into soups, spread on toast, used as a dip with flatbreads, and any number of other uses.
Asparagus can also be used, mished and mashed with other ingredients to make an amazing paste. Steamed and chopped, here we make a very rustic Asparagus Pesto. Glorious. Gentle.
Rustic Asparagus Pesto
a bunch or two of asparagus
a small handful of basil or mixed soft herbs
scarce 0.25 cup toasted pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
0.25 cup freshly grated parmesan
large squeeze of lemon juice
salt to taste
extra virgin olive oil
Remove any woody bits from the stems of the asparagus and steam or simmer for 2 minutes. Drain well.
You can make the pesto any of three ways.
1) Throw the parmesan, garlic, pine nuts and the asparagus into a blender and blend. Add a little oil to facilitate the blending after a moment or two. Drizzle in the lemon and then oil until the right consistency (more pastey than runny) is reached.
2) Throw the parmesan, garlic, pine nuts, the asparagus and a pinch salt into a mortar and with the pestle, grind it to a paste. Add the lemon juice, and then enough olive oil to give the required consistency.
3) Chop the parmesan, garlic, pine nuts and asparagus by hand – continue chopping until everything is finely chopped and comes together. Place it in a bowl and mix in the lemon juice and olive oil to give the required consistency.
Each of these will give you a slightly different taste but each are great. It depends on your preferences and the time available.
The pesto can be thinned with a little water if desired. For example, you might choose to make it fairly thick initially, to use on bread or toast, and to thin it later to form the base of a pasta sauce.