I guess I've been on a bit of mint kick as of late. It's yummy in desserts and makes a great garnish, but more over it's an herb that's entirely underutilized for savory dishes. This dish came together in my head while spec'ing product at work this afternoon (a not-so-creative left brained activity). The right side of my brain was feeling under-utilized writing tables of messaging requirements, so I started thinking about what to make for dinner.
I think the idea of making noodles out of asparagus came first, but it was quickly followed by something to accompany it. I happen to have a nifty multi-blade razor thing from Japan (pictured below) so I just give a stalk one pass, then rotate it 90 degrees and give it another. If you don't happen to have one of these things laying around your kitchen, you should be able to do this with a sharp knife (or mandoline) and some patience. If neither of those options don't work for you, you could always leave the spears whole then serve it with the pesto to dip.
I'd have to say I was pretty happy with how the pesto turned out given that I've never made it before and the last time I had pesto on anything was ages ago. I could just eat this out of a bowl with a spoon, but I imagine it would be good on bread, in a sandwich, on regular pasta or served with lamb chops. It's full of umami, earthy and creamy, but the mint and lemon juice add some brightness that makes this more versatile than other pesto's I've had before.
For the mint pesto
- I'm sure you could make this in a blender, but I didn't want to get a whole blender dirty for this, so I used a mortar and pestle.
- Put the pine nuts in a mortar and crush using a pestle. Add the mint, garlic and salt and continue to crush until you have a paste. Add the lemon juice, oil, cheese and pepper, stirring to combine.
- For the asparagus, use a sharp knife or mandoline (or a multi-blade knife if you have one) to made noodles out of each spear. If you're using a knife or multi-blade knife, I find it's easiest if you leave the tough bottoms of the stalks attached and use it to hold onto the stalk with one hand using the knife to slice with the other. If you want thinner noodles, just make one set of cuts, then rotate 90 degrees and make another.
- You can either boil the asparagus noodles in salted water, or saute them in a little olive oil. Careful not to overcook them as it doesn't take very long. Once cooked, pour a few tablespoons of pesto on top and toss to coat evenly.