Chilled Asparagus and Snow Pea Salad with Lemon Tarragon Pesto

One of my favorite things to do is go out to eat. As much as I love to cook, there’s something fabulous about finding a great restaurant with a tasty menu, ordering fun drinks and delicious food, and having someone else do all of the work (and handle the cleanup!). Our first meal out of the house with Oden felt like a miracle! Since then, we’ve limited our dining excursions to quieter times. He’ll generally sleep in the car seat, which made us brave enough to try a dinner or two (like at Sundance). Not long ago, we made our way out for an early meal at one of our favorite spots in Park City, the Silver Star Café. Oden was mostly good, though he needed a mid-meal diaper change and a break from the car seat. It wasn’t a carefree meal like the pre-baby days, but we managed to enjoy ourselves and eat some delicious food in the process.

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One of the dishes we tried from the new spring menu was a chilled asparagus and frisee salad in a tarragon pesto, topped with a poached egg and pancetta. It was so fresh and spring-ish, and I was inspired to make something similar at home. The things that stood out to me were the chilled asparagus (in season!) and the fabulous pesto, so I started there and winged it. It felt so good to be experimenting in the kitchen!

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I trimmed a bunch of asparagus and cut it diagonally. I also rinsed some whole snow peas. I didn’t want them to be raw in the salad, so I blanched them all in boiling water for a couple of minutes and plunged the veggies right into an ice bath. That helps them stop cooking and retain that gorgeous spring green color! I drained the veggies and set them in the fridge to cool completely.

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Next, I made the tarragon pesto. I basically took a standard basil pesto and added fresh tarragon leaves and lemon juice for extra freshness. The food processor does all of the work for you! Pesto depends on a lot of things: how sweet the basil is, how salty the cheese is, how nutty the nuts are. The recipe can change, so I like to taste and adjust as I go. When I first tasted it, the pesto had a slight bitter flavor (perhaps from the lemon zest I added), so I dropped in a bit of agave nectar. I loved the addition- the sweetness is quite delightful. Don’t forget to toast the pine nuts!

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It’s been a very wet spring in Park City, and there was another rainstorm brewing outside. John grilled a couple of swordfish steaks on the indoor grill while I finished up the salad. I drizzled plenty of tarragon pesto over the veggies and stirred them so everything was coated. I grated a bit of fresh Parmesan cheese on top, and for added crunch and nuttiness, I tossed some chopped Marcona almonds (yum!) over everything.

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I spooned the rest of the pesto into a small bowl to serve with the swordfish. Look how vibrant and fresh this plate is! The pesto was a perfect addition to the fish, especially because of the lemon. The asparagus salad was scrumptious. The veggies retained some crunch and I love that it’s a cold side dish- perfect for the hot days ahead. The pesto itself is so flavorful- lots of garlic and fresh herb flavor and brightness from the citrus. I really love the sweetness from the agave! It wasn’t a replica of the dish we had at Silver Star, but it was unique and delicious and seasonal – just how we like to eat.

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It’s a great make-ahead dish for a party or picnic, and the pesto would also be tasty on a pasta salad or brushed on chicken skewers. Yay for springtime, new recipes…and a baby that miraculously sleeps in his swing while you dine with your husband!

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Chilled Asparagus and Snow Pea Salad with Lemon Tarragon Pesto

You’ll need:

  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ cup tarragon leaves
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup toasted pinenuts
  • 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (plus more for topping)
  • Juice of half of a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon zest
  • +/- ½ cup olive oil
  • Generous pinch of salt and pepper
  • Splash of agave nectar or honey
  • 1 cup asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup snow peas
  • ¼ cup chopped Marcona almonds

To make the pesto, combine the first 7 ingredients (basil through lemon zest) in a food processor. Pulse to combine. With the processor running, stream in olive oil until the pesto reaches your preferred consistency (thickly pourable but not runny). Add salt, pepper, and agave to taste. Set the pesto aside.

To make the salad, boil a pot of salted water and blanch the vegetables for 2-3 minutes. Immediately transfer them to a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain and cool completely in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

To serve, toss the chilled veggies in enough pesto to coat them. Top with some grated Parmesan cheese and the almonds. Cheers to springtime! YUM.

Hungry for more? Check out the collection of recipes on the FOOD BLISS page.

One year ago: Chicken Chile Verde Panini.

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