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Spring Recipe: Asparagus Pesto

asparagus hazelnut mint pesto


Why wait to make pesto when the basil is abundant. You can put to work those long-awaited bundles of asparagus. You can pesto just about anything using a basic recipe as a guide and substituting similar ingredients. Here in the Northwest, I like to substitute hazelnuts for pine nuts to give dishes a more local flavor. Mint makes this pesto even more bright and springy.

Asparagus Hazelnut Mint Pesto Recipe Read more

A Year of Produce: May

In April, I posted my first month tracking fresh produce expenditures—comparing local versus non-local produce. See May below or download a high-res PDF of May. To paraphrase a saying, eat the colors of the rainbow and you’ll be fine. May is already looking more colorful.

Two things I’m struggling with:

Defining local: If I were to use the 100-mile radius rule, then I would have to find out if the Washington apple I buy at grocery store is from a farm within 100 miles. My very loose definition of local is Oregon and Washington. Given that a big percentage of my local produce costs are from the farmers market, I’m fine with my definition.

Including garden costs: This project isn’t about tracking garden costs. Here is an example of a couple who tracked all input costs, labor and output from their garden. This is far too ambitious for me. An excellent read is Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Her family existed for a year on what they grew or could buy within a 50-mile radius. I am only tracking what I harvest (visually) and the cost of seeds or starts, but not compost or fertilizer. However, I haven’t devised a strategy for tracking every sprig of thyme! I’m a big proponent of having an herb garden. Given the cost of fresh herbs and the flavor boost your cooking, herb gardening is where I would put my effort if I had very little space. See this culinary herb primer on Culinate.com.

Maybe you’re wondering what I do with all this. Here are a few links or suggestions:

Radishes and Fennel went into a Radish, Fennel, Orange Salad. The watermelon radish, if you can find it, is a visual delight—white on the outside, hot pink on the inside. Radishes make my stomach burn but my mother loves them. It was Mother’s Day. What can you do? The sweetness of the fennel and orange balance the peppery radishes. Plus the salad looks kick ass.

• In an earlier post, I wrote about Rabes (Raabs), and offer up a quick way to cook broccoli rabe. You can also download a recipe for Orecchiette con Cime di Rapa, a signature dish of the Puglia region in Italy.

• May continues to give us rhubarb. If you missed April, here’s another chance to download a recipe for a Rosemary Rhubarb Galette. Top with goat cheese and serve with a salad for a lovely spring lunch.

• Chef in the Market, Jeremy Eckel of Bar Avignon in Portland, OR, made a wonderful farro (This has become my favorite grain. Stay tuned for another post.) salad with grilled asparagus and spring sweet onions. Add some olive oil, fresh lemon juice and zest, and chopped hazelnuts for a great Spring BBQ salad.

New Seasons market has a nice kale and carrot salad that I’ve recreated at home. It uses an Asian-inspired dressing of cumin, canola oil, fresh ginger, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and sesami oil. No need to cook the kale first; the vinegar breaks it down so make it a little ahead. I also use the Italian kale in minestrone soup. Sadly, it is still soup season in Portland!

If you have any questions and comments, let me know! Share some of your favorite seasonal recipe ideas. Cheers!

<< Go to April or go to June >>

When life gives you asparagus

Despite thinking the other day that I should build an ark, the frequent heavy downpours punctuated by bold sun and dramatic clouds hardly has me down. One reason is that farmers market season is in full swing and, once again, I can make my weekly pilgrimage in search glorious produce.

One twist this year is that, having just moved into a new place with a large organic garden bed, I find myself holding back on planting too much for fear that I won’t need to visit the market. It’s an activity that is part errand, part community spirit, part sensory stimulation…the colors, the sounds, the smells. It’s woven naturally into my life.

The new King market opened last weekend at NE 7th and Wygant. I was asked to take photos and was happy to see a huge turnout, not to mention a bit of sun. Needless to say, the asparagus tent was one of the more popular. And now begins the Spring asparagus feeding frenzy that started with making never-ending asparagus risotto (recipe link below).


The folks at EcoMetro Portland, and creators of the Chinook Book, wrote a useful article on how to understand organic certification. This is something I often wonder about because I know certification for small farms can be costly. But one reason I choose to shop at our farmers markets is that I can talk to farmers. The lack of anonymity in a venue likes this means you can feel more comfortable with your shopping choices. You can learn about a farmer’s growing practices, whether they’re certified or not. Personally, I want my produce to be at least pesticide free; I’m more interested in buying local and I trust who I’m buying from.

The article also has a link to a wallet-sized pesticide guide that will help you understand which produce is more harmful than others if grown with pesticides. Produce that you peel is less harmful, for example, than a strawberry.

A side note: During the month of May, the PSU market has bike workshops each Saturday to help you get your bike market friendly, So, get thee to the farmers market.


Risotto alla Primavera

This recipe is from Bon Appetit via Epicurious.com.

It’s easy to underestimate how much risotto expands, as well as one’s waistline if you made as much as I did. I’ve eaten it for the last five days, once for breakfast with a fried egg on the side and another as pan-fried risotto cakes. Wet your hands a little, form a cake, pan fry in a little olive oil and serve with a side salad.

I didn’t have enough parsley so I added thyme instead. I also added shiitake mushrooms which I probably would have sauteed a bit first, but I threw them in as an afterthought. They added a nice complexity.

I might have added half as much more asparagus than the recipe calls for to add a bit more green.