Wishin' and Hopin' Vegan Pesto Primavera
Early spring is a time for hope. Hope can come in many forms: for new and different experiences to come along; for current situations to work out; for another shot at missed opportunities. I'm experiencing all those kinds of hope right now.
We experience this kind of hope at this time of year because we see the promise of spring and summer, in full-color glory, just around the corner. The sun starts shining again. The breeze feels just a little less chilly. The trees start blossoming. The flowers start blooming. The birds start singing again in the early dawn. It stays light a little later. We have that little extra bit of energy to get through the day. We see the promise of a better tomorrow, and we can so almost grasp it.
Nature, in all her perfection, captures this feeling perfectly through spring vegetables—they are vibrant, colorful, succulent, tender, bursting with flavor, so full of exciting possibilities. When you see them, a palpable urgency to procure them arises—for they are gone so very quickly. This rich, seasonal bounty brings such opportunity; inspires such healthy meals and attitudes; produces such inspiration and promise; but it is only around for a short while. What you do with it after that is up to you. You better grab those ramps, sweet peas and asparagus now, preserve them to the best of your ability, and hold on to that springtime feeling however you can—before it slips away.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that's an all-too-appropriate metaphor for life right now.
As the song goes, for me, it's the season for wishin'. And hopin'. And thinkin'. And-prayin'.
There are lots of things to hope and be hopeful for in my life right now. I'm thinkin'-and-a'-prayin' for success at the job I just started; it's crazy and intense and overwhelming, and on some days, I just cry or melt down a little. But it's also inspiring and empowering and energizing, and on other days, I feel like I'm really kicking ass and growing professionally. I'm thinkin' on the travel and adventure coming up in the near future, and prayin' on the people I'll meet and the experiences I'll have when I get there.
It's the wishin'-and-a-hopin' that's the problem. I'm wishin' for things I feel I deserve, in the righteous-universal-justice sense of the word—but I'm afraid that hopin' for them to manifest might send some bad karma my way.
What the song doesn't talk about is longin'. That one's really a bitch.
So, as far as what I truly long for goes... maybe I won't get it thinkin'-and-a-prayin', wishin'-and-a-hopin'. And maybe that's for the best. What I can do is take action to make some of the other things in my life come to fruition. I can continue to work hard and do well at my job. I can take care of myself so I don't burn out. I can embrace the adventures ahead with open arms, and say yes to new experiences. I can spend time with good people who I love, and just enjoy what life has to offer.
And I can, most definitely, get me some of that glorious spring produce.
The farmers' markets and the organic produce aisles are gorgeous menageries of color right now. It's so inspiring that no matter how tired I am, no matter how long the workday has been, I want to buy all I can and create something delicious. Nothing says spring like colorful blanched vegetables and fresh herbs, so the first thing I thought when I got my first haul of spring-veggies was vegetable primavera with pesto. I also decided to embrace the challenge of making a vegan pesto for the most frequent recipient of my meals: my mom. I found an avocado pesto recipe to riff on, grabbed some veggies and got to it.
This one was seriously delicious, guys. Just make sure you get fresh, organic veggies and you can't go wrong.
Wishin' and Hopin' Vegan Pesto Primavera
For the pesto:
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
Juice of 1.5 lemons
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
Generous amount of salt and pepper
1.5 - 2 cups packed basil leaves
⅓ cup pine nuts, almonds or pistachios
Water, if needed to achieve desired consistency
For the rest of the dish:
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced into ½-¼” rounds
Large handful shiitake mushrooms, sliced
Most of 1 bunch chard, leaves chopped roughly and stems diced
Most of 1 bunch kale, destemmed, leaves chopped roughly
1 small bunch asparagus, rough woody ends snapped off, the rest cut into 2” chunks
½ avocado, diced
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
Healthy sprinkle of El Greco spice mix from World Spice Merchant
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: ramps, cherry tomatoes, boiled baby potatoes, cubed mozzarella, cubed fresh Pecorino Romano, pistachios
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. De-stem and chop the greens and chop the veggies. Put the raw chard in a large salad bowl and set the kale aside for blanchin.
Heat the olive oil in a large rimmed skillet or saute pan and saute the leeks for 5-7 minutes, until soft and aromatic. Add the mushrooms after 3-4 minutes, then the chard stems. Sprinkle everything with El Greco mix and saute everything until lightly browned and smelling wonderful.
Meanwhile, blanch the asparagus for one minutes and the kale for 30-45 seconds, then drain. Make the pesto by combining the avocado, nuts, basil and garlic and pulsing until well-combined. Then add the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and water if needed to achieve a smooth, semi-liquidy puree. Taste and add more of any of the liquid ingredients until desired flavor and consistency are reached. It should resemble a thick salad dressing when complete and taste incredible. If desired, you can reserve some of the pesto in a chunkier form for dolloping on top, then add more liquids to the rest of the mix to make it more like a sauce or dressing.
Combine all the vegetables and greens and toss with about half the pesto. Add more pesto until desired consistency and flavor is reached. Top with cubed avocado, cheese and nuts if using, and dollop with additional pesto, if desired. Add salt and pepper if needed and enjoy!