This was my first experience with a pestle and mortar. I envisioned it so earthy and rustic. I wanted to appreciate the fruit of my labor, more so than I would with an electric machine. I borrowed one from a dear friend, to see if this age old tool could stand up to it's reputation. However, the sight of me using all my arm strength to try and break through the fibrous basil leaves was maybe more rustic than I was capable. I felt so pretty, there in the kitchen with Hugh, while chards of garlic were spitting back at me and getting lodged in my curly hair. Super cute. I have read the praises of how much better pesto/pistou turns out with the smashing of the ingredients against the marble. I may loose culinary credibility, but I thought it was a mess and couldn't taste the difference. Go ahead, throw stones. Maybe if I were mega buff, coordinated and more patient, it would have been all it cracked up to be.

The means of how I got to this warm plate of crunchy green asparagus, rice and lentils is not the point (but haven't I intrigued you to want to get chards of garlic in YOUR hair?). I am partial to adding grains to my vegetables, because it keeps me full longer. This very well could suffice as a simple vegetarian entree, but is also a colorful side. I have sung my song of how I adore leftovers, so I put the chilled reminance over some salad greens the next day. The pistou dressed everything perfectly. The ingredients had marinated overnight, and was just as nice cold as it was warm. It made the garlic scented locks seem worth it.

I used a pestle and mortar for the pistou, but it would be less hassle in a blender or food processor. To save yourself time, you may purchase pre cooked brown rice in most freezer sections now. Any variety of lentil is fine, cooking times will vary.

2 Cups Cooked Brown Rice
1 1/4 Cup Cooked Lentils (I used Black Beluga Lentils)
1 lb. Asparagus
1/2 Cup Roughly Chopped, Fresh Chives


2 Cloves Garlic
1 tsp. Sea Salt
1/2 Cup Walnut Pieces
1/3 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice (about one lemon)
1 Cup Fresh Basil Leaves
1/3 Cup Fresh Mint Leaves
1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pepper and Red Pepper Flakes to taste

1. In a food processor or blender, add the garlic cloves, salt and walnuts and pulse a few times. Chop or tear the herbs into smaller pieces, and add them to the processor with the lemon juice, pulse until everything is coarsely combined. Add a generous pinch of pepper and red pepper flakes and the extra virgin olive oil. Again, a few more pulses to combine. I like to leave mine a bit chunky.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cut the asparagus spears on a diagonal, about one inch pieces. Add them to a steamer basket (or to the boiling water, but they will only need about 1.5 minutes here) and steam for about 2.5 minutes. Prepare another bowl of ice water. Remove and add the asparagus to the ice water bath to set their color. After a few minutes, drain completely.
3. Prepare the brown rice and lentils according to instructions. While warm, mix them together in a large bowl. Add the asparagus and a few big dollops of the pistou (amount based on personal preference), and fold gently to coat everything in the sauce. Add the chives, fold again. Garnish with fresh chives.

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Reader Comments (61)

That is the most beautiful asparagus salad I have ever seen.

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJessica @ How Sweet

This is so right on all levels. As I have everything on hand, I am going to make this gift tonight. The brown rice + lentils help make this a whole meal, love that. If everyone behaves themselves, I may add a little goat cheese on the side. xo

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDH

Yum. My body just slapped me, "That's what we need to be eating, fool!" Looks vibrant and delicious:)

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe French

I have to agree, these photos are just lovely! My eyes have been satisfied, now I need something for my tummy...

yummmerz. you are like queen of the salad-meals. :)

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteramelia

You have inspired me to go straight to the store, buy the ingredients and make this. It looks perfect!

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChelsea

Unbelievably gorgeous, Sara! Those lentils look like caviar. Such a perfect dish right now.

wow. i made something like this for dinner last night! i used bulgur instead of rice, edamame instead of lentils, and i added leeks and roasted broccoli along with asparagus. then i mixed in a walnut basil pesto. this was great eaten cold for lunch today too!

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteradrienne

I have been enjoying spring produce, especially asparagus. Love this salad!

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaria

The epitome of a healthy and delicious spring meal! And I love the idea of using a pestle and mortar!

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

MERCI BEAUCOUP! This looks amazingly delicious. I will have to splurge on some asparagus at the market (asparagus is a luxury vegetable here in France even in season, it's crazy!) I adore your blog by the way - definitely among the best of its genre out there. Keep it up! Rebecca in Paris

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

This salad is packed with nutrients and protein, I would love to give the recipe a whirl sometime!

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterroxan

Delicious... ideas and pictures!

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSteph (le Brunch Club)

Great timing - I'm picking up both asparagus and mint in my CSA share this weekend! I appreciate your recommendation to use a food processor or blender, have yet to experiment with the pestle and mortar and after this post, not sure I want to :-) Great recipe for summer.

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa from CC&T

Oh perfection! I swear you made this just for me!

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterfresh365

Oh man!!! So gorgeous. Must try this soon :) The Japanese have a ceramic mortar & wooden pestle for grinding sesame seeds. The aroma is out of this world. And for the non-electric yet faster method this is what I use most of the time :) Have a lovely lovely weekend. And thank you for sharing these wonderful posts!

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterYumi @ Natsukashii

These are the exact kind of meals I eat on rotation, I can eat them forever it seems. Plus I love left overs too! Yum.

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJacqui

Ha! What a relief. I was feeling so inadequate b/c I use my food processor to make pesto. I really think of the mortar and pestle as more useful for things like grinding cumin seeds and the like. Anyway, you're dish turned out beautiful. Sorry about the hair!

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEl

First off, it's simply gorgeous. But, then there's the addition of mint... I used to be scared of mint in savory applications, but I've grown awfully fond of it. And I can envision a very delightful marriage of flavors here with the asparagus.

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlo

Looks lovely ... wonderful combination. I love pistous - and I use a mini food processor! Take care - Susan

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Nye

[...] Sahni’s Indian Chickpea Ragout With Vegetables from The New York Times WARM ASPARAGUS SALAD WITH BASIL + MINT PISTOU from Sprouted [...]

I just bought two bunches of asparagus at the famers market today! I think it was a premonition - somehow I just knew that I would see your lovely post and NEED to make this salad. Yum!

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKatie @ CozyDelicious

Love, love, love. I still have two more days of eating and drinking in wine country ahead of me, but this will be first on my list to make when I get home.

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

I have to say I'm with you on the food processor vs mortar and pestle for pesto making. I don't mind my mortar and pestle, but I don't love it. I use it for a couple of things, but mostly it just sits on the kitchen bench.

I hardly ever made pesto until about two months ago, when I bought my second hand food processor, which cost me $25. And now I make pesto all the time. With the gorgeous, huge bunches of basil I've been getting in my fruit and veg box. It's so easy.

And your salad looks delish.

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkathryn

I love you for this. I have a very small mortar and pestle and have lately been feeling like I am missing something. But - I love my food processor and, sorry to say, so much rather push a button than put elbow grease into my pesto. If I want to work my arms, I will go to yoga, thank you very much. :)

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDana

The PERFECT one bowl meal!! I'm making this this week!

April 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMollie

I haven't used that particular mortar and pestle. I love asparagus. It's one of my favorite vegetables. You did an inspiring and healthy dish which is gorgeous.

April 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDivina

Such a beautiful plate! I am making asparagus tonight and wanted to do something different with it; this pistou is a great idea.

April 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNancy

yes! I just bought asparagus. this looks so delicious.

April 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHannah

I've never heard of pistou before. Must read up more about it. The black beluga lentils look particularly charming.

April 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShaheen

Oh, yes indeedy! I love the idea of mint and basil, together, and the walnuts are the last little bit that will give everything bite. And for what it's worth? I have that identical pestle, and while i love it for crushing spices and thai curry pastes, i pull out the Cuisinart for pesto. (Though grinding the garlic and leaves against the side with a rubbing motion is definitely preferable to pounding. Garlic locks are so, um, long-lasting?)

April 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermolly

[...] as it’s called) made of walnuts, mint, basil, lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil.  I found the recipe on the Sprouted Kitchen blog and made a few adjustments based on what ingredients I could find. [...]

I just made this for dinner with green beans instead of asparagus and it was so delicious! I loved the flavors of the pistou, especially how well the basil and mint complemented each other. Great recipe!

April 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew

Simple. spring. Perfect. I recently made a green salad with asparagus, roasted walnuts, green beans, a little shaved fennel and a light walnut dressing. Reminds me of what you've done here...perfect combination of flavors, little crunch, satisfying. And of course, stunning photos!

April 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMegan Gordon

this is the type of dish i crave, daily. and i agree, totally worth garlic hair treatments...though i'm a bit too impatient for the mortal/pestle. but good for you for giving it a go! hey, it's exercise! ;)

April 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercarolyn

Beautiful salad. I have some camargue red rice in my cupboard that I think would work well with this. I've been loving the combo of basil and mint lately. An inspiring recipe and I LOVE your photos!

April 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMonica

Just the perfect recipe for the gorgeous asparagus in season now. All the herbs sound so lovely together!

April 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertiina

yum, sara! this will be on next week's menu for sure. i'm with you on not enjoying the food i'm preparing making it's home in my tresses. but this certainly looks worth it.
xo, anne

April 26, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteranne

This looks fantastic. I adore my mortar and pestle, but also need a larger version. Soon...

April 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDenise @ Chez Danisse

Such beautiful presentation Sarah! I've always wanted a mortar and pestle but every time I think to buy one I wonder how I would use it....concoct special potions? nah, make a basil pistou of course! thank you for the inspiration:)

as for the asparagus.....huge fan of the taste, not so much of my stinky pee though :)
Im in need of easy side dishes so Im adding this to the list!

April 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCoco @ Roost

Such a gorgeous and mouthwatering blog; thank you for sharing!

Per usual, the photos are as delicious as the recipe. I love the sharp slant of the asparagus and the contrast of black lentils. Gorgeous. Just attended the IACP conference and they had a lentil bar set up for lunch one was heaven.

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTo Kiss the Cook

Looks delicious! Love the flavor combination.

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRadhika

This looks delicious and so beautiful. I have never had a dish with black beans and asparagus but I love both so I will definitely try this!

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterASHLEA

This salad looks so good, and your photos are beautiful!!

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCherine

I love asparagus. The best recipe I have seen is Jamie Oliver's on his show The Naked chef. We should all try it out.

April 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOneida

This is my kinda meal, lady- thanks! Just thought I'd remind the readers of exactly how annoying it is to CLEAN the pestle and mortar, by hand with minimal water and left to air dry (with chunks of food surely still stuck in the cracks). It might be faster to fly to Italy, no? But I value your gallant efforts Miss Sara, and I will look forward to putting my dusty pestle to use with this recipe! XX

April 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commentershannon

I found your website about a week ago, and tried this dish over the weekend. It is DELICIOUS! The pears are next. Thanks for such great recipes.

May 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn

I made this two nights ago and it was very good. I only wish that I had doubled the asparagus! (I actually overcooked the lentils the first time, so I saved them and made lentil burgers last night. I've gone a record two days with no meat - and I don't really miss it!)

May 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBryant

[...] Minute Squid with Vodka Sauce So we had grand plans of making this beautiful asparagus dish along with some squid and potatoes; however, we forgot the asparagus =(  So, as a last-minute [...]

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