We're home! We'll do a small travel post on Belgium/Amsterdam, but I have been anxious to cook in my kitchen. We had an apartment rental the last leg of our trip, so I was able to make a few simple meals, but it's just not the same as your home kitchen. My hope was that in time away, I would be inspired to cook and create. Taking a break, it being impossible to cook even if I wanted to (most of the time), seemed the very thing I needed. I want to read more books about nutrition, to test more ideas and see them through, I want to be fearless in the recipes I write and to stay curious about food by learning from other authors and chefs. I want this work I do to be a reflection of the boldness I am focusing on this year. There is a Henry David Thoreau quote I like, “I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” 

I re-stocked our empty fridge the night we came home. It makes for a pretty hefty tab, but starting fresh feels so good. We are both in the mood for lighter fare after eating out so much (and in anticipation of a few work trips this month). In order to keep from salad burn out, I've been big-batching indoor grilled vegetables to have at the ready (you could very well use an outdoor grill, but ours is charcoal and I'm not up for that whole process quite yet). The sauce is the kind of thing I like keeping a big jar of in the fridge. I make more than I need and repurpose it through the week. It makes an excellent sandwich spread, tossed with noodles and tofu, or warmed grains. We had it on eggs or put a schmear under some avocado toast. I thin it with more citrus for an easy salad dressing. Clearly I like it and the recipe makes a generous amount. I haven't used pepitas in awhile and forgot what a wonderful flavor and crunch they have. Cheers to Spring produce. I welcome you.


The given recipe will give you a full 16 oz. jar worth of sauce. Maybe that sounds like a lot to you, feel free to half it. I mention other uses above and when the weeks are busy, I am grateful to have something tasty to jazz up simple meals. It doesn't have any dairy in it so I believe it would freeze well, even in ice cube trays, for later use.

  • 1 bunch asparagus, about 1 1/2 lbs. (medium thickness stalks)
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely minced red onion
  • 1/4 cup toasted pepitas
  • // cilantro pepita pesto //
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup toasted pepitas
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 jalepeno (sort of seeded. you want a few for heat)
  • 1/4 tsp. chipotle powder, to taste
  • one large bunch (about 4 super packed cups) cilantro, ends cut, stem is fine
  • juice of two large limes
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • splash of water

 Heat your grill, or indoor grill, over medium heat.

Cut off the dry bits of the asparagus and use a vegetable peeler to gently shave the end stalks. Toss the asparagus in the olive oil and a few pinches of salt and pepper. Grill the asparagus, covered, turning a few times, for about 7-9 minutes. Time will vary based on thickness of the stalks. I like mine on the snappy side.

To make the pesto, pulse the garlic, toasted pepitas and sea salt in a food processor to chop. Add the jalepeno, chipotle, cilantro and lime juice and run the processor to combine. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive olive and a splash of water. Taste and adjust as you wish. Add more chipotle for heat, citrus juice and/or salt to brighten it, water if you prefer it thinner.

Serve the asparagus on a generous pillow of the cilantro pesto. Garnish with the minced red onion and toasted pepitas. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Reader Comments (53)

Pepita pesto is my favorite, but I've never made it with jalapeno before - the flavor must be amazing. Thank you for the great idea!

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGolubka

Oh yes! This post was like the spring breeze sweeping through my mind. I'm glad you had a good trip and are feeling refreshed and ready to tackle spring and all its bounty. Can't wait to see what you come up with. This is really lovely.

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn

Aww, my asparagus had to be thrown out this weekend because I forgot about it. Guess I'll have to buy some more now that I have a recipe to use it in.

That is one pretty plate of asparagus!! Yum!

Welcome home! Wow, I just love that quote. Really resonates with where I am in my life right now. And what a beautiful + simple recipe. Love all of the photos and the vibrant GREEN colors!

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

Seriously. You two always give us a perfect blog post. I love all the hand photos! and what great flavor combinations. I think I say this every single time, but I'm always so inspired coming here. And, welcome home!

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered Commentersarah

This pesto sounds so good! And because I'm the only cilantro eater in our's ALL MINE MUAHAHAHA. :) What a great way to eat asparagus.

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEileen

Literally read this post as we were driving through Dana Point on the way to San Diego. (I wasn't driving - I feel a strong need to clarify this).
A big hello Sara and Hugh!
Can just imagine how wonderful and bright this pesto must taste, and I love chipotle powder and any excuse to use it. Must try it for myself.

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSharmila

Hope you had a good trip! Excited for an upcoming travel posts, I love learning about others travels and what they did/ate :) This asparagus plate looks gorgeous and super chic!

What an inventive pesto! I love asparagus and get sick of just olive oil and garlic. This will upgrade it and will go perfect with just about anything else. Thanks!

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChristine Straley

this is so beautiful, sometimes the simplest things are the best!

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLindsey

Absolutely beautiful- this is definitely a "maker"! A simple meal of this and some grilled filet mignon would be blissful :)

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNanna

Perfect - we're just about to harvest our first asparagus of the year!

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJosie Marsh

That pesto looks delicious! I love it and I can see me using it in different meals throughout the week.

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

I can't think of a better way to celebrate asparagus season! I've always loved that Thoreau quote—so very encouraging. Very much looking forward to Hugh's photography in your upcoming travel post.

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIrina @ wandercrush

I often asparagus with a hazelnut shallot sauce...but I will have to give this recipe a try. It sounds super scrumptious!

I love the idea of making extra grilled veggies that can be used throughout the week! Nice simple recipe. That's what I love about your blog!

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVanessa

i love how fresh and light this recipe is. A welcome of spring.

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered Commentersina

This recipe looks delicious and I can't wait to try it! I love healthy veggies!

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKristin

Asparagus season has just arrived in the UK and we've been eating them by the dozen. I never tire of the stuff but it's great to have a completely new recipe to try - gorgeous gorgeous photos as always too.

April 30, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterthelittleloaf

Lovely asparagus dish and awesome photos!
I'm happy that I discovered your blog - you have a similar concept like us with two as a couple sharing the work and the fun of cooking and taking photographs.

I love how you write. Your phrase "salad burnout" really captures how I feel sometimes.

It's so easy to get into eating ruts. I'll have to try more fresh veggies like asparagus.

April 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLizzie

This looks fabulous, our asparagus is very late this year, none around at all yet, but I will make a note of this for when it appears.

April 30, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteranna @ annamayeveryday

I love asparagus and it is our ingredient of the month in Cocina Global blog. Will be nice to see you on it.

April 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEva Linda

This recipe looks great. I've made a cilantro pesto with pepitas, lime, cilantro, garlic, chilis, and sour cream and it's delicious! Can't wait to try your dairy-free version.

April 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKatieTheSkinnyChef

Pepitas are like, my favorite thing ever. And in pesto? Just get out. This is stuuu-huuuuu-huuuunning. Welcome home!

April 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBev Weidner

Love the touch of green. This looks fantastic. Your photos are lovely! Glad to hear you enjoyed Paris! It really is the most beautiful city in the world (in my opinion), although I may be slightly bias!

April 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterYohann

Gah. These are two of my favorite things in the world.

April 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTia Stockton

What a beautiful dish!! Such beautiful spring colors. Grilled or roasted asparagus is my absolute favorite but adding pesto just looks like it will make a great thing even better. I cannot wait to try this.

April 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBeth @ Tasty Yummies

Wow! This sounds great, but it's also made me wonder if I could use pepitas in a more traditional basil pesto. My daughter likes pesto (and it's a great way to sneak some extra greens into her food) but her school is nut-free. Has anyone tried it?

April 30, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjessie

I have a plethora of pepitas, and I cannot get enough of asparagus or cilantro. Looks like a winning combination, wish I had thought of it. Anyone hankering for favas too?

April 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHezra

Oooh, so love asparagus, but haven't ever tried it with pesto - nor have I tried cilantro pesto, but as a cilantro lover am going to give both a try now!

April 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMy Love Wedding Ring

I was thrilled to see this in my inbox because I had ALL of the ingredients in my fridge! I LOVED the pesto - I even mixed it with a quinoa, black bean, tomato, avocado medley to make this a full meal and it was amazing! Such great flavor, I think I could eat this everyday! Thank you!

April 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFHurley


May 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMariela

Welcome back! :) So wonderful that the trip left you inspired and ready to keep things new & fresh! This dish looks mighty tasty... Which indoor grill do you prefer?

May 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterYumi

This cilantro pepita pesto is really wonderful - exactly what I needed here in Seattle! It's somehow warming, bright, and soo fresh at the same time. Perfect with some quark and fresh bread for lunch today. Thank you for your inspiring recipes!

May 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStacy

I would love to try this nourishing recipe – Grilled Asparagus with Cilantro Pepita Pesto – because I am on diet nowadays and was really in badly need of such recipe. Thanks a million for sharing this here. Great work :)

May 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDaisy A.

Consuming grilled veggies have always been a nourishing experience for me, and yes I like Asparagus so much. I am going to try it now. Many many thanks for sharing this delightful recipe. Regards. Emi

May 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEmilia R.

I never liked asparagus until I went out to dinner recently and had some that was cooked properly. I guess if you over cook it it can be pretty bad. Therefore, I've never tried to cook it, but this recipe makes me want to give it a try.

May 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKristy

Made this last night with lamb, it was delicious! My fiancee is allergic to nuts so I love a pesto recipe using pepitas instead of pine nuts. The pesto is incredible (also was divine on the lamb). Any suggestions on what else to use it on? (I sort of made a large batch).

May 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJill

Grilled asparagus are one of my favorite veg! They taste so great when charred. I also love making untraditional pestos, cashews being my favorite nuts to use.

May 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMallory

Excited to hear/see more about your trip. I love coming home and being excited about the kitchen again. It's good to step away. This all looks so good.

May 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

@jill - I listed a few ideas in the text. We just kept grilling veggies and dipping them in this sauce. My second favorite was a chopped kale salad with scallion, black lentils and Israeli feta. I thinned the pesto with lemon juice and it was so incredibly delicious.

May 3, 2013 | Registered CommenterSara

Just found your blog and fell in love! Your recipes are healthy and they all seems so flavourful. Loving it!

May 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie

Thank you for that excellent Thoreau quote. I am a lover of quotes myself - there is a whole litany of stuck above my desk - this one shall be added :) I know just what you mean about the niceness of coming back, starting afresh - the sense of being lighter. It is a good feeling. I love to eat out, but I find in the end - after a trip - I am all too happy to get back to my own kitchen, create, eat the way I want. This looks delicious - makes me wish I had a grill!


May 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDanielle

Asparagus may be the best thing ever, i love it!
Maybe i should try the pesto, a change from the one my mum always makes.

May 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterfelicia

I'm a big food lover and preparing food and believe it is pure art. It's really fun to try new things and invent new recipes. I love simple recipes and food which really attract you with its natural aroma and taste. Can you please post some recipes of raw vegetable salads with seasonal fruits? I would love to read such recipes on your blog.

May 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAngelina Bob

Hi Sara - I'm a huge fan of cilantro, and love pepitas and asparagus too. have to say, though, it was the PHOTOS that got me up and in the kitchen. SO inspiring. We made this last night with a simple seared tilapia, and it was fabulous. I'm pretty sure husband licked his plate. We are planning to make some beautiful turkey sandwiches with leftover pesto. Thanks so much!

May 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

Since asparagus is my favorite veggie, this recipe really caught my attention. I would recommend this recipe to anyone, thank you so much! By the way, love your blog!!

May 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRoxy

Had to comment because we just finished this up for dinner tonight! Yum! I served it with roasted corn and quinoa and it was the perfect meal. I used shallots instead of red onion, and very few seeds which was the perfect heat for us. Can't wait to add the leftover pesto to quesadillas, tempeh, or in salsa.

May 30, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterellen

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