A resounding thumbs up.Gather Journal Sleight of Hand Salad
Manual dexterity and magic can go hand in hand. While the shell game—the classic ruse uses three walnut shells and a pea—is more con than trick, it is confidence and a swift hand that will wow (and, often, swindle) onlookers. We summoned its essence with ghostly asparagus fingers splayed atop a schmear of peas and crunchy garlic walnuts.
Cook peas in boiling salted water 2 minutes then drain and chill in a bowl of ice cold water. Drain.
With the motor of a food processor running, drop ¼ cup walnuts and 1 garlic clove into the feed tube. Process until finely chopped. Transfer to a plate and set aside for topping. Again, with the motor running, process remaining 2 Tbsp walnuts and clove garlic until finely chopped. Add peas, basil, cheese, 3 Tbsp oil, ¼ tsp salt, and a few grinds black pepper. Process until light and spreadable. Add a little water if needed. Transfer to a bowl.
Bring a skillet of salted water to a boil along with butter and lemon juice. Trim ½ inch from bottoms of asparagus and carefully peel stems. (Asparagus are fragile so don’t fret if they break.) Simmer until tender when pierced with a knife, about 10 to 15 minutes. (If using jarred asparagus, you won’t need to cook them.) Drain asparagus, cool, then toss with a little extra oil and lemon juice.
Heat remaining 2 Tbsp oil in a small skillet over medium heat until golden. Toast reserved garlicky walnuts with a pinch of salt. Serve sprinkled on asparagus over pesto.