Got some green things in the fridge that you need to use up? Same old dinners getting tired? Make a pesto! I love a pesto – I go into detail below. Once it’s in the fridge you’ll wonder what you did without it.
We are busy on the farm – the change in the weather is welcome – it was feeling mighty chilly there for a few weeks. But now we have to set up irrigation! The small plants and the freshly planted seeds need moisture to get established and it’s been a little dry for a little too long.
Ken has been working (in his ‘retirement’) on some research projects with EFAO and Living Labs – so we have insect tents set up around the farm, researchers are running tests on what might set back wire worms in potatoes, Ken has set up cover crop trials for different crops, and they have been doing extensive testing on our soil. One of the interesting things that came out of the tests is that our farm had zero levels of pesticide residue. Seems like a no brainer, right? That was my thought – we have been using organic practices for about 30 years, I would hope there are no pesticide residues! But ours was the only farm that had zero, and I’ve come to find out it’s actually kind of unusual. Ground water run off, spray drift & residues that reside in the soil from previous applications could all contribute.
I’m a little loose with my definition of pesto – you could call it green sauce, sauce verte or pistou if you’re feeling French, zchoug if you’re feeling middle eastern. Once you have it in the fridge you’ll find a million ways to use it – this week alone we had an arugula-cilantro pesto on a lentil soup, in a potato salad, as a dip for roasted potatoes, and finally, mixed into some yogurt and mayo as a kid dip for cucumbers.
Step One: Choose your greens (about 2 cups, rough chopped)
All the flavorful green leaves and soft herbs work – arugula, parsley, basil, cilantro, tarragon, watercress. I love a spicy green like arugula with cilantro because the flavors lift each other up. Tarragon is a pretty strong one but a small handful makes it taste very Paris-in-the-spring and tastes great with asparagus. Equal parts parsley and cilantro bring a middle-eastern vibe.
Step Two: Choose an allium (1 tsp-2 Tbsp)
Garlic is classic, green garlic works great because it’s nice and mellow. Minced shallot or green onion works well if you want the greens to shine rather than garlic flavor – also will make it feel more French. Wild leeks are fantastic. Add roasted, grilled or sautéed onion for a sweeter, saucier, richer taste.
Step Three: Toasted Nuts/Seeds/Cheese (1/4 cup)
These are optional! I often use pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds, but pine nuts are delicious too. Cheese – try parmesan if you’re traditional, but also try something unconventional like goat cheese!
Step Four: Salt (1/2 tsp)
Throw it all in the food processor (or mortar and pestle if you’re feeling old school), and pulse it until everything is coming together and getting chopped up. Drizzle in:
Step Five: Olive Oil (1/4-1/2 cup)
Just add it until it’s the consistency you like. Taste for salt.
Spices (1/4-1/2 tsp) – I like to add toasted and ground coriander and a pinch of cumin to any pesto with cilantro in it, sometimes a dash of hot pepper, or hot sauce.
Lemon (or Lime) zest and/or juice – Add the juice of a lemon or lime and taste how it brightens the flavours!
Make one up and tell me all about it.