Pesto, generic

Pesto, which most of us know as a saucy mix of basil, garlic, and oil, tossed with pasta, is actually a generic term for things made by pounding.  It is traditionally made with a mortar and pestle, at least in Italy.  It is far easier in a food processor or blender.  Pesto is an incredibly versatile vehicle for using up produce at the height of freshness.  I’ll give you a generic basil recipe with some rough proportions, but it can be adjusted to taste with a free hand and ingredients are limited only by your imagination.  Basically, you need something bright and fresh, something nutty, something salty, and something oily.  (And as a side note, you’re not far off from hummus with this recipe, which also has infinite variations involving beans and seasoning.)

Generic Basil Pesto

3-4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
2 cups washed and dried basil
salt and pepper
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated hard cheese (pecorino romano, parmesan, italic)

Chop the garlic and pine nuts in the food processor.  Add the basil and pulse until a thick paste forms.  Season and add the oil while the food processor runs.  If you are making a dip or spread, add less oil.  If you’re tossing it with pasta, add a little more.  Lastly, stir in the cheese.  This will keep a week in the fridge (longer in the freezer) if you put a thin layer of olive oil on top to seal it in.

Alternatives:
– try cilantro, parsley, sorrel, spinach, or arugula as a partial or full substitute for the basil
– create a red pesto from sun dried tomatoes or roasted red peppers
– try almonds, cashews, walnuts, or beans as substitutes for the pine nuts
– cilantro, garlic, edamame beans, a little ginger, and a little sesame oil to replace some of the olive oil (cheese isn’t necessary for this one)
– cilantro, garlic, chipotle chile, and pepitas (pumpkin seeds) — fantastic in tacos, especially with a little tomatillo included
– scapes (coming soon), green garlic or green onions in place of most of the basil and garlic

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Sorrel and green garlic pesto

Helena, our membership coordinator, collected a tasty recipe from the blog Local Milk.  Scroll down a little ways, it is the garlic scape and sorrel pesto.  I’m going to adapt it to what we actually have in our boxes, because the garlic scapes are a couple of weeks out.  It is a fairly basic pesto recipe, with sorrel replacing the basil.  I’m picturing this slathered onto chicken breasts, tossed with pasta and asparagus, or smeared on crusty dark bread.  I adjusted it down for the smaller bunches of sorrel, but bump it up if you’re a large or medium share and have a lot of it to use.

Sorrel and Green Garlic pesto

1/2 cup chopped green garlic (roots and tough green ends discarded)
1 cup chopped sorrel
scant 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
scant 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
juice of a quarter lemon
1/4 cup good olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Run the garlic, sorrel, pine nuts, Parmesan, and lemon juice quickly through a food processor to form a rough paste.  Add the olive oil slowly, pulsing until it is as smooth as you’d like.  Taste, season, and serve.  Pestos can be frozen in small portions for later use in sauces, soups, and dips.

** Helpful hint:  this is a good way to use up your green garlic all in a go — freeze it and save it for later.  I have made arugula pesto in the same way, which is spicy and sharp.