A Pesto Summer.

ScapesIf this year marked the Spring of Risotto, then this is surely the Summer of Pesto.  I can’t stop making the stuff.  It all started a few weeks ago when I threw together some parsley pesto; since then, pretty much anything that I can fit in my Cuisinart is getting blitzed.

A particular favorite of mine is garlic scape pesto — doesn’t this look like I’m about to take my knife to a pile of bright green elvers? — but I’ve had great success with mint and even a sun-dried tomato and basil combo.

If you’re not going to use pesto immediately, no matter what type it is, after you transfer it to a storage container or bowl pour a thin layer of olive oil over its entire surface to keep it from turning an unappetizing shade of brown. Though pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days, I’ll pretty much immediately spoon my results into a dated and labeled bags, then freeze them.  Days, weeks or even a few months later, you can defrost a bag to mix into a bowl of boiled potatoes, spread onto chicken breast, dollop into omelets and, of course, toss with pasta.

Basil Pesto, from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
Makes about 1 cup

2 loosely packed cups fresh basil leaves, big stems discarded, rinsed and dried
Salt to taste
½ to 2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts, lightly toasted in a dry skillet
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, or more
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan or other hard cheese (optional)

Combine the basil, salt, garlic, nuts and about half the oil in a food processor or blender.  Process, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container occasionally, and adding the rest of the oil gradually. Add additional oil if you prefer a thinner mixture.   Stir in the Parmesan by hand just before serving.

Garlic Scape + Almond Pesto, from Dorie Greenspan
Makes about 1 cup

10 garlic scapes, finely chopped
1/3 to ½ cup finely grated Parmesan (to taste and texture)
1/3 cup slivered almonds (you could toast them lightly, if you’d like)
About ½ cup olive oil
Sea salt

Put the scapes, 1/3 cup of the cheese, almonds and half the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor (or use a blender or a mortar and pestle).  Whir to chop and blend all the ingredients and then add the remainder of the oil and, if you want, more cheese.  If you like the texture, stop; if you’d like it a little thinner, add some more oil.  Season with salt.

Mint Pesto
Makes about 1 cup

2 cup packed fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or toasted slivered almonds
2 garlic cloves, smashed with the side of your knife
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt + Pepper to taste

Place the mint leaves, pine nuts and garlic in a food processor and pulse until chopped. With the machine on, add the lemon juice and olive oil in a thin stream and process until smooth.  Season the pesto with salt and pepper.

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
Makes a bit less than a cup

¾ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained (I prefer to use the halves, though have used the julienned if that is what I had on hand)
¼ cup loosely packed basil leaves
3 tablespoons slivered almonds
3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
3 cloves garlic, smashed with the side of your knife
Salt + pepper to taste

Combine  ingredients in blender. Blend until paste forms, stopping often to push down basil.  Blitz until smooth, adding oil slowly to achieve desired texture.

CSA 2009, Week Seven.

I’ve always had incredibly vivid dreams, so much so that when I wake up, it takes me a second to figure out what exactly is going on and where I am.  Sometimes I dream about the places I’ve been, sometimes I dream about things I’ve made up, and sometimes I dream about things that are just flat-out strange.*

Still, imagine my surprise when last night I dreamed about loading the dishwasher.  It was very Rachel Getting Married, minus the competition.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my dishwasher and I actually do enjoy loading it in the most efficient way possible — a little obsessive quirk of mine, I guess — but it literally made me sit up in bed and wonder just why I was dreaming about something so ridiculous, especially when I could be dreaming about something so luscious… like my CSA box.

This week, Keith brought home the following:

  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Chard
  • Kohlrabi
  • Lettuce
  • Parsley
  • Tomatoes

Parsley PestoReally, shouldn’t I have had visions of carrots dancing through my head, rather than dirty dishes and soap foam?  If not my carrot bunch, then perhaps my bundle of parsley, that often overlooked but lovely herb.

Parsley is most commonly used as a garnish, or as something to chop and sprinkle over a dish at the last minute, but that wasn’t enough for me.  I really wanted to showcase these little green leaves and their crisp, fresh flavor, so I thought a pesto would be the way to go.

Traditionally pesto is made with basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and Parmesan, but I didn’t want to merely substitute parsley for basil.  Basil is so strong an herb that it can easily run alongside all those additional flavors, but parsley is much milder.  I knew I wanted to keep the garlic in there (unfortunately negating parsley’s ability to give a diner nice breath), and clearly the olive oil needed to stay in the mix, but didn’t think cheese was necessary — something I never thought I’d say.  I decided to toss in a handful of slivered almonds for a little heft, as well as a squirt of lemon juice for additional brightness.  Because I knew I wasn’t going to eat my pesto straightaway, I spooned it all into a labeled freezer bag; later in the year, on a particularly gloomy day, I’ll mix it into a potato salad or spoon it over some tortellini to remind me of summer.

Parsley Pesto
Makes a bit less than one cup, which is plenty for a pound of pasta or potatoes

2 packed cups parsley leaves
1 small clove of garlic
¼ to ½ cup of olive oil, depending on the texture you desire
¼ cup slivered almonds
juice of half a lemon
salt

Blitz the parsley, garlic, almonds and pinch of salt in the bowl of a food processor or blender, dribbling the olive oil slowly through the feed tube.  You will need to stop occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula or spoon, but continue processing until you’ve used up all the oil.  Gradually add in the lemon juice and mix until completely combined.

* I can’t even get into it.  Trust me.