Recipe: Any Green Pesto
Twice a month, Berkshire native Alana Chernila, mother of two, and author of the cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), contributes a thoughtful and heartfelt essay/recipe created exclusively for Rural Intelligence readers. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has a new one in the works, titled “The Homemade Kitchen,” due out in 2015.
Right as the calendar flips from September to October, my inner squirrel officially takes over and I become fixated on preserving and saving food for the winter. Although I’m sure there are many people who do this in a rational, measured way, my family will attest to the fact that I do not. I know that freezer and pantry space is limited, and I know that we do actually have access to the grocery store all twelve months of the year, but when I come face to face with 90 pounds (true story!) of tomatoes that need a home right now, the inner squirrel takes over and squeaks with joy before the rest of me can remember everything else that I’m supposed to do today. You could say I have a bit of a preservation issue, or you could say I’m really great at stocking up for the winter—it depends whether you’re asking me or my husband, Joey.
While last week was tomato week, this week seems to be all about greens. The kale in the garden has kicked into high gear, and I came home from the market with bags of turnip and beet greens that people had discarded for the roots attached to them. They were especially beautiful and I just couldn’t let them go into the compost. I threw a bunch of turnip greens into the final incarnation of my Barn Raising Bloody Mary Mix and the rest became pesto. I kept a bit out for now, and the rest went into small stackable containers for the freezer. And with that, my inner squirrel is satisfied… at least for a few days.
Most people tend to think of basil when they’re making pesto, but the truth is that most greens and herbs make wonderful pesto, and it’s a great way to preserve greens for later. Mint; parsley; kale; arugula; beet, turnip; radish greens or even carrot tops are great greens for pesto. I find the best way to make pesto is to pulse and taste, pulse and taste, so you can create exactly the right balance of flavor for you.
Any Green Pesto
Start with 4 to 5 cups roughly chopped greens or herbs. Add them to a food processor fit with the chopping blade along with 2 to 3 roughly chopped cloves of garlic, ½ cup toasted nuts, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and ½ teaspoon salt. Pulse several times until you have a fairly uniform mix. Then, with the food processor running, add ½ cup olive oil, adding more if the mixture seems too thick. Add ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, and pulse one more time. Now taste the mixture and adjust any of the ingredients as you like. If it’s not salty enough, add more salt or parmesan. If it tastes a little dull, add more lemon to brighten it up. If it’s a little too green tasting, add another handful of toasted nuts. Keep working with it until it’s so delicious you just want to eat it with a spoon. Transfer to a jar, top with a little olive oil, and eat within a week to 10 days.
A note on freezing pesto: You can either freeze this pesto as-is, or you can stop before you add the cheese and freeze it without cheese. I’ve done it both ways and, although freezing the mixture without cheese results in a slightly better texture in the final defrosted product, it’s okay to freeze your pesto with cheese if that feels more convenient for you.