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The 2014 Farmers Almanac
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You Can Make Pesto Out of (Almost) Anything

You Can Make Pesto Out of (Almost) Anything

If you love pesto all year long, being confined to just basil can be a bit limiting. Luckily, there are many ways to make this delicious green sauce more versatile.

First, let’s take a look at the traditional recipe.

Pesto (Traditional Recipe)
Serves 1

Ingredients:
2 cups packed basil, cilantro, or parsley
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, cooled
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 cloves crushed garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup-1/2 cup olive oil, depending on how creamy you want it
Pinch of salt (optional)

Directions:
Put the five ingredients into a food processor and pulse to blend. Slowly add oil through feed tube until it makes a nice paste.

There really is nothing like the strong flavor of basil, cilantro, or parsley pesto, but sometimes you don’t have enough of one kind of herb on-hand. That’s a great time to begin experimenting. Using any combination of these three herbs works great.

But why stop there? No parmesan? Use some shredded cheddar or just about any other cheese. No olive oil? Use canola oil. Don’t have garlic? If they’re in season, you can substitute two garlic scapes, the green stalk that grows up and curls at the top of the garlic plant. Not enough lemon juice? Use half white vinegar and half lemon juice, and you won’t notice the difference. Or just leave it out completely, and it will still be fine. The color will change faster, but the flavor will be great.

What if you’re allergic to nuts, or just don’t have any pine nuts (which are expensive)? You can also use walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, or pecans, or you don’t have to use nuts at all. The nuts thicken the sauce and help it to bind to whatever you are putting it over. Without them, you just have a thinner sauce. One way to thicken pesto without nuts is to use pureed white beans or chickpeas. These options also have the benefit of adding more protein.

If you want some pesto before your herb garden has grown to a harvesting age, you’ll find that you don’t even need herbs to make a delicious pesto. If you’re impatient for that tangy, green flavor, you can experiment with pesto recipes made from spring crops like spinach, chard, kale, or collards. By adding these hardy greens, full of calcium, you’ll be ingesting a pretty nutrient dense and delicious sauce.

Even after the herbs start growing, you may enjoy this variation enough to add kale or spinach to your pesto. You can even use carrot tops, which if you’re like most people, probably just get composted at your house, to make basic. Use them on their own, or combine them with spinach. Those green tops also make a good addition to soups.

But what about fall? I was recently at a farmers’ market in northern Maine, and one of the vendors had a sample of pesto. I immediately went over and noticed a magenta looking spread. They had made it out of cooked beets, which is just perfect for the fall. It seems there’s just about no time of year when you can’t make this amazing and versatile sauce! Except winter, that is …

In many parts of the country, crisp fall weather has definitely started, and frosty nights are approaching fast. Basil is beginning to turn bitter and spotty, and cilantro has flowered, but parsley, kale, collards, chard, spinach, beets, and carrot tops are still ready for harvest.

Pesto season is still not over, but it will be soon. So here’s one final season extension tip. Whatever version of pesto you like best, make a lot of it when the ingredients are in season. Pour any extra you have into BPA-free ice cube trays, cover it with foil, and put it in the freezer. Once your pesto is frozen, you can pop the cubes out and place them in freezer bags. Anytime you want pesto in the winter, just pull out a cube and enjoy. Whether you enjoy the traditional herb pesto, or are excited by these new possibilities, you can stock up and treat yourself all season long.

Evergreen (or Red) Pesto
Serves 1

Ingredients:
2 cups packed basil, parsley, cilantro, spinach, chard, kale, collards, carrot tops, sun-dried tomatoes, or cooked beets (you can also combine any of these, except tomatoes and beets)
1/2 cup toasted nuts (walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, pecans, or white beans, chickpeas – or no nuts at all)
3 cloves crushed garlic (or 2 garlicscapes)
1 cup finely shredded cheese (parmesan, romano, cheddar, mozzarella, etc.)
1 tablespoon lemon juice (or half lemon juice, half vinegar, or none at all)
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil, canola oil, vegetable oil
Pinch of salt (optional)

Directions:
Put the five ingredients into a food processor and pulse to blend. Slowly add oil through feed tube until it makes a nice paste.

3 comments

1 Terisa { 06.24.11 at 4:58 pm }

Kyle~sounds yummy
I Like trying to ways of any recipe and your pesto 1 is a must try Thanks for Sharing~

GoTtA LoVe PeSTo!!!

2 Terisa { 06.24.11 at 4:57 pm }

Gotta LoVe PeStO!!!!

3 kyle { 10.12.10 at 4:34 pm }

i made a “pesto” out of traditional garden herbs, Oregano, thyme, purple basil, sage,olive oil and almonds.. throw it all in food processor and you have a great herb spread. taste great on grilled chicken

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