Pesto is a traditional Italian sauce made of basil, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic and Parmesan. It’s delicious, but at the risk of offending my Italian cook friends, I’m going to give you some riffs on traditional pesto, to make use of whatever is harvestable.
Pesto over hot pasta couldn’t be a simpler, healthier meal (or over rice or on a baked potato).
Greens such as kale, beets, Swiss chard or Asian mizuna are prolific producers, so you will almost always have more greens than you can eat in summer. One of the easiest ways to eat them fresh or preserve them for winter eating is in pesto. Pestos can be adapted to just about any flavor you like, and will give you a good shot of serious vitamins when added to soups, stews or pastas.
Simply wash and stem your greens and toss in the food processor with a couple of cloves of garlic, some olive oil, fresh basil or other herbs of your choice, salt and pepper. Puree the mixture and put it in a plastic freezer bag. Squeeze out all the air and flatten the bag to freeze. This way, you can simply break off chunks to use without having the thaw the entire bag. Alternatively, you can freeze in ice cube trays or single portion bags. Don’t add cheese until you plan to use the pesto — it doesn’t freeze well.
For a quick lunch or dinner, thaw the pesto and toss with pasta or rice and add a generous helping of high-quality grated Parmesan, Romano or Asiago cheese. You can embellish with chopped tomatoes, fresh slivers of red onion or anything else that catches your eye. Add pureed tofu to any pesto when serving for added nutrition.
KALE OR SWISS CHARD PESTO FOR THE FREEZER
3 tablespoons toasted pecans, walnuts or pine nuts (toasting gives them a fabulous flavor that raw nuts don’t have)
7 cups greens, stems removed
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced (or substitute 1/2 cup chopped garlic scapes)
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoons olive oil
Place first seven ingredients in food processor; process until smooth. Slowly pour water and oil through chute with processor on until well blended. Add cheese when serving.
ROASTED RED PEPPER PESTO
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup Parmesan
1 tablespoon walnuts, toasted
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
4 large red peppers, roasted and peeled
Blend and serve over pasta or fish.
Kate Jerome, a Kenosha writer and teacher, holds a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin and is the former Urban Farm director at Gateway Technical College. She is the owner of the consulting business Kate Jerome’s Garden to Kitchen. Her website is www.kjerome.com.