Pesto in itself is a simple beauty from northern Italy, lending a vibrant and luscious punch to everything from a piece of bread to a bowl of pasta. As I was playing around with the recipe this week, it almost became a game as to all the different ways I could use it with what I already had in the house–a perfect sauce with some linguine I found in the cupboard, a delightful spread on some thick slices of toasted bread, an out of the ordinary dip for carrots, celery & cucumber, and with a splash of lemon juice, it made a bright and decadent dressing for a salad of greens and fresh mozzarella.
Traditionally, pesto is made of basil, pine nuts, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and a hard grated cheese like Parmesan. And this in itself is amazing, especially in the summer months when basil is abundant and has the chance to get together with good friends like tomatoes.
For the rest of the year, there is a lot of room to play around with the recipe and make it work in your kitchen for what’s happening in real life, like a half bag of spinach or a bunch of kale hanging out in the fridge without a hope of being used up before it’s too late.
Recently Hans and I had a super rare opportunity for a date night and we spent the evening at one of our favorite spots in San Diego, Ironside Fish & Oyster for one of Chef Jason McLeod’s incredible Chef’s Catch dinners. This particular dinner featured Sara Gasbarra, the special guest of the evening, who also happens to be a friend from Chicago:) Sara owns and operates Verdura, where she cultivates (from concept to harvest) culinary gardens for restaurants and hotels.
This delightful dinner was all about celebrating the lesser-known or ugly parts of vegetables (and animals) that in fact are full of flavor and culinary possibility. Aside from the novelty in creating a gremolata sauce from citrus pulp leftover from juicing, or a pesto made from vegetable tops, or using the forgotten flowers from rapini plants, a deeper chord ran through all the fun and adventure that could not escape me. There is real, nourishing food that never makes it to the bins at the grocery store. And not only that, but there is real, amazing opportunities in my fridge right now even though it may look like “there’s nothing to eat”.
I could not stop thinking about it as I walked through the grocery store later that week, and I continued to think about it as I wandered through the farmers market on Saturday. Actually, I found myself feeling a lot of emotions about these forgotten foods, like I wanted to stick up for them being bullied by the cool veggies like breakfast radishes, or heirloom tomatoes, or the stunning romanesco.
And honestly, I think it’s a combination of the current political shenanigans and things like the anticipation of EO Wilson’s new book, Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life where he proposes a plan to save the planet by devoting half of the surface of the earth to nature, but I can’t stop thinking about the unknown future and my part in it. I know I probably shouldn’t be writing about politics in a food blog, but oh well. When I heard Drumpf was running for President, I didn’t give it a second thought. I took it as a bit of fun for the media and hardly credible. But look where we are now. This planet has been so good to us for so long, it feels hard to believe that anything really apocalyptic could ever happen, and yet look at what’s happening to the ice caps and weather patterns. So the thought that has been spinning around in my head is this; when we pluck something from the earth, do we have a responsibility to use every bit that we can? There is also money savings when we buy a bunch of carrots with the tops and use the carrots for snacking and soups and salads, and then use the green tops for something as delicious as pesto. The point is, it’s your kitchen, it’s your grocery store run, it’s your trip to the farmers market, it’s your budget. Make it count, make it fill your table with fun, adventure, and make it yours. <3<3
2 large garlic cloves
1 ½ c. kale leaves
(or other greens like carrot, beet or radish tops, spinach, arugula, ramps, broccoli florets, rapini,etc.)
1 ½ basil leaves
¼ c. raw almonds (or pine nuts, pecans, walnuts, etc.)
½ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
½ c. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
- Wash greens and basil well and dry thoroughly.
- Blend everything together until smooth.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Keep in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
Component in Action
- sauce for pasta
- spread for croustinis
- on sandwiches
- scrambled with eggs
- as a dip by itself, or folded into some greek yogurt for a creamy dip
- leave out the cheese and use as a marinade
- as a vinaigrette for salads