While I do love traditional pesto made with basil, I am also a fan of using different fresh herbs and greens to create variations of this versatile condiment.
As for the nuts, it’s fun (and cheaper) to employ something other than pine nuts. Sunflower seeds, walnuts, almonds, cashews, and pistachios all work well…the possible herb/green and nut/seed combinations are only limited by your imagination. You can also play with the oil and try something other than olive oil.
Note that while a food processor makes super easy work of pesto, you can also make a fabulous pesto by hand (and if the amount of oil is a concern to you, it’s easier to use less when you chop everything by hand). I was first inspired to forgo the food processor after seeing this recipe on 101 Cookbooks, and now I do it all the time.
Here is a pesto recipe featuring one of my favorite herbs: lemon balm.
My lemon balm has been incredibly prolific this year- it does not seeming to care if it’s super dry or super rainy. At some point soon, though, the ground will freeze and my lemon balm will be no more (it will come back next year, though, as it’s a perennial), so turning it into pesto is a great way to preserve some of its lovely flavor for the cooler months ahead.
Recipe for Lemon Balm and Cashew Pesto
*2 cups fresh lemon balm leaves, packed
*1 cup fresh parsley leaves, packed
*3 medium garlic cloves, peeled
*1/4 cup raw cashews
*1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
*1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
*juice of 1 fat lemon (seeded)
*fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Combine herbs, garlic, and cashews in food processor and pulse a few times.
2. With the food processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil. Turn it off and scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula.
3. Add the lemon juice and grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Taste and salt and freshly ground black pepper, if you like.
4. Pack into glass jar(s) and top with a little olive oil for storing in the refrigerator (where it should last a few weeks). Or, use appropriate containers and store for a longer-term in the freezer (if doing this, I'd omit the cheese from the recipe and add it after you've defrosted the pesto).
5. Pesto is great on pasta, of course, but it is also lovely mixed with steamed or sauteed veggies, spread on cooked fish or chicken, mixed with beans, in sandwiches, on potatoes … it’s pretty much good anywhere.
adapted from From the Cook's Garden: Recipes for Cooks Who Like to Garden, Gardeners Who Like to Cook, and Everyone Who Wishes They Had a Garden
by Ellen Ecker Ogden
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