SOMETIMES, WHAT A cook needs more than a recipe is instinct. Intuition. And this summer, my instincts have been dead on, at least when it comes to my favorite homemade condiment, pesto. This old standby has had multiple reinventions this year, and the inspiration is still coming…
I started with pesto this year as soon as the arugula popped up in my garden’s cold frame. Arugula, at least under my tenuous care, can grow leggy and bitter in what seems like an instant, but that’s no problem if you’re using it for pesto: A quick blanching cures the bitterness. I use equal amounts of blanched mature arugula and fresh baby leaves, blended with walnuts, the juice of a lemon, sheep’s milk Romano cheese (or sometimes feta) in lieu of parmesan, and of course, enough extra virgin olive oil to get the texture just to my taste.
Garlic scapes come under the processor blade next: their supremely sharp flavor marries well with a soft, nearly sweet nut like an almond or pecan, and then the usual cast of characters: a bit of parmesan, and…you get the idea. This one is particularly delicious spread on crusty bread for a biting, nearly chartreuse reinvention of garlic bread.
Now, high summer, it’s basil’s turn. Ever since mine started leafing out, I’ve been making pesto like mad. Sometimes, I use my mother’s trick, using half flat leaf parsley along with the basil, to stretch the classic green. But mostly, I follow my usual non-recipe recipe: filling the bowl of the food processor with washed and dried leaves, adding a couple handfuls each of walnuts and just-grated parmesan (the best I can afford–it makes a difference), a grind or two of black pepper, and then streaming in gorgeous green olive oil until I have a nice melange in between paste and liquid. Every time I make it, I swear some will make it to the freezer for winter. For me, nothing can cut through the dark of a winter night like a brilliant taste of summer bounty. Alas, we keep eating it all up.
I am away from my garden this week, but pesto has followed me all the way to Hawaii. Here, no surprise, chefs use the local macadamia nut to give body to the classic sauce, in lieu of the traditional walnuts or pine nuts. They add a subtle buttery richness that’s a perfect compliment to the sweet, bright flavor of the basil.
Check out the other, incredible food bloggers’ additions to this week’s Summer Fest, and don’t forget to chime in in the comments with a link to your own contributions!
- White on Rice Couple Todd and Diane use fresh mint to make homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream.
- Nicole at Pinch My Salt features Green Beans with Balsamic Browned Butter.
- Margaret at A Way to Garden stores a year of herbs—and makes one-pot Farinata a polenta dish with greens.
- Food Network UK is on the edge with herbs and greens.
- Caroline at the Wright Recipes is cooking up Wax and Butter Bean Herbed Salad.
- Jennifer and Mark at Gilded Fork have a virtual garden of recipes for basil, cilantro, fennel, lavender, lemongrass, rosemary, sage and tarragon.
- Shauna and Danny at Gluten Free Girl and the Chef
- Tigress in a Jam has a preserving–book giveaway, and ways to put up greens, beans, herbs.
- Caron at SanDiegoFoodstuff talks about Kale and Feta Empanadas and roasted Romano beans.
- Alana at Eating From the Ground Up has shirred eggs with fresh herbs: the affinity between eggs and herbs.
- Cate O’Malley at Sweetnicks
- Kelly at Just a Taste
- Tara at Tea and Cookies
- Judy at Tuscan Diva