Monday, May 16, 2011

Pesto: A Green Diversion

For whatever reason I've lost my energy and inspiration lately. I couldn't quite go into it with out peeling back layers of multiple other things... my Mom always said getting information out of me was like peeling back an onion and that applies to me with myself as well. I have absolutely no reason to be upset about anything (well... maybe one thing but the aftermath of that one thing not happening has led to a lot of other really good things). Maybe it's the weather, these unanticipated dreary days of May that should be filled only with sun. Maybe it's the ennui that's set in after vacations, after parties, the settling down I've so wanted in my life that's finally here and I don't quite know what to make of it. I'm feeling anxious and I'm not sure why, though no matter what it is that's eating me it needs to stop, by whatever means necessary.
Come back sun! This is what my perfect little neighborhood is supposed to be like in May
So I'm willing this listlessness to end and employing all my usual methods. Listening to Girl Talk because it's both physically and mentally impossible to remain in a lethargic state while doing so. Going to the gym, because nothing perks up energy levels like a few hours a week of hard core spinning, and can be done rain or shine. Planning for the big, bad birthday I have coming up in a few months which I also think is the underlying culprit for my languid attitude. And cooking, but cooking for summer, meaning I'm laying off the heavy meats, cutting back on my carbs. Fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and nuts will abound in my kitchen. I have a long summer of shorts and sundresses and beach house invites to attend to and whipping myself into shape will only help me to feel better.
It may not look pretty now but it was delicious. Cilanto pesto over chicken legs
One of my favorite ways to make use of the spring and summer harvest is pesto. It's a favorite to make as it's pretty hard to mess up once you have the basic concept down, and very easy to jazz up. It's as light or as heavy as you want to make it and excellent to snack on with little dollops on petite toasts, or coated over a breast of chicken or salmon, tossed in pasta and salad or topped on pizza. And it doesn't have to be a traditional pesto. I've made pestos with cilantro, broccoli rabe, sun dried tomatoes, even fresh summer corn. I've made them vegan, by focusing on changing up the nuts, testing pecans, walnuts, even cashews, by adding a dash of vinegar or a pinch of crushed red pepper. And it's just so bright, you can't help but smile.

The Pesto Formula
Herbs and Vegetables: basil, parsley, cilantro, arugula, spinach, broccoli rabe, asparagus, sun dried tomatoes, peas, fiddlehead ferns, mint, roasted poblanos or bell peppers. Really you are limited only by your imagination here.

Oil: Pretty basic olive oil, but you want it to be a pretty good quality.

Nut: Traditionally a pine nut, but as these are expensive I like to use walnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, even seeds like pepitas or sunflower. For a nice health kick, toast up some flaxseeds and add those as well. Flaxseeds are best consumed when they're ground to bring out the oils

Cheese: This can be optional, but traditionally it's hard sharp cheese like Parmesan. However, I've made it with every kind from manchego to ricotta. Even smoked cheddar or a sharp goat cheese could be lovely. Once again, just use your imagination and experiment

Aromatic: garlic, roasted garlic, onion, ramp, green onions, shallots, crushed red pepper, oregano, marjoram, aji paste, horseradish

Miscellaneous: Red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, rice wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, mirin, soy sauce

Cilantro Manchego Pesto
1 c. cilantro leaves
1 c. parsley leaves
1/4 c. grated manchego
1/4 c. toasted walnuts
1/4 c. olive oil
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp. red wine vinegar

1. Combine cilantro, parsley, garlic, cheese, vinegar and walnuts in the food processor and grate to combine. Drizzle in olive oil in a thin stream while processor is running. Taste and add salt/pepper as necessary. Pesto can be used right away, or kept for about 2 weeks in the fridge. Frozen it lasts about 3 months.

Tip for individual freezing: If you have an extra ice tray, freeze in individual ice cube trays, seal in a plastic bag and then take out a cube as needed. 1 cube should =1 serving depending on the size of the tray.


  1. Thank you for another lovely recipe!

  2. Thank you Faith! I've been enjoying your posts as well:)



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