Most of us equate pesto with basil, which is a bit like saying all gum is mint flavored. Pesto is simply a mixture of a green leafy vegetable, an oily nut, garlic, olive oil, and parmesan cheese. The word pesto is derived from the Italian word pestare, which means to pound or crush. Back in the day, pesto was made with muscle and a mortar and pestle. Today, food processors accomplish the pounding task in a jiffy.
With a bit of creativity, the wonders of pesto never cease.You can use it as: a spread on bread, meat, and vegetables; a dip; or as a sauce on pasta, rice, and vegetables.
As for your green leafy vegetable options, you can make pesto from kale (in the bag this week), mustard greens, spinach, arugula, parsley, and of course basil. As for the nuts, there is no need for pricey pine nuts. Walnuts, almonds or even pumpkin or sunflower seeds do the trick just fine. Nor do you need to get all fancy-pants with expensive olive oil or cheese, just use something decent.
Now on to the most marvelous things about non-basil pesto. It doesn’t turn brown when stored as basil pesto does, so make a batch and store it in the fridge. If you have a family member that likes pesto but wouldn’t be caught dead eating kale or mustard greens… they will never know the difference.
Basic Pesto Recipe
½ bunch of greens
4 cloves of garlic
½ cup of nuts or seeds
½ cup of parmesan cheese
½ cup of olive oil
Blend the garlic, seeds, and cheese together until smooth then add the greens and olive oil. All of the amounts above can be adjusted to taste. The amount of olive oil is the most variable depending on how you’d like to use it. Less olive oil is better for a spread and more is better for a sauce. Also, some recipes call for lemon or balsamic vinegar… give it a try!
This Week’s Field Goods Favorite
Fear not the mustard green! They are freakishly healthy and as the name implies have a mustardy kick. Not a fan of the peppery flavor? Cooking them tones down the taste and you’ll find they are similar to spinach. More info
Mustard Green Pesto #1
Mustard Green Pesto #2 (sub mustard greens for arugula)
Lemon Garlic Sauteed Mustard Greens
Mustard Greens and Sweet Onion Saute
Butter-Blanched Mustard Greens with Mustard Oil
Lo Mein with Mustard Greens