Let’s talk recipes, and more specifically lets talk about fresh herbs. The North Circle Farmers are growing a wide variety from Arugula to Zaatar Oregano. While there are many uses for herbs, Pesto is one of the most impressive. PestoÂ is a sauce originating in Genoa, Italy. It originated around the 16th century and traditionally consists of crushed garlic, basil and pine nuts blended with Parmesan cheese and olive oil (all things that were grown and produced in that region of Norther Italy). The name Pesto originates from the Genoese word pestÃ¢, which means to pound or to crush. This refers to the way in which the authentic sauce is prepared, with a mortar and pestle. However, the translation may be a bit misleading because the preparation does not consist of pounding, rather it is of grounding. The reason the preparation is important is in order to release the full aroma of the basil leaf it must NOT be crushed. Today the quickest and simplest way to make Pesto is in a food processor.
Rich green basil pestoÂ can really dress up a bowl of noodles, add an incredible pop to warm crusty bread, and really completes a grilled panini. You can also dip or toss your grilled vegetables in pesto, or make it into a vinaigrette dressing for your fresh greens.
Here is a basic pesto recipe:
- 4 cups fresh basil leaves (from about 3 large bunches)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Optional)
- 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
Place all ingredients in food processor and grind until desired consistency. You can also try using the blender which will produce a much smoother pesto.
Once you understand the pesto basics (garlic, nut, herb, oil), there are so many variations to try.
There is not much variation to garlic clove, however in the early parts of summer farmers have garlic scapes (the flower buds of the garlic) which make a fabulous pesto. You can also use young green garlic, or traditional hard or softneck varieties.
With herbs and nuts you can get a little creative. Pretty much any nut you can think of can be used in pesto, pistachio, cashew, walnut, almond, pine nut and even peanut as featured in the Thai Basil pesto recipe below, can all be interchanged. This is also true of the herbs, basil itself has many varieties a few of which are sold through North Circle, including lemon basil and Thai Basil. Herbs like cilantro, arugula, and mint, make fabulous pestos as well.
You can considering trying some of these combination:
Cilantro – Cashew – Red chilies Â (for a spicy variety that tastes great on basmati rice)
Mint – pistachio – Lemon Juice (a Greek style that pairs well with lamb, or used in a yogurt sauce in a gyro)
Parsley – Almond – Orange (try with fish, chicken or tossed in pasta)
Arugula – Walnut – Roasted Garlic (great on pasta served cold and topped with shredded Parmesan and kalamata olives)
A variation that has a few extra ingredients but still follows the pattern for Pesto is Thai Basil Pesto. Thai basil has a bit of a spicy peppery kick in comparison to it’s sweet cousin. It is delicious on fresh spring rolls (which you can get ingredients for from North Circle!), tossed in noodles or as a compliment to tofu. Try this Asian variation on an Italian theme and let us know the uses you find for it!
- 2 c Thai basil leaves
- 3 Tbs plain roasted peanuts
- 1 Tbs your favorite sweetener (agave/sugar/stevia)
- 1 Tbs rice wine vinegar (or another white vinegar if you prefer)
- 2 Tbs sesame oil
- 3 cloves garlic
- Â½ tsp red pepper flakes (can adjust for spicy preference)
- Â½ tsp soy sauce
All pesto’s are easy to freeze by placing in ziplock freezer bags or freezer containers. Make a lot and save for later. Â Just hold off on the cheese and add it when you thaw and serve!