Pesto 101

Making use of all of my summer greens

I absolutely love pesto! I fell in love with it years ago as an easy condiment to keep in the fridge to use and nibble on throughout the week. It’s tasty, easy to make and it’s adaptable! The most basic version of pesto is basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese, EVOO and a pinch of salt (I add a bit of balsamic vinegar, as well)! I quickly found myself adapting the basic recipe, mostly because I was missing one ingredient or another. The best part about creating your own pesto, is that THERE IS NO RECIPE NEEDED! Just a simple combination of your favorite ingredients, a blender or food processor, and you are set!

A jar of homemade pesto!
A jar of homemade pesto!

Here is what you need to make your own, personal style of “pesto”:
-Any kind of greens or herbs or combinations of the two (basil, cilantro, mint, tarragon, thyme, kale, spinach, etc).
-Any kind of nuts (pine nuts, almonds, pepitas, macadamia nuts, cashews, hemp seeds, etc).
-An allium (garlic, shallot, onion, scallions).
-Any kind of hard cheese (feta, cotija, Parmesan, manchego).
-An acid to add flavor and retain color (vinegar, lime or lemon juice).
-Extra flavor additions (olives, capers, peppers, chilies, etc).
-EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)

Once you get familiar with the flavor combinations you like, you can perfect the ratios of each ingredient. I love my pesto, super nutty and chunky, so I hardly use any oil and I just pulse the ingredients together, lightly. Sometimes I have tons of extra greens on hand, so I’ll make the pesto more green, with hardly any nuts. Macadamia nuts and cashews, are very rich and creamy on their own and do not require any cheese. These are great to use if you want to make a DAIRY FREE pesto. You really can’t mess this up! If you need extra flavor, add more acid, salt or cheese. Just play around with it!

Unlikely pesto ingredients....surprise yourself!
Unlikely pesto ingredients….surprise yourself!

Here are examples of some of the pestos I made this week! This pesto was made as a seasoning for some grilled chicken and shrimp. It’s really light and simple! No cheese or nuts were needed:) I guess it’s more of a paste, than a pesto:) I used leftovers to make a yummy salad dressing and to add a dash of flavor to my eggs:)

Salad greens
Red pepper flakes, EVOO, salt

This pesto was made from the abundant supply of fresh and unfamiliar herbs I received from our CSA box this week:) (Be sure to remove the thick stems on the thyme, as best as you can, using just the leafy greens!) This pesto came out super lemony and fresh tasting. It would be perfect simply tossed into some fresh pasta, but being gluten free, I have my own plans! It will be used as a marinade for seafood later this week, added to tuna salad and used as a base for a tasty vinaigrette.

Making use of all of my summer greens
Making use of all of my summer greens

Thyme, Thai basil, Chives
Purslane (a lemony succulent)
Macadamia nuts, Parmesan cheese
EVOO, salt

This pesto is Spanish inspired, with extra vinegar and tons of flavor. It is much richer in flavor. I’ll use it as a marinade for beef or pork, add it to a quinoa salad for extra flavor and use it as a base for a tomato salad dressing.

Spanish pesto ingredients!
Spanish pesto ingredients!

Manchego cheese
Sherry vinegar, EVOO
Espelette pepper powder, salt

As you can see, the combinations are endless! Have i inspired you to give it try? Make sure and let me know what you create! I’m going to experiment with using root vegetables next! Stay tuned….

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