Recipe: End of Summer Pesto
My fascination with herbs stems (no pun intended) from my childhood.
My mamaw, despite being blind, always had herbs and hearty plants around the yard. I remember her giving me some Texas hibiscus seeds when I was a teenager so I could start my own plant. I asked what it looked like when it grew, she walked me outside to her front yard and showed me the plant in all its bloomed glory and remarked on how the leaves resembled marijuana. I chose to play dumb with that remark and diverted the conversation by asking her how she knows what those leaves look like.
My mother also has a green thumb, she can take a clipping of an herb or plant and turn it into a tree with no struggle – despite all the Texas summer droughts. When everybody else’s front porch has dried out twigs in pots, my mother’s porch has glorious greenery. I strive for that ability, and herbs help me feel closer to that goal than any other plant, perhaps because they are fairly easy to grow.
In my recent years of gardening, I have been researching which herbs complement whatever fruits and vegetables I am planting. Herbs are helpful not just in nutrients for companion plants, but also by providing protection from certain diseases and bugs, and a great majority of them (when in bloom) attract those precious bees! But what does one do at the end of the summer with all those herbs? Well, I make tinctures from my medicinal herbs, and the rest, I make pesto.
Garden pesto is a great way to marry all those fresh garden flavors and enjoy them through the winter, it’s strong enough to handle the freezer and tasty enough to brighten any dish. I make large batches and freeze the pesto into cubes by portioning it into ice cube trays. Then emptying them into a freezer bag so whenever I want to add some garden flavor to a dish in the winter, it’s easy to do with little mess.
Here is a quick recipe for a mixed herb garden pesto, with a little Texas flare.
(makes about 6-8 ice-cube trays' worth)
Southern Style End of Summer Garden Pesto
16oz picked garden herbs (I used mint, parsley, nasturtium, oregano, fennel fronds, celery leaves, sage, basil, chives, anise hyssop, lemon balm, lemon verbena, and green onion)
6 garlic cloves
1 lemon cut into supremes (segments minus seeds and pith)
8 oz raw pecans
1 super hot fresh chili
6 oz grated pecorino romano cheese
Sea salt to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
In a food processor, add all the ingredients (do this in batches if you have a lot of herbs) and process while pouring olive oil into the feed at the top of the machine until a loose paste forms. If the paste appears dry and is separating from the oil, slowly add some water to help bind the pesto while the machine is running. Taste the pesto and adjust the seasoning to your liking.
Have your ice cube trays ready or, if you prefer to freeze larger portion than the cubes, you can have a desired size of freezer jars ready. Fill the trays by using a spoon or pastry bag. When tray is full, before placing in the freezer, tamp the trays down on your counter with a kitchen towel under the trays. This will help to level the cubes as well as remove any air pockets within the pesto.
Leave in the freezer overnight. Transfer the frozen cubes to a freezer-safe bag or container and store for up to 6 months.
What’s your favorite way to save fresh herbs after the summer harvest?
Photo Credit: Jori Jayne Emde
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