Universal Pesto Recipe

Back in March I took a day off, and Sylvia and I spent some time gardening — clearing out patches, lining the expanded garden in front with a few walking stones, and planting some cool-weather edibles like rhubarb, kale, chard, and radishes.

I don’t know why, but last year I had no luck with radishes. This was likely because they were in the backyard, which doesn’t get much sun, but I now have it in my head that, even though radishes are touted as one of the easiest vegetables you can grow, I can’t grow them. I planted them out of duty, but largely forgot about them.

Fast-forward six weeks and Sylvia and I needed to plant potatoes, so I was clearing out the radish patch that wasn’t going to grow anyway, and was surprised to see white orbs pushing through the ground. When I pulled them, we got these:

I was so excited to have broken the Radish Curse that I wanted to use the whole, lovely plant. So I made pesto with the greens.

A couple of years ago I made my first batch of garden pesto from basil, and now I make and freeze big loads of it to taste a little summer promise in the middle of a dark Indiana winter. It usually makes an appearance on one of our Friday night pizzas, but it also tops pasta for a super-easy dinner, is scrambled into eggs, or shows up at parties as a dip. But I learned that pesto is really just a combination of greens and nuts, so while the classic pairing is basil and pine nuts, you can make pesto out of pretty much any combination. For this pesto, I used sunflower seeds with the radish greens. These non-traditional pestos won’t taste like basil pesto, but each is delicious and showcases the unique flavors of the greens you’re using. The radish-green pesto didn’t taste like basil, but it did taste uber-fresh and spring-like.

Universal Pesto

4 (packed) cups of greens (basil, sorrel, chard, radish greens, kale, etc.)
1/2 cup or so olive oil
1/3 cup or so nuts (pine nuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.)
2 peeled garlic cloves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Put all of the ingredients except the Parmesan in a food processor and whir until it’s a nice consistency. I usually add about half the olive oil initially, and then drizzle more in until the pesto is a nice and creamy. Then stir in the Parmesan. If you’re using basil or another green that browns easily and you’re not going to use the pesto immediately, store it with a thin layer of olive oil (1/4 inch to 1/2 inch) drizzled over the top.

I’ve got my eye on you, overgrown sorrel plant:


6 thoughts on “Universal Pesto Recipe

    • You’ll have to let me know how it turns out, Sharon. I’ve also heard of using them in risotto, but pesto is infinitely faster. 🙂

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