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CSA Unboxed: Herb Pesto

The bounty of summer is upon us, and CSA (community supported agriculture) shares and farmers markets are overflowing with fresh veggies. Join the Jew and the Carrot every other Monday for CSA Unboxed, a look at an ingredient you might find in your CSA box or at your Farmers Market booth, and some interesting ideas of what to do with it.

Living in a rural town in the Berkshires, it often takes time and planning to make a trip to the local farmers’ markets, and even to the supermarket. Rather than relying on the markets for our summer vegetables, last summer my partner and I decided to try our hand at gardening.

We bought some fencing, seeds, and starter plants, dug up the earth and added manure, and got to work building the garden. That first summer we stuck to easier items to grow, like tomatoes, carrots and potatoes. This year is our second summer gardening; our garden is more bountiful than ever, and we’re experimenting more too. This year, we added all kinds of herbs, radishes, beets, and greens to the garden and we love experimenting with different kinds of homemade pesto.

Pestos you’ll commonly find:

Basil and pine nuts are the most common ingredients found in pesto, but by substituting various greens and herbs for basil, and different kinds of nuts and seeds for pine nuts, all kinds of pesto varieties can be made.

Generally Parmesan or Romano cheese is added to pesto, but I have experimented to create many delicious pesto recipes that do not require cheese, leaving you with vegan, pareve pestos to combine with any meal.

Storing pesto:

Pesto can either be eaten be eaten right away, stored in the fridge for up to five days, or it can be frozen. To freeze pesto, place it in freezer-safe containers, and eat within six months. Defrost the pesto by leaving it in the refrigerator overnight, microwaving it alone, over pasta or grains, and then eat it within five days of defrosting. As a tip, ice cube trays work really well for freezing pesto, and each cube makes one portion of pesto.

Using pesto:

While pesto is typically used as a pasta topping, there are many other ways to use this herb-filled sauce and spread. Pesto makes an excellent pizza sauce — just spread it on your pizza dough in place of tomato sauce. It can also be used as a dip for raw veggies, or try drizzling some on top of grilled vegetables, or mixing it into a grain dish.

Easy Freezer Vegan Pesto
Yield: 1 cup

2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 cups basil leaves, rinsed, dried, and well packed
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

1) Place walnuts in saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Drain and rinse.

2) Using a food processor, first process the garlic, then walnuts, then basil, salt, and pepper.

3) When first five items are smooth, slowly add olive oil to make a paste.

Pepita Parsley Pesto
Yield: 1 cup

2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 cups flat or curly parley leaves, rinsed, dried, and well packed
1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

1) Using a food processor, first process the garlic, then pepitas, then parsley, salt, and pepper.

2) When first five items are smooth, slowly add olive oil to make a paste.

Radish Greens and Spinach Pesto
Yield: 1 cup

Radish greens are often tossed into the compost bin, but by combining them with spinach, the result is a tasty pesto.

2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup radish greens, rinsed, dried, and well-packed
1 cup spinach, rinsed, dried, and well-packed
1/2 cup walnuts or pine nuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

1) If using walnuts, place in saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Drain and rinse.

2) Using a food processor, first process the garlic, then nuts, then greens, salt, and pepper.

3) When first five items are smooth, slowly add olive oil to make a paste.

Lisa Fine is the writer behind Lisa’s Foods on the Move, a travel and healthy food blog. She loves to share new recipes and local food finds, and also shares her passion for farmers’ markets, farms, traveling, and running.

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