By Brenna O’Dea
Do you have some greens sitting in your crisper that have gone from gorgeous to gross?? Don’t go throwing them away just yet! Pesto season is upon us. If you didn’t already know that, then hop on board and enjoy the ride! Now is the perfect time of year to transform those luscious leaves into something spectacular. I’m not just talking about any ol’ pesto. We’re not stopping at the basic basil variety (but don’t worry, we will get to that later). Today it’s time to learn about some new takes on your favorite summer sauce that will put those wilting greens to good use!
That’s right. We are starting right at the top. The next time you buy a big beautiful bunch of organic orange gems, save the stems! Carrot tops are one of the most underrated parts of any veg out there. I’ve heard of saving celery stalks and cheese rinds for soups and stews, but it was not until recently (thanks to some of our very own Pilot Light Chefs!!) I discovered carrot tops are good for more than just composting. Our new culinary director, Justin Behlke, recently taught students in Christie Friar’s class at Palmer Elementary how to make some easy (and delicious) carrot top pesto. And we couldn’t forget to share the love with our wonderful teachers. Chefs and owners of Honey Butter Fried Chicken, Christine Cikowski and Joshua Kulp, whipped up some springtime carrot top pesto at our professional development session back in April. They also shared ways that they work to combat food waste in the HBFC kitchen by using every part of every food and using their repurposing magic to turn what some might see as trash into delicious treasure! This insanely easy to make (and easily to customize) carrot top pesto recipe from Don’t Waste The Crumbs is the perfect plain and simple way to use up those tasty tops. Toss in whatever herbs and nuts suit your fancy, and voilá, dinner is served! Or lunch…or breakfast really. This stuff is delicious dolloped on just about everything. Pasta, pork chops, pancakes! Okay, maybe not pancakes, but if eggs are your morning go-to, add this to the mix ASAP.
If you are anything like me…you love beets. I mean LOVE. Boiled, pickled, roasted, raw…well…maybe not raw, but if they are on the menu, chances are, I am ordering them. True story, I once bought not one but TWO giant, I mean GIANT, buckets of beets at the farmer’s market because they were on some super spectacular sale and I just could not help myself. I lugged my lovely beets home…and counted them…96. Ate every. Single. One. Over the course of a few weeks of course. As magical as this beet-tastic adventure was, I wish I knew at the time that I could use the tops of my beets to make another one of my favorite foods, pesto! This beet green pesto from Plan to Eat is creamy, dreamy, and delicious! What makes this particular pesto creamier than all the rest? One tiny but mighty ingredient…grass fed butter. That’s right, BUTTAH. Not too typical of a pesto sauce, but boy does it make all the difference. Don’t fret, the bit of butter is more than balanced out by the beet greens themselves. Loaded with antioxidants for energy, and fiber to fuel your long summer days and night, these greens will do just the trick, and the butter will give you a lil’ extra boost to beat that summer heat.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This statement certainly does not always hold true, but in this case, the case of a damn delicious summer sauce packed with pine nuts and fresh basil, the truth is in the tasting. Remember way back when, exactly one year and one day ago today, when we reminisced together about the joys of childhood and trying new foods, my favorite being that gooey green sauce that I fell in LOVE with? Yeah, we’re talkin’ about it again. Good ol’ green, garlicky, basil-based pesto. Nothing else needed. Nothing at all. Except of course some pasta or protein to go underneath. Sometimes, simple is best, like with this Basic Pesto from The New York Times Cooking section. This is the best kind of recipe, because you can count all ingredients on just ONE HAND. The simple test to see if any recipe, or any food at all, is truly “natural” and “healthy”?? Count those ingredients!! Ten and under is good, five and under is GREAT.
If you start to lose touch with yourself and where your food is coming from, just take a step back and remember those tried and true words of wisdom from author and activist, Michael Pollan,
“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
And then remember the words of another foodie favorite of mine…that’s right…you guessed it, Ina Garten!
“How easy is that!?”
(Image by flickr member Linnea Sjöqvist licensed under Creative Commons)