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© 2017 by Erika Siegel

Pesto Four Ways

April 3, 2016

Beautifully green, full of flavor, and surprisingly nutritious: pesto brings an exciting and rich flavor to many dishes. Scroll down for four different easy and inviting pesto recipes from the Nourish Me Kitchen!

 

Standard pesto uses basil as a base, which is a great way to get vitamins A and K, antioxidants, and even iron in a concentrated bite. You can always use basil; however, it is really fun to invite other herbs, such as cilantro, mint, or tarragon, to the pesto party. You can also add in raw kale or arugula if you’re feeling inspired. Once you have the blender or food processor out, let your creative juices flow.

 

 

Pesto can be used generously as a sauce on pasta, whole grains, potatoes, or a bowl of steamed vegetables. It makes a great spread on sandwiches and wraps, or a dipping sauce for just about anything (my kids’ favorites are sliced cucumbers or jicama.). As a child, my mom taught me to add pesto generously to scrambled eggs or omelets, and I have been doing it ever since. Liven up cooked chicken or fish with a dollop of pesto before serving. Mix your pesto with some vinegar and oil to make an instant salad dressing (whoa!).

 

Pesto should only be made with juice from fresh lemons or limes. You just can’t match the bright flavor that fresh citrus imparts. Pine nuts add a delicious richness and carry out bad fats, but if they are not your thing (or just too pricey), try substituting almonds, pecans, or hazelnuts. Avoiding cheese? No sweat. Use brewer’s yeast or nutritional yeast instead. If raw garlic packs too much of a punch, just chop it and soak in near-boiling water for a few minutes before using.

 

Pesto freezes really well, so you might as well double and triple your batch using fresh summer herbs. Just freeze it in ice cube trays, and then transfer the cubes to a freezer bag once frozen. Basil grows in many climates with ease, but you don’t have to grow your own to go wild with the basic and designer pestos below.

Basic Pesto  

Makes about 2 cups

 

This is a standard hearty pesto. Enjoy it in its simplicity or add in a few mint leaves to brighten it up.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

  • 1 medium size garlic clove

  • 4 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves

  • 1 cup pine nuts

  • 1/4 cup organic shredded parmesan cheese, or 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

 

Directions:

  1. In a food processor or blender, pulse the olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic.

  2. Add the basil, pine nuts, cheese, and salt and pulse, scraping down the sides as needed, until all the ingredients are coarsely chopped.

  3. If needed add a little water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to help the blending process.

  4. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Note that pesto is definitely better a few hours after you make it. The sharp garlic flavor chills out and the ingredients get a chance to mingle.

  5. It will keep for about 1 week in the refrigerator, with a thin layer of olive oil poured over the top to prevent browning.

Cilantro Pecan Pesto  

Makes about 1.5 cups

 

This light and fresh pesto offers a mild flavor and a significant nutritional gold star wherever it lands. Cilantro is a superfood and supreme detoxifier. It is a unique plant that effectively removes heavy metals out of the body. Pecans are rich in antioxidants and have been shown to reduce signs of aging. I have patients who eat this pesto daily as part of their body cleansing protocol. Medicine can in fact taste really good!

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw pecans, soaked and drained

  • 1 cup cilantro, tightly packed (approximately 1 bunch)

  • 1 cup fresh basil, tightly packed

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from about 2 limes) (see Note)

  • 1 medium garlic clove

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

 

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, pulse the pecans until coarsely chopped.

  2. Add the cilantro, basil, lime juice, garlic, salt, and cayenne, if using, and pulse, scraping down the sides as needed, until all the ingredients are coarsely chopped.

  3. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil.

  4. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Note that pesto is definitely better a few hours after you make it. The sharp garlic flavor chills out and the ingredients get a chance to mingle.

  5. It will keep for about 1 week in the refrigerator, with a thin layer of olive oil poured over the top to prevent browning.

Note: To get more juice out of your limes, before slicing into them, massage the limes, squeezing and rolling them around vigorously in your hands like you really mean it. You will get a lot more out of those green beauties.

Tarragon-Hazelnut Pesto with Meyer Lemon

Makes about 2.5 cups

 

Tarragon imparts a truly unique and fresh flavor to any dish. This combination will keep people guessing what type of secrets you have up your culinary sleeve. Mix generously with chopped chicken, mayo, and celery for an exciting chicken salad. Dollop onto eggs or fish, or create a simple hors d’oeuvres by serving it on crackers or cucumber rounds.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup hazelnuts, toasted or raw

  • 1 cup tightly packed fresh tarragon

  • 1 cup tightly packed fresh basil

  • 4 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice (or use regular lemons)

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon honey dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

 

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, blend the hazelnuts until coarsely chopped without any big chunks.

  2. Add the tarragon, basil, and lemon juice and pulse until well combined.

  3. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil.

  4. Add the honey and salt and pulse again to combine.

  5. Taste and adjust seasonings or consistency with a pinch of salt or olive oil, if desired. It will keep for about 1 week in the refrigerator, with a thin layer of olive oil poured over the top to prevent browning.

Thai Pesto

Makes 1 cup

 

This unique pesto features pistachio nuts, whose exciting green color lets you know they contain special carotenoids. Pistachios fight free radicals and are rich with the blood building nutrients B6 and iron. They are best purchased unsalted. Adding in cilantro and ginger gives this pesto major nutritional bonus points and a really dynamic Southeast-Asian flavor.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 small garlic clove

  • One 1-inch piece fresh ginger

  • 3/4 cup packed fresh cilantro

  • 3/4 cup packed fresh basil

  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios (unsalted if possible)

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

  • 2 tablespoon fresh lime or lemon juice

  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt (optional; omit if using salted nuts)

 

Directions:

  1. With the food processor running, drop in the garlic and process until minced, then drop in the ginger and do the same.

  2. Turn the processor off and scrape down the sides.

  3. Add the cilantro, basil, pistachios, oil, and lime. Process until consistent and well combined.

  4. Taste and add salt, if needed.

  5. It will keep for about 1 week in the refrigerator, with a thin layer of olive oil poured over the top to prevent browning.

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