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fresh basil spice

Are you finding bunches of fresh herbs in your CSA box? Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme?

Hmmm, I wonder if Scarborough Fair was the first Farmer’s Market? If any of this rings a bell, you’re dating yourself to 60s crooners, Simon and Garfunkel. And maybe even feelin’ groovy. Without revealing age-specific details, I’m glad I experienced the 60s. As far as decades go, that was by far one of the best. Definitely much cooler than the 80s, wouldn’t you agree?

Bellbottoms and tie-dyes or mall-bangs and leg-warmers? Need I say more?

And the music? No comparison.

It would have been a better recipe segue for me if the lyrics had been parsley, dill, mint, rosemary and basil. Not nearly as melodic. Nonetheless, I find it quite romantic that the original love song was written long ago and involved a bonny lass, fresh herbs and a farmer’s market.

Only in Scotland.

I’m growing the rosemary and mint myself, but the rest of these herbs have been in my farm-share box the past several weeks. I can’t use them all, so I’m in the process of drying the more “dryable” herbs (a post on that will follow). The basil I have no problem using immediately. I love basil, the smell alone is enough to send me straight to the kitchen.

This recipe can be adjusted and played with in all kinds of ways. I’m having a love affair with pesto lately and am finding that you can create pesto using almost anything you find in your CSA box. Zucchini? Yes. Spinach? Yes. Garlic scapes? Wow! Onions, basil, parsley? No problem. Be creative. Here’s another one of my “launching pad” recipes to get you started.

basil mint pesto (and/or whatever else you want to throw in)
what you need

2 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
1 cup fresh mint leaves, washed and dried
1/2 cup chopped walnuts *
3 cloves garlic *
1/2 cup good quality olive oil
juice of 1 small lemon
1/2 – 2/3 cup freshly grated asiago or parmesiano reggiano cheese (a hard Italian cheese)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

what you do
* The walnuts and garlic are wonderful if toasted first, but it’s not necessary. If you decide to try it, preheat the oven to 325F. Place walnuts on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once or twice, until golden brown (watch carefully as they burn fast). In the meantime, cut the ends off the garlic, but don’t peel it. Toast them in a small skillet on medium heat (on the stovetop). I have a small cast iron skillet that works great. Turn the cloves periodically so they cook on all sides, but don’t burn. The garlic should be somewhat soft and tender. Let cool and peel.

Put basil, mint, lemon, and half the oil in a food processor and pulse until well blended. Add garlic, walnuts, cheese and drizzle in the rest of the oil. Pulse until smooth. Add salt and pepper, pulse and adjust as needed (add a touch more oil if needed). It should be a past-like consistency.

You can also skip the mint and pulse in some shredded zucchini. Zucchini has a lot of moisture in it, so make sure you don’t end up with the pesto being too sloppy. You might have to cut back on the lemon or the oil. Serve on pasta, fresh roasted vegetables, toasted bread, as a side with fish or chicken or as a spread for sandwiches or veggie burritos. If you want to save some for later, put it in an ice-cube tray, freeze it and use individual servings as needed. This is a great way to have “fresh” pesto all year.

Feelin’ groovy,
Melissa

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21 Responses to “basil mint walnut pesto”

  1. Cid says:

    Melissa,

    Funny you should mention basil…. I’m just looking at a pot of it now and wondering whether I have enough time to whip up a pesto before my kitchen is demolished. I have a date and walnut cake in the oven right now to sustain me over the next few days as walls come tumbling down etc. I’m not normally good at camping but over the following eight weeks or so, I’m going to imagine I’m part of the mountaineering gang in Idaho or Ray Mears sidekick…. imagination is a wonderful thing :)

    Fabulous recipes Melissa…. forgive me if I miss the odd day… I might be outside lighting fires and boiling up tea in an old tin can or something like that :)

    Cid

  2. Never enough pesto recipes when it all comes in to harvest at once. This one sounds delicious.

  3. Melissa says:

    Cid,

    You’re having your kitchen demolished? Why and what’s the plan. You’ll laugh, but the way you worded your sentence about the cake in the oven gave me the idea that you had a date. Period. And that you also had a walnut cake in the oven.

    Yes, we need to hire Ray to take care of you during your time of need. OR, I can send Jim Denevan in his vintage bus to do all your cooking. I’m sure he has a stove in there somewhere (he has the coolest vintage travel bus).

    I’m anxious to hear how your kitchen remodel goes. I’m assuming you’re demolishing it for a reason. We’ll miss you if you’re out of internet range.

    Hang in there. I’d love to see photos of the progress.

    :-)

  4. Melissa says:

    Meghan,

    I couldn’t agree more. I love pesto and with all the basil, mint, parsley, cilantro, onions and zucchini being harvested, there are lots of opportunities for making creative variations of pesto. Yum, indeed!

  5. Peter says:

    Melissa-

    It’s been awhile so thought I would chime in. Hope the weather has been enjoyable since the recent storm. We’ve been over run with Basil from our CSA so tons of pesto here. Tonight I made a Caprese salad with a twist. Instead of whole basil leaves between the tomato and mozz I shmeared (just love that word) some pesto on the tomato slices then topped with a slice of mozz followed by a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic. Yum!

  6. Melissa says:

    Oooh, sounds wonderful, Peter!

    I’m thinking I’ll try a nice cilantro and pecan pesto next time. I have a bunch (I mean a BUNCH) of cherries from my fruit share, so that’s been my focus the past couple of days. I’ve been adding cherries to everything (not that I’m complaining).

  7. Mary says:

    Hi, Melissa,

    Thanks for the idea. I just got a little baggie of basil, so I can’t make much pesto. I’m bummed, no dill for the last two weeks. Also, I got peaches instead of cherries. I guess it all depends on the day of the week when your share arrives. I didn’t get much lettuce this time, either. I’m off to marinate kale and then dehydrate it.

    Thanks, again.

    Mary

  8. Melissa says:

    Mary,

    It’s rather random as far as what you get. I’ve received a bunch of cherries the past 3 weeks (has it been 3 weeks of fruit shares?). I also ended up with several bunches of dill, of which I’m drying right now. I’m preparing a post on drying herbs. My rosemary plant was about the only thing that survived the hail storm, so I’m drying that as well. Basil doesn’t air dry all that great — plus, I’ve been using it all up.

    The pizza I made several days ago was wonderful, topped with almost every veggie I received in my box (including beet greens). Last night I sauteed the onions (those big grilling onions) with a little garlic and put them over a plain salad made from the Romaine hearts we received. I had a touch of Parmesan on the salad, then topped it with the onions. OH my gosh, was that ever good. The onions were sweet and the warmth wilted the lettuce just the right amount. It was great!

  9. Cid says:

    Melissa,

    Patience is a virtue or so I’m learning! My kitchen project will continue for quite some time…. in the interim I’ll be making full use of the local eateries. Salads suddenly seem like a good idea, in fact anything that doesn’t require cooking! Mine’s the sort of house that would suit an old fashioned Aga cooker but instead I’m having a contemporary one…. the kind that actually cooks evenly etc (or let’s hope so). This is by far the hardest domestic project I’ve encountered but afterwards it should be much more user friendly with a twist of glamour :)

    I can hear my odd-job man calling out ‘what type of ceiling do you want’ as he hacks down the existing one, so I suppose I should attend to business. Needless to say you’ll be getting regular bulletins as to progress and mental state :)

    Cid

  10. Melissa says:

    Cid,

    I can’t wait to see your added “twist of glamour” — with your imagination and creativity, I’m sure it will be one of a kind! I’m very interested in updates, not only on the kitchen drama, but YES, your mental state as well.

    Hang in there. Oh, does it bother your workers to have that life-sized cutout of Daniel Craig hovering about?

  11. Karen says:

    This looks great, Melissa. We have a huge crop of basil this summer and I’ll be making lots of pesto…

  12. Great photo and I am loving reading about everything you are coming up with to use your CSA goodies … salad, pesto, pizza … yum. Always love your launching pad recipes, too. Thanks for the info on the zucchini substitution! That would be my choice.

    Shirley

  13. Melissa says:

    Karen,

    I’m reading Pacific Lady right now! Very good book!

    As for the basil pesto, I like it a lot, but my favorite was the garlic scape pesto I was making last month. Yum!

    I appreciate your comment. Hope all is well with you.

  14. Melissa says:

    Shirley,

    You know, I take 99% of my own photos, but actually, this one I didn’t take! No wonder it’s been such a hit.

    :-)

    My favorite thing lately has been Monday night pizza with my CSA veggies. It’s becoming a weekly event. I pick up my CSA box around 5 PM and depending on what’s in it, I make that version of pizza. It’s fun. Beet greens, garlic scapes, squash — whatever I find in the box. Surprise pizza!

  15. Cid says:

    Melissa,

    I just love the sound of your weekly homemade pizza…. bet nothing beats it for flavour or quality. As for the biodegradable version of Mr Craig… you guessed right, the workers aren’t too keen so subsequently he’s been shoved into the spare room while works progress… which is probably just as well since his ideas proved too costly, leaning more towards the casino look :)

    Mental state this weeks drifts between relaxed mayhem and blind panic. All that will have to wait though because tonight I’m off to a friend’s house for supper, a real treat.

    Cid

  16. greedydave says:

    Melissa,

    Smashing pesto recipe and a beautiful photo. Your basil looks so lush and squeaky! I’d have never thought to roast my garlic but certainly giving that a go. No.1 on the list of applications is Peter’s tomato salad!! Words fail me at how good that sounds. Thanks all for the inspiration.

    GDave

    PS. Good luck with the kitchen refurb, Cid.

  17. Melissa says:

    GDave,

    Thanks, although I didn’t take the photo. I take 99% of the photos on this blog, but this one wasn’t one of them. Figures.

    Oh man, roasted garlic is the best. I love it on pizza. I slice thin pieces and throw it on the first layer of veggies. Yes, doesn’t Peter’s idea look delicious!

  18. Karen says:

    Melissa, thanks so much for reading the book! I’m delighted to hear it.

    …and I’m right up there in the roasted garlic fan club, too.

    Hope all is well with you this summer!

  19. Melissa says:

    Karen,

    Oh, I love the book! And I have someone in mind to buy a copy for. It’s great — nice job.

    Yes, roasted garlic is the best.

  20. I’m making a basil walnut pesto chicken with sweet potatoes in the crockpot tomorrow for our girlfriends’ dinner … part inspiration from you and part from Stephanie of A Year of Crockpotting. I’ll report back. :-)

    Shirley

  21. My daughter likes to eat straight (fresh) basil leaves. She ate a good portion of what we purchased at the farmer’s market last week before we got to use it in our corn and avocado salad.

    Basil is one of my favorite herbs, but I find the dried basil truly loses a lot of its flavor and character.

    Anyways, I enjoy reading your blog! :)

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