Using Fresh Herbs From the Garden

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I love growing fresh herbs. You can grow them outside during the warm months, or indoors duing the colder seasons. A kitchen herb garden is an excellent choice for those who love to cook with what they grow.

With that thought in mind, one of my favorite ways to use herbs is in homemade pesto. Incredibly easy to do — and super-flavorful!

It is traditional to make pesto with basil…

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… but for fun and variety, you could experiment with lots of other herbs and nuts or seeds.

I have made delicious pesto with parsley and sunflower seeds, but cilantro and walnuts make a good combination, too. Lemon balm and almonds is another potential combination …

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Mint combined with pistachios …

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… is another on my list to try. As you can see, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

Pesto is great on pasta, of course, but it is also lovely mixed with steamed or sauteed veggies, spread on cooked fish or chicken, mixed with beans, in sandwiches, on potatoes … it’s pretty much good anywhere.

Pesto is easy to make in a food processor, but you can make a fabulous pest by hand. Chopping by hand also typically uses much less oil.

Basic Recipe for Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh basil, packed (if basil is not in season or you wish to experiment, try anoter herb like parsley, cilantro, lemon balm or mint)
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts (or walnuts, almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, pistachios, macadamia nuts, etc.)
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese — optional (if you avoid dairy, you may need to add additional salt to taste)
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Blend all ingredients except oil and cheese in a food processor until smooth.
  2. Slowly add the oil in a stream while the food processor is on.
  3. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the grated cheese. Pulse until blended. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Store leftovers in the refrigerator and use within 4-5 days, or store in the freezer (covered with a thin layer of oil to prevent browning). If you are planning to freeze the pesto, it’s probably best to leave out the cheese and add it later, after it has defrosted.

— Winnie Abramson writes the organic gardening and food blog Healthy Green Kitchen

Photo Credit: Winnie Abramson

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