Faith's post about watermelon got me thinking about what I'm craving: pesto. The fact that basil isn't growing anywhere near New York City, at least not directly out of the earth, is one reason why pesto just isn't in season for me. The other is that emotionally, spiritually, pesto just isn't in season until we're padding around in our sandals. That's just the way it is.
What else is green and actually in season around here? What about spinach? It's a bit of a stretch, but it's coming soon. Or heck, what about the kale that overwintered in my garden and is sending out tough, but probably vitamin-packed leaves? I hacked some down with my makes-me-feel-so-tough knife.
And then I rummaged through my cupboards and found some dried mushrooms and some slivered almonds that need to be used up soon. Whiz those together with some cooked down greens (and go ahead, try any greens, depending on what's in season and available locally: kale, collards, turnip greens, beet greens, chard, arugula - that's rocket to you Brits - spinach, and yes, when it's actually in season, basil), Parmesan cheese, and some nuts. It's not only pesto, but the bonus is that it's packed with vitamins.
Try it over pasta with a light shower of grated lemon peel and some freshly ground black pepper. Use your imagination: try it on meat and fish, or be sneaky and substitute it for mayo on your next sandwich. Live a little. It's spring, life is beginning again.
Spring Greens Pesto
makes about 2 cups
1/2 cup broken up dried mushrooms 3 tablespoons olive oil 3 cloves garlic, minced 1/2 lb or so greens in season 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese 1/4 cup lightly toasted nuts (pine nuts, almonds or walnuts) 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste 1/2 lemon
Reconstitute the mushrooms in a small bowl or cup with just enough boiling water to cover. Set aside to cool in the water.
In a pan large enough to hold the greens, heat the oil and sauté the garlic briefly, then add the greens. If you are using a mix of greens, add the tougher ones (like kale and collards) before the tender ones, like spinach. Cook until wilted. The time on this can range widely: for only kale, it may take many minutes, while spinach alone will only take a few seconds. If the greens start to stick, add a splash of water.
Scrape the cooked greens into the blender and combine with the mushrooms and their juices, Parmesan, toasted nuts, salt and pepper, and finally, a squirt of lemon juice. If your blender has variable speeds, start slowly and increase gradually. Pur´e until silky smooth.
Serve over cooked pasta, with meat or fish, on crackers or toasted baguette as an hors d'oeuvre, or as a spread on sandwiches.
Will keep, its surface in direct contact with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for one week.