February is a difficult month for seasonal produce. It’s lodged in the desolate space between the lushness of spring and the heartiness of winter. After a while even the strictest of seasonal eaters will be craving something brighter.
Snacking on something that reminds us of spring, however, isn’t as easy as running to the supermarket. There’s no question that an in-season strawberry is more flavorful and sweet than one sitting on a shelf in the middle of February. Or that the short three week season of the garlic scape isn’t worth the forty-nine weeks of waiting.
This is where a great pesto comes in. Pesto is such an easy sauce to whip up, and so versatile, that even months away from the best basil of the year you can grab some fresh greens from the farmers’ market (even if their only neighbors are squash, potatoes and hothouse apples) and have a meal just begging to be eaten al fresco.
The best recipe for pesto that I’ve found is simple: greens, garlic, nuts, olive oil and hard cheese, blended to taste. I’ve successfully skipped the cheese for vegan friends, substituting a few more nuts and some high quality sea salt, and once even left out the garlic for a picky five year old.
If you’re looking for a little more structure the following is adapted from tastespotting.com.
1 clove garlic
3 cups chopped kale
½ cup raw walnuts, roughly chopped
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Pulse garlic clove in food processor until it is chopped finely, about 30 seconds. Add kale, walnuts and Parmesan cheese and pulse until chopped.
With the food processor running on low, add olive oil in a steady stream until you get the consistency you want.
(For the record I use a funky old one speed blender and never have any problems.)
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Toss over warm quinoa or the pasta of your choice, smear on a baguette or eat right off the spoon.
And when spring rolls around don’t forget to flex your pesto making skills on some garlic scapes.
Erin Tewes – Brooklyn.