I have been going Pesto CRAZY!!

So many herbs, what to do with them all? I had a ton of Cilantro pop up all over the place, volunteers from last year’s garden. So, I let them come up wherever they started, and as cilantro is wont to do, it gets leggy and bolts (flowers and starts seed production early). So when it just started to get feathery on top, I pulled it all out, roots and all. I brought a pitcher full of the stuff to Little Thai Kitchen in Greenwich. Thai cooking utilizes the leaves, but also the roots of the cilantro, so I thought they would appreciate the entire plant. Their chef was very happy to get the gift, but we couldn’t really communicate, so she was a bit confused as to why I was bringing it at first. With some helpful translation from a waitress, “I have too much growing in my garden, thought you would like it,” she got it.

I gave another huge amount to Judy Roll, owner of Tabouli Grill in Stamford. She uses cilantro to make an AMAZING zhug (spicy sauce) with jalepeno that I love.

With the rest, I made many, many jars of cilantro pesto. I recommend this with fish, it’s fabulous!  You can baste fish on the grill with it (be careful of flare-ups), or spread it over fish you are baking. I used it with sea bass I baked for a dinner we hosted and it was a big hit.

Cilantro Pesto

4 Cups packed cilantro leaves (if you’re buying cilantro, you need to get several bunches in order to have 4 packed cups, otherwise, halve the recipe, but I warn you, you won’t get much finished product).
Juice of one lime (and pulp)
1 jalepeno (I keep the seeds, they’re really not too hot, but if you don’t like heat, remove the seeds first)
2 cloves garlic
pinch kosher salt
1/3 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
pulse all this in the food processor
Then turn the processor on and add about 1/2-3/4 cup olive oil in a thin stream while the machine is running. Add enough oil for the consistency to be to your liking. I prefer my pesto to be thick, sort of the consistency of regular yogurt. That way, it really sticks to food, as opposed to being like a green oil that slides off.

Garlic Scape Pesto

Each fall, I plant garlic. I just take a few bulbs that I grew from the previous year, separate them into cloves, and plant the cloves about 6 inches apart.  In the spring, the greens come up, and by mid-June, in the center is a lovely stalk that curls around. Here’s a photo:


In order for the garlic bulb to develop, you need to cut the stalk off where it meets the leaves. Then the plant puts its energy into the bulb, as opposed to the stalk and the flower at the end (which you can’t see here, because it’s hidden away inside the scape, but if you left that in place, it would eventually flower–though then you wouldn’t have a garlic bulb).

I cut the scapes off and put them in a vase for a night, they make a great alternative to a flower arrangement. Do this before a dinner party, then make scape pesto the next day.

I make it just as I would a traditional basil pesto, but instead of basil, I use only the scapes.

About 10 garlic scapes, roughly chopped into several inch pieces. I use the flower end as well, though some recipes recommend removing this. Put into food processor, add 1/2 cup pine nuts and 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan (or another hard cheese such as manchego).  Pulse several times, then with the machine running, add enough olive oil to make a paste of the consistency you prefer (again, I prefer thick).

If you leave a few scapes out of your flower arrangement, you can make a great garlic scape and white bean dip with them as an appetizer for your dinner guests. This couldn’t be easier, and it’s delicious, vegan and is a nice protein source as well.

Shiso Pesto

Another herb I have in over-abundance is shiso. It’s an herb related to mint that is used in traditional Japanese and Korean cuisine. That little piece of plastic grass that comes on your sushi plate? That’s supposed to represent shiso, and in fine Japanese restaurants, they use the real thing. You do get it in most Japanese restaurants with sashimi.


I saw the seeds in a catalog last year and thought why not try something new. It quickly takes over wherever it’s planted, though, so be careful, it really acts like an invasive weed. I let what I had at the end of last summer flower for my bees to forage, they loved it. But boy, did it come back with a vengeance. I’ll be more careful this season, and will only let a small amount flower.

I’ve already given armloads of the stuff to the sushi chef at Bambou in Greenwich. He and I have developed a special bond over shiso the last two years, and we talk about our gardens when we see each other. But I still had tons of it, so I looked up recipes for Shiso Pesto, and came up with a lot of folks saying to use it as you would basil and make regular pesto with it. I did, and it was fabulous. I made more today to keep on hand. Here’s what I did:

Shiso Pesto–traditional pesto style

5 cups packed shiso leaves
4 cloves garlic
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1/2-3/4 cup olive oil
pinch kosher salt

Same method as above–add everything but oil to processor, pulse, add oil in a thin stream with machine running.

I also came across this recipe on a blog called Glutton for Life (I like it):

It uses a traditional Japanese ingredient called Yuzo Kosho, which is a hot condiment that I was able to get at the local Japanese market–Fuji Mart.  It’s really pungent and hot, very interesting, a flavor combo that is completely new to me, and I loved it.

The pesto is interesting, I think it would go great with steamed green beans, as the blog author suggests.

But I still had tons of shiso, so I made up another pesto, this one with lemon, garlic, and ginger. I didn’t love it, though, so I won’t set out the recipe yet. I’ll try it on something, and if it’s good enough, I’ll share the recipe, but the jury is out on this one for now.

Arugula Pesto

Another pesto I made several weeks ago was from arugula. At Terra Restaurant on Greenwich Avenue they served a great whole wheat linguine with arugula pesto and lobster. It was divine, and I had tons of arugula in the garden, so I looked up several recipes, and chose the following. It was perfect.

Lemon Balm Pesto

Another mint relative taking over in the herb garden was lemon balm. Pesto gets rid of a lot of it at one time, and this makes a tasty pesto.

4 cups packed lemon balm leaves
1/3 cup walnut pieces
3 cloves garlic (or more if you like)
zest and juice of one lemon
pinch salt
olive oil (enough to make this the consistency you like).

I do not add cheese to this pesto.  If I’m using it with pasta, I can add a grated cheese when I toss the pasta with the pesto and whatever else I’m adding–vegetables and walnut would be a good meal.  But I can also use this to make roasted chicken, and so I don’t want to have cheese it in (we keep kosher at home!).

To use it to roast a chicken, take about 2 tablespoons of the pesto, and add some chopped rosemary, 1 teaspoon sea salt and a hearty amount of freshly ground pepper.  Loosen skin of the chicken and smooth the paste under the skin all over the bird, on the breast, thighs, the whole thing! Stuff a cut lemon into the cavity of the chicken, add what remains of the paste on the outside of the skin, and roast as you normally would.  My family loves this (I’m pescitarian, so I don’t eat it–some of my best friends, after all, are chickens!.

Lemon-Balm Mint Iced Tea–Refreshing in a glass

I also make an iced tea with it, just cutting two stalks of lemon balm with one stalk mint (peppermint or spearmint), put it in a cafe press and cover with boiling water.  Let steep for a few hours, then press down on the press (mine is about 32 ounces), and pour the liquid into a glass pitcher. Add a tablespoon of honey and stir until the honey dissolves. Then cover the pitcher and place in the fridge over night. Serve the next day cold, or over ice, and garnish with lemon balm and mint leaves. Ahh….

Some notes about pesto:

I buy 4 and 8 oz ball jars to store my pesto creations. As soon as the jars are filled with the pesto, I add oil on top to make a thin layer to protect the leaves from oxidizing, then screw on the rings over the flat lids. I write what’s inside, date it and pop them in the freezer.  And yes, I’m running out of room!

Don’t skimp on the nuts, and don’t get them at a supermarket!

Pine nuts are filled with a delicate oil that turns rancid relatively quickly. If you buy pine nuts in a supermarket, they’re almost always bad. If they aren’t completely rancid, they will not be really good pine nuts, so don’t add them to your wonderful herbs, organic extra virgin olive oil, and perfect cheeses–what a waste. But where to get really good pine nuts?  is the BEST source for nuts. I get all my nuts there, and they are always perfect.  What little room in my freezer is not taken up by little mason jars filled with pesto is filled with bags of nuts from  They have everything, and they have the best customer service. You order today, the nuts are at your door tomorrow, or at most the next day. They have lots of other great snacks, and a very extensive selection of organic and kosher (and kosher organic) items.

Mint-Pistachio Pesto

I made this Memorial Day weekend. It was quite thick, much more of a solid consistency than regular old run-of-the-mill basil pesto. I added it to whole wheat orichette pasta into which I added fresh sugar snap peas and asparagus the last 2 minutes of cooking the pasta.  Drained the pasta and veggies, added the pesto and tossed until the pesto sort of melted over the pasta and veggies. It was delicious, and very refreshing.

My freezer on July 7, 2012:

Radish Salad

Also made for Memorial Day, I made a composed salad by plating fresh arugula and red lettuces on each plate, and mounding this Radish Salad on the center of the lettuces, and spooned the dressing over top. Wonderful!  The cilantro is springing up everywhere in the garden, guess I let it go to seed last year.

Honey-Ricotta Cheesecake

I have to make this one again, if only to take a photo, it came out so beautifully. It was so wonderful-looking, in fact, that we tucked in before we could get out the camera.

I used fresh ricotta from Fairway, my honey, of course, and after the cake had set in the fridge and we were ready to serve, I drizzled a little bit of honey on top and Aliya decorated it with edible organic flowers, and along the bottom of the dish she interspersed fresh red raspberries with the flowers–divine.  The flowers added color, but no flavor, and in all honesty, I couldn’t discern the honey in the cheesecake, but it was a fabulous, light cheesecake (as light as one can be, but not at all brick-like, as many are).

Zucchini Parmesan Pancakes: 

Amazing Tomato Jam–I made this one with about 5 pounds of cherry tomatoes, a real bumper crop. WIth the warm spices; cinnamon, ginger and cloves, it has a fabulous flavor. I serve it with cheese, my favorite is a goat brie, smeared on a grilled ciabatta bread. Divine! 

Beth’s hard to make, but easy to assemble apple pie:

  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 pounds baking apples like Golden Delicious, Cortland, or Mutsu (use really tart apples, I use unripe apples!)
  • 2/3 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling on the pie
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Generous pinch of ground nutmeg (freshly grated is best)
Make the filling. Put the lemon juice in a medium bowl. Peel, halve, and core the apples. Cut each half into 4 wedges. Toss the applewith the lemon juice. Add the sugar and toss to combine evenly.
In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the apples, and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to simmer, about 2 minutes. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until the apples soften and release most of their juices, about 7 minutes.
Strain the apples in a colander over a medium bowl to catch all the juice. Shake the colander to get as much liquid as possible. Return the juices to the skillet, and simmer over medium heat until thickened and lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes.
In a medium bowl, toss the apples with the reduced juice andspices. Set aside to cool completely. (This filling can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated or frozen for up to 6 months.)
To store the filling to use later:
Let filling cool.  Line an aluminum pie pan with plastic wrap so it hangs over the sides. I make a big x, with one piece going horizontally, and the other vertically across the pan.
Pour the filling into the pan and cover over with the plastic wrap, pressing lightly on the filling.  Put this in a gallon sized zip top bag, squeezing out any air.
I get a friend to help me peel apples and make four or five in a row.  It’s a lot of work for one pie, but if you do a bunch all at once it’s not so bad and you don’t have to do it again for a long time. 
When it’s frozen, after a day or so, you can pop the filling out, wrapped in plastic, and replace in the bag, and remove the aluminum pie pans. By doing this you can get two pie fillings in one gallon bag and save some freezer space.
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I use all whole wheat pastry flour, or white whole wheat flour–they’re the same)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, chilled and diced
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  • Put all ingredients except water into the food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Pulse until everything is combined and then slowly pour in the ice water and keep the processor running just until it all holds together in a ball. Take the ball out and lay it on a sheet of plastic wrap. Flatten it into a round disk, it can be really thick, it just should be like a ball you flatten into a circle shape so you can roll it out easier when it’s time to make the dough.
  • Wrap the disk completely in plastic wrap and put in a zip top bag in the freezer.  This is so easy, and you can do several pie dough balls one after the other and put all the disks into one zip bag.
  • To assemble the pie:
The night before you make the pie, bring one dough out of the freezer and put in the refrigerator. Leave the pie filling in the freezer.
When you’re ready to bake the pie, take a pie filling out of the freezer and just put it, still wrapped in plastic, on the counter.  Roll out the dough on a floured surface. It will stick, so you need to keep picking it up and flouring underneath the dough and the rolling pin. Use all purpose flour for this (though I use whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour for the dough itself). 
Roll out until it’s really thin, it doesn’t need to be perfectly round, you’re going to cut off the edges anyway.
Drape the dough over a ceramic pie plate and then using a knife, cut around the edge of the crust dough to just where the edge of the pan is. You’ll still have dough going to the edge of the pan.  
Unwrap the frozen pie filling and place in the dough-filled pie pan.  Roll the dough scraps into a long rectangular shape and slice long ribbons of dough. You should make 8 ribbons, each about 8 inches long.  Place four along the vertical axis of the pie, and four along the horizontal axis, and weave them in an open basket weave, over and under, starting with the two ribbons that are in the corner and working out.
Take the dough that’s laying on the edge of the pie plate and roll it inward toward the pie, pinching as you go to close it up.
You’ll have a raised crust and an open basket weave on the pie.
Take four strips of aluminum foil and fold them very gently over the edges of the pie plate, covering the rolled crust. This part will burn if it isn’t covered at first.
Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes, then open oven and remove the aluminum foil. Return to oven and continue to bake for another 20 minutes, the crust should look lightly browned and you will be able to see the filling all hot and bubbly. 
Remove the pie to a cooling rack and let cool.

If you prefer, you can top with a struesel topping instead of the lattice-crust.

Serve with vanilla ice cream!!

More to come…..

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