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Pesto from the Almost-Summer Garden

By Susan Tweit

Summer’s almost here, and our kitchen garden is loving the heat after a truly weird winter and spring, including more wind and less precipitation between October and May than any time in the century-plus that weather records have been kept in this valley.

May brought a detour back to the weather we might have had in March and April, including some precipitation, with a wet snow on May first, an all-day rain ten days later, and then a cold period that had me leaving the row covers on some beds in the kitchen garden all day, not just at night. The warm-weather plants, including the tomatoes, basil, and Japanese eggplants sulked.

But the cool-weather crops loved May’s chill: the spinach started producing like crazy, the sugar snap peas sprinted up the trellis, the strawberries produced green fruits, and the carrots and beets and broccoli and chard and beans all sprouted.

And the spring herbs, including cilantro and chervil, went crazy, growing into lush green mounds. Having too much of any one crop is one of the most delightful of garden problems.

My solution is to invent ways to freeze the excess harvest. So here are two new pesto recipes, one each for cilantro and chervil.

(It’s easy to freeze pesto: just put meal-sized doses – about a cup – into a clean glass jar, seal tightly, label including the date, and freeze. Frozen pesto keeps its flavor and color for a year or more.)


Cilantro Pesto

1 large clove garlic

4 T Parmasean or other hard, mild-flavored cheese

3 T slivered almonds

2 cups cilantro leaves and small stems, loosely packed

2 – 1/2 T olive oil

2 – 1/2 T lime juice

1/4 tsp salt

freshly-ground pepper to taste


Toast the almonds in a 350-degree oven in a small pan for 3-5 minutes, just until they begin to turn golden. Set aside to cool. Drop the garlic cloves in a food processor with the blades spinning and process until minced, and then add almonds and chunks of cheese. Grind until mealy, and then add cilantro, olive oil, lime juice, salt, and pepper and process until smooth.

Makes 3/4 cup. Serving suggestion: Toss with warm linguini, and add cooked shrimp and fresh garden peas.


Chervil Pesto

2 cloves garlic

3/4 cup walnut halves

1/2 cup asiago cheese, cubed

4 cups chervil leaves and small stems, loosely packed

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 tsp salt

Drop the garlic cloves in a food processor with the blades spinning and process until minced, and then add walnuts and asiago cheese. Process until mealy, and then add chervil and salt, and pulse until smooth. Add olive oil while the machine is running and process until mixed.

Makes two pints. (One serves 8-10 people; freeze the other.) Serving suggestion: toss with warmed cheese tortellini and steamed asparagus. The slightly sweet, definitely licorice flavor of chervil is also delicious with salmon and chicken.

Pesto is also great spread on bread for sandwiches, or as a dip for crunchy vegetables. Enjoy!


Copyright 2011 Susan J. Tweit