Perfect Pesto

Nothing says springtime like a generous dollop of pesto on…well, anything! This versitle sauce makes a delicious addition to almost any savory meal.

The other day I found myself wandering through one of my favorite places on earth, the Union Square Greenmarket. One farmer was selling hydroponically grown tomatoes and basil, which both looked so fresh and smelled so good I had to snatch them up. At another stand I found fava bean greens — the fava bean plant before it’s sprouted its beans. The farmer told me I could eat them raw or lightly sauteed. Intrigued, I bought a bag. Once home, I tried to think of what I could do with my newly purchased goodies. I already had a wild salmon fillet defrosting in my fridge, so I decided to sautee that while whipping up a simple pesto sauce with what I had on hand.  About 10 minutes later, dinner was ready. I made the raw fava bean greens my base, topped them with the chopped hydroponic tomatoes, the pan-seared salmon fillet, and a generous drizzle (OK, generous plop) of the pesto. DELICIOUS! And uber healthy. And quick.

I used the leftover pesto throughout the week on anything I could think of: scrambled eggs, on top of quinoa, as a condiment in sandwiches. This simple sauce really enlivens almost anything, and really tastes like spring!

Basic Pesto, adapted from one of my favorite books, “How to Cook Everything,” by Mark Bittman:

-2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, rinsed and dried

-1-2 garlic cloves, to taste

-1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or toasted, chopped walnuts

-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

-1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano or pecorino Romano (optional)

-sea salt to taste

1) Combine the basil, a pinch of salt, the garlic, and the nuts and about half of the oil in a food processor or blender. Process, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container if necessary and adding the rest of the oil gradually. Add more oil if you prefer a thinner mixture.

2) Store in the fridge for a week or two or in the freezer for several months. Stir in the cheese by hand just before serving. (Andrea’s note: I just added the cheese right into the food processor along with everything else and it still came out great, but I might try this method of stirring it in just before serving next time….)

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