You know those bunches of herbs that collect at the bottom of the fridge crisper? They get wilty and we feel guilty for not having the time and motivation to use them faster. But don’t worry and don’t throw them away. Instead, wash them, compost any yellowed or gross-looking leaves, pat them dry, and toss them in a food processor with garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Use this delicious green sauce as a dip for chips or crusty bread. Or with the addition of some vinegar or citrus juice, use it as a marinade for pork chops or steak. Add it to salad dressing or put it on pizza crust or polenta pie with some feta and onions. Or add ground toasted nuts and grated Parmesan for a pasta topping. Have too much? Freeze it for later and now you have the beginnings of a quick meal.
What can you use for green sauce?
– parsley or cilantro leaves and stems
– other soft herbs like marjoram
– and of course the traditional pesto ingredient, basil
– a mix of any or all of these is good too
Real pesto from Genoa, Italy is traditionally made using a marble mortar and pestle with basil, garlic, pine nuts, salt, Parmesan and pecorino sardo cheeses and olive oil. I don’t like to mess with tradition. However, I DO think that it’s okay to make something out of what you have in front of you, which is why I call my parsley and sunflower seed green sauce “New England Pesto.” (On the topic of authenticity in food versus following the original spirit of a dish, I like this article by chef and food writer J. Kenji López-Alt.)
New England Pesto (with Parsley & Sunflower Seeds)
Makes about 1 cup
3 cups loosely packed fresh parsley, including stems – flat-leafed variety preferred*
1/3 cup sunflower seeds, toasted in a dry pan or 350° oven until golden brown
2 large garlic cloves, grated or mashed
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (OPTIONAL)
1. Chop parsley finely with a sharp knife.
2. Grind the toasted sunflower seeds in a mortar and pestle.
3. Add to parsley and mix in salt, garlic, pepper, olive oil, and Parmesan if using.
4. Adjust seasonings and olive oil as necessary.
Food processor option
1. Add all the ingredients together and process until smooth. 2. Adjust seasonings and olive oil as necessary.
Serve on pasta, veggies, or on a slice of bread.
*You can substitute other herbs and greens you may have around – see above.
– Bethany Fleishman
Photo credit: Julia A. Reed and Vital Communities staff