Tarragon, parsley and sunflower seed pesto

TARRAGON PESTO

 

A few years ago, I decided to plant a herb garden and one of the herbs I planted was tarragon. I love the way it smells and I have fond memories of a tarragon and red wine vinegar salad dressing my mother used to make. When I planted it, I had grand ideas for recreating that dressing. Sadly, I’ve never been able to duplicate it.

Every year my tarragon plant survives our harsh Cleveland winter and grows back bigger and better than the year before but I haven’t really put the herb to good use in my cooking. This year, all that changed when I stumbled upon the idea of using it for pesto.

I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical at first. Tarragon has a strong, anise-like flavor that can be extremely overpowering so highlighting it in a pesto seemed risky. As I researched different recipes, a common theme was to cut the tarragon with an equal amount of parsley, which has a fresh, bright flavor.

The result was surprisingly delightful. (Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take pictures but it looked like pesto.) Blending up the tarragon with the other ingredients helped to mellow out the flavor, while still giving a slight anise note. Since tarragon is part of the sunflower family I used sunflower seeds instead of traditional (and expensive) pine nuts and they gave it a nice nutty texture. You’ll notice the recipe doesn’t include garlic, which seems like blasphemy when talking about a pesto recipe. I left it out for fear of having too many strong flavors but I think you could add a clove or two and still have a wonderful dish.

Tarragon, parsley & sunflower seed pesto

1/2 cup tightly packed fresh tarragon

1/2 cup tightly packed parsley

4 tbsp sunflower seeds

2 tsp lemon juice

6 tbsp olive oil

Add the first 4 ingredients to a food processor or blender. Start blending on a low speed and gradually add the olive oil until the pesto is a creamy consistency. You may need more or less olive oil, depending on the consistency you’re going for. If needed, increase the mixing speed to fully incorporate the ingredients.

Just like any other pesto, you can serve this immediately on pasta, as a spread for bruschetta or as a fancy homemade pizza sauce. It also freezes very well. I plan to use my left-over pesto the next time I make my quick and easy pesto salad.

Have you tried making pesto with something other than basil? Share your experiments in the comments. I’m always looking for new recipes!

 

Garlic scape, basil and almond pesto

Garlic scape and basil pesto

Garlic scape, basil and almond pesto on Instagram

If you follow Emmet Street Creations on Instagram, you know that I have been somewhat obsessed by a culinary delight known as a garlic scape. Last fall, I planted around 30 cloves of hard neck garlic in my garden for the sole purpose of harvesting the scape.

The garlic scape is the flower that grows from the bulb of hard neck varieties of garlic. As it grows, it forms a graceful curl.

Harvesting the scape allows the plant to put its energy into growing the bulb. The scape has a very mild garlic flavor and can be used in any way that garlic can be used. I’ve roasted them whole with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, diced them to add flavor to roasted asparagus and I’ve frozen a bunch for future use.

So far, my favorite way to use them is in pesto. You can make pesto with only the garlic scape, olive oil, pine nuts and parmesan. But, I love basil pesto so I incorporated basil as well. For a twist, I used almonds instead of pine nuts.

Garlic scape and basil pesto

10 to 12 garlic scapes, roughly chopped with the bulb removed

1 cup tightly packed basil leaves

1 cup chopped almonds

1 cup parmesan cheese

1/2  to 1 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Add the first 4 ingredients to a food processor or blender. (I used my Vitamix.) Start blending on a low speed and gradually add the olive oil until the pesto is a creamy consistency. I ended up using the entire cup of olive oil but you may prefer less. If needed, increase the mixing speed to fully incorporate the ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste.

You can serve this immediately on pasta, as a spread for bruschetta or as a fancy homemade pizza sauce. It also freezes very well. I plan to use my left-over pesto the next time I make my quick and easy pesto salad.

 

 

Quick and easy pesto salad

Here’s a quick and easy recipe that is great for those days when you don’t have a ton of time to cook (or write blog posts).

Pesto Salad

Quick and Easy Pesto Salad

Makes 4 servings

1 large or 2 small chicken breasts, shredded or chopped into little bits
1 red bell pepper (or green or yellow or orange, it really doesn’t matter), chopped
1 16 oz. can chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed but not cooked
6 to 7 oz. of pesto, depending on your preference

Prepare your chicken. I boiled mine then shredded it. Feel free to use leftovers if you have them. Allow the chicken to cool.

Mix everything in a bowl.

Eat.

You can leave the chicken out if you are vegan or vegetarian and this will still be spectacular and filling, thanks to the chickpeas. Replace any of the vegetables with any other vegetable–the possibilities are limited only by your imagination! I think I’ll try cucumber and tomato the next time I make this salad. I used jarred pesto but this summer, when fresh basil is more readily available, I’ll make my own.

Give it a try and share your variations in the comments below!