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!