I’m really into pesto this summer! Not only is it delicious, it is also excellent herb delivery vehicle. As I’ve learned more about the health benefits of herbs I’ve tried to incorporate them into my diet as much as possible. Pestos are a terrific way to eat more herbs and to eat them in higher quantities — you eat far more herb in a pesto than you would as a garnish or spice.
I’m getting more creative with my pestos and branching out beyond traditional basil (although it’s still one of my favorites). Recently I’ve played around with cilantro, parsley, basil, arugula, or garlic scapes as the herb base to my pestos. I’ve also added other herbs (dill, oregano, thyme, and rosemary) in small doses. All of these herbs are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants — they’re great for reducing inflammation, boosting immunity, and supporting a nutritious diet.
I’m also mixing it up with the nuts I use in the pesto. For this cilantro pesto I used walnuts. Pine nuts, cashews, pistachios, pecans, and almonds are also good choices. Walnuts are my favorite at the moment due to their versatile flavor and nutritional benefits. Walnuts are packed with antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids!
I typically blend my fresh herbs and nuts with peeled garlic cloves and olive oil in a food processor. Sometimes I add cheese (usually parmesan, pecorino, or robusto) and a little sea salt to taste. Add more olive oil as needed until your pesto is a creamy consistency.
Remember to use pesto beyond the traditional preparation with pasta. I use pesto as a sauce for bean and grain dishes (served with black eyed peas and quinoa below), as a spread on sandwiches (or on toast with eggs), mixed with more oil and vinegar into salad dressings, in potato salad (or any other veggie salad), as a base for pizza or bruschetta, or as a flavorful addition to soups and stews.
I try to make extra pesto in each batch to save for use at a later date. I typically freeze containers of pesto to pull out mid-winter when I’m craving the taste of fresh herbs.
So shake-up your routine next time you’re making pesto and see what new flavor combinations you can come up with!