The sun is finally showing its face around these parts, and that means our first delivery of organic basil from the Growing Garden in Bellingham has come in. We also currently have local lettuce (including butter/bibb lettuce – my favorite), arugula, mustard greens, salad mix, baby spinach, shiitake, shallots, chives and Italian parsley from a variety of farms in Whatcom County. It was the basil that caught my eye though, and I knew pesto was just a few steps away.
I wanted to make a traditional pesto, but because we have so many other local greens right now, I thought I would also look for a pesto recipe that didn’t use basil. I ran across a spinach pesto on Yummly (a great recipe site if you haven’t checked it out, especially if you have food allergies/sensitivities) and felt I had found a winner.
For the traditional pesto, I used the local basil (2 bunches), Nova Oliva Premium extra virgin olive oil (it’s on sale right now and is one of my favorite olive oils), Earth House Foods Organic pine nuts, organic white garlic, and a blend of Italian cow and sheep Parmesan and Romano cheese. European pine nuts are a little hard to find right now for a couple reported reasons (the strength of the Euro makes them super expensive and blight/deforestation of wild pines has decreased the yield), and the ones we have at the Co-op are from China (read here for an idea of the issue with Asian pine nuts). I decided to risk it, since the pine nuts we carry at the Co-op are certified organic by WA state and I really wanted to make a pine nut pesto! It turned out delicious and my taste buds rejoiced.
For the spinach pesto, I used local baby spinach, local chives, and roasted local hazelnuts from Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards in Lynden. A little of the Nova Oliva olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and garlic rounded out the recipe. The recipe calls for Parmesan cheese, but I wanted to make this a vegan pesto, so I omitted it and I have to say that nobody missed it from the recipe – it still turned out creamy, thanks to the olive oil and hazelnuts. People really liked the spinach pesto – I would definitely give it 5 out of 5 stars. It is a little unexpected, but the flavors really work well together.
I chose to sample the pestos with some delicious crackers – Jóvan’s Pure Nutrition whole food artisan crackers made in Blaine, WA, which is located in northern Whatcom County right by the Canadian border. They are made out of vegetables, seeds, herbs and spices and they are naturally gluten, corn, soy, dairy, egg and nut free, so just about anyone can enjoy them. They are not available nationally, but they are a relatively young company and I’m sure that won’t be the case for long! These are pretty amazing crackers from a pretty amazing company who we always love to work with at the Co-op (and customers love them too!).
Traditional Basil Pesto
Makes about 2 cups
- 2 cups blanched basil (packed)
- 1/2 c toasted pine nuts*
- 1 c grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/4—1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
- Blanch basil and toast pine nuts.
- Put basil, pine nuts, Parmesan, and garlic in a food processor and pulse to blend.
- Slowly add oil through the feed tube until your paste reaches desired consistency.
Blanching your basil first (dunking the leaves in boiling water for about 20 seconds and then plunging them in icy water) keeps your pesto from turning brown as the basil oxidizes. It does not affect the flavor of the basil.
Makes about 1 1/4 cups
- 2 c baby spinach
- 1/2 c toasted hazelnuts
- 1/2 c Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 t fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 t sea salt
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 oz fresh chives (chopped, about 1 1/2 c)
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor.
- Process until finely chopped, scraping sides as necessary.
For a vegan version of either recipe, just omit the Parmesan cheese.
Parmigiano Reggiano (from Italy) is highly recommended for either of these recipes. You can find this imported cheese in our specialty cheese section at the Co-op. The rinds can be kept in the freezer and added to soups for extra richness.
*You can substitute almonds, hazelnuts, or walnuts for the pine nuts.