During growing season, I keep a kitchen container garden of herbs at my disposal for cooking. However, deep in the chill of winter, my wide, sunny kitchen window sills are too drafty and cold to keep sensitive herbs healthy and thriving. Like other Northerners with only a greenish thumb, I turn to store-bought hothouse herbs when I need a fresh bit of green for wintertime cooking. Often enough, I need only a few sprigs for a recipe, and then the rest of the herb bundle gets mixed with butter and frozen for later use. Another great alternative for using up leftover herbs is to turn them into pesto — and it’s also a fun way to try more unusual combinations than the traditional basil-pine nut base of classic pesto.
Recently, I found myself with some Italian parsley and fresh mint left over after making a Moroccan-style vegetable stew. Since I love the combination of lemon and mint, and I had some walnuts on hand, I decided to make up an impromptu pesto drawing on these flavors. Once the pesto was prepared, I quickly sauteed some sliced baby bella mushrooms in olive oil while boiling farfalle (bow-tie pasta). I tossed the mushrooms and hot pasta with a few spoonfuls of pesto and a few splashes of the starchy pasta-cooking water, which loosened up the pesto and helped it to coat the pasta evenly. With a jar of fresh pesto in the fridge, a special-tasting weeknight dinner is a snap to prepare, and the garden-fresh flavors will brighten the gloomiest winter evening.
about 1 1/3 cups fresh, Italian parsley, packed
about 1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, packed
1 clove garlic
zest of 1 lemon
1/3 cup walnuts
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese
Add the first seven ingredients to a food processor and whiz them up until roughly chopped. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in enough olive oil to form a loose paste.
Scoop the pesto into a clean, glass jar and pour olive oil over it until it is just covered. Seal the jar lid and store the pesto in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.