Nettles, which we talked about in the last post, are no exception. The pesto has a rich, earthy flavor and is dark green. The only difference in preparation is that whereas other greens I’d use fresh, I cooked the stingers out of the nettles first out of fear I’d accidentally make the Sadistic Nettle Pesto of Horror. Just as I first posted this, though, someone commented on the last post that food processing them also destroys the stingers. I’d have to test it to be sure myself, but I liked the rich flavor of the cooked version so much I think I’d keep doing it this way.
As I mentioned last time, you can disable the stingers by cooking the nettles for a minute or so in boiling water. But you don’t want your pesto to be watery, so drain the final product well and squeeze it out. I ended up cooking my nettles on a different day than I made pesto, and the added time sitting in the fridge also helped decrease the moisture.
Nettles weren’t the only inspiration for making this. Pesto’s been on my mind since a few weeks ago when I realized the Sidhu Farm stand at the Ballad Farmers’ market was selling unshelled walnuts. I had two dollars left on me, and got a nice little bagful for that. A stop at Goodwill yielded a nutcracker and the recent nettle harvesting settled which greens I’d use. The fate of nettle pesto was sealed.
The pesto is great in any way you’d use basil pesto: on pasta, with salmon, in casseroles, eaten with a spoon… Barring any kitchen disaster or failed recipe, one of the next few posts will give you an idea for using some of your basil pesto. Meanwhile, here’s the recipe for the pesto itself:
- 1/2 cup walnuts (shelled)
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup olive oil (you can also use butter but may want to add a little oil to smooth it out, or do half and half)
- 1.5 cups tightly packed and well-drained cooked nettles
- 2 pinches of salt
- 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan or similar cheese
1. In a food processor, blend the walnuts, the garlic, and half the olive oil.
2. Add the nettles, the rest of the olive oil and the salt. Run the food processor until the mixture is smooth.
3. Add the parmesan and pulse a few times to combine, or run until smooth, depending what texture you prefer.