When Test Kitchen Chef Josh Cohen wandered around our office, asking folks to try samples of pesto and identify ingredients, he had a lot of willing participants. But while we have a team filled with sophisticated palates who all loved what they were eating, the only ingredients correctly identified were oil, Parmesan, and walnuts. No one could put their finger on the ingredient that made it truly unique (watch them try their best, here).
In all fairness to my fellow colleagues, though, it was a really tough game to play, because they’ve probably never eaten the ingredient before (intentionally, at least).
That mystery ingredient? It’s strawberry tops.
Not strawberry tops with a little ring of ripe red fruit still clinging to the greens (the kind that comes from hastily prepping large amounts of strawberries for jam or sorbet). While we gladly use those tops for infusing water, we know full well it’s the lingering slivers of fruit that are flavoring it—we aren’t truly putting the greens to use.
But Clark Barlowe, Executive Chef and Owner of Heirloom Restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina, discovered that the greens work well in pesto. (You really can use any practically any greens in pesto!) The strawberry tops together with parsley (stems, too!) combine seamlessly in a very green-tasting pesto with a nice kick from ramps (or garlic, if ramps are gone or unavailable) and fresh cayenne chile.
We used it as a pasta sauce, but Chef Barlowe also recommends thinning the pesto with more oil and acid to turn it into a tasty salad dressing. He makes the pesto using a meat grinder, with the smallest die setting, but don’t despair if you don’t have one—the texture of the final product might be slightly different, but a food processor makes an excellent stand-in.
- 36 grams parsley (stems included)
- 50 grams whole ramps (garlic can be substituted seasonally)
- 72 grams strawberry tops
- 100 grams Parmesan-style cheese
- 6 grams fresh whole cayenne
- 80 grams black walnuts
- 385 milliliters (1 3/4 cups) Georgia olive oil
- 4 grams salt
Know of a great recipe hiding in the Food52 archives that uses an overlooked kitchen scrap (anything from commonly discarded produce parts to stale bread to bones and more)? Tell me about it in the comments: I want to know how you're turning what would otherwise be trash into a dish to treasure!